Wednesday, January 12, 2005

I wonder if Bjorn has read this yet: Michael Crichton has a new novel out: "State of Fear", which takes on, no not some new killer virus, no not Japanese businessmen (a laughable concept today), no, not even dinosaurs, but rather, environmental extremists. His purpose this time is to show how science loses its power once it becomes tied up in the political arena; where objective findings are used more and more for one-sided purposes, and often delivered in a way to create fear in the minds of the listeners.

A brief interview with my hometown paper, the Philly Inquirer (free sign up required) reveals that HIS fear is that we ignore the fact that we don't know everything, and instead rely on half-baked theories and the panic they induce to arrive at mis-guided conclusions, and then create government policy on those conclusions. He notes that we're just not able yet to realistically calculate what our impact is on our world (although he certainly acknowledges that we are doing something to the planet), and that we need for the technology to be in place first, before we come to conclusions. Given our present limitations, wouldn't it be better to use our time and energy to address the problems we CAN solve or at least impact, like poverty, disease, etc.? He says to keep funding the search for environmental change and its causes, but to clamp down on the unregulated fear-mongering, so that we don't move suddenly in one direction that we may later regret (remember the "absolute" pending doom of overpopulation and a new ice age - anyone, anyone?).

Crichton gives a shout-out to Lomborg as an example of someone who has received ad hominem attacks simply for expressing a truly objective viewpoint about a subject that is crying out for a balanced analysis. All we hear, Crichton would say, is either the Sierra Club accusations or the Big Business denials. Both have valid points, except that they're drowned out in the rush to grab headlines. People like Lomborg can't even be read without the political undertones rushing to the fore, and smearing his carefully crafted position.

Anyway, it's refreshing to see that Crichton, someone who has "sold out" to Hollywood, has retained the objectivity and creativity for which he is rightly praised.

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