Michael Crichton: Evil, Or Just A Crazy Luddite?

Illustration for article titled Michael Crichton: Evil, Or Just A Crazy Luddite?

Arguably the science fiction writer who's achieved the most mainstream success in the past few decades is Michael Crichton, whose works include the Andromeda Strain, Westworld and (most famously) Jurassic Park. So it's too bad Crichton achieved his success by being an evil luddite, writes Star Dragon author Mike Brotherton.

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A common theme in Crichton's work is that science is evil, and tampering with the forces of nature will get your face bitten off, writes Brotherton on his blog:

The theme of much of Crichton's work is that of Frankenstein: playing god brings destruction. This is the message of Jurassic Park and Prey, for starters. There are related themes in books like Sphere, which indicates that there are things that humankind is better off not knowing... When a writer devotes so much time to pointing out the great arrogance and hubris of scientists and how it always brings doom, well, I think that sucks. We don't have enough positive examples of scientists in books and movies.

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And yet in the course of criticizing science, Crichton makes fundamental scientific errors, Brotherton points out. Most amusingly, he thinks "chaos theory" means every complex system will automatically break down - which means the space shuttle shouldn't be able to fly. And of course, Crichton has been lecturing whoever will listen about the "hoax" of global warming, disparaging the work of real climate scientists.

Brotherton links to a fascinating deconstruction of the bad science in Crichton's global warming hoax book, State Of Fear, at RealClimate.org: Crichton dredges up the myth that all scientists believed in the 1970s we were on the verge of an ice age. And in an appendix, Crichton compares the study of global warming to the 19th century academic study of eugenics: both were supported by foundations and had academic support, so ipso facto they must be equally valid. Right? Meanwhile, over at Nanotechnology Now, Chris Phoenix deconstructs the weird science in Crichton's fear-nanotechnology opus Prey, including the idea that atoms can pass through glass. (In which case, lightbulbs wouldn't work all that well.)

[Mike Brotherton]

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DISCUSSION

farwent
Josh Wimmer

@willentrekin: Well, it becomes worth discussing when the president invites him to the White House to discuss global warming.

I mean, it's one thing when you have fictional SF like Star Wars and Star Trek, where the setting makes it clear even to the not-so-bright that the fantastic is part of the story's internal consistency. But the overall tone of much of Crichton's work suggests that the science is just around the corner—that it's plausible, and moreover, well researched. We can say, "Oh, it's fiction, he doesn't have a responsibility to be accurate," but it's a bit like your little brother waving his hands within an inch of you and saying, "I'm not touching you! I'm not touching you!" Technically, he's right, but it's still obnoxious and not cool.