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ScottyMcGeester's avatar

What do you think of Michael Crichton's view on the scientific era and environmentalism?

Asked by ScottyMcGeester (1807points) March 12th, 2013

I finished reading Jurassic Park the other day for the first time, and it’s the one book so far where I fully realized Crichton’s opinions on science and his arguments against environmentalism.

For those of you unaware of said views, he basically had Ian Malcolm go on a rant on how the scientific era is coming to a close because of its uncontrollable power, how we leaped from atomic to genetic power and one day all that power will be in everyone’s hands everyday, from children to gardeners to terrorists and dictators. He said how science replaced the medieval ways but now the scientific ways are going to be replaced by something else; science is destroying itself by discovering things that contradict its goals (i.e. chaos theory).
His arguments against environmentalism were basically that the earth was, is, and never will be in any danger because it will only evolve and adapt and grow again. Thus, we shouldn’t waste any time or money on trying to save it. We’re only saving it based on our biased view on how we happen to live on this world and want to survive.

I just thought it was interesting and never really came across anyone with such views and wanted to see what others thought too.

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11 Answers

ragingloli's avatar

Do not make the mistake of conflating the beliefs of a character within a story with the beliefs of the author.

marinelife's avatar

I am not sure those were actually his views. He liked to stir things up.

I disagree with him about science.

I sort of agree with him about the environment in that I don’t think we can keep it in stasis, but I do think man has an obligation to erase the negative effects of his presence.

ScottyMcGeester's avatar

@ragingloli Someone at work (a scientist no doubt) told me those were actually Michael Crichton’s views, as well as another friend of mine. The former saw me read the book and told me about how Crichton thought, and I was surprised at first and then kept reading and wondered what my co-worker was talking about until I came across that part. I mean, the overall “moral” of almost all his stories seem to be man creates technology and technology goes out of control.

ragingloli's avatar

Spock: “History is replete with turning points, Lieutenant. You must have faith.”
Valeris: “Faith?”
Spock: “That the universe will unfold as it should.”
Valeris: “But is that logical? Surely we must…..”
Spock: “Logic, logic, and logic….. Logic is the beginning of wisdom, Valeris, not the end.”

glacial's avatar

“the earth was, is, and never will be in any danger because it will only evolve and adapt and grow again. Thus, we shouldn’t waste any time or money on trying to save it. We’re only saving it based on our biased view on how we happen to live on this world and want to survive.”

First, the earth can neither evolve nor grow. Only living things can do that. It is possible that humans will do irreversible damage to the earth, or at least damage that will take so long for the earth’s natural processes to repair, that humans will not live to see it. This could happen by the removal of soils, or the contamination of groundwater, to give just two examples. Our survival depends on both of these things, yet we irresponsibly put them at risk through our behaviour. Here is a very brief article that talks about the consequences to Haiti since it lost its soil due to human activities. It would take thousands of years for natural processes to rebuild enough soil to farm in a place where there is no soil. So, sure – the earth might “survive” – but would humans live to see it? This is not a trivial question.

Where living things are concerned, things are a little trickier. I think that you are right – living things will adapt to whatever new environments we create in the future. But the question is, do you want to live on a planet that has bears, eagles, and wolves? Or do you want to live on a planet that has the same species diversity as we have now… only most of those species are different types of cockroach? Working towards conserving the species that exist right now is a selfish thing. We do it because we are comfortable with the species we have, and we do it because we have no idea what the effect of removing those species might be on the longterm survival of our own species.

Remember that Crichton is the person saying this stuff… and in a novel. He has these things said by an expert in his field, a rock star. But you’re not learning it from Ian Malcolm, chaos theory genius. You’re learning it from Michael Crichton, expert at writing fiction. There’s no reason to suppose that he knows what he’s talking about.

zenvelo's avatar

It’s true, we can keep on destroying the earth, and, over time, the earth will “correct” itself. But “over time” is a long time period, and the first step in the earth correcting itself is to get rid of what is bugging it, which just happens to be humans.

So we can either figure out a way to continue to live here, or we can figure Crichton had a handle on things and give up now. But it won’t be a very nice place to live as we head towards the end.

Sounds like Crichton was accepting of Gaia theory, but felt it meant we might as well stop doing anything.

ScottyMcGeester's avatar

I’m starting to fully realize how Crichton was one of those authors you either liked and have fond memories of or found annoying and rolled your eyes. Although a couple still liked his stories even though they found him really annoying. It never hit me until I started looking things up. I read The Andromeda Strain, Prey and Next, the last of which wasn’t really his best. And I never really considered him conservative of the sort. And then I read this and was like, “Whoa. What?” and it was really opinionated and wanted to see how people reacted. Supposedly he once gave a lecture how global warming was basically BS.

AdamF's avatar

Summary article here

His views about the environment and climate change are justifiably placed in the fiction section.

LostInParadise's avatar

I disagree with his view of science. Chaos theory destroying the goal of science? Rubbish. It just shows that the universe is more complex and interesting than we previously imagined.

As for his view of the environment, I agree that things will go on regardless of what we do. Even if we wipe out all life on Earth, which I don’t think will happen, this only modifies a part of the surface of the planet. It will still continue to travel around the Sun.

I disagree with those who say that other species have rights. We should and will continue to fashion the planet as we see fit. The question is what type of place we want to live in. A world without polar bears, pandas or native plants, IMHO, is a greatly impoverished place. Others may have different priorities.

SavoirFaire's avatar

The false assumption behind Crichton/Malcolm’s view is that the only possible reason or motivation one might have for environmentalism is to keep the planet safe for its own sake. Environmentalists needn’t be committed to some bizarre view about the inherent value of the exact current state of Earth’s biosphere. It could be about maintaining conditions that allow human beings to continue existing. Thus the fact that the Earth will go on with or without us is really quite irrelevant.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

In many of his novels he points out the harm done by humans exploiting the worlds resources without consideration of the long term consequences for life on earth, including human life. He does not seem to systematically oppose environmentalism. He decries the lateness with which even a few humans started to understand what harm our species has done and is continuing to do. He has good reason to fear that if humans do not collectively act to mitigate the harm we have done then humans as a species should not expect to continue to live well on this planet.

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