Michael Crichton

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Dr. John Michael Crichton [pronounced "kraɪtən"] (23 October 1942 - November 4, 2008) was an American author, film producer and television producer.

See also: Prey (2002 novel)

Sourced

  • 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 holds 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 which ignore the real issues.
    • "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?
  • 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)
  • 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.
    • "Why Speculate?" - speech at the International Leadership Forum, La Jolla, California (26 April 2002)
  • 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.
  • 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)

Travels (1988)

  • I have included experiences in the realms that are sometimes called psychic, or transpersonal. or spiritual. I think of this as inner travel, to complement the outer travel, although that distinction — between what is internal sensation and what is external stimulus — often blurs in my mind.
    • Preface
  • The best doctors found a middle position where the were neither overwhelmed by their feelings nor estranged from them. That was the most difficult position of all, and the precise balance — neither too detached nor too caring — was something few learned.
    • "Cadaver"
  • The emotional aspect seemed more like hazing, like a professional initiation, than education. It was a long time before I understood that how a doctor behaved was at least important as what he knew.
    • "Cadaver"
  • We cause our diseases. We are directly responsible for any illness that happens to us.
    • "Heart Attack!"
  • To give up responsibility for our lives is not healthy.
    • "Heart Attack!"
  • The doctor is not a miracle worker who can magically save us but, rather, an expert adviser who can assist us in our own recovery.
    • "Heart Attack!"
  • The fact that the patients were complex human beings with a rich life beyond the hospital never really sank into the consciousness of the residents. Because they had no rich lives beyond the hospital, they assumed no one else did, either. In the end, what they lacked was not medical knowledge but ordinary life experience.
    • "Quitting Medicine"
  • What I knew was that the history of man demonstrated the inexorable triumph of reason over superstition, culminating in our acceptance of science as the best method for learning the truth and exploring the universe.
    • "Psychiatry"
  • I read all sorts of books there for the first time. The other thing that I did was, I began to travel again.
    • "Psychiatry"
  • The entire episode left me with a renewed respect for the power of the unconscious mind. What I had demonstrated, to myself at least, was that my ordinary assumption that in some casual and automatic way I know what I am doing, and why, is simply wrong.
    • "Bonaire"
  • I couldn't leave things alone. I was an urban, technological man accustomed to making things happen. I had been taught countless times that you were supposed to make things happen, that anything less implied shameful passivity.
    • "Pahang"
  • This increased my conviction that there was indeed something going on, that these people had some information source that ordinary people did not. I didn't know why they had access and the rest of us did not, but there didn't seem to be any hocus-pocus about it.
    • "London Psychics"
  • I was certain that some people, whether by accident of birth or some pecularity of training, could tune in to another source of information and could know things about people we didn't think were possible to know.
    • "London Psychics"
  • Sometimes I think man needs to feel a special position within nature, and this leads him to believe that he is either specially hated by other animals or specially cherished. Instead of the truth, which is that he's just another animal on the plain. A smart one, but just another animal.
    • "Sharks"

Cactus Teachings

  • I was jealous. Let's face it, to have a mystical experience is a sign of favor from God. Everybody knows that. And I wasn't getting any favors. It really made me feel bad.
  • If you stand beside a person who lies on his back, and move the palm of your hand slowly down the midline of his body about a foot above the skin, you will feel some distinct warm spots. These are the chakras.
  • There isn't any delusion. It is absolutely clear that this body energy is a genuine phenomenon of some kind.
  • The basic mechanism of the I Ching had to be the same as the mechanism of the tarot — to provide an ambiguous stimulus to the unconscious mind.
  • The book doesn't have that power. You do. You can answer your own question. You already know the answer, if you can just gain access to it.
  • The purpose of the I Ching or the tarot, then, is to help you get access to yourself, by providing ambiguity for you to interpret.

They

  • By now I had adopted David's view of the inherent differences between the sexes, that men were the romantics and women were the pragmatists. His view was that each sex saw the other as a projection of itself.
  • What's really wrong with making them the problem is that you abdicate your own responsibility. Once you say some mysterious they is in charge, then you're able to sit back comfortably and complain about how they are doing it.
  • The biggest problem between the sexes was the tendency to objectify the opposite sex and ultimately become powerless before them. Both men and women did this about the opposite sex. They were this way or that way. They had this tendency. There was nothing we could do about the way they behaved.
  • I had thought that women were inherently different from men. And in formulating that difference, I had also objectified women. They were different. They didn't have the same feelings I did. They were they.

Life on the Astral Plane

  • Intermittent panicky skepticism was to be expected whenever you stepped off the cliff, whenever you went into some realm of experience that wasn't modeled and accepted and approved and stuck into a nice fram by society at large.
  • The kind of evidence I have seen for clairvoyance or telepathy — evidence that leads me to accept these phenomena as unquestionably real — I have not experienced for the idea of past lives.

Spoon Bending

  • Of course, spoon bending has been the focus of long-standing controversy. Uri Geller, an Israeli magician, who claims psychic powers, often bends spoons, but other magicians, such a James Randi, claim that spoon bending isn't a psychic phenomenon at all, just a trick.
    But I had bent a spoon, and I knew it wasn't a trick. I looked around the room and saw little children, eight or nine years old, bending large metal bars. They weren't trying to trick anybody. They were just little kids having a good time. Staying up past their bedtimes on a Friday night, going along with the adults, doing this silly bending stuff.
  • Spoon bending obviously must have some ordinary explanation, since a hundred people from all walks of life we're doing it. And it was hard to feel any sort of mystery: you just rub the spoon for a while and pretty soon it gets soft, and it bends. And that's that.
    The only thing I noticed is that spoon bending seemed to require a focused inattention. You had to try to get it to bend, and then you had to forget about it. Maybe talk to someone else while you rubbed the spoon. Or look around the room. Change your attention. That's when it was likely to bend.
  • I don't know why spoons bend, but it seemed clear that almost anyone could do it.
  • This seems to me to confirm the idea that so-called psychic or paranormal phenomena are misnamed. There's nothing abnormal about them. On the contrary, they're utterly normal. We've just forgotten we can do them. The minute we do do them, we recognize them for what they are and think, So what?

Seeing Auras

  • When I got home, I looked at people to see if I could still see auras. I could. It's fun to do. When dinner parties get boring, you just look at people's auras.

Direct Experience

  • I had moved pretty far from the rational, academic, intellictual traditions in which I had been raised... So I decided to summarize the conclusions I had drawn from all these experiences.
  1. Consciousness has legitimate dimensions not yet guessed at.
  2. At least some psychic phenomena are real.
  3. There are energies associated with the human body that are not yet understood.
  • It's only different from what a certain variety of incautious, unintrospective physical scientist believes.
  • I hadn't traveled with the intention of learning about anything except myself. And the real point of all this travel was not what I had come to believe or disbelieve about the wider world, but what I had learned about myself.
  • The natural world, the traditional source of self-interest, is increasingly absent.
  • Cut off from direct experience, cut off from our own feelings and sometimes our own sensations, we are only too ready to adopt a viewpoint or perspective that is handed to us, and is not our own.
  • Unaccustomed to direct experience, we can come to fear it.
  • One of the most difficult features of direct experince is that it is unfiltered by any theories or expectations. It's hard to observe without imposing a theory to explain what we're seeing, but the trouble with theories, as Einstein said, is that they explain not only what is observed, but what can be observed. We start to build expectations based on our theories.
  • It takes enormous effort to avoid all theories and just see.
  • I believe the experiences reported in this book are reproducible by anyone who wishes to try.
  • Be cautious around anyone who creates proselytizing followers.

Postscript

  • Reality is always greater — much greater — than what we know, than whatever we can say about it.
  • Science is a kind of glorified tailoring enterprise, a method for taking measurements that describe something — reality — that may not be understood at all.
  • One may even suspect that there is more to reality than measurements will ever reveal.
  • Science can't tell you why anything happens.
  • Although knowledge of how things work is sufficient to allow manipulation of nature, what humans really want to know is why things work. Children don't ask how the sky is blue. They ask why the sky is blue.

Environmentalism as a Religion (2003)

Speech in San Francisco, California (15 September 2003)

  • 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.

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