State of Fear — Science, Ethics, and the Impossibility of Prediction

Michael CrichtonAudio, Biographies, Cognitive, Ethical, Perspectives, Science & Technology, Sustainability

Michael Crichton, the father of the “techno-thriller,” has sold over 100 million books worldwide in thirty different languages. For almost three decades, he has been delighting critics and fans alike with books and films such as The Andromeda Strain, The Terminal Man, The Great Train Robbery, Sphere, Rising Sun, Disclosure, The Lost World, Timeline, Jurassic Park, and Prey.

In his most recent book, State of Fear, Crichton argues that environmentalism has degenerated from a discipline based on evidence, to a kind of highly-politicized pseudoscience, where “facts” are determined more by group consensus than by reproducible results. To complicate matters, much of environmentalism is concerned with what is going to happen on a global scale, and so one cannot test the veracity of a given hypothesis until the future has become the present. Needless to say, elevating what is necessarily speculation to the level of fact causes enormous problems—problems many environmentalists have nonetheless ignored for decades. Sure, in 1970 many leading environmentalists predicted a devastating ice age by the year 2000, but who wants to remember that?

Michael and Ken discuss some of the rather extreme reactions to State of Fear, ranging from venomous outrage and smear campaigns to hearty applause and an invitation to the White House. In fact, Michael is a self-described “political agnostic,” and simply advocates that policy drafted by any party be based on the evidence of today, not the speculation of tomorrow. As he points out, there is a profound moral and ethical dimension to how science informs our national and international agendas: “If it [the environment] is not a genuine problem… and we go and spend a kazillion dollars on that instead of feeding hungry people, then we have done a terrible, terrible, terrible thing.”

Now, given that State of Fear has made him public enemy #1 in certain circles, you might think that Michael knows how to write himself into a tough spot, but Ken shares what just may be a worse fate: “I’m trapped in a bad Michael Crichton novel and I don’t know how to get out!” Such is Ken’s progress on his own latest book, The Many Faces of Terrorism, and so Michael kindly takes the time to straighten him out.

We hope you enjoy this dialogue with these two men of incredible stature—which, if not always reflecting their intelligence, at least reflects their height. At over 13-feet tall combined, these guys give redwood trees a run for their money….

written by Colin Bigelow

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Michael Crichton

About Michael Crichton

After graduating from the Harvard Medical School, Michael Crichton embarked on a career as a writer and filmmaker. Called "the father of the techno-thriller," his novels include The Andromeda Strain, Congo, Jurassic Park, Timeline, and his latest, Prey. He has also written four books of non-fiction, including Five Patients, Travels, and Jasper Johns. He has sold over 100 million books and his books have been translated into thirty languages and twelve have been made into films. He is also the creator of the television series ER. He is the only person to have had, at the same time, the number one book, the number one movie, and the number one TV show in the United States.

Ken Wilber

About Ken Wilber

Ken Wilber is a preeminent scholar of the Integral stage of human development. He is an internationally acknowledged leader, founder of Integral Institute, and co-founder of Integral Life. Ken is the originator of arguably the first truly comprehensive or integrative world philosophy, aptly named “Integral Theory”.