Technolosaurous Rex: Crichton and “Jurassic Park”
An ancient world re-created on a private island. Plants and animals genetically engineered in secret. Man-made dinosaurs – living – towering as tall as buildings. Every once in a while comes a novel so enchanting that even the most skeptical of readers begin to believe in the possibility of its contents. Michael Crichton accomplishes just this in his thrilling novel, Jurassic Park. The scientific ideas and aspects integrated into this novel have such truth even today. While the creation of dinosaurs may seem a bit outlandish at first thought, this accomplishment isn’t far off from the nature defying discoveries our scientists are currently making. With recent advances in cloning, the astonishing ability of creating a life form, and geoengineering, the alteration of the very structure of our earth, it’s easy to see that science has opened up opportunities far beyond our comprehension. As Jurassic Park progresses, readers learn more about the advances and hazards of modern technology and develop a sense of Crichton’s message that scientists are becoming more and more irrational and irresponsible; we as humans are essentially trying to “play God” and have lost our respect for nature entirely.
Though Michael Crichton’s novel may be of the fictional persuasion, his ideas spark incredible debate in the scientific scene. The complexity and thoroughness of this novel hooks readers right from the start, and Crichton’s stylistic choices leave readers in suspense even after the very last page. This is largely due to Crichton’s ability to lay such a solid foundation to the plot of the novel. In the introduction, Crichton describes in detail the work of scientists in a particularly controversial field: biotechnology. Biotechnology is known as the exploitation of biological processes for purposes such as genetic manipulation. This type of technology is exactly what the scientists in Jurassic Park use to create their real life ancient creatures. The knowledge of biotechnology Crichton offers to his readers in the introduction is justification for the idea that a scenario such as the one in the book could actually be feasible in the real world, which is exactly why this novel can seem so real and alarming at times. Although scientists in Jurassic Park are able to (or at least be under the allusion that they are able to) harness the powers of biotechnology, they fail in many ways to realize that “life breaks free. Life expands to new territories. Painfully, perhaps even dangerously. But life finds a way” (Crichton 160). This is exactly the reason why Jurassic Park ends up having so many problems down the road (dinosaurs switching genders, mating, escaping the island, etc.) Just as the scientists in the novel, we believe that nature is a force which we can easily overcome. But with this sort of arrogant attitude at the forefront of today’s technological advances, our fate is most likely headed towards the direction of the characters in the novel who shared these same alarming qualities.
The mindset of the western culture has always been that we can eventually come to understand the natural world through science. However, it is rare that scientists today stop and think about the fact that just because they have the ability do to something, does not necessarily mean they should. Many new technological advances have become quite controversial for this reason. For example, food and animal cloning is now a possibility through the use of biotechnology and DNA manipulation, technology very similar to what we see scientists using to create the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park. And much like the technology in the novel, food and animal cloning may prove to be more trouble than it’s worth. While animal cloning does have the potential to feed more people than ever before, there is a major drawback that could lead to a reduction of the gene pool. Such a factor could lead to numerous unpredictable consequences. Upon reviewing the pros and cons of this new technology, the European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technology (EGE) found that “considering the level of suffering and health problems of surrogate dams and animal clones, [they] had doubts as to whether cloning for food was justified” (Petetin 297). This again comes back to the idea that just because humans now have the ability to defy the natural world, doesn’t mean these acts are justified. These unnecessary advances, just as the creation of dinosaurs, are superfluous, ignorant, and irresponsible. Although the government is currently focusing on the economic considerations of this matter, they have failed to take any precautionary measures. Based on the contents of the novel, we know that when scientific regulations are failed to be made, scientists begin to experiment into uncharted waters and put more than just their own lives in danger. These scientists have what Ian Malcolm would refer to as “’thintelligence’. They see the immediate situation. They think narrowly and they call it ‘being focused’. They don’t see the surround. They don’t see the consequences” (Crichton 284). Man has evolved to have a burning desire to be in control. We are constantly trying to manipulate the world around us in order to make it just how we like. But is the ability to create other life forms really a skill that the human race needs to add to their list of tricks? The line needs to be drawn somewhere so that nature can do what nature does best, but it appears that humanity will never be satisfied.
Not only do scientists wish to be in control of life itself, but also the very soil on which we stand. Geoengineering, the deliberate large-scale manipulation of an environmental process that affects the earth’s climate, is among the latest in controversial technology. We are so worried about the welfare of our planet as we are consistently attempting to ‘fix’ the many environmental issues humans have caused. But we rarely take on the idea that “the planet has survived everything, in its time. It will certainly survive us” (Crichton 368). While geoengineering might assist our earth in areas such as the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, “unregulated research projects could have undesirable and unexpected effects on ecosystems and human livelihoods” (Lin 677). This sounds alarmingly similar to the situation we see in Jurassic Park: a private company having a scientific heyday all their own, and eventually leading to life threatening consequences. Just as Hammond failed in his attempt to recreate a Jurassic environment from millions of years ago, we will consistently fail as we attempt to alter our ever-changing and powerful earth.
Through the story of Jurassic Park, we see the many threats modern technology imposes. However, we must realize that technology is not the villain here, but rather, humans are. We have lost our humility before God and our trust in the natural world’s ability to carry on without our help. Discovery is not necessary at this point; quite differently, “discovery is always rape of the natural world. Always” (Crichton 284). And although scientists such as those in Jurassic Park can be irresponsible at times, we are just as easy to blame for allowing them to carry on. We must come to our senses and realize that cloning should be left to the sci-fi movies, the alteration of our earth should be left up to nature’s responsibilities, and “perhaps extinct animals should be left extinct” (Crichton 189). Through his suspenseful writing talents, Crichton permits readers to dream beyond the natural world, and through the promise of science, we see how easily these dreams can become a reality. As readers learn more about the wonders of biotechnology throughout Jurassic Park, they get a sense of the looming concern Crichton feels for our recent scientific advances. Whether it’s by the cloning of life forms, the manipulation of our environment, or the creation of animals from millions of years ago, it is clear that scientists are in way over their heads. We must regain our respect for the earth’s natural ways. For nature is not our toy, and unlike the scientists in the novel, we must not be surprised when the electric fences of our earth no longer have power, and our beloved computers are no longer in control.
Crichton, Michael. Jurassic Park: A Novel. New York: Knopf, 1990. Print.
Lin, Albert C. “Does Geoengineering Present A Moral Hazard?.” Ecology Law Quarterly 40.3 (2013): 673-712. Academic Search Premier. Web 15 Jan. 2014.
Petetin, Ludivine. “The Revival of Modern Agricultural Biotechnology By The UK Government: What Role For Animal Cloning?.” European Food & Feed Law Review 7.6 (2012): 296-311. Academic Search Premier. Web. 15 Jan. 2014.