In the Loop

In the Loop: February 12, 2007 Archive

Extraterrestrials...and global warming

Posted at 10:47 AM on February 12, 2007 by Jeff Horwich (4 Comments)

Poking around for research for the next show, I ran across a pretty intriguing speech from a few years ago by sci-fi writer Michael Crichton. I'm going to be careful not to endorse or disparage it here, because it's pretty inflammatory stuff.

crichton.jpgThe connection Crichton makes in the speech (given at CalTech in 2003) between aliens and global warming is a semantic one (I know -- I was a little disappointed, too). His basic point is that like the search for extraterrestrial life, the science over global warming has become dangerously mixed with policy objectives. Crichton is deeply concerned with the idea of scientific "consensus" on global warming. Science, he says, should not be in the business of finding consensus on predictions of the future -- the very idea of consensus on what will happen is illogical. Science should be fundamentally concerned with verifying observable phenomena. (Publicity image from

One policy recommendation here is that the scientists who design the computer models to predict global warming should be prevented from being the ones to use and study those models. At least eliminate that level of bias, he says. (It's a hefty speech -- read for yourself to get the full idea. If you're hungry for more, Crichton has made additional speeches, and testified before Congress, on related environmental topics.)

It's probably a matter of opinion whether Michael Crichton's view on this is worth a hill of soy biodiesel. But, like everything he writes, he succeeds in being thought-provoking. (Worth noting: Crichton's 2004 novel State of Fear is something of a bete noir among many climate change scientists, for dramatizing some of the same ideas he puts forth in the CalTech speech.)

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