John Michael Crichton (pronounced [kraɪtən]) (23 October 1942 – 4 November 2008) was an American best-selling author, physician, producer, director and screenwriter, best known for his work in the science fiction, medical fiction and thriller genres. His books have sold over 200 million copies worldwide, and many have been adapted into films.
- Carr was left with a ring, in the palm of his hand, a small gold circle, leading him nowhere.
- Scratch One, written under the pseudonym John Lange (1967)
- They passed a farmhouse, a simple shack surrounded by animals — a lazy burro, clucking chickens, a litter of pigs. The farmhouse stood alone in the desolate landscape. There was no sign of a living person anywhere. And then it was gone, lost in the swirling dust plume of the car.
- Zero Cool, written under the pseudonym John Lange (1969)
- Characterization lies at the heart of the impulse to polarize every issue — what we might call the Crossfire Syndrome.
We are all assumed, these days, to reside at one extreme of the opinion spectrum, or another. We are pro-abortion or anti-abortion. We are free traders or protectionist. We are pro-private sector or pro-big government. We are feminists or chauvinists. But in the real world, few of us hold these extreme views. There is instead a spectrum of opinion.
The extreme positions of the Crossfire Syndrome require extreme simplification — framing the debate in terms that ignore the real issues.
- "Mediasaurus: The decline of conventional media" - Speech at the National Press Club, Washington D.C. (7 April 1993)
- This polarization of the issues has contributed greatly to our national paralysis, because it posits false choices which stifle debate essential to change. It is ironic that this should happen in a time of great social upheaval, when our society needs more than ever to be able to experiment with different viewpoints. But in the media world, a previously established idea, like a previously elected politician, enjoys a tremendous advantage over any challenger.
Hence the familiar ideas continue to be repeated, long past their demonstrable validity.
- "Mediasaurus: The decline of conventional media" - Speech at the National Press Club, Washington D.C. (7 April 1993)
- Let's be clear: all professions look bad in the movies. And there's a good reason for this. Movies don't portray career paths, they conscript interesting lifestyles to serve a plot. So lawyers are all unscrupulous and doctors are all uncaring. Psychiatrists are all crazy, and politicians are all corrupt. All cops are psychopaths, and all businessmen are crooks. Even moviemakers come off badly: directors are megalomaniacs, actors are spoiled brats. Since all occupations are portrayed negatively, why expect scientists to be treated differently?
- "Ritual Abuse, Hot Air, and Missed Opportunities: Science Views Media" - Speech to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Anaheim, California (25 January 1999)
- Science is the most exciting and sustained enterprise of discovery in the history of our species. It is the great adventure of our time. We live today in an era of discovery that far outshadows the discoveries of the New World five hundred years ago.
- "Ritual Abuse, Hot Air, and Missed Opportunities: Science Views Media" Speech to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Anaheim, California (25 January 1999)
- Media carries with it a credibility that is totally undeserved. You have all experienced this. [...]
Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. [...] You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. [...] You read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.
In ordinary life, if somebody consistently exaggerates or lies to you, you soon discount everything they say. [...] But when it comes to the media, we believe against evidence that it is probably worth our time to read other parts of the paper. [...] The only possible explanation for our behavior is amnesia.
- I want to mention in passing that punditry has undergone a subtle change over the years. In the old days, commentators such as Eric Sevareid spent most of their time putting events in a context, giving a point of view about what had already happened. Telling what they thought was important or irrelevant in the events that had already taken place. This is of course a legitimate function of expertise in every area of human knowledge.
But over the years the punditic thrust has shifted away from discussing what has happened, to discussing what may happen. And here the pundits have no benefit of expertise at all. Worse, they may, like the Sunday politicians, attempt to advance one or another agenda by predicting its imminent arrival or demise. This is politicking, not predicting.
- Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you're being had.
Let's be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus. There is no such thing as consensus science. If it's consensus, it isn't science. If it's science, it isn't consensus. Period.
- "Aliens Cause Global Warming" - A lecture at the California Institute of Technology (17 January 2003)
- Science is nothing more than a method of inquiry. The method says an assertion is valid — and merits universal acceptance — only if it can be independently verified. The impersonal rigor of the method means it is utterly apolitical. A truth in science is verifiable whether you are black or white, male or female, old or young. It's verifiable whether you like the results of a study, or you don't.
- Testimony before the US Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (28 September 2005)
- I want to state emphatically that nothing in my remarks should be taken to imply that we can ignore our environment, or that we should not take climate change seriously. On the contrary, we must dramatically improve our record on environmental management. That is why a focused effort on climate science, aimed at securing sound, independently verified answers to policy questions, is so important now.
- Testimony before the US Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (28 September 2005)
- Whatever I am doing, I wish I were doing one of the other things.
published under pen name John Lange
- The cabbie laughed. "All right, mister. A guy can tell when he's being kidded." Sometimes," Jencks said, "but only sometimes.
- Steve Jencks: The computer doesn't have any ideas. It only evaluates mine...
- You could not predict what would happen in a single instance, a single throw of the dice, a single pitch in the seventh inning, a single toss of the coin. But you could predict three out of five, four out of ten, seven out of sixteen, and to that extent chance governed everyone, all the time. Just as surely as two equals two.
published under pen name John Lange
- Egypt imbued the view with a heavy sense of mystery and foreboding.
- "You want to know about the last tomb? [Conway] asked Pierce. "I'll tell you." He tapped the white cranium. "That's the last tomb, man. Right there, and you're buried there all your life. You can't escape it."
- "I would give anything to know what you thought at the moment you died," Pierce said. His voice echoed in the tomb. The flame went out.
A Case of Need (1968) edit
published under pen name Jeffery Hudson
- In a sense that is a part of the training: surgeons are lonely men.
- I tried to tell which was Randall, but I could not; in their gowns and masks, they all looked the same, impersonal, interchangeable. That was not true of course. One of those four men had responsibility for everything, for the contact of all sixteen workers present. And responsibility for the seventeenth person in that room, the man whose heart was stopped.
- Being on the "Hold" is the technological equivalent of purgatory.
- Sanderson laughed. "There's no problem," he said. "Yet. I've got a pretty tough old neck. I can keep it stuck out a while longer."
- I smiled, remembering Art's line about doctors being illpolitical. He meant it the way you used words like illiterate. Art always said doctors not only held no political views, but also were incapable of them. "It's like the military," he had once said. "Political views are considered unprofessional."
- Leland Weston: "Never take a position unless you are certain it can be defended any onslaught. That may sound like good advice to a general, but then, a courtroom is nothing more then a very civilized war."
- As I went down to my car, [Peter Randall] said, "If you don't want to get involved I'll understand" I looked back at him. "You know damn well I'd have no choice." "I didn't," he said. "But I was hoping."
The Lost World (1995) edit
- "What makes you think human beings are sentient and aware? There's no evidence for it. Human beings never think for themselves, they find it too uncomfortable. For the most part, members of our species simply repeat what they are told-and become upset if they are exposed to any different view. The characteristic human trait is not awareness but conformity, and the characteristic result is religious warfare. Other animals fight for territory or food; but, uniquely in the animal kingdom, human beings fight for their 'beliefs.' The reason is that beliefs guide behavior which has evolutionary importance among human beings. But at a time when our behavior may well lead us to extinction, I see no reason to assume we have any awareness at all. We are stubborn, self-destructive conformists. Any other view of our species is just a self-congratulatory delusion. Next question."
- Prologue: "Life at the Edge of Chaos"
- "In the conservative region far from the chaotic edge, individual elements coalesce slowly, showing no clear pattern." - Ian Malcolm
- First Configuration:
- "Standing next to Arby, Kelly always felt awkward and gawky. Kelly had to wear her sister's old clothes, which her mother had bought from Kmart about a million years ago. She even had to wear Emily's old Reeboks, which were so scuffed and dirty that they never came clean, even after Kelly ran them through the washing machine. Kelly washed and ironed all her own clothes; her mother never had time. Her mother was never even home, most of the time. Kelly looked enviously at Arby's neatly pressed khakis, his polished penny loafers, and sighed. Still, even though she was jealous, Arby was her only real friend - the only person who thought it was okay that she was smart. Kelly worried that he'd be skipped to ninth grade, and she wouldn't see him any more."
- First Configuration: "School"
- ’Because it means the end of innovation,’ Malcolm said. ‘This idea that the whole world is wired together is mass death. Every biologist knows that small groups in isolation evolve fastest. You put a thousand birds on an ocean island and they’ll evolve very fast. You put ten thousand on a big continent, and their evolution slows down. Now, for our own species, evolution occurs mostly through our behavior. We innovate new behavior to adapt. And everybody on earth knows that innovation only occurs in small groups. Put three people on a committee and they may get something done. Ten people, and it get harder. Thirty people, and nothing happens. Thirty million, it becomes impossible. That’s the effect of mass media—it keeps anything from happening. Mass media swamps diversity. It makes every place the same… Regional differences vanish. All differences vanish. In a mass-media world, there’s less of everything except the top ten books, records, movies, ideas. People worry about losing species diversity in the rain forest. But what about intellectual diversity—our most necessary resource. That’s disappearing faster than trees.
- Fifth Configuration: "Malcolm"
- "A hundred years from now, people will look back on us and laugh. They'll say, 'You know what people used to believe? They believed in photons and electrons. Can you imagine anything so silly?' They'll have a good laugh, because by then there will be newer and better fantasies. And meanwhile, you feel the way the boat moves? That's the sea. That's real. You smell the salt in the air? You feel the sunlight on your skin? That's all real. You see all of us together? That's real. Life is wonderful. It's a gift to be alive, to see the sun and breathe the air. And there isn't really anything else."
- Seventh Configuration "Departure"
- Things do not turn out the way you think they will.
- They didn't understand what they were doing. I'm afraid that will be on the tombstone of the human race. I hope it's not. We might get lucky.
- Julia's original email says, "We have nothing to lose." But in the end they lost everything — their company, their lives, everything. And the ironic thing is, the procedure worked. The swarm actually solved the problem they had set for it.
Aliens Cause Global Warming (2003) edit
- I want to pause here and talk about this notion of consensus, and the rise of what has been called consensus science. I regard consensus science as an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks. Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled.
- Let’s be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus.
- The examples can be multiplied endlessly. Jenner and smallpox, Pasteur and germ theory. Saccharine, margarine, repressed memory, fiber and colon cancer, hormone replacement therapy. The list of consensus errors goes on and on.
- Finally, I would remind you to notice where the claim of consensus is invoked. Consensus is invoked only in situations where the science is not solid enough. Nobody says the consensus of scientists agrees that E=mc2. Nobody says the consensus is that the sun is 93 million miles away. It would never occur to anyone to speak that way.
- Once you abandon strict adherence to what science tells us, once you start arranging the truth in a press conference, then anything is possible. In one context, maybe you will get some mobilization against nuclear war. But in another context, you get Lysenkoism. In another, you get Nazi euthanasia. The danger is always there, if you subvert science to political ends.
- As the twentieth century drew to a close, the connection between hard scientific fact and public policy became increasingly elastic. In part this was possible because of the complacency of the scientific profession; in part because of the lack of good science education among the public; in part, because of the rise of specialized advocacy groups which have been enormously effective in getting publicity and shaping policy; and in great part because of the decline of the media as an independent assessor of fact.
- To an outsider, the most significant innovation in the global warming controversy is the overt reliance that is being placed on models. Back in the days of nuclear winter, computer models were invoked to add weight to a conclusion: “These results are derived with the help of a computer model.” But now, large-scale computer models are seen as generating data in themselves. No longer are models judged by how well they reproduce data from the real world—increasingly, models provide the data. As if they were themselves a reality. And indeed they are, when we are projecting forward.
- This fascination with computer models is something I understand very well. Richard Feynmann called it a disease. I fear he is right.
- What is clear, however, is that on this issue [global warming], science and policy have become inextricably mixed to the point where it will be difficult, if not impossible, to separate them out.
- The fact is that the present structure of science is entrepreneurial, with individual investigative teams vying for funding from organizations that all too often have a clear stake in the outcome of the research—or appear to, which may be just as bad. This is not healthy for science.
- In recent years, much has been said about the post-modernist claims about science to the effect that science is just another form of raw power, tricked out in special claims for truth-seeking and objectivity that really have no basis in fact. Science, we are told, is no better than any other undertaking. These ideas anger many scientists, and they anger me. But recent events have made me wonder if they are correct.
Environmentalism as a Religion (2003) edit
- 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.
- In order not to be misunderstood, I want it perfectly clear that I believe it is incumbent on us to conduct our lives in a way that takes into account all the consequences of our actions, including the consequences to other people, and the consequences to the environment.
- I studied anthropology in college, and one of the things I learned was that certain human social structures always reappear. They can't be eliminated from society. One of those structures is religion. Today it is said we live in a secular society in which many people — the best people, the most enlightened people — do not believe in any religion. But I think that you cannot eliminate religion from the psyche of mankind. If you suppress it in one form, it merely re-emerges in another form. You can not believe in God, but you still have to believe in something that gives meaning to your life, and shapes your sense of the world. Such a belief is religious.
- Today, one of the most powerful religions in the Western World is environmentalism.
Environmentalism seems to be the religion of choice for urban atheists.
- Increasingly it seems facts aren't necessary, because the tenets of environmentalism are all about belief. It's about whether you are going to be a sinner, or saved. Whether you are going to be one of the people on the side of salvation, or on the side of doom. Whether you are going to be one of us, or one of them.
- There is no Eden. There never was. What was that Eden of the wonderful mythic past? Is it the time when infant mortality was 80%, when four children in five died of disease before the age of five? When one woman in six died in childbirth? When the average lifespan was 40, as it was in America a century ago? When plagues swept across the planet, killing millions in a stroke. Was it when millions starved to death? Is that when it was Eden?
- The romantic view of the natural world as a blissful Eden is only held by people who have no actual experience of nature. People who live in nature are not romantic about it at all. They may hold spiritual beliefs about the world around them, they may have a sense of the unity of nature or the aliveness of all things, but they still kill the animals and uproot the plants in order to eat, to live. If they don't, they will die.
- The truth is, almost nobody wants to experience real nature. What people want is to spend a week or two in a cabin in the woods, with screens on the windows. They want a simplified life for a while, without all their stuff. Or a nice river rafting trip for a few days, with somebody else doing the cooking. Nobody wants to go back to nature in any real way, and nobody does. It's all talk — and as the years go on, and the world population grows increasingly urban, it's uninformed talk. Farmers know what they're talking about. City people don't. It's all fantasy.
- The notion that the natural world obeys its own rules and doesn't give a damn about your expectations comes as a massive shock... it will demand that you adapt to it — and if you don't, you die. It is a harsh, powerful, and unforgiving world, that most urban westerners have never experienced.
- I can tell you that second hand smoke is not a health hazard to anyone and never was, and the EPA has always known it.
- Most of us have had some experience interacting with religious fundamentalists, and we understand that one of the problems with fundamentalists is that they have no perspective on themselves. They never recognize that their way of thinking is just one of many other possible ways of thinking, which may be equally useful or good. On the contrary, they believe their way is the right way, everyone else is wrong; they are in the business of salvation, and they want to help you to see things the right way. They want to help you be saved. They are totally rigid and totally uninterested in opposing points of view. In our modern complex world, fundamentalism is dangerous because of its rigidity and its imperviousness to other ideas.
- We need to get environmentalism out of the sphere of religion. We need to stop the mythic fantasies, and we need to stop the doomsday predictions. We need to start doing hard science instead.
- Environmentalism needs to be absolutely based in objective and verifiable science, it needs to be rational, and it needs to be flexible. And it needs to be apolitical. To mix environmental concerns with the frantic fantasies that people have about one political party or another is to miss the cold truth — that there is very little difference between the parties, except a difference in pandering rhetoric. The effort to promote effective legislation for the environment is not helped by thinking that the Democrats will save us and the Republicans won't. Political history is more complicated than that.
- The second reason to abandon environmental religion is more pressing. Religions think they know it all, but the unhappy truth of the environment is that we are dealing with incredibly complex, evolving systems, and we usually are not certain how best to proceed. Those who are certain are demonstrating their personality type, or their belief system, not the state of their knowledge.
- In the end, science offers us the only way out of politics. And if we allow science to become politicized, then we are lost. We will enter the Internet version of the dark ages, an era of shifting fears and wild prejudices, transmitted to people who don't know any better.
State of Fear (2004) edit
- Mere talk makes drama and spectacle unlikely — unless the talk becomes heated and excessive. So it becomes excessive. Not every show features the Crossfire-style food-fight, but it is a tendency on all shows.
- Endless presentation of conflict may interfere with genuine issue resolution. There is evidence that the television food-fights not only don't represent the views of most people — who are not so polarized — but may tend to make resolution of actual disputes more difficult in the real world. At the very least, they obscure the recognition that we resolve disputes every day.
- I often think people are nervous, jittery in this media climate of what if, what if, maybe, perhaps, could be — when there is usually no sensible reason to feel nervous.
Like a bearded nut in robes on the sidewalk proclaiming the end of the world is near, the media is just doing what makes it feel good, not reporting hard facts. We need to start seeing the media as a bearded nut on the sidewalk, shouting out false fears. Its not sensible to listen to it.
- 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 is genuine, and which are false because they are handed down, or sold to us, or generated by our own hopes and fears.
- I want to make it perfectly clear that I believe it is incumbent on us to conduct our lives in a way that takes into account all the consequences of our actions, including the consequences to other people, and the consequences to the environment. I believe it is essential to act in ways that are sympathetic to the environment, now and in the future. I believe that the world has genuine problems and I believe they must be addressed effectively.
But I also think that deciding what constitutes responsible action is immensely difficult, and I believe the consequences of our actions are often difficult to know in advance.
- I think that you cannot eliminate religion from the psyche of mankind. If you suppress it in one form, it merely emerges in another form. Even if you don't believe in God, you still have to believe in something that gives meaning to your life, and shapes your sense of the world. Such a belief is religious.
- I am certain there is too much certainty in the world.
Quotes about Michael Crichton edit
- Some people have joked that at about the same time, the White House brought in a science fiction writer for advice on global warming [a reference to Bush inviting sci-fi author and global warming denier Michael Crichton to the White House in 2005]. But this is not a joking matter. We need more scientific data, not less.
- Amy Goodman Standing Up to the Madness: Ordinary Heroes in Extraordinary Times (2008)
See also edit
- Odds On, page 16