You know what’s wrong with scientific power

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            “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.”  Pg. 311.

            This passage is fascinating because of Malcolm’s central thesis that inherited wealth gives people power who may, perhaps even usually, not know how to use it wisely.  The connection between handing over the reins of scientific power discovered by the hard work of committed and intelligent individuals to businessmen like Hammond is brilliantly evocative of the idea that one day Paris Hilton could possibly be in charge of running the Hilton Hotels conglomerate.  It boggles the mind and staggers the intellect.

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            “But now,” he continued, “science is the belief system that is hundreds of years old.  And, like the medieval system before it, science is starting not to fit the world anymore.  Science has attained so much power that its practical limits begin to be apparent. Largely through science, billions of us live in one small world, densely packed and intercommunicating. But science cannot help us decide what to do with that world, or how to live. Science can make a nuclear reactor, but it cannot tell us not to build it.  Science can make pesticide, but cannot tell us not to use it.”  Pg. 318.

            Arguably the single most important line in the film version of Jurassic Park is when Malcolm observes “Yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”  That concept is reflected in this passage which brings to the fore the sensitive topic of whether certain scientific discoveries should be delayed, postponed or forgotten altogether for the sake of humanity.  Scientific discoveries do not exist in a vacuum; they are always subject to the manner in which they the human mind decides to use them.

            It was a matter of tinkering, the way a modern workman might repair an antique grandfather clock.  You were dealing with something out the past, something constructed of ancient materials and following ancient rules.  You couldn’t be certain why it worked the way it did, and it had been repaired and modified many times already, by forces of evolution, over eons of time.  Pg. 341

            The passage here is directed toward tinkering with the DNA of an extinct species, but one can also extrapolate from the concepts being discussed here the difficulty of genetic tinkering with human beings.  Designer genes are today being discussed a realistic possibility in the not too distant future, but is there not contained within this the very same danger of not really knowing exactly what the rules of genes are.  Human genome mapping is fine, but human genes are, like dinosaurs, the result of modifications that have taken over place millennia and are subject to exterior stimuli the full extent of which may not be known.

“He’s been saying I told you so forever.  But nobody ever wanted this to happen.”

“It isn’t a matter of wanting it or not…” pg. 356.

At this point in the narrative, Dr. Malcolm is dying, he’s on drugs, he’s been attacking everything Hammond for over three hundred pages.

 Q: Has Michael Crichton allowed Ian Malcolm to quit being a fascinating and three-dimensional character and instead devolve into merely a didactic mouthpiece of the questioning of the validity of scientific research as a means for conducting business?

A: As funny, engaging and intelligent as Malcolm is, throughout much of the novel he seems to defy expectations of how a real human being would react in the peculiar and specific circumstances in which he finds himself.  While it is a fool’s errand to ever suggest that the actions of a fictional character are not believable (just look at how unbelievable real people behave every day), in Malcolm’s case he seems to defy logical behavior patterns solely for the purpose of spouting dialogue intended to engender a continuing discussion of scientific ethics.

“Let me tell you about our planet…” pg. 374.

Sometimes writers begin gestating the idea for one novel while working on another.  The Socratic dialogue that takes place in this section of the novel between Malcolm and Hammond reads, in retrospect, like some kind of dry run for Crichton’s anti-global warming novel State of Fear.

Q: Does this extended conversation seem to be an organic part of a novel about genetically revived dinosaurs, or does it appear to be a more awkward insertion by Crichton of ideas he may have been tinkering with that were more suitable for another story entirely?

A: This entire exchange seems to drift woefully off course from the germane topic of the ethics of cloning and scientific manipulation.  A sudden intrusion into the discourse of the inability of human beings to ever really possess the power to destroy the world seems unlikely at this point when these people should be far more concerned with staving off their own destruction.  It appears that Crichton knew his approach to a novel about global warming would be met with some amount of skepticism and so he began exploited an opportunity to reach readers who might have been resistant to his ideas in complete form.

Total Animals.   292__________________________________________ Pg. 376

Throughout Jurassic Park, Crichton includes a number of scientific tables such as the one expressed on this page.

Q: The use of such effects is intended to lend a sense of realism to what is essentially a science fiction novel, but is such an effect a distraction to the reader by interrupting the flow of prose?

A: Writers of “hard” science fiction seem to have a propensity to fear the fiction part of their appointed task and so take great pains to lend a perhaps improper sense of fact to their works.  Ultimately, everybody knows that setting a novel about cloned dinosaurs in contemporary times is utter fiction so the question arises: why not just write a science fiction novel?  How many readers really care about the actual science of such an endeavor?  Crichton’s constant use of charts like these provides precious little depth to the average reader and for many, if not most, probably acts as simply an irritating distraction.

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