Friday, January 07, 2005

Patterico's Pontifications: Michael Crichton: Brilliant -- and Just Plain Nuts

Patterico's Pontifications: Michael Crichton: Brilliant -- and Just Plain Nuts

Michael Crichton: Brilliant -- and Just Plain Nuts

So the night before last, I bought Michael Crichton's State of Fear. (I was grocery shopping and it was 40% off at Ralph's with a Club Card. I think it cost maybe $11.) I haven't read it yet, but I'm looking forward to it.

The book has received praise from some libertarians and conservatives (for example here, here, here, here, here, and here) who appear to have embraced Crichton's skepticism of global warming theory.

I say this as a conservative who is also an environmentalist -- just so you know my prejudices. But I'd just like to caution folks not to get too carried away by Crichton's seeming erudition. Because the man is just a leetle bit nuts.

I learned this about Crichton by reading a semi-autobiographical book of his called Travels. It is a fascinating catalogue of exotic places that Crichton has visited. It also has extensive discussion of paranormal phenomena, like ESP, bending spoons, chakras, etc. -- all of which Crichton believes in. For an excerpt from the book setting forth Crichton's alleged observations of spoon-bending, read this. In the book, he describes young children easily bending large metal bars, through the power of their will. I'm sorry, but that's just too wacky for me to believe.

I really like Michael Crichton. I think he's a brilliant man. And he writes interesting books. I've read most of them. So when I first read Travels, I tried to be open-minded. I tried to see my aura, and to bend spoons. I really did.

But none of it worked. I decided that the "auras" he was describing were just an optical illusion. And I couldn't bend spoons. And I didn't want to take peyote and wander in the desert. I started to get the feeling that perhaps Crichton had taken one too many hits of peyote himself.

He has a speech at the end of the book about intellectual prejudice against the examination of paranormal phenomena. It's pretty convincing, until you take a step back. Why not take James Randi's challenge and, say, have the nine-year olds bend metal bars on video, under controlled conditions? Just to take one example of a reason to be skeptical.

The bottom line is that I don't entirely trust this man's judgment. It doesn't mean that everything he says is wrong, or that any source he cites must be questionable. But I'd caution conservatives and libertarians -- many of whom are enthralled with his articulate speeches and books purporting to debunk various tenets of political correctness -- to simply learn a little more about the man before you premise an entire argument on his personal credibility.

Just sayin'.

But..... I like his stories......!

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