Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Freeman Dyson: "I Kept Quiet For 30 Years; Maybe It's Time To Speak"

Just to clarify here for our readers, obviously, you’re poking holes in Darwin’s Theory of Evolution but you’re saying it only tells the story up to a certain point. What do you mean by that?
   Well that he believed that evolution was driven by selection. That’s essentially Darwin’s contribution. And it’s true for big populations, but it has limits.
   The limits are you need big populations in order for selection to be dominant. If you have small populations, then random drift is actually more important than selection. That’s the Kimura theory. Kimura called it the neutral theory of evolution and he wrote a book about it which was widely ignored by all the orthodox biologists.
   But I think he was right. And in fact, it happens that small populations are very important in evolution. In fact, you have to have a small population to start a new species, almost by definition. So small populations have a controlling effect on starting new species and also in the extension of old species.
   So this neutral regime where the selection is not important may, in fact, be the real driving force of evolution when you come to a new species. And of course, if that’s true, it changes the picture in many ways.
Let’s move to another area, you’ve become known for questioning climate change. The idea that there has been a 40% rise in CO2 over 130 years, that’s not something you disagree with.But you do disagree with this idea that the climate is predictable or we know why it is happening. Is that correct?
   Yes. I mean we don’t understand climate. The most extreme examples of climate change were the ice ages and they were really a catastrophe for life in many parts of the world. And we don’t understand them.
   We just don’t know why they started or why they come and go in a more or less periodic fashion. It’s all a big mystery. And if we don’t understand ice ages we don’t understand climate.
So to counteract the rise in CO2 what has been your suggestions to the scientific community?
   Well, the only paper I’ve written on the subject, sort of in the official literature, was recommending growing trees. In fact, we could grow enough trees to take care of the carbon in the atmosphere. And that’s still true. If you planted all the wasteland over the globe with trees, it would be just about enough to absorb the carbon from the atmosphere.
   The carbon in trees is about equal to the carbon in the atmosphere. So the trees could be a way of managing the climate up to a point.
Do you believe that we face an imminent crisis on earth and that the pandemonium that seems to be sweeping the public, the media and the scientific community is appropriate?
   No, I don’t. It is starting to subside I would say. I don’t read much of what’s published but I have the feeling that the point of view of the sceptics is being listened to a bit more now than it was.


Blogger Pete Mack said...

I am not sure what to make of a claim by a guy who admittedly is not keeping up with the literature.

1:42 AM  
Blogger Aa said...

The guy is a physicist, not an evolutionary biologist. Expertise should matter.

8:50 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Yeah, but it's an objectively good question.

We may have some good answers to it, of course. I just never heard the question put that way before.

8:56 AM  
Blogger Dark Avenger said...

Hey, I’m a trained biologist, so I think Special Relativity is full of shit. Can I haz an interview now?

9:11 AM  
Blogger Pete Mack said...

When the interviewer asked about whether "we know why it is happening" in regards to CO2 rise, Dyson should have jumped on his was. That is one thing we absolutely do know. The CO2 budget is understood to within 10% these days. And no, it cannot be solved by planting trees in "wastelands." (Trees don't grow there, by and large--and those that do, grow slowly.)

12:38 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

DA, you know better than that. Stop acting like you're dumb.

2:19 PM  
Blogger Dark Avenger said...

Clarke's First Law: When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.

7:28 PM  

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