Michael Crichton: Famous novelist, physician, modern-day genius

I am constantly reminded of brilliant and insightful genius in the past, like most of you.  We are amazed and thrilled to read the insights and commentaries of great historical personages — legends.  However, sometimes the source of great ideas and commentary is not so ancient and remote.  It might even be a modern famous and successful author and screenwriter.

Let's consider the celebrity, but at the same time the great philosopher, speaker, and rhetorician, Michael Crichton: physician, scientist, writer, movie- and TV show–maker, prophet, philosopher.  May I say genius giant of letters and intellectual inquiry?  I think so.  I can convince you, too — won't take much; just one speech in 2003.

Crichton, now dead from lymphoma at a tragically young age of 66 (2008), given his continued productive life, should be a continuing source of wisdom for us all.  He did not waste his time here on earth.  His website, minded by friends and associates, I am sure, is extraordinary in depth and breadth of intellectual inquiry, literature, and film, as well as what you might call advocacy and commentary.  The man was a summa cum laude grad of Harvard College who went on to Harvard Medical School but after that decided on a writer's career instead of medicine and was a phenomenon, extraordinarily successful and not easily pushed into a couple of cubbyholes or slots.

Crichton should be honored by more attention.  Take a peek at his website, and you will be sucked in by his broad-ranging intellect, lucid thinking, eloquence, and good manners.  He is a remarkable event in American intellectual life, inadequately appreciated, ignored in spite of his breadth of cogent commentary, probably because of the focus on his successful career of book, TV show, and film events: Westworld, Andromeda Strain, Jurassic Park, ER, for example.

So let us consider his speech for the Commonwealth Club in November 2003 that deserves a trot around the arena with everyone standing.  A friend sent it to me last week, and I was knocked down by the force and the weight of his words.

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[.] ...

I consider our past record of environmental action discouraging, to put it mildly, because even our best intended efforts often have gone awry. At the same time, I think we do not recognize our past failures, and face them squarely. ...

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, one of the most powerful religions in the Western World is environmentalism ... the religion of choice for urban atheists. ... [E]nvironmentalism is in fact a perfect 21st century remapping of traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs and myths. ... [T]he tenets of environmentalism are all about belief. ... There is no Eden. There never was. ...

Eden of our wonderful mythic past? ... [W]hen infant mortality was 80%, when four children in five died of disease before the age of five? ... The noble savage is a fantasy, and it was never true. ... 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. ... Farmers know what they're talking about. City people don't. It's all fantasy. ...

I can tell you some facts[.] ... I can tell you that DDT is not a carcinogen and did not cause birds to die and should never have been banned. ... I can tell you that the DDT ban has caused the deaths of tens of millions of poor people, attributable to a callous, technologically advanced western society that promoted the new cause of environmentalism ... one of the most disgraceful episodes in the twentieth century history of America.

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. I can tell you that the evidence for global warming is far weaker than its proponents would ever admit. I can tell you the percentage of the U.S. land area that is taken by urbanization, including cities and roads, is 5%[.] ... [W]hen the UN IPCC stated that alternative technologies now in existence could control greenhouse gases, the UN was wrong. ...

[W]e must institute far more stringent requirements for what constitutes knowledge in the environmental realm. ... [S]cience offers us the only way out of politics.

Michael Crichton is a famous and successful writer for good reasons, and a great mind.  I cannot improve on what he says above — only stand respectfully and wish he had not died so young when he had so much to offer in the realm of intellectual inquiry.  

John Dale Dunn, M.D., J.D. is a physician and inactive attorney in Brownwood, Texas.

Image: Will Fisher via Flickr.

I am constantly reminded of brilliant and insightful genius in the past, like most of you.  We are amazed and thrilled to read the insights and commentaries of great historical personages — legends.  However, sometimes the source of great ideas and commentary is not so ancient and remote.  It might even be a modern famous and successful author and screenwriter.

Let's consider the celebrity, but at the same time the great philosopher, speaker, and rhetorician, Michael Crichton: physician, scientist, writer, movie- and TV show–maker, prophet, philosopher.  May I say genius giant of letters and intellectual inquiry?  I think so.  I can convince you, too — won't take much; just one speech in 2003.

Crichton, now dead from lymphoma at a tragically young age of 66 (2008), given his continued productive life, should be a continuing source of wisdom for us all.  He did not waste his time here on earth.  His website, minded by friends and associates, I am sure, is extraordinary in depth and breadth of intellectual inquiry, literature, and film, as well as what you might call advocacy and commentary.  The man was a summa cum laude grad of Harvard College who went on to Harvard Medical School but after that decided on a writer's career instead of medicine and was a phenomenon, extraordinarily successful and not easily pushed into a couple of cubbyholes or slots.

Crichton should be honored by more attention.  Take a peek at his website, and you will be sucked in by his broad-ranging intellect, lucid thinking, eloquence, and good manners.  He is a remarkable event in American intellectual life, inadequately appreciated, ignored in spite of his breadth of cogent commentary, probably because of the focus on his successful career of book, TV show, and film events: Westworld, Andromeda Strain, Jurassic Park, ER, for example.

So let us consider his speech for the Commonwealth Club in November 2003 that deserves a trot around the arena with everyone standing.  A friend sent it to me last week, and I was knocked down by the force and the weight of his words.

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[.] ...

I consider our past record of environmental action discouraging, to put it mildly, because even our best intended efforts often have gone awry. At the same time, I think we do not recognize our past failures, and face them squarely. ...

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, one of the most powerful religions in the Western World is environmentalism ... the religion of choice for urban atheists. ... [E]nvironmentalism is in fact a perfect 21st century remapping of traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs and myths. ... [T]he tenets of environmentalism are all about belief. ... There is no Eden. There never was. ...

Eden of our wonderful mythic past? ... [W]hen infant mortality was 80%, when four children in five died of disease before the age of five? ... The noble savage is a fantasy, and it was never true. ... 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. ... Farmers know what they're talking about. City people don't. It's all fantasy. ...

I can tell you some facts[.] ... I can tell you that DDT is not a carcinogen and did not cause birds to die and should never have been banned. ... I can tell you that the DDT ban has caused the deaths of tens of millions of poor people, attributable to a callous, technologically advanced western society that promoted the new cause of environmentalism ... one of the most disgraceful episodes in the twentieth century history of America.

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. I can tell you that the evidence for global warming is far weaker than its proponents would ever admit. I can tell you the percentage of the U.S. land area that is taken by urbanization, including cities and roads, is 5%[.] ... [W]hen the UN IPCC stated that alternative technologies now in existence could control greenhouse gases, the UN was wrong. ...

[W]e must institute far more stringent requirements for what constitutes knowledge in the environmental realm. ... [S]cience offers us the only way out of politics.

Michael Crichton is a famous and successful writer for good reasons, and a great mind.  I cannot improve on what he says above — only stand respectfully and wish he had not died so young when he had so much to offer in the realm of intellectual inquiry.  

John Dale Dunn, M.D., J.D. is a physician and inactive attorney in Brownwood, Texas.

Image: Will Fisher via Flickr.