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The Physicist & The Freshman

The Physicist & the Freshman

Also called the polymathic genius Freeman Dyson (left) and his affable grandson Randall Reid, newly enrolled at the University. Dyson, one of the world’s great scientists and dreamers, visited campus in December to see the lad and to be “interviewed” publicly by science and theology faculty. In one of the most stimulating and wide-ranging discussions we ever heard, he talked about his hero Ben Franklin, climate change (utterly real but “we do not know whether climate change on the average is good for us or bad for us”), the stunning rise of carbon dioxide (“30% in the last 50 years, but enormous beneficial effects on vegetation, food, and forests”), religion and science (“different windows looking at the same universe”), religion (“a mystery – it’s imagination and vision, but it’s not really belief”), quantum mechanics (“individual atoms and particles are not constrained by laws of motion, they have some kind of ability to make choices, which I consider evidence of mind in some sense on a rudimentary level”), the design of the universe (“there are many features that seem to be peculiarly hospitable to growth and variety – something in the nature of intelligent design”), the first rule about being a scientist (“be capable of changing your mind”), the universe (“accelerating ever faster”), Scripture (“an essential part of public culture, should be taught to every child”), the world’s freshwater crisis (“actually rainfall is increasing as carbon dioxide is increasing, so you have more fresh water”), the primary problem of politics (“we completely ignore the poor”), the future (“silicone plants much more efficient using sunlight…more nuclear fission…”), the health care debate (“just a failure of politics”), world population (“when populations make more money, the birth rate plummets”), books (“a lot of what is called science fiction is really theofiction”), women (“busier than men these days”), and old age (“when you start to pontificate, like me”), among maaaaany other topics. Riveting. Thanks to the University’s Father Joe Powers Professor, biologist Marlene Moore, for making it happen.