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Freeman Dyson Writes About Religion and Science

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This is the third OEN article I've published since last month based on, and containing extensive excerpts from, the writings of the brilliant mathematical physicist Freeman Dyson. Dyson famously travelled cross-country in America with Richard Feynman in the 1950's and in route clarified for Feynman the mathematics of his path-integral formulation of quantum mechanics; in 1965, Feynman shared the Nobel Prize with three other particle physicists for their contributions to quantum theory.

My first OEN article was dated August 6, 2010 (Hiroshima Day) and quoted from the long tribute Freeman Dyson paid to Joseph Rotblat, the only physicist at Los Alamos to stop working on the atomic bomb once Germany was defeated; Rotblat became the leader of the Pugwash Movement and received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995. My second OEN article was dated August 25 and was little more than a long quotation from some of Dyson's thoughts as a physicist; in the article, Dyson explains the most important consequence, for life on earth, of entropy. My third OEN article was dated August 27 and quoted extensively from Dyson's writings about nanotechnology and biotechnology.*

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Freeman Dyson,
(Image by Wikipedia (at Biotechnology))
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In this article, Freeman Dyson explains how he can be a believer in God as well as a scientist, and I quote at length from the beginning of the last chapter of Dyson's most recent book, A Many-Colored Glass, Reflections on the Place of Life in the Universe (copyright The University of Virginia Press, 2007). The chapter title is The Varieties of Human Experience and in it Dyson writes about William James, Sir John Templeton, Niels Bohr, and Elaine Pagels. In the chapter, Dyson quotes at length from "one of the finest Christian heretics" William Blake. Dyson's introduction to and conclusions about his Blake quotations follow:

"One of the finest Christian heretics was William Blake, whose poems and prophesies were not suppressed but ignored when he published them in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

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His orthodox contemporaries considered him insane, and he narrowly escaped being put in prison for treasonable remarks against the British monarchy. Two hundred years later he is honored as a poet and as a spokesman for the oppressed. His poem The Everlasting Gospel is another heretical gospel to be put beside the Gospel of Saint Thomas:

The vision of Christ that thou dost see

Is my Vision's greatest enemy:

Thine has a great hook nose like thine,

Mine has a snub nose like mine:

Thine is a friend of all mankind,

Mine speaks in parables to the blind:

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Thine loves the same world that mine hates,

Thy Heaven doors are my Hell's gates.

Both read the Bible day and night,

But thou readest black where I read white.

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I have a law degree (Stanford, 66') but have never practiced. Instead, from 1967 through 1977, I tried to contribute to the revolution in America. As unsuccessful as everyone else over that decade, in 1978 I went to work for the U.S. Forest (more...)

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