From Publishers Weekly
Physicist Dyson, now retired from Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study, attempts too much in this brief volume. He addresses three themes: the human and ethical consequences of biotechnology; the place of life in the universe; and the implications of biology for philosophy and religion. The seven short chapters consist of recent speeches that are not particularly well linked. Unlike some of his earlier works (e.g., The Scientist as Rebel
), which dazzle the reader with insight and make intellectual connections across a wide array of subjects, this volume is somewhat quirky and superficial. A self-professed heretic, Dyson argues that the fuss about global warming is grossly exaggerated, but his analysis is far from compelling. In proposing a simple way to prospect for life in the universe, he theorizes that herbivores and carnivores may be present on objects in the Kuiper Belt and the Oort Cloud, and may be constantly migrating from object to object. Dyson is most interesting when he defines theofiction, a genre by writers such as Olaf Stapledon and Octavia Butler, that arises from science fiction but where the vision is primarily religious rather than scientific. But even here, he falls short of his previous high standard. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Dyson, a physicist at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, NJ, is no lightweight. Although personally humble, he has made fundamental contributions to quantum physics and mathematics. His scientific status and his pacifist views have made him a darling of left-wing opinion outlets like The New York Times. But in these books, Dyson demonstrates that his ability to think critically and skeptically and his commitment to the truth often outweighs his politics...Dyson's great strength, whether he realizes it or not, is his ability to find problems we didn't think of, and imagine outlandish and sometimes impractical solutions...His powerful imagination sees the world as a spectacular explosion of irreducible phenomena.
(T.J. Nelson, brneurosci.org)