Leora gets to grips with Michael Crichton's 'State Of Fear'

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Michael Crichton’s “State of Fear” is a thriller, telling the story of eco-terrorists artificially creating extreme weather events in order to convince the world of the non-existent threat known to the rest of us as “anthropogenic (human caused) climate change”. The hero of the story, an MIT professor and special agent by the name of John Kenner, follows the terrorists around the world trying to stop them, and in his free time, educates some lost souls about the truth behind climate change.

The characters in the book are very clearly divided. On the one hand, we have scientists, who know that climate change is a scam. On the other hand, we have rich celebrities, shoddy environmentalists, and lawyers, advocating the reality of climate change, because they’re naïve, lacking in knowledge, or just plain evil.

It’s clear from the start, if only by the way Crichton chooses to represent and frame the issue, that this isn’t an attempt to objectively and honestly examine the issue of climate change. And despite his declaration in the “Author’s Message” at the end of the book – “Everybody has an agenda. Except me” – it’s quite clear that Crichton has his agenda, which is articulated throughout the book and which he presents in this same appendix.

I suggest taking Crichton’s advice when attempting to assess his novel, as he stated in one of his speeches:

“The greatest challenge facing mankind is the challenge of distinguishing reality from fantasy, truth from propaganda…” (Environmentalism as religion, 2003)

Crichton attempts to present his book as scientifically based, complete with footnotes and a lengthy bibliography. In truth, it’s a work of fiction, in which information is manipulated in order to promote a specific agenda. I have selected three examples demonstrating Crichton’s willful misrepresentation of facts.

I. Selective use of arguments
Throughout the book, Crichton attempts to undermine the theory of global warming by presenting records of local areas and cities that don’t follow the supposed warming trend. For Crichton, local variations prove that global warming isn’t happening. However, the fact that we’re talking about global warming definitely does not imply that climate will now be exactly the same in the whole world. Global warming is the rise of the global mean surface temperature. This does not imply that the whole globe is warming uniformly.

Crichton knows this, and even uses this exact same argument when it serves his purposes. During a visit to Antarctica, where the eco-terrorists are trying to break-off icebergs by the use of explosives, Kenner tells us of a huge iceberg that broke off two years prior to their visit. When global warming proponents claim that this is due to global warming, Kenner replies-

“Actually, [global warming] wasn’t responsible. It was caused by local conditions…There’s nothing wrong with the idea of local conditions. This is a continent. It would be surprising if it didn’t have it’s own distinctive weather patterns, irrespective of global trends…” (p. 245)

So local conditions can apparently explain the phenomena that side with global warming, but not the ones that don’t…

II. Misuse of research
Crichton supports the United States’ decision not to ratify the Kyoto protocol since it will make no real contribution to halting climate change. He claims that the effect of the steps agreed upon in the treaty would be to reduce temperatures by the year 2100 by only 0.04 degrees Celsius.

In a footnote, Crichton supports this point by mentioning an article by Tom Wigley (p. 569). Crichton states that all “footnotes are real”. That’s why Chris Mooney of the Boston Globe took upon himself to check the footnotes and the opinions of the scientists cited. Regarding this point, he found-

“Tom Wigley… has complained previously that others have misused his research to undermine Kyoto. While that paper did indeed find that the treaty would have a relatively small long-term effect, Wigley has subsequently warned that his analysis ”assumed that Kyoto was followed to 2010, and that there were no subsequent climate mitigation policies.” The point of the paper was not to bash Kyoto… but rather to demonstrate that it represents only a first step toward climate stabilization. ”Once we’ve done Kyoto we’re obviously going to do other things,” says Wigley.” (Chris Mooney, Checking Crichton’s footnotes)

As it were, Crichton took the Kyoto treaty that expires in 2012 and extended it to 2100, conveniently assuming that no other measures would be undertaken in the future.

III. Tampering with data
One of the main issues in the book, returned to again and again, is criticism of climate scientists and their use of computer models to make predictions. Prediction is claimed to be impossible, and all past predictions to have been wrong.
For example, Crichton criticizes Jim Hansen’s testimony regarding climate change to congress in 1988: “His 1988 prediction was wrong by three hundred percent.” (p.294)

In fact, Hansen presented a spectrum of results – three different model simulations for different scenarios. In his testimony, Hansen stated clearly that scenario B, the more modest business-as-usual assumption, was the most probable scenario. The temperature change for the decade under this scenario was very close to the actual change observed, so the model did a reasonable job. The “300 percent” error claim comes from deleting the bottom two curves and leaving only the top one which assumed exponentially increasing CO2, in order to give the impression that the models were unreliable.

In conclusion, it is clear that Crichton did not attempt to scientifically and objectively examine the issue of climate change, but rather chose to represent the information in a selective and manipulative manner. Once again, no one says it better than Crichton himself: “This is not the way science is done, it is the way products are sold.” (Aliens cause Global Warming, 2003)

Our guest reviewer, Leora Resnick, is a Jerusalemite, who participated in the “Tevel be’Tzedek” study and volunteer program in Nepal, and then returned to the program again as part of the staff. She says “In between I studied for a year at the Arava Institute for Environmental studies (and as a part of the class there on climate change I wrote a review paper on “state of fear”, from which this short version was adapted). Now I’m living in Klil (in the Galil), working on a joint project of Klil and Tevel be’Tzedek – developing a sustainability model site that involves environmental education and co-existence.”

6 thoughts on “Leora gets to grips with Michael Crichton's 'State Of Fear'

  1. Israel

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  2. Mike Hedge

    Of course Crichton has an agenda. A search for the truth. The agenda of all true scientists. The only scientists who are not good at what they do are those who have substituted the search for the truth with some other pursuit. Political popularity, perhaps.

    The only agenda on display in the book seems to be that of scientific analysis. As such, it cannot truly be called an agenda at all. Scientific analysis is merely a cold, dispassionate pursuit for truth. No extra variables should be involved.

    Here is a quote from the beginning of this article:
    “It’s clear from the start, if only by the way Crichton chooses to represent and frame the issue, that this isn’t an attempt to objectively and honestly examine the issue of climate change.”

    What an extraordinary statement. Why would it be “clear from the start” that Crichton doesn’t “attempt to honestly examine the issue of climate change?” The novel strikes me as a shockingly brave and remarkably cautious attempt to examine an issue dipped in anger, fanaticism, emotionalism, and reactivity – all political qualities.

    Leora Resnick, in the above article, states that Michael Crichton had some sort of agenda in writing State of Fear. She never defines what it is. Is it scientific? Is it personal? Is it political? No explanation is given.

    At the end of the article, she quotes Crichton: “This is not the way science is done, it is the way products are sold.” The implication seems to be that Crichton is trying to make money off his book by using it to deny global warming.

    This seems patently absurd. State of Fear is one of Crichton’s most unpopular books. A quick check on Amazon.com will show it to have received very mixed ratings. Some good, many not so good. And Crichton knew that it would not be popular.

    In an interview on the Charlie Rose Show, which can be found on Crichton’s official website, Crichton says how he almost chickened out of writing State of Fear. He avoided it for many years. Disagreeing with basically everybody in the world is a dangerous thing for one’s reputation.

    Charlie Rose, the interviewer, asks him how things have been since he published the book. “Has it been bad?” Crichton responds “Oh, of COURSE. Of course. How could it not be? It’s been absolutely horrific. I’ve received death threats. It’s been absolutely ugly.” Rose asks why Crichton finally went ahead and wrote the book.

    “Because I finally realized that I would feel like a coward for the rest of my life, if I didn’t write it. An intellectual coward. This is science. It has nothing to do with popularity. And I find science to be important.”

    Plus – and this is what I find most bizarre – if Michael Crichton DID have some politically-motivated agenda in writing State of Fear, what could it possibly be? To deny global warming is political suicide. It will make a person almost universally hated. It will gain you no political points whatsoever. No one will like you. No one will elect you or vote for you. One certain way to destroy your political career is to disagree with the majority over global warming.

    The idea of “disagreeing with the majority” is absolutely terrifying to any committed politician. It is not in their vocabulary. It doesn’t exist as an option. They don’t even have a TERM for it.

    The above article is a perfect example of this. Leora Resnick is simply someone else trying to take Crichton to task for disagreeing with the majority. Her talk of agendas and even “propaganda” (in one of her “Crichton quotes” above) make this very clear. This is political talk. Not scientific at all.

    And as for the “science” in this article, it is not convincing. People with vested political self-interest can twist science to say anything in an article. To make it very short, the problem with this whole article is very simple:

    No one knows the mechanism for human-caused global warming. No one. People say it’s happening. But the mechanism by which carbon causes the earth to become warmer is completely unknown.

    Show me the exact mechanism. Show me exactly how it works. After all, this is not politics. It is supposed to be science. And extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. Until I see the exact mechanism of climate change described in PRECISE scientific detail, I will not believe in catastrophic human-caused global warming. Leora Resnick is just one more advocate trying to convert me and others to her religion.

    Reply
  3. David

    First off, good job digging up a 5 year old discussion. Second, I doubt very much that he was serious when he said “Everyone has an agenda, except me”. Michael Crichton’s agenda has always been to make people think. Unfortunatly he is usually ahead of his time. People were up in arms about “Jurassic Park” because of the moral implication of cloning dinosaurs, or the fact that cloning an extinct species was rediculous. DNA extraction methods have improved drasticly since “Jurassic Park” was published in the 1980′s. With this book he presents facts that wouldn’t see the light of day in the modern media. You claim Crichton has manipulated the facts, but what I gather from your article, he hasn’t changed the data. He has quoted it exactly as it was published. In fact you have manipulated the data the same way that you have accussed him of doing. Where Crichton has picked the high prediction that was off by 300%, you have taken the low prediction. Where you claim Crichton has taken liberties with the Kyoto protocal, saying he is assuming that Kyoto would be the only step taken. You have taken liberties assuming that more steps would be taken, when we all know that nothing in politics is a sure thing, nor do we know if the predictions made in the Kyoto protocal would come to pass. Crichton presented the reader with an alternate theory to “Global Warming” in the “Urban Heat Island Effect” which is a widly excepted theory. You accuse Mr. Crichton of having an agenda. Now let me ask you: What did he stand to gain by going against popular belief? Crichton wasn’t running for office or trying to make a political statement. In fact Crichton stood to lose more than he stood to gain. He was a writer, had he published a book that was pro global warming, the media would have been singing his praises, and he could have sold more books. So his agenda couldn’t have been money, and it wasn’t political, could he have been trying to make people think? Now, what is your agenda?

    Reply
  4. john

    Clip board activism will have to be dealt with.. Public knowledge should not be hyjacked for political purposes.. New rules for studies are a must.. Every study is divided into three parts.. Three different Universities.. One to prove a thesis.. The second to disprove and the third to compile the information.. We have to bring balance back to the field of science..

    We see you and what your doing.. Power greed and politics all wrapped up in each and every activists vision of what the world should be.. Way to many people shooting from the hip.. way to much support for bad shots.. To many cooks in the kitchen.. You did it to yourselves and you do it again every time you open your mouths.. The parents are always the last to know.. Your first born child is in deep trouble.. Love is blind and so are activists..

    Reply
  5. john

    His book and story line are close enough to whats going on.. to bring discomfort.. Doing your duty? taking one for the team? Guest reviews from people involved in the scam?

    I cant say its over.. when it never started in the first place.. So much talk on the Ocean.. To keep the scam alive.. A mob of dishonest activists changing the subject to avoid the truth.. One good person, one good cause.. 10 000 good people one good cause… What happens when Politics gets its foot in the door.. Helping the cause and promoting awareness.. Like Jesus freaks telling tales of miracles.. That part of your mind is over active..
    Praise the earth and pass the amunition.. We have a planet to save and media to feed.. The green bubble has popped and you have yourselves to blame..

    Reply
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