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Este blog trata basicamente de ideias, se possível inteligentes, para pessoas inteligentes. Ele também se ocupa de ideias aplicadas à política, em especial à política econômica. Ele constitui uma tentativa de manter um pensamento crítico e independente sobre livros, sobre questões culturais em geral, focando numa discussão bem informada sobre temas de relações internacionais e de política externa do Brasil. Para meus livros e ensaios ver o website: www.pralmeida.org. Para a maior parte de meus textos, ver minha página na plataforma Academia.edu, link: https://itamaraty.academia.edu/PauloRobertodeAlmeida;

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sexta-feira, 28 de fevereiro de 2020

Freeman Dyson (1923-2020): um cientista sábio (The Edge)

Por que o chamo de sábio, além de cientista? Elementar! Ele ERA um sábio, defendendo as tradições e métodos científicos em face de investidas obscurantistas – geralmente da parte de antidarwinistas de tendência religiosa – que são abundantes nos EUA.
Paulo Roberto de Almeida

Freeman Dyson: 1923 - 2020

The Edge
To arrive at the edge of the world's knowledge, seek out the most complex and sophisticated minds, put them in a room together, and have them ask each other the questions they are asking themselves
Photo: Freeman Dyson, August 1939, compliments of George Dyson
Freeman Dyson (1923 - 2020)
ED. NOTE: On February 3, 2019, Freeman Dyson wrote to me in response to my interest in commissioning him to write a new essay for Edge:
From: dyson@ias.edu
Dear John,
Thank you for your message of January 2 announcing your new agenda and including the piece from George.
I have written a piece with the title, "Biological and Cultural Evolution: Six Characters in Search of an Author'', which I am offering for you to publish. I have adopted the design of Pirandello's play to introduce my six characters. The purpose is to give a public hearing to some unorthodox ideas about evolution.
Evolution is a dominating force in human affairs and in the workings of nature. An improved understanding of evolution may help us to deal wisely with human problems and also with the preservation of natural diversity.
Please let me know whether you find this piece appropriate for your new agenda. I send you a first draft. It will need some editorial work and some references to the literature before it is published.
I am sending you the text by a separate E-mail. With thanks for your consideration, yours ever, Freeman.
Freeman at that time was in La Jolla, and we were unable to sit down together for a videotaped interview. Nor would there be an audio. I asked if he could read the essay, and he agreed. A few days after sending him a USB microphone, my associate Russell Weinberger received an audio file with this note:
Thank you for your help this morning with the audio transfer. I could never have done this without guidance from both you and Imme. We sent it to you as soon as it was finished without checking the quality. I suspect the quality may be poor, since I was struggling with the GarageGang, a computer program that I still do not understand. If you find the quality unacceptable, I will be happy to do the whole recording over again. This will not take so long, now that we have some experience with the technical problems. In any case, I apologize for my incompetence in dealing with computers. Yours, Freeman Dyson.
Freeman, at the age of 96, had gone back to school to spend three days mastering the intricacies of Apple's "GarageGang." 
So, we are pleased to reprise his piece, "Biological and Cultural Evolution: Six Characters in Search of an Author.” But, do yourself a favor. While the text of the essay is below, don't read it. Honor Freeman by listening to it: a wonderful way to spend an hour.
John Brockman
Editor, Edge

p.s. In the coming weeks, we are planning a tribute to Freeman, a founding member of both Edge, in 1996, and before that, The Reality Club, in 1980. Stay tuned.
Biological and Cultural Evolution
Six Characters in Search of an Author
An Edge Original Essay by Freeman Dyson [2.19.19] 

In the near future, we will be in possession of genetic engineering technology which allows us to move genes precisely and massively from one species to another. Careless or commercially driven use of this technology could make the concept of species meaningless, mixing up populations and mating systems so that much of the individuality of species would be lost. Cultural evolution gave us the power to do this. To preserve our wildlife as nature evolved it, the machinery of biological evolution must be protected from the homogenizing effects of cultural evolution.
Unfortunately, the first of our two tasks, the nurture of a brotherhood of man, has been made possible only by the dominant role of cultural evolution in recent centuries. The cultural evolution that damages and endangers natural diversity is the same force that drives human brotherhood through the mutual understanding of diverse societies. Wells's vision of human history as an accumulation of cultures, Dawkins's vision of memes bringing us together by sharing our arts and sciences, Pääbo's vision of our cousins in the cave sharing our language and our genes, show us how cultural evolution has made us what we are. Cultural evolution will be the main force driving our future.

FREEMAN DYSON was an emeritus professor of physics at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. In addition to fundamental contributions ranging from number theory to quantum electrodynamics, he worked on nuclear reactors, solid-state physics, ferromagnetism, astrophysics, and biology, looking for problems where elegant mathematics could be usefully applied. His books include Disturbing the UniverseWeapons and HopeInfinite in All DirectionsMaker of Patterns, and Origins of Life.

In the Pirandello play, "Six Characters in Search of an Author", the six characters come on stage, one after another, each of them pushing the story in a different unexpected direction. I use Pirandello's title as a metaphor for the pioneers in our understanding of the concept of evolution over the last two centuries. Here are my six characters with their six themes.
1. Charles Darwin (1809-1882): The Diversity Paradox.
2. Motoo Kimura (1924-1994): Smaller Populations Evolve Faster.
3. Ursula Goodenough (1943- ): Nature Plays a High-Risk Game.
4. Herbert Wells (1866-1946): Varieties of Human Experience.
5. Richard Dawkins (1941- ): Genes and Memes.
6. Svante Pääbo (1955- ): Cousins in the Cave.
The story that they are telling is of a grand transition that occurred about fifty thousand years ago, when the driving force of evolution changed from biology to culture, and the direction changed from diversification to unification of species. The understanding of this story can perhaps help us to deal more wisely with our responsibilities as stewards of our planet.

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