Wired carries an interview of renowned mathematician Freeman Dyson by Quanta Magazine at the institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, just after Dyson’s 90th birthday. This is an excerpt in which Dyson reveal’s his skepticism of climate change alarmism:
Quanta: You’ve developed a reputation as a maverick scientist with contrarian views. Where do you think that comes from?
I think the notion that I always like to oppose the consensus in science is totally wrong. The fact is there’s only one subject that I’ve been controversial, which is climate. I spend maybe 1 percent of my time on climate, and that’s the only field in which I’m opposed to the majority. Generally speaking, I’m much more of a conformist, but it happens I have strong views about climate because I think the majority is badly wrong, and you have to make sure if the majority is saying something that they’re not talking nonsense.
With a majority of scientists on the other side of this issue, what would it take to convince you to switch sides?
What I’m convinced of is that we don’t understand climate, and so that’s sort of a neutral position. I’m not saying the majority is necessarily wrong. I’m saying that they don’t understand what they’re seeing. It will take a lot of very hard work before that question is settled, so I shall remain neutral until something very different happens.
How is it a neutral position if we don’t understand climate? Some scientists are making wild predictions about something they don’t understand. That’s what Dyson is saying. A neutral position is that they may be correct, or they may not be correct. But since they’re stabbing in the dark about something of which they haven’t a clue (according to Dyson), if it turns out they were right it won’t be scientific. It will be dumb luck.
Dyson is a mathematician. He deals with solvable problems and mathematical theories that can be proven or disproven. The earth’s climate is not a math problem that can be solved and predicted. It involves all sorts of scientific disciplines and phenomena that will occur randomly and not according to any mathematical theorem. Dyson is, of course, brilliant and right to be skeptical of climate change alarmism. Saying he is neutral is probably just the best way to maintain the peaceful life of a nonagenarian.