Buffalo BEAST - Buffalo's New Best Fiend
 

Oct 19 - Nov 2, 2005
Issue #86

  ..Buffalo's Best Fiend
   
Grand Perjury
A Miller's Tale
Allan Uthman

Disrobed
Are Female Genitals Enough to Qualify for the Supreme Court?
Paul jones

Getty Some
Hot Movement Action
A Monkey
Jurassic Dork
Michael Crichton's Science Fiction
Kit Smith
Harold Who?
Ode to Pinter in 1 Act

Alexander Zaitchik

Theatre of War
Inside the Psy-Ops Studio
Matt Bors

Drown Together
On Katrina & Disaster Fatigue
Jeff Dean
FAUX-TURES
After terror threats, New York begins efforts to clean shit out of pants
Clayton Byrd
An Open Letter to Jessica Alba
Irresponsible Mayoral Speculation:
What do Bflo's candidates have to do to win/lose?

Shop for Porn Like a Pro!
Hyman Bender

BOOKS
The Assassin’s Gate
America in Iraq
by George Packer
Review by John Freeman
The Big Wedding
9/11, the Whistle-Blowers and the Cover-Up
by Sander Hicks
Review by Russ Wellen
LOCAL
Buffalo Soldiers
Hutch Tech's New Program: Forcible Conscription
Allan Uthman
Another Corporate Psycopath
The Barnacle at Delphi
Chuck Richardson

The BEAST Blog
Irresponsible vitriol on a near-daily basis

[sic] - Letters
Wide Right
Bills Football & other sports
Ronnie Roscoe
Kino Korner: Movies
Michael Gildea
Page 3
Separated at Birth?
Beast-O-Scopes
 
 Cover Page

COMIX:
Idiot Box
Perry Bible Fellowship
Bob the Angry Flower

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JURASSIC DORK: Michael Crichton’s Science Fiction
by Kit Smith

As the child of two PhD scientists, I’ve had a problem with Michael Crichton since Jurassic Park hit the box office. My parents would not take me to the theatre to see it. (They also wouldn’t take me to see The Secret of NIMH, but that may have been due to the inherent irritating effect of talking animals on grown-ups.) Eventually I saw it on HBO. The most vivid scenes for me, still to this day, are of Jeff Goldblum, with his cowboy-boot-clad feet kicked up, smiling his self-righteous, Cheshire cat smile. The Sexy-Bastard Scientist.

Jurassic Park was a standard techno-phobic cautionary tale about “playing God,” a la Frankenstein and Godzilla, but this time the evil culprit was cloning, and shoddy cage construction. This type of puritanical anti-science message has been a part of American fiction since Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote Rapaccini’s Daughter. You know the drill: Science is evil, and scientists are power-mad sociopaths with utter disregard for the consequences of their actions.

This is the message Crichton proliferates in his works of fiction; along with other insulting messages like working women are deranged, predatory nymphomaniacs, and the Japanese are attempting world domination. Harajuku girls aside, this is patently ridiculous. Yet Crichton, a writer of fiction, is being called upon by formerly venerable organizations as the Smithsonian and the United States government for his guidance navigating the confusing world of climate change.

On November 6, 2005, the Smithsonian Center for Lifelong Learning is sponsoring “An Afternoon with Michael Crichton,” who will discuss, among other things, the importance of “sound science as the under-girding framework for public policy-making in the 21st century.”

First, Crichton’s sudden decision to appropriate the “doctor” title seems opportunistic at best, and definitely qualifies as a lie of omission. He has a degree in medicine from Harvard (a fine school turning out exemplary scholars in every field—just look at our president). He apparently never took, and therefore never passed, the boards. So he’s a doctor just like a PhD scientist is a doctor, in that he has a doctoral degree. He’s not, you know, a doctor doctor. Nor is he a PhD scientist.

Second, “sound science” is a buzzword of the very people who do not practice it, the kind of people who believe things like global warming are a plot devised by a nationwide horde of psycho scientists to frighten the world so that environmentalists can raise money, or something like that.

Finally, there is the event’s co-sponsor to consider, the enigmatic Washington Center for Complexity and Public Policy. Established as a non-profit, this consulting firm’s mission states: “The center’s initial portfolio of research and educational topics includes such problems as infrastructure protection and deregulation...(and) the economics of climate change....” Their only cited project is related to 9/11 and involves something vague about transforming our national defense and emergency response mechanisms into a single distributed system. Judging by the response to Hurricane Katrina, this consulting firm (or maybe our government...) is being run by Dilbert’s pointy-haired boss.   Unfortunately, consultants and star-struck events-directors at the Smithsonian in misapprehending that Crichton is a fiction writer with no legitimate scientific expertise (copies of Crichton’s newest novel, State of Fear, will be available for purchase and signing at the seminar). Not surprisingly, Crichton himself seems to suffer under this delusion.   In late January of this year, Crichton was brought in as an “expert” at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research (AEI), a neoconservative Washington “think” tank. Crichton delivered the keynote speech, entitled, “Science Policy in the 21st Century.” He has also appeared at the California Institute of Technology and on numerous news shows like “Today” and “20/20.” He wears dark suits, sets his glasses halfway down his nose, and speaks with authority. He seems to have reinvented himself, shedding the skin of mere novelist to reveal a shiny, winged policy wonk.

Most alarmingly, on September 28 Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) brought Crichton in to testify at a Senate Environmental Public Works Committee hearing, as their key witness, despite the fact that State of Fear is a novel, regardless of its bibliography and heavy annotation. You remember Inhofe. He’s the guy who called the threat of catastrophic global warming the “greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.” I’m sure his opinion in no way reflects the more than $518,000 he reportedly received from energy interests for his 2002 campaign.

On RealClimate.org, NASA climate modeler Gavin Schmidt registered his disappointment with State of Fear upon its release: “…[W]hile researching this book, Crichton actually visited our lab and discussed some of these issues with me and a few of my colleagues. I guess we didn’t do a very good job. Judging from his reading list, the rather dry prose of the IPCC reports did not match up to the some of the racier contrarian texts.” The RealClimate webpage includes a full Q&A on global warming. The website also features an eloquent and thorough dissection of, and hyperlinked scientific rejoinders to, assertions Crichton has made in his novel and a number of his public appearances.

Check it out: Scientists are smart. We can do math, and many of us know how to poison people and blow things up. If we were truly motivated by things like money and power, guess what? We’d have them. You had better be damn happy that the vast majority of scientific-minded people are driven by the desire for knowledge and understanding. Are there those driven by greed? Sure. They’re on ExxonMobil’s payroll, telling us there’s no such thing as global warming.

Even the Party in Orwell’s 1984 understood that physical facts could not be ignored. “In philosophy, or religion, or ethics, or politics, two and two might make five, but in designing a gun or an airplane they had to make four.” Crichton, the fictionist, by taking a stance on science policy is attempting to design a gun while assuming that two and two make five. Policy is a grey area, yes, but Crichton’s arguing against the science itself, while giving great lip service to moderation and reason (“sound science”).

I’m not saying he’s not a good writer, not remarkably intelligent, or not extraordinarily good-looking. His books are wildly imaginative and quite readable, especially if you’re a horny 14-year-old boy. But to say, as the ad for his Smithsonian appearance does, that he “has helped millions of readers understand the meaning, usefulness, and potential dangers of science and technology at the cutting edge,” is a massive affront to the scientific community.

Crichton’s belief in his own hype—evidenced by his willingness to malign the work of thousands of scientists who actually have PhDs in things like meteorology and atmospheric chemistry and geophysical fluid dynamics—demonstrates his wanton self-righteousness and utter lack of integrity. Apparently, most of his scientist characters are based on himself.

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