Tuesday, November 23, 2010

325 / Dyson's Dangerous Delusion

Click on the image to read "The Danger of Cosmic Genius," an article about Freeman Dyson, published in the December 2010 edition of The Atlantic Magazine.

As Kenneth Brower (son of beloved environmentalist David Brower) tells the story, Freeman Dyson may be the most "intelligent" person now living. There is, however something "missing" from that intelligence, which Brower identifies as an understanding that human beings are creatures within the world of Nature, and thus subject to its laws. Dyson appears not to have noticed. He worships, according to Brower, "the indomitable ingenuity of Man."

Like Edward O. Wilson, another scientist, and another really "intelligent" guy, Dyson is expecting human beings to solve any problems that arise from our destruction of the natural world. Wilson has a belief that "genetic engineering" will ultimately allow humans to remake their "human nature" to their own specifications. Dyson goes well beyond Wilson's modest concept. Here is a quotation from his 2007 essay, "Our Biotech Future," published in the New York Review of Books:
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.
Dyson obviously believes in the power to human beings to create the realities they inhabit, but he sees only "one world," not two. For Dyson, there is apparently only the world that humans create. Even if this were true (and I think it's not; I think it's a delusion), do we really want to live in a world where no species other than our own will continue to exist?

As we ponder that question, let's admit that this idea is not unique to Freeman Dyson. In fact, while there are few who could articulate Dyson's conclusion with the "intelligence" that he brings to the task, this is, obviously, a widely-shared view. At least, so our human behavior would indicate.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for your comment!