Five Quotes By Freeman Dyson On Religion

Described as the best mathematician in England, physicist Freeman Dyson was openly religious. Five quotes by Freeman Dyson on science and religion.
freeman dyson quotes science religion

Freeman Dyson (1923-2020) was no ordinary physicist. In a letter of recommendation to Robert Oppenheimer, Nobel laureate Hans Bethe wrote in praise of Dyson: "He is the best student I have ever had or observed."

Dyson was unusual in that he won the Templeton Prize in 2000, which is given annually in the field of spirituality, recognizing achievements at the intersection of science and religion. Dyson was pleasantly surprised by this honor.

Yes, Dyson was openly religious.

But his God was a kind of meta-scientific, collective consciousness. As someone who regarded the universe as a manifestation of God, Dyson said: The many accidents of physics and astronomy that have worked together to our benefit, it almost seems as if the Universe must in some sense have known that we were coming.

Dyson partially disagreed with fellow physicist Steven Weinberg's view that "with or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil – that takes religion" and added: "For bad people to do good things – that also takes religion."

Following are 5 quotes by Freeman Dyson on science, religion and life:

1. Both as a scientist and as a religious person, I am accustomed to living with uncertainty. Science is exciting because it is full of unsolved mysteries, and religion is exciting for the same reason. The greatest unsolved mysteries are the mysteries of our existence as conscious beings in a small corner of a vast universe.

2. To talk about the end of science is just as foolish as to talk about the end of religion. Science and religion are both still close to their beginnings, with no ends in sight. Science and religion are both destined to grow and change in the millennia that lie ahead of us, perhaps solving some old mysteries, certainly discovering new mysteries of which we yet have no inkling.

3. Science and religion are two windows that people look through, trying to understand the big universe outside, trying to understand why we are here. The two windows give different views, but they look out at the same universe. Both views are one-sided, neither is complete.

science and religion quotes freeman dyson

4. Without discipline there can be no greatness. Without diversity there can be no freedom. Greatness for the enterprise, freedom for the individual — these are the two themes, contrasting but not incompatible, that make up the history of science and the history of religion.

5. Over periods of 10,000 years the distinctions between Western and Eastern and African cultures lose all meaning. Over a time span of 100,000 years we are all Africans. And over a time span of 300 million years we are all amphibians, waddling uncertainly out of dried-up ponds onto the alien and hostile land.

As a scientist, Dyson made several important contributions to the field of astrophysics that also bear his name, including concepts like Dyson tree and Dyson eternal intelligence, which find repetitive use in the realm of science fiction.

Dyson was Professor Emeritus in the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, remembered by friends and colleagues as shy and polite, with a refreshing view of the world. Physicist Geoffrey Ingram Taylor described Dyson as "the best mathematician in England."

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