Are you a humanist or a naturalist?

Naturalists believe that nature knows best. For them the highest value is to respect the natural order of things. Any gross human disruption of the natural environment is evil. Thus, excessive burning of fossil fuels is evil.

The humanist ethic begins with the belief that humans are an essential part of nature. Through human minds the biosphere has acquired the capacity to steer its own evolution, and now we are in charge. Humans have the right and the duty to reconstruct nature so that humans and biosphere can both survive and prosper. For humanists, the highest value is harmonious coexistence between humans and nature.

Thus speaks the great theoretical physicist Freeman Dyson in one of his most thought-provoking and ‘heretical’ essays. It is possible to disagree with him and yet appreciate the caution he is advocating. Dyson’s views on (non) global warming are by now legion, but here he also discusses other matters.

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