Saturday, May 07, 2005
CRICHTON'S STATE OF FEAR & GLOBAL WARMING
"This is a work of fiction... However ... real people ... documented in footnotes are accurate... Footnotes are real."
In Michael Crichton's STATE OF FEAR, we have the antidote to global warming hysteria.
Or, perhaps, scientific studies predicting global warming are the antidote to Crichton's fictional/real attack on popular, but uninformed ideas of global warming (GW).
Except for the Hero, almost everyone in this book begins with what the Hero considers a mistaken, prejudicial belief -- that global warming is a serious threat to the world. Besides the Hero, in this book, the only other people who realize the true insignificance of GW are the (hypocritical) leaders of environmental organizations: the villains who conspire to fake a crisis by causing catastrophes, such as flash floods, a tsunami or two (sic), and devastating hurricanes; and by breaking off a huge chunk of polar ice. Then they want to blame it all on GW in order to shake contributions from wealthy donors.
A whole lot of the book is concerned with the Hero discussing what other characters think are facts about global warming, and explaining to them why they are completely wrong. According to the fictional characters in the book, and the "real" footnotes: there is little evidence at the present time of (1) measurable global warming; (2) extreme weather caused by GW; or (3) a perceptible rise in sea levels in the ocean.
The book, (correctly I think -- see the earlier post on global average temperature), points out the amount of data manipulation that is required to obtain "measurements" of global temperature, and describes (actually showing the charts) explicitly how different the graphs of temperature-over-time look at different locations. (Note: The Hero does not point out, however, that every graph has a different scale of years and temperature from every other graph, which contributes a lot to their looking so different from each other.)
Facts in law are different from facts in science. In law (and most of the characters in the book are involved with environmental law in some way), a "fact" is something you can persuade a judge or jury to believe. In science, a fact is something that happens. It is used as a basis for creating a theory and a prediction of future events. The facts that occur later are compared with the events that were predicted, either confirming the theory and giving it a stronger basis, or requiring the theory to be revised.
This material is kind of a popular version of a legal brief belittling the common notions of global warming. But it is a legal type of brief, not a scientific argument. It is completely one-sided. It is a work of fiction, after all.
Nevertheless, anyone who seriously believes that global warming is an immediate threat to the planet, or that human contributions to the greenhouse gasses will cause a threat in the future, needs to read this book and be ready to refute -- or at least place in context -- the arguments here. Decisions are, after all, not made on the basis of facts, they are made on the basis of who believes what to be the facts, and whose interests are at stake. This book provides a simple, readable diatribe against simplistic environmentalism.
It also subjects some caricatures of recognizable public figures to mean spirited, bitterly black "humor."
As a novel, it's breezy and a fast read. It starts with a sexy, exotic, beautiful, murderous woman. The women generally are sexy, beautiful, intelligent, and physically active. We learn just enough about them to further the plot and understand they are sexy, beautiful, intelligent, and physically active. (They're sexy, but there's just very mild flirtation, and hardly any sex in the book.) The men are a little more complicated. Just a little. There is almost nothing in the book that does not either further the plot, provide just enough information to visualize the characters, or advance the thesis. It is not a complicated book.
The title, "State of Fear," is explained in a short section of the book when a character (who actually has no other function in the story) is introduced to explain that the media (mostly) created the "environmental crisis" after the fall of the Berlin Wall, because it needed to give people something to fear to replace the cold war. The idea that fear is a deliberate creation is an idea that Michael Moore has also espoused.