To say that Freeman Dyson is a highly respected scientist is an understatement. Over his 91 years, he has made seminal discoveries in mathematics and physics; written evocatively (and provocatively) on what it means to be a scientist, the role of science in society, and the culture of science; shared the fruits of his imagination about possible future discoveries and their implications for humanity; and generally offered up one fresh and unexpected view after another on topics from space travel to genetic engineering and beyond.
By all accounts, he’s a modest and funny man, a loving husband and father, and a continued source of inspiration to his colleagues at the Princeton Institute for Advanced Studies. However, since 2007, he’s been purporting to be the voice of “moderation” on the topic of climate change. Casting himself in the role of objective, outside observer, he has declared that climate scientists are caught up in their own hype, in love with their own models, and distracting society from ills far more important than climate change.
I wish that he were right. It would be swell if climate change were really not a big deal. But he’s not, and it is.
When I decided to leave my PhD program in paleontology to pursue other endeavors, one of the reasons was a lab mate named Corwin Sullivan. Not because he was smelly or mean or anything negative—in fact, it was exactly for the opposite reason: Corwin was (and is) awesome.
“Climate change is a children’s issue!”
In the first installment, I left you with the assignment of coming up with a response to a “skeptical” scientist who thinks current climate change might just reflect a natural cycle.
Photo by Brian via Flickr
We’ve all been there: Thanksgiving dinner with that uncle—the outspoken climate-change-denier (“Please, it was so cold this winter!”); a phone call with an anti-vaxxer friend (“Everyone knows that vaccines contain dangerous chemicals!”); or an attempt to impress by a daughter’s new boyfriend (“But I’ve heard that the mammalian eye is way too complicated to have evolved by chance!”).