Crichton’s Message in “Jurassic Park”
Forget all of the movies based on Crichton’s dinosaur books. (In fact, forget all movies made from Michael Crichton’s books. Film media has simply never done justice to the man’s brilliant authorship. Crichton said as much himself, and I agree.)
I have recently re-read Jurassic Park for the third or fourth time, and finally got the point. In all of Crichton’s books there are passages where one of the characters preaches. Where he or she delivers what must be Crichton’s message. I do not believe he wrote merely to entertain. Crichton’s prose and research were aimed at delivering a message to his readers. (As it took me multiple readings, I must be a slow study!)
About three-quarters of the way through Jurassic Park (p. 305+ of my version), the infamous raconteur-cum-mathematician, Dr. Ian Malcolm, has been injured by the T-rex and is under the influence of morphine, but it hasn’t slowed his brain a bit. He is arguing with John Hammond, the showman whose vision has driven Jurassic Park to completion. They’ve exhausted chaos theory as a topic of debate and Hammond has just muttered about how his vision had been so simple and now it was unraveling. Malcolm took exception to the word simple. He goes on to explain his umbrage.
“‘You know what’s wrong with scientific power?’ Malcolm said. “It’s a form of inherited wealth. And you know what assholes congenitally rich people are. It never fails.’
“Hammond said, ‘What is he talking about?’
“Harding made a sign, indicating delirium. Malcolm cocked his eye.
“‘I will tell you what I am talking about,’ he said. ‘ Most kinds of power require a substantial sacrifice by whoever wants the power. There is an apprenticeship, a discipline lasting many years. Whatever kind of power you want. President of the company. Black belt in karate. Spiritual guru. Whatever it is you seek, you have to put in the time, the practice, the effort. You must give up a lot to get it. It has to be very important to you. And once you have attained it, it is your power. It can’t be given away: it resides in you. It is literally the result of your discipline.
“‘Now what is interesting about this process is that, by the time someone has acquired the ability to kill with his bare hands, he has also matured to the point where he won’t use it unwisely. So that kind of power has a built-in control. The discipline of getting the power changes you so that you won’t abuse it.
“‘But scientific power is like inherited wealth attained without discipline. You read what others have done, and you take the next step. You can do it very young. You can make progress very fast. There is no discipline lasting many decades. there is no mastery: old scientists are ignored. There is no humility before nature. There is only a get-rich-quick [the Gennaro and Nedry characters], make-a-name-for-yourself-fast philosophy [the Wu and Hammond characters]. Cheat, lie, falsify – it doesn’t matter. Not to you, or to your colleagues. No one will criticize you. No one has any standards. They are all trying to do the same thing: to do something big, and do it fast.'”
There’s more in the same vein. And, when you read Jurassic Park in this light, it’s all over the book. The whole park project is a paroxysm of greed with science in harness.
At one point later in the book, Hammond confesses his worry that the dinosaurs will get loose and destroy the world. Malcolm scoffs at this notion, noting that the world has been through a lot worse than humanity and will survive long after we don’t. For an even more deliberate stick in the eye of the “climate change” community, read Crichton’s State of Fear. That book is even more polemical than Jurassic Park.
The point here is that scientists are ill-suited to be the high priests of the religion of secularism. Modernism insisted that scientists would create a better day. That we could find out all we needed to know to control our world, our lives, each other, if we just studied hard enough. We placed this authority in the hands of “scientists.” (Regardless of how murky the qualifications for that title have become.) The truth is, they are not pure devotees to knowledge. With the power liberal society entrusts to them, with the money that follows, scientists are shown to have the same human nature as the rest of us. They can be just as shallow, conniving, greedy, and manipulative to suit their own ends.
Take, for example, the joker who announced he’d discovered the “gay gene.” (I haven’t bothered to remember his name and won’t be bothered to look it up.) When his science was proven false, he defended himself by saying something like this; “I want so strongly to believe that people are born gay that I won’t rest until I find evidence that it’s true.” A liar and a cheat with a degree and an agenda attempted to mislead the world. And, given half a chance, he will try to do so again.
In case I haven’t made this clear, let me say it again. I enjoy Jurassic Park as a work of fiction. I read it at least twice before I discovered the message Crichton put in this well-written bottle. There is no reason for me to read something in the pages of the book that is not there. I challenge you to read the book with the knowledge of the theme and you will see that this message is not just on Ian Malcolm’s lips, it is inherent in the motivations of most of the main characters, and is, in fact, the engine that drives the plot.
It is a message that is finding more traction in our post-Modern culture. Science is not an alternative religion. Scientists are not alternative priests. Progressivist notions that place our social trust in these institutions are half-baked, inadequate, untrustworthy.
May I suggest we hear Crichton’s message? That might be a good place to start hearing some of the voices of antiquity? To read the findings of men and women who exercised due diligence, who exerted wisdom, and had patience to seek the truth for the truth’s sake? Though I guess Crichton might disagree on this specific point, let me suggest secularism and modernism receive a quick burial and we turn to the Bible as our source of authoritative truth, moral wisdom, and intellectual honesty. By going backward in time we can better go forward in our shared future.