Skip Navigation

The Late Freeman Dyson: Climate Realist

March 16, 2020

When mathematician, physicist, and philosopher Freeman Dyson died on February 28, the world lost an exceptionally brilliant humanist.

Writing in the Quadrant, Australian Tony Thomas based his comments, in part, on an extensive interview by philosopher Arnis Rītupsin the Latvian Journal Rigas Laiks. The interview gives an indication of the depth and extensive interests of Dyson. It is appropriately subtitled:  “Somehow the universe has a tendency to be as interesting as possible, more and more diverse, more and more interesting.”

At Cornell University, Dyson and Richard Feynman became friends and discussed quantum theory. “This time—he [Dyson] was 25 then—coincided with the development of quantum electrodynamics theory, for which all of its authors—Schwinger, Feynman and Tomonaga—with exception of Dyson, received the Nobel Prize in 1965 (the Prize is usually awarded to no more than three scientists at a time). It took some time for Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atomic bomb, to recognize the approach by the young British mathematician and physicist [Dyson] as correct, but once he had, he appointed him a life member of The Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, which had been home to Einstein, von Neumann and Gödel. At the age of 30, without a doctoral degree—'I despise the system of academic doctoral degrees in higher education’—he became a professor at the world’s most prestigious institute of exact sciences.”

Dyson participated in atomic research as a means of nuclear pulse propulsion for interplanetary space travel as “a possibility of finding a reasonable way of getting rid of the produced nuclear weapons.”

“In the last decade [prior to 2016] Dyson has become one of the most authoritative voices to assert that ‘global warming’ is first of all not global (it is limited to the cold regions, winter and nighttime); and second, there is no scientific evidence that it is dangerous; and third, that the related ideology and propaganda turns people’s attention away from much more pressing problems. Convinced that all misunderstanding between science and religion is caused by science attempting to be a religion and vice versa, Dyson has never concealed his religiosity and, in the year 2000, added the Templeton Prize (worth one million pounds sterling) for contribution to the progress of religion and science to his array of more than twenty honorary Ph.D.s from different universities.”

In another interview on You Tube, “The balance of carbon in the atmosphere,” Dyson discusses the importance of understanding the difference between observations and model outputs and that model outputs are no better than its inputs. [Emphasis added.] For example, what are the quantities of carbon dioxide that are being absorbed by plants and going into the ground? This is not well understood and not modeled well. We will not know what will happen to carbon dioxide in the atmosphere without knowing how much is going  into vegetation [and into the oceans]

Unfortunately, the U.S. government is putting all its money into computer modeling and ignoring experiments that show what is [actually] occurring. Ironically, some who should know better dismiss Dyson’s criticism of climate modeling because he is not a climate scientist. Yet, understanding the greenhouse effect requires an understanding of quantum theory along with probability theory, which Dyson understood but few climate “experts” do. Contrary to what journalists and politicians assert, it is not simple physics.

Kenneth Haapala is president of the Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP), compiler of The Week That Was newsletter, and a contributor to the NIPCC reports.

Related News & Opinion View All News