Mr. Crichton Goes to Washington

September 28th, 2005

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

Today Michael Crichton is scheduled to testify before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. We’ll discuss when we learn more and if we deem it worth commenting on. Meantime, it seems clear that Michael Crichton tends to drive climate scientists to froth at the mouth. NASA’s Jim Hansen, cited in Crichton’s latest book, State of Fear, sent out by email a preemptive attack (PDF) on Crichton. Hansen picks the eve of Crichton’s Congressional testimony to take issue with Crichton’s characterization of his work in State of Fear. Here is an excerpt from Hansen’s fusillade:

“Michael Crichton’s latest fictional novel, “State of Fear”, designed to discredit concerns about global warming, purports to use the scientific method. The book is sprinkled with references to scientific papers, and Crichton intones in the introduction that his “footnotes are real”. But does Crichton really use the scientific method? Or is it something closer to scientific fraud? I have not read Crichton’s book … Crichton writes fiction and seems to make up things as he goes along. He doesn’t seem to have the foggiest notion about the science that he writes about. Perhaps that is o.k. for a science fiction writer. However, I recently heard that, in considering the global warming issue, a United States Senator is treating words from Crichton as if they had scientific or practical validity. If so, wow — Houston, we have a problem!”

For his testimony-eve efforts Hansen may have contributed to the impression among some that Crichton’s non-fictional arguments about the role of politics in climate science have some validity. Here is what Crichton said last year on science and politics:

“I’m concerned that science, having ascended to a phenomenal position of power within our society, has provided a temptation for some highly intelligent individuals to join in the political fray, where they really don’t belong, where they do it really badly, and where they don’t acknowledge they are damaging science as an enterprise. Because science needs to be kept separate from politics And it can be phenomenally dangerous when you start to take as policy something you want to happen and begin to claim it’s science-based. Science has to stay independent, it has to stay focused on the data and it cannot be involved in where this is going to lead. In those days it was immigration policy and the “gene pool.” Now it’s something else. But it’s a dangerous, dangerous gangplank to walk down and I hope we don’t go further. We need science. Keep the politics out of it.”

Lest any new reader to Prometheus think that I support Crichton’s views on politics and science, I have often written about the impossibility of cleanly separating science and politics (e.g., here in PDF) — instead the challenge is to manage the inevitable overlaps. It seems that Crichton’s testimony and Jim Hansen’s preemptive attack underscore the reality of the inevitable interconnections of science and politics.

4 Responses to “Mr. Crichton Goes to Washington”

  1. Bob Says:

    Listen live on RealPlayer…at the moment 9am central, opening statements by committee members

    Click on the room number, SD-406 next to the hearing description in the left frame.

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  3. Bob Says:

    Hillary Clinton requested that Hansen’s critique be included in the hearing record. Other opening statements were generally what you might expect with a few moments of pointed comments about the propriety of the EPW committee conducting a review of the arts. Crichton’s testimony consited of nothing more than climateaudit talking points.

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  5. Ablogistan Says:

    I think I’ll wait for the movie

    The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, led by James Inhofe (R-OK), will hold a hearing today to “discuss the role of science in environmental policy making.” The list of guests includes atmospheric scientists, Ph.Ds, and one Michael Cri…

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  7. Eli Rabett Says:

    Hmm, if I were Hansen, and had chosen not to respond to Crichton on the grounds that his “non-fictional” (are there any?) arguments on climate should not be given any credance, perhaps it might appear reasonable to rethink that strategy before Crichton testifies on his “non-fictional” (are there any?) arguments on climate before a Senate Committee. Just idle speculation, you know.