Word + Quiz: eschatology

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Word + Quiz: eschatology

: the branch of theology that is concerned with such final things as death and Last Judgment; Heaven and Hell; the ultimate destiny of humankind

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The word eschatology has appeared in five articles on NYTimes.com in the past year, including on March 2 in the Opinion essay “Freeman Dyson’s Quest for Eternal Life” by Katie Mack:

He worked with such luminaries as Richard Feynman and Wolfgang Pauli, and wrote books speculating about religion, biology, and the future of human society. His early achievements landed him an offer of a professorship before he even finished his Ph.D., so he never bothered to complete it — he felt that being a perpetual student gave him license to explore more freely.

Of course, being a genius and visionary helped with that, too. By the time he was pondering eternal life, he had already firmly established his scientific legacy, so he could risk working on topics he knew would be considered frivolous. In the introduction of his 1979 paper, he pushed back against the idea that eschatology, the study of end times, should be avoided by serious scientists: “If our analysis of the long-range future leads us to raise questions related to the ultimate meaning and purpose of life, then let us examine these questions boldly and without embarrassment.”

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