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Chronicling the collapse of a failed society
The Atlantic has an article about the renowned physicist Freeman Dyson and his inexplicable denial of the reality and implications of climate change. The article provides a fascinating insight into the life of one of our great “deep thinkers,” as the author, Kenneth Brower, attempts to reconcile Dyson’s indisputable genius with his apparent oversight on the issue of climate change. As Brower mused, turning a decidedly arrogant comment by Dyson on its head, “how could someone as smart as Freeman Dyson be so dumb?” Indeed, it is a great challenge to understand how someone as obviously intelligent as Dyson could hold the views described in this excerpt:
Among intelligent nonexperts who have weighed in on climate change, Freeman Dyson has become, now that Michael Crichton is dead, perhaps our most prominent global-warming skeptic. Charlie Rose began his interview with questions about the climate. Dyson answered that he remained very skeptical about the dangers of global warming. He did not believe the pronouncements of the experts. He did not claim to be an expert himself, so he would not argue the details with anybody; he had not given much time to the issue and did not pretend to know the real answers, but what he knew for sure was that the global-warming experts did not know the answers, either.
Dyson did not deny that the world was getting warmer. What he doubted was the models of the climatologists, and the grave consequences they predicted, and the supposition that global warming is bad. “I went to Greenland myself, where the warming is most extreme,” he said. “And it’s quite spectacular, of course, what you see in Greenland. But what is also true is, the people there love it. The people there hope it continues. It makes their lives a lot more pleasant.”
Now, it is important to highlight the fact that Dyson is not a denier of climate change. He recognizes that it is happening, but he disputes its supposed severity. He seems to be under the misguided impression that global warming is potentially a good thing for our planet and the species that inhabit it, as clearly demonstrated in quoted passage above. In matters of mathematics, physics and engineering, Dyson possesses an intellect that is almost without peer. And yet his reasoning on the issue of climate change seems exceedingly rudimentary – childish, even.
Dyson’s opinions on the matter are shared by a large percentage of Americans, including Dyson’s belief that the fruits of science and technology will eventually save us from the worst dangers of climate change. However, until very recently most Americans were reluctant to even admit that climate change was actually occurring. It has only been within the last decade – and mostly within the last half-decade – that the effects of climatic shifts became so apparent that all but the most fool-hardy skeptics could continue to deny its existence.