Friday, October 16, 2015


Why are coral reefs dying?

The usual conservative news websites are gleefully reporting physicist and mathematician Freeman Dyson is a climate change skeptic. This is undoubtedly meant to be shocking (especially to progressives) because Dyson considers himself a democrat and supporter of President Obama. Well, Dyson isn’t actually skeptical about the fact that anthropogenic climate change is occurring, but does express concerns that its negative effects are being grossly exaggerated by mainstream scientists. Curiously, though, Dyson once wrote:
"We are moving rapidly into the post-Darwinian era, when species other than our own will no longer exist, and the rules of Open Source sharing will be extended from the exchange of software to the exchange of genes."
Let that sink in for a moment. Is this meant to be taken seriously? Would anyone really want to live in Dyson’s vision of the future? And he contends mainstream scientists are the ones exaggerating.

Additionally, Dyson said (about climate science):
"I'm just saying I don't understand it and neither does anybody else. I'm skeptical because I don't think the science is at all clear, and unfortunately a lot of the experts really believe they understand it, and maybe have the wrong answer."
Maybe so. But maybe they don’t.

His comment resembles the fallacy of self-knowing (a category of argument from ignorance):

If P were true then I would know it.
In fact I do not know it.
Therefore P cannot be true.

Is Freeman Dyson a brilliant physicist? Undoubtedly.

Is he wrong about climate science? Probably.

Would I expect a climatologist to understand the mathematics and peculiarities of quantum mechanics? No. It’s entirely possible for Freeman Dyson to be brilliant in one (or several) scientific disciplines while deficient in others.

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