Michael Crichton’s remarks to the Commonwealth Club, 2003

ChichtonI don’t often (or ever) say to readers that you should go read something that I read. I know how that works, as I am usually reluctant to take time from my planned day to indulge anyone. So my suggestion here is to simply take a glance at the opening words of Michael Crichton to the Commonwealth Club in 2003, and see if you have the same experience that I did. Crichton was such an engaging writer that he held readers rapt for decades. See if upon reading the beginning, you find yourself reading the end too. Maybe so, maybe not.

Here are the opening two paragraphs:

I have been asked to talk about what I consider the most important challenge facing mankind, and I have a fundamental answer. The greatest challenge facing mankind is the challenge of distinguishing reality from fantasy, truth from propaganda. Perceiving the truth has always been a challenge to mankind, but in the information age (or as I think of it, the disinformation age) it takes on a special urgency and importance.

We must daily decide whether the threats we face are real, whether the solutions we are offered will do any good, whether the problems we’re told exist are in fact real problems, or non-problems. Every one of us has a sense of the world, and we all know that this sense is in part given to us by what other people and society tell us; in part generated by our emotional state, which we project outward; and in part by our genuine perceptions of reality. In short, our struggle to determine what is true is the struggle to decide which of our perceptions are genuine, and which are false because they are handed down, or sold to us, or generated by our own hopes and fears.

He goes on to talk about environmentalism as a religion. I want to be very careful about that, as there are, as I see it, two types of environmentalist. Our friend and blog writer Steve Kelly represents the first kind, intent on a concrete purpose, to preserve natural habitat against the onslaught of industry and population. I support those goals and admire him for his decades of hard (and effective) work.

The other type is more and more earning my contempt. Patrick Moore, one of the founders of Greenpeace, left the group because he could no longer be on board with a group that held people in contempt – that regarded humanity as an invader in an otherwise pristine world. This is, as Crichton saw in 2003, the essence of what was then called “global warming,” now “climate change.” It is not sense and sensible purpose. It is religion.  It reminds me of Liz Lemon as she met Matt Damon’s character in 30 Rock, an oddball airline pilot. She looked on him with affection, saying something like “Oh good. You hate people too.”

I don’t regard Crichton’s body of work as anything other than that of a creative man, perhaps a bit Renaissance, fingers in many pies. He spun some engaging fiction that often enough became crappy movies. My favorite, Timeline, was such a bad movie that I could barely sit through it. The Jurassic Park series certainly caught the public’s attention and served as a vehicle for introduction of advances in CGI technology. Also, I remember after sitting through Jurassic Park III (2001) thinking “Wow. That was fun!” That’s really all I ask of movies – show me a good time.

(Which reminds me, here I go again, I watched Men in Black II a while back. It was ridiculous in terms of a gripping plot, but I had many good laughs throughout. It kept me awake, quite an accomplishment at my age.)

Enough rambling. I suppose someone will step forth and tell me that Crichton was juiced, in the peerage, maybe even … Jewish (shriek!!!). I don’t know about any of that. I only know that he was a gifted writer. He died in 2008 at age 66. Yes, I think he really died. Too bad, as he probably left behind many undeveloped ideas as he shuffled off this mortal coil.

35 thoughts on “Michael Crichton’s remarks to the Commonwealth Club, 2003

  1. You know, you’re not “anyone” to those of us reading your blog, we obviously rate your book recommendations a little higher than Joe Shmoe on the street.

    I’ll check that out. Also curious about the novel he wrote with climate change controversy as the background.

    There’s definitely a place for light entertainment such as MIB. The only fly in the ointment, it becomes harder to find as you become more attuned to media messaging. I recently watched the tv series The Orville, which seems to be creator/ star Seth Mcfarlane living out his childhood dream to be in captain of a Star Trek starship. At first I almost gave it up from the heavy handed gender politics. But thankfully it got more nuanced, less obnoxious, as the season progressed, and I ended up enjoying most of it as light entertainment. Aside from a few dud episodes and the mainstream worldview occasionally too heavy handed.

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    1. I like the Orville, too. But, Seth supposedly missed being on one of the 911 “planes”. He has a sister Rachael. I loved the first Men in Black because it gave me a chance to experience scenes similar to my own sci-fi series on the big screen–seeing as my award-winning tales would never get publicity or get produced as I am not “connected”.

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  2. His premise is that we must all exercise great caution regarding the things we choose to believe, because what we believe colors or shapes everything we do, and thus the world we co-create with each other. In this I agree with him 100%.

    He then goes on to cite all manner of things as “fact” which may or may not be actual facts. Where he comes up with the idea, for instance, that the first humans to reach the Americas “… almost immediately set about wiping out hundreds of species of large animals, and they did this several thousand years before the white man showed up, to accelerate the process” is a mystery. Not to mention that the sentence itself is nonsensical. The first humans intentionally destroyed hundreds of species of animals to accelerate the process? What process? Wiping out species? Wait, what? Can anyone make sense of that statement?

    Or this: “the early peoples of the New World lived in a state of constant warfare”. Does he pull this “fact” out of his ass? I’m not disputing that there was fighting, cannibalism, etc. It’s the “constant warfare” bit that seems disingenuous at best. It’s known that trade flourished, for instance. Many of the major highways in the U.S. are built on top of roads/trails that existed for centuries before the first European set foot on the continent. Is thriving trade consistent with all tribes living in a constant state of warfare?

    He finishes with this gem:
    “Because in the end, science offers us the only way out of politics.”

    And that is what I assume was the main point of his talk. “Science will save us all from ourselves.” It’s almost as if he’d never read any of his own books, which tend to highlight how damn dangerous such thinking can be. Jurassic Park. Andromeda Strain. Take your pick: Crichton’s books are about scary science, by and large. And yet if we’re to BELIEVE him, science and only science can lead us out of this awful quagmire of political strife we perpetually inhabit.

    How, exactly, is that going to happen? How is Science a “way out of” politics? Oh, I almost forgot: he ends with a call for a “new organization”. The Department of Science, methinks? The Dept. whose job it will be to determine what is “fact” and was is “fake”, and helpfully let us all know which is which.

    I assume they’ll have daily updates, much like the Two Minutes Hate that is our morning news, except that instead of telling us what to fear or despise they’ll tell us what to believe or disbelieve, and once we’re all happily indoctrinated with the day’s “facts” we can finally begin to climb out of the cesspit that is politics once and for all.

    If you believe that I have a bridge made of recycled cans to sell you.

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      1. [I should add: Maybe ten or twelve years ago I was with my step son, and the subject of global warming came up. I was letting it all drift by at that time, thinking that there was real science behind it. Stepson had just read State of Fear, and Crichton convinced him that GW was, like Lysenkoism, a case of publicly funded science run amok, those disagreeing afraid to speak up. So what we had, in Crichton’s view, was bad science and real science, and he seems to want to be able to have some official emblem to put on the real stuff to tell it apart from the fake. It’s a nice thought. That is the only reason I was drawn to his talk. I am somewhat embarrassed now that you have pointed out all of the other things he is off base on. Also, I have never looked into the DDT matter and don’t know what to make of that.]

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    1. — “Not to mention that the sentence itself is nonsensical. The first humans intentionally destroyed hundreds of species of animals to accelerate the process? What process? Wiping out species? Wait, what? Can anyone make sense of that statement?”

      It’s a bad comma. The sentence is clearly stating that the first humans were destroying species and that destruction accelerated when white men showed up.

      It’s concerning you, can’t decipher it even, with the error.

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      1. It’s more problematic than comma placement. Your explanation uses the verb “accelerate” to describe the actions of a different noun. This may not concern you, as much, as your concern about Joki’s reading comprehension skills.

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        1. Actually, I apologize. Rereading the sentence, I realize you’re righ, the comma is the problem and I should have stayed out of this. It still doesn’t change my mind about Crichton’s overall intentions with the piece and I don’t think either of our minds will be changed by quibbling over one of its sentences.

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          1. I don’t disagree with the critiques of Crichton’s “science will save us” nonsense. The first flaw lay in believing there is a way out. No different than thinking there’s a way out for deer from the wolves, or a way out from bacteria.

            Joki’s criticism hits its target only because the only way to fail would be to agree with Crichton. A misfired gun that kills the opponent in a duel leaves you still standing but shouldn’t be passed along as a strategy

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        2. Well hey, now I’m glad I blundered into this only to get egg on my face, since I agree with everything you’re saying and have a tendency to misfire myself, in case that’s not obvious. Thanks.

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      2. I don’t agree that the problem is one of mere comma placement. Not coming from a very successful author who’s quite well known for, among other things, an extraordinary attention to detail in his works. Saying the natives “set about” destroying species gives the impression that it was their intent to do just that. If I describe an occasion in which I walked into a bar and “set about” punching everyone in their faces, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to assume that it was my intent even before I walked in, would it?

        Using the words “to accelerate” further ascribes intent, else he would have said simply “accelerating”, not “to accelerate”, i.e they “set about” doing something. What did they set about doing? Destroying species. WHY? “to accelerate”!

        Just as one example of how he could have written it if his intent were to describe the results of their actions without presupposing their intent: he could have said “causing the destruction to accelerate”. He did not, however, and I can’t say it for him.

        I appreciate the opportunity to revisit my thoughts on the piece, however. Thanks.

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  3. To amplify in my own way what Joki is saying, what struck me reading this lecture was that Crichton, like the environmentalists he’s decrying, wants us to be very, very scared of nature and not even entertain the possibility that we can deal with it on its own terms without getting killed unless smart science heroes with lots of money set up a purely objective, purely apolitical, entirely beneficent structure whose only goal is to save our sorry incompetent asses from ourselves. This structure is as mythical as all the other myths he derides. It has never existed, as far as I know, and never will.

    In the comments on another post I spoke of my fondness for Vladimir Nabokov and Tyrone expressed his certainty that Nabokov was either a Zionist or a Zionist sympathizer. Tyrone is far more erudite than I am, knows a lot more about Nabokov’s biography and its historical context than I likely ever will, and I humbly respect his viewpoint. I bring Nabokov up in this comment simply because, whatever the man may or may not have been up to in the muckety-muck of the material world, he went to great pains to bring the Russian concept of “poshlost” (which he Americanized as “poshlust”) to us. I’m probably getting tiresome because I keep bringing that concept up and if you do a quick google search you will likely just see the American simplification of the concept: Poshlust refers to banality, vulgarity, pornography, cliche, etc. However, I happened upon Nabokov’s various explications of it in the early days of my own “awakening” (which is no doubt why I continue to cling to him as a hero of integrity after abandoning virtually all my other past heroes), and studying it has helped me see the way so much we accept in our culture numbs us and makes us susceptible to propaganda. Before I even started looking closely at some of Crichton’s specific points, I was struck by the preponderance of sweeping generalities used to discredit other sweeping generalities, supported by rhetoric intended to create feelings of fear and helplessness to discredit the environmentalists’ rhetoric intended to discredit fear and helplessness.

    I’ll see if I can keep commenting on subjects like this without bringing up Nabokov or poshlost though, because the more I do the more I sound to myself like I’m preaching yet another religion, and that’s the last thing I’m interested in doing.

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  4. State of Fear, not even listed above! is Crichton’s masterpiece and a must-read for anyone, but especially those interested in AGW.

    It will be used as prescriptive programming I think. He is right about the religious fanaticism there is.

    Ir is a myth, a self-fulshilling prophecy, to suppose every writer in the mainstream is on board with “The Agenda”.

    Luckily on the AGW the antiscientific side has pumped up their idiocracy so high (Greta fuckin Thunberg) and that creates real opposition from the scientific side (the “there is no climate emergency” letter).

    Read that book State of Fear, seriously.

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  5. When I think of Michael Crichton, I think of Jurassic Park.

    The book was released in 1990, the film in 1993.

    I could say so much about this but I’ll keep it brief:

    The book and the film both place a character named ‘John Hammond’ at the centre of the story. In the book, he is kind of like an evil capitalist caricature, but in the film, he is a lovable, jolly, fat man.

    In the film, he is played by Richard Attenborough, the brother of David Attenborough.

    Think about the significance of that: the brother of a real-life narrator of ‘natural history’ and ‘documentaries’ is the chief dinosaur bringer-back-to-life guy, the one man who funds and promotes ‘dinosaur’ ‘science’.

    It will only take a few minutes to rewatch the scene from early in the film when the ‘science’ of ‘dinosaur’ ‘DNA’ is explained.

    Do you see what I see?

    with rare exception, people my age (32) and younger will ALWAYS believe in dinosaurs, because we were exposed to this nonsense at a highly-impressionable age.

    Consider the power of that propaganda. Etched in the viewers’ minds forever, by the big screen and Dolby surround sound.

    What A Time To Be Alive, folks.

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    1. Jeff Goldblum plays Malcolm, the chaos mathematician, and the depth of his reasoning can be summed up as follows: “Crazy shit happens.”

      I am not yet ready to be persuaded away from the existence of these creatures, JLB. I attended last week an hour long lecture given by a schooled man of his findings of dinosaur fossils in Madagascar. He has spent his career in this pursuit. Because his manner of speaking was professorial, the expert teacher handing golden nuggets down to the student, and because I am a senior citizen, I fell asleep. But the people I was with told me it was very good. (he is the husband of one of my wife’s hiking partners, and the gathering was maybe 40 people, his doing a favor for his wife.)

      Is this man dishonest? No. Were his findings planted evidence? No. Misinterpreted? Possibly, as their dating techniques are indeed suspect. But there are many barriers that stand between where you sit and where I do right now, JLB. Direct me, if you will, to your evidence, and I will look at it with open eyes and mind.

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      1. Mark, though I’m also not ready to stop believing in dinosaurs, I might be closer to that precipice than you are, since I have so completely changed my mind about the notion that all our oil comes from their fossils. It’s now a laughable proposition to me, and the fact that so many millions have been duped by it for so long and continue to be duped by it kind of takes my breath away.

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        1. Completely with you on oil … in fact. I have put my money where my mouth is. I own small interests in various gas wells in Utah, and they are mostly old wells that have been producing for decades. Pessimism is everywhere, and I managed to obtain my shares by buying out people who were certain it was all coming to a close. But the thing was, in all my years, I had never seen a well that produced stop producing. If you cap them, they “build a head” and produce at intervals at higher levels. I gambled that the wells would continue to produce well into the future. The wells have now been taken over by an innovative company that has gathered up all the ownership they can to give them power to face down a pipeline company that is eating everyone’s lunch.

          Here is how the new company approached existing operators: “These wells are old and will soon have to be plugged, which us costly. We will relieve you of this burden of you accept our lowball offer.” I am one of only an handful that turned down the offer and jumped on board for the ride, my underlying thesis being that natural gas is not “fossil” based, but a naturally occurring substance that will continue to be brought to the surface for decades and decades. It’s a risk, and fortunately I am a small player and I do not depend on the income. But my gamble is based on what you say, the proposition that oil comes from fossils being laughable.

          In addition, why would this new company take on the ownership just to plug the wells?

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          1. Wow, that’s fascinating–thanks for sharing that, Mark. Now I’m going to ponder whether I want to dip my toe in the world of investing. (It’s such a foreign world to me that I probably won’t, but this is the first time I’ve considered that my “outsider” understanding of things could actually be financially profitable.)

            As for the dinosaur thing… tricking the masses into accepting a completely unsubstantiated hypothesis as a given doesn’t seem all that complicated. Manufacturing the field of paleontology from whole cloth seems like a hell of a lot of work and I can’t imagine why “they” would do it. Then again, I’d have said the same about my current convictions re: 9/11, so who knows? This particular brand of open-mindedness makes me just as susceptible to TPTB’s bullshit as the normies/sheeple/npc’s are, of course. They just have to sell me a different line of bullshit. Maybe the No-Dinosaur has been shipped straight from their factory to the internet, or maybe it’s actually true. It’ll be fun to go shopping.

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          2. Very interesting, what I read anyway … I gave it about fifteen minutes and put it aside. My eyes are tired. But this does bring up another point … others elsewhere have commented that creatures like that could not exist today given our gravity, that their skeletal structures would collapse under all that weight. From this they deduce that dinosaurs existed at a time when our planet had different gravitational pull. Also, pterodactyl would be too big to fly in our atmosphere, ergo earth had a different atmosphere then, which it probably did.

            But if dinosaurs are just fabrications or extrapolations from smaller finds, then these issues don’t exist.

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          3. Jackie–Thanks for the link. Man, I’m just blown away by my own ignorance. Had no idea that dinosaur bones or dinosaur theories or the very concept of the dinosaur didn’t exist before the mid-19th century. And then suddenly money-grubbing explorers who went out looking for dinosaur bones found them in shocking abundance at almost any remote region they chose to look. Will keep reading other sources on the subject but man, it looks like my belief in dinosaurs–like my belief in so many other societal givens over the past ten years or so–is about to go extinct.

            In following other links, I also realized the term “fossil fuel” isn’t meant to refer to dinosaurs, but to plants and dead fish or whatever. I kind of knew that but kind of didn’t–the “fossil fuel” concept and the “dinosaur” concept have always been linked in my mind. Just as well, I guess, since it appears they’re both bullshit.

            It’s really no wonder so few people are willing to change their minds about the Big Lies they’ve been taught to believe (though I agree with Joki that people commonly change their minds about all kinds of other things). It’s an unsettling and kind of exhausting process… and more than a little depressing.

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      2. Direct me, if you will, to your evidence, and I will look at it with open eyes and mind.

        Perhaps the best way to introduce my work on this topic is by way of a discussion/debate I took part in, about 18 months ago.

        (That video is not hosted on my channel; I get no financial return on any clicks [nor does the owner of that channel, since you need to reach more than a few thousand views to get ad revenues from youtuber])

        The reason this particular discussion/debate is so useful is that the host of the show, who goes by the name Rufus, is a dinosaur believer. He even presents evidence for his beliefs and asks me to explain how the fossils (images) could exist if dinosaurs never existed. His comments and moderation provide for and facilitate constructive dialectic.

        Note that the first half hour or so of the show is wasted on questions about my education/background, based on spurious allegations made against me prior to the show (those allegations being that I attended a ‘Jesuit’ high school in Melbourne, which is simply untrue, and entirely irrelevant in any event).

        If you can get past the first half hour or so, the rest should all be entertaining at the very least — and, I hope, rather informative.

        Beyond that, I recommend the videos available entirely for free on my dino-specific website:

        https://www.dinoskeptic.com/

        If the content linked to above is not satisfactory, I would be happy to come back and provide a detailed written explanation, either as a comment in this thread, or as a standalone post. The dinosaur hoax is, for me, one of the more fascinating and revealing hoaxes of our time. Once you see the di-no-nsense for yourself, it becomes rather amusing.

        Somehow the authorities have convinced grown adults to believe in ancient, gigantic, extinct, MONSTERS. And passed it all of as ‘science’.

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  6. Who really owns the purse to the PTB? City of London’s version of Wall St? At least what is allowed to be viewed? The Wall St. gang is the same network that (surprise) own & control the network of information flow. Hollywood. So its a lock to assume they are behind the investment(s) game. Middlemen in publics eyes, of course. Just like the week-end follies of sports on TV, their finger prints & clues are everywhere )not just ads) when you have opened your mind to symbology.

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    1. Ah, the sports. We see only the tip of the iceberg. Betting, salaries, stadium construction, promo, all seem to provide endless money-laundering opportunities for the gazillions generated from drugs, weapons, human/organ trafficking and the like. So big in international football the U.S. Government moved in on the action (hostile takeover). No need here in the good old U.S. of A. Already well entrenched. I remember the days in Philadelphia when the mob and church ran the numbers and had raffles for baskets of booze, cars and other “hot” consumer goods.

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      1. Ah the ‘church’ angle. Our local den of iniquity (St. Patrick’s) had the weekly bingo game run for decades. To hear someone shout ‘BINGO!” and the old biddies would curse & complain under their breath!

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  7. If Crichton is alive, I’ll wager he’s the head writer for the trans-humanism project. In a weak field, he did make one sci-fi masterpiece to my teenaged mind: Westworld, which, impossibly, is also a western. If alive, he’s also furthered the trans-humanist agenda with the HBO remake which, impossibly, is both fascinating and utterly incoherent. The biggest Crichton fingerprint regarding the remake is that the series is, impossibly, both promoting and trashing the process, which offers the Crichtonistas absolution if you go crazy by letting this dissonance affect your behavior. A scientific mind that also promotes esoteric concepts like the Akashic record is just the kind of mind-bender the PTB treasures. I think he took that early death promotion because his fiction is now operational as effective “real” science. For a historical comp, see Bulwer-Lytton.

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    1. I did not look into fake death, not that I did not think of it. My only suspicion was that he might have been retired because Global Warming was going to be very big, and he was very influential in his critique. What makes you think he might still be with us? He’d be almost 77, not that old.

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      1. His influence is still strong, suggesting to me that he’s still directing from behind the curtain. But also, I’ve never seen an author, especially a prolific author, look that healthy, clean cut and apparently sober. Hard to believe he couldn’t fight off lymphoma, given his outside the box scientific theories. Besides, I’m in that crazy camp that thinks cancer is always around and its the judgement of doctors so indoctrinated to prescribe deadly treatments. A juiced elite would know that. If true.

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        1. Yes, I laughed when I read a propaganda piece about Steve Jobs saying that, shortly before he “died,” he expressed regret about messing around with alternative treatments instead of fighting cancer the traditional way. Would make sense if Crichton was given a fake death to send a similar message.

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    2. Westworld (the series) has a heavy tie-in to conspiracy culture. The machines/ robots “wake up” to their programming, and their artificial environment. That allegorical level seems to run through the whole series. I gave up on it with season two though, as there got to be too many portentous silences, ambiguity, and convoluted plot threads.

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