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3/20 - FREEMAN DYSON A GREAT PHYSICIST / AN INTERESTING CHRISTIAN

. Posted in 2013 Lenten Readings

British born American Freeman Dyson is one of the world's great physicists and mathematicians and is also a winner of the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion. He is retired from the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey and has lived in Princeton for more than fifty years. I believe that he has been a member of the Presbyterian Church in Princeton during that time. He is known to have a contrarian’s streak that "his mends find refreshing but his intellectual Opponents find exasperating". When his fellow physicist Steven Weinberg (an atheist) made a nasty remark about religion, Freeman gave Steven a lecture, as follows; "The main point of Christianity is that it is a religion for sinners. Jesus made that very clear. When the Pharisees asked his disciples, "Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?" [Matt. 9:11] he said, "I come to call not the religious but sinners to repentance." [Matt. 9:13] ONLY A SMALL FRACTION OF SINNERS REPENT AND DO GOOD THINGS BUT ONLY A SMALL FRACTION OF GOOD PEOPLE ARE LED BY THEIR RELIGION TO DO BAD THINGS." Freeman's thinking and contrariness show even there. He does not really believe that all church members are sinners, but does believe that many good people are church members. His biographers believe that Dyson strongly opposes reductionism (trying to make things less complex than they really are). Apparently, Dyson has attended different churches. Regarding doctrinal or Christological issues, he has said, "I am neither a saint nor a theologian. To me, good works are more important than theology." I had looked for a biographical sketch of Freeman Dyson when I was asked by Nichols College in Dudley to lecture to Nichols students this coming February, March, and April on the subjects of renewable energy and climate warming. I knew that Dyson believes that we humans are now largely responsible for the emissions of C02 and the further warming of earth's climate, but that he is strongly against the claims of climatologists that they can predict what will happen to our climate in the future. He states, "I'm not saying the warming doesn't cause problems, obviously it does. Obviously, we should be trying to understand it. I'm saying that the problems are being grossly exaggerated. They take away money and attention from the other problems that are much more urgent and important. Poverty, infectious diseases, public education, and public health. Not to mention the preservation of living creatures on land and in the oceans." Freeman obviously disagrees with the 90% of scientists who accept the dogma of climate warming. I want to show the Nichols students both sides of the issue. The “dogma believing climate scientists” dislike Freeman because Freeman is so highly respected all around the world. At age nearly 90, Freeman Dyson is now President of the Solar Electric Light Fund, which provides solar photovoltaic equipment and knowledge to the remote villages in Africa whose people live without the availability of electricity. With Freeman Dyson's help they are provided with solar PV electric equipment for fresh water pumping, water irrigation for their gardens, and lighting for their homes. Freeman Dyson has been remarkably effective in many, many areas of human activity in addition to science. He served as consultant to the British Royal Air Force during World War II, and has served the US presidency and military during the Cold War and during the Vietnam War. His voice against the use of atomic weapons during Vietnam was accepted by the leaders of this nation. Even so, he was in favor of using the atomic bombs of WWII against Japan in order to end the Pacific War as quickly as possible. Had we invaded Japan instead of using the bombs, it was estimated that nearly one million American soldiers, sailors and marines would have been killed, and, in addition two and a half million Japanese military and civilians would have been killed. Incidentally, I had already been assigned by the US Navy during World War II to operate an LCS ship (Landing Craft Support ship) if we had invaded Japan. I would have been moving my ship up-and-down and close to the shoreline while pounding the Japanese with machine guns and small canon. I am glad that I did not have to do that. The Japanese military had absolutely and positively refused to surrender. Freeman Dyson is a genius and brilliant realist and happy to be a member of a Christian Church.

Submitted by Ed Clarke