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Michael Crichton - Let's Stop Scaring Ourselves

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Muzzle Tough Donating Member (187 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-13-04 10:29 PM
Original message
Michael Crichton - Let's Stop Scaring Ourselves
Some sound comments to counter the claims of doom and gloom that we're always hearing about. I like this article a lot.

http://archive.parade.com/2004/1205/1205_stop_scaring.html

This year I turned 62, and I find I have acquired—along with aches and pains—a perspective on the world that I lacked as a younger person. I now recognize that for most of my life I have felt burdened by highly publicized fears that decades later did not turn out to be true.

I was reminded of this when I came across this 1972 statement about climate: “We simply cannot afford to gamble…We cannot risk inaction. Those scientists who are acting irresponsibly. The indications that our climate can soon change for the worse are too strong to be reasonably ignored.” This author wasn’t concerned about global warming. He was worried about global cooling and the coming ice age.

<snip>

It may be mostly forgotten now, but back then many climate scientists shared his concern: Temperatures around the world had fallen steadily for 30 years, dropping half a degree in the Northern Hemisphere between 1945 and 1968. Pack ice was increasing. Glaciers were advancing. Growing seasons had shortened by two weeks in only a few years.

In 1975, Newsweek noted “ominous signs that weather patterns have begun to change…with serious political implications for just about every nation.” Scientists were predicting that “the resulting famines could be catastrophic.”

But it is now clear that even as Newsweek was printing its fears, temperatures already had begun to rise. Within a decade, scientists would be decrying a global warming trend that threatened to raise temperatures as much as 30 degrees in the 21st century. Such predictions implied palm trees in Montana, and they have since been revised downward. By 1995, the UN midrange estimates were about 4 degrees over the next 100 years. Although concern about warming remains, the prospect of catastrophic change seems increasingly unlikely.

<snip>

Similarly, for all of my adult life, informed people have lived in continual anxiety about an exploding world population and the inevitable resulting mass starvation and environmental degradation.

In the 1960s, experts like Paul Ehrlich spoke with conviction: “In the 1970s the world will undergo famines—hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death.”

<snip>

..... mass starvation never occurred either. Instead, per capita food production increased through the end of the century because of the “green revolution” resulting from increased agricultural efficiency and better seeds. Grain production increased as much as 600% per acre, bringing unprecedented crop yields around the world.

<snip>

The 1970s saw the use of computers to predict future world trends. In 1972, The Club of Rome used its computers to warn us that raw materials were fast running out. By 1993 we would have exhausted our supplies of gold, mercury, tin, zinc, oil, copper, lead and natural gas. Yet 1993 came and went. We still have all these things, at prices that fluctuate but over the long term have generally declined.

What seems to be more accurate is that there is a perennial market for dire predictions of resource depletion. Human beings never tire of discussing the latest report that tells us the end is near. But, at some point, we might start regarding each breathless new claim with skepticism. I have learned to do so.

<snip>
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pinkpops Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-13-04 10:33 PM
Response to Original message
1. Lets all stick our heads in the sand
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Muzzle Tough Donating Member (187 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-14-04 12:44 AM
Response to Reply #1
11. No. Quite the contrary.
Crichton doesn't want people to be ignorant or to have their heads in the sand. Quite the opposite. He wants people to be aware of the repeated failure of past predicitons to come true.

Paul Ehrlich, in particular, has been consistently wrong for four decades. And yet he is idolized by millions, he's been on The Tonight Show dozens of times, he still gets invited to give speeches, his books still sell very well and receive 5 star reviews, and he has received numerous grants and awards. And I can't think of anyone else who has been more wrong than him in the field of science during that time. Why is he so loved when he has been so wrong?

Anyone who studies history and agriculture knows that food production has been growing faster than population for thousands of years. Famines are caused by wars, dictaorships, and bad economic polices, but never by "overpopulation."

For thosands of years, technological innovation has been causing rsources to become more abundant, not less. First there was the stone age. Then there was the bronze age. Then the iron age. Then the industrial revolution. Then the assembly line. Then the manufacturing age. Then the service age. And now we have the information age. Information is the most important resource, because that's what drives all other resources. And information can only become more abundant. Once a technology has been invented, it can never become un-invented.

There are people who have their "heads in the sand," but Crichton is not one of them.
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YankeyMCC Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-14-04 08:40 AM
Response to Reply #11
14. Yes of course
Since there's no big flash and burn like we're supposed to see let's just keep whistling along and assume everything will be OK.

I mean everything was going pretty well with feudalism and we just...oh wait some people tried to change that. Ok there was that whole thing with monarcies...oh wait.

Let's see there must be something in history best left untouched because to just blindly let outside forces determine our fate...slavery...nope...dumping sewage into rivers...nope...

<end rambling saracsm>

Aproach problems with calm deliberation is fine advice but that isn't what the current administration and corporate moguls in oil and other high polluting industries want and is exactly what they actively try and discourage. So if people who are concerned yell a little loudly in response it's certainly understandable and probably necessary.


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Karmadillo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-13-04 10:35 PM
Response to Original message
2. Hell yes! I'm going out tonight to buy an SUV and have unprotected sex
with a total stranger!
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fairfaxvadem Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-13-04 10:40 PM
Response to Original message
3. my brother and I can't believe he wrote this.
Just because things don't turn out to be "movie-like" disasters doesn't mean we aren't slowly destroying our planet.

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bemildred Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-14-04 09:42 AM
Response to Reply #3
15. He has a history or writing this sort of drool.
But given the crap he sells, it's no surprise to me.
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roguevalley Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-13-04 10:44 PM
Response to Original message
4. Jacques Cousteau said in the 1970's that we had about twenty to
thirty good years to change things before the oceans started dying. He was right. Michael Chrichton against the majority of science. Whoo-hoo!
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Dr Fate Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-13-04 10:45 PM
Response to Original message
5. Some people have survived Russian Roulette too....
...but I aint playing.
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pretzel4gore Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-13-04 10:47 PM
Response to Original message
6. rich fat old man, go eat another chicken
crichton isn't even a good writer much less someone whose pro corporation status quo views need thinking about
sure 20 billion tons of carbon pumped into earth's atmosphere every year is ok......i mean besides them silly eggheads who the fukk cares?
pig out crichton, you do it so well....
btw most of the hal lindsey type doomsayers were rightwingnuts (like crichton) not enviro activists who want to see gorillas etc left the fukk alone even if that means fatso pigs may have to do w/out
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LizMoonstar Donating Member (392 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-13-04 10:52 PM
Response to Original message
7. for all that he is being a bit...
frivolous re: scientific concerns, I took from it that the solution is not fear and shrieking, but calm concern and change. Overreacting produces people claiming that since the hyperbole is 'wrong', the science is wrong too. In that sense, this is a sound article. And it is true that in the 70s science thought we were going into an ice age.
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pinkpops Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-13-04 11:13 PM
Response to Reply #7
9. Condi Rice may be looking for a fiction writer.
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seasat Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-14-04 01:32 AM
Response to Reply #7
12. NO!
Edited on Tue Dec-14-04 01:41 AM by seasat
Liz wrote: "And it is true that in the 70s science thought we were going into an ice age."

Go back and read the history of the 70's ice age stuff. You're repeating a myth. It was a media creation and not a consensus view by scientists. It started when a paper by Stephen Schneider presented the hypothesis that increased particles from pollution in the atmosphere resulted in increased reflectance of solar irradiance and would lead to global cooling. This paper came out about the same time that scientist were just starting to understand the glacial/interglacial cycle and there was a cooling period in the climate. The media ran with it and hyped this idea for a short period. The myth that there was a huge consensus by science that we were heading into an ice age is a right wing talking point parroted by neoluddites as one of the few things that they can come up with to counter the thousands of research publications that have tested the green house gas theory of climate change over the past 25 years.
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Viking12 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-14-04 09:43 AM
Response to Reply #7
16. Was an imminent Ice Age predicted in the '70's?
No!!!! Stop repeating the lies.

http://www.wmconnolley.org.uk/sci/iceage/

Crichton's distorted science is exposed here:

http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=74#more-74
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LizMoonstar Donating Member (392 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-14-04 08:46 PM
Response to Reply #7
20. well gee
sorry. All the science info I'd seen had said that this was at least the commonly shouted-about view. Not like that makes it the scientific consensus; I guess I should have phrased that as "it is true that in the 70s people were told we were going into an ice age."

Either way, I think my other point still stands - that screaming about stuff and sensationalising science doesn't work and often backfires - and that the ice age thing is a case in point - the myth had to come from somewhere, and if I understand you right, it came from people screaming about it in the media.
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seasat Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-15-04 09:19 AM
Response to Reply #20
24. No your point doesn't still stand.
It was a few articles in the media that mentioned the possibility of a new ice age in the late 70's. It was NOT THE SCIENTIFIC LITERATURE. You can pull up the Newsweek ariticle on the issue but I challenge you to find an article in Science or Nature that stated we were going into another ice age other than the one by Stephen Schneider. I can pull up thousands of articles on the affect of green house gases on climate. Heck, the theory of the insulating properties of the atmosphere has been around since about 1825 and the theory that increased green house gases could lead to global warming has been around since at least 1950. The myth about "science predicting a new ice age in the 70's" is spread by Cons who are opposed to progress on environmental issues.
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LizMoonstar Donating Member (392 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-15-04 06:02 PM
Response to Reply #24
26. hey, hey, what I'm saying is
that the media shouted about the ice age in the 70s (I'm told here - I wasn't born yet...). Now people, after seeing that, think that greenhouse stuff is just more of the same, thanks to the sensationalist shouting done by NON-SCIENCE MEDIA. Lots of people are dumb. They don't get that what regular media shouts out can be crap.
I think that my point, which is that shouting and sensationalising doesn't work and in fact makes things worse, is supported by this. People (sorry, DUMB PEOPLE) saw this shit in the 70s and assume that the current real science is just more of the same due to the same media tactics.

I'm sorry if I'm not making sense, but it seems that we're arguing different points here.
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Poppyseedman Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-13-04 11:11 PM
Response to Original message
8. TEOTEAWKI
UNTIL TOMMORROW
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Poppyseedman Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-13-04 11:16 PM
Response to Original message
10. It's all about grant money $$$$$$$
The majority of "highly publicized fears" are in fact very nice PR campaigns to help fund the next round of grants.

As in all things there are kernels of truth to many of the greatly exaggerated fears, but history has shown us most of it was not very prophetic at all.
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seasat Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-14-04 02:07 AM
Response to Reply #10
13. Again NO!
You get money by hedging and saying that it may be a problem but merits further investigation. As soon as you say that there is some sort of environmental problem and the science has consensus on the issue then the funding shifts towards application and mitigation and away from the basic research to determine if the problem exists. A small minority of scientists use sensationalist language to call attention to an issue but the vast majority do not. Most that are sensationalizing the issues are not scientistst but groups with special interests in a given area. Many predictions by scientists would have come true if we had continued the current path. If we had continued with lead in our gasoline, continued heavily overfishing, continued unchecked pollution, and continued heavy population growth, we would have created disasters with little recourse.

I heard Crichton speaking on CNN tonight and the man is ignorant of the current science regarding climate change. He brought up heat island effect as though it was something new that scientists had never addressed. I read a paper on it back in the early 90's that was written in the late 80's. The scientists compiling the global records have corrected for the heat island effects. He could just go check out Jim Hansen's group at NASA to see how they are doing it. Crichton has a knack for latching on to the current trendy issue in his novels. It looks like he is going for the neoluddite Republican group that has now taken hold of our government.
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IrateCitizen Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-15-04 11:30 AM
Response to Reply #10
25. Yeah, that must be why Bill Clinton is now taking on climate change...
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seasat Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-14-04 09:50 AM
Response to Original message
17. Another thing is this weird reasoning.
From article: In the 1960s, experts like Paul Ehrlich spoke with conviction: “In the 1970s the world will undergo famines—hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death.”

<snip>

..... mass starvation never occurred either. Instead, per capita food production increased through the end of the century because of the “green revolution” resulting from increased agricultural efficiency and better seeds. Grain production increased as much as 600% per acre, bringing unprecedented crop yields around the world.


What happened is that scientifc study identified a problem then the problem was solved through scientific advancement and education. The emphasis on population growth in the 60's encouraged the UN to institute programs to aid developing countries with birth control. China also started Draconian programs to limit the size of Chinese families. By Crichton's logic, we should have ignored the problem and then scientists would have been right. He is presenting a catch-22 argument where if scientific advancement prevents a problem then they must have been exaggerating the problem. If scientific advancement doesn't take care of the problem then the are right.
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Viking12 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-14-04 10:13 AM
Response to Reply #17
19. Excellent point.
The alleged error on Erlich's part is a false charge. Between 1965 and 1985 the global fertility rate nearly halved from over 6 to 4 (a fertility rate of 2.1 would represent stable population; two children to replace two adults while accounting for infant mortality). There were many proactive programs targeted specifically to achieve lower fertility rates and becasue of the decline in fertility rates, the population did not explode as pre-1965 fertility rates would have predicted.
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hatrack Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-14-04 10:07 AM
Response to Original message
18. BFD - Crichton's new "thriller" is all about eco-terrorism
So he couldn't possibly have any personal or financial motivation for writing this tripe, now could he? No, no, he's the supremely rational and disinterested Man Of Science with no ulterior motives, certainly none that would involve selling his new book.

Give me a break.
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meow mix Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-14-04 09:05 PM
Response to Original message
21. he's full of bs and a traitor to life, according to this...
Dr. James E. Hansen, the director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said that where Mr. Crichton's main character, Dr. John Kenner, says flatly that one of Dr. Hansen's climate predictions in 1988 "was wrong by 300 percent," it could not be further from the truth.

"Crichton has taken what is actually a triumph of climate science prediction and pretended that it is a failure," Dr. Hansen said.

He said that the 1988 study looked at potential climate impacts of three possible tracks for emissions of the heat-trapping gases: Possibility A, in which they grew at an exponential rate; Possibility C, in which they were severely curtailed; and a most realistic Possibility B in which emissions essentially stayed at the 1988 rate.

Mr. Crichton, through Dr. Kenner, mentions only the unlikely high-emissions possibility, Dr. Hansen said. In the intervening years, he added, "the real world is falling right on the projections for Scenario B."

http://www.climateark.org/articles/reader.asp?linkid=37272
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Viking12 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-14-04 10:29 PM
Response to Reply #21
22. Here's Hansen's graph that Crichton lies about


"Next, and slightly more troubling, we have some rather misleading and selective recollection regarding Jim Hansen’s testimony to congress in 1988. “Dr. Hansen overestimated by 300 percent” (p247). Hansen’s testimony did indeed lead to a big increase in awareness of global warming as a issue, but not because he exaggerated the problem by 300%. In a paper published soon after that testimony, Hansen et al, 1988 presented three model simulations for different scenarios for the growth in trace gases and other forcings (see figure). Scenario A had exponentially increasing CO2, Scenario B had a more modest Business-as-usual assumption, and Scenario C had no further increases in CO2 after the year 2000. Both scenarios B and C assumed a large volcanic eruption in 1995. Rightly, the authors did not assume that they knew what path the carbon dioxide emissions would take, and so presented a spectrum of results. The scenario that ended up being closest to the real path of forcings growth was scenario B, with the difference that Mt. Pinatubo erupted in 1991, not 1995. The temperature change for the decade under this scenario was very close to the actual 0.11 C/decade observed (as can be seen in the figure). So given a good estimate of the forcings, the model did a reasonable job. In fact in his testimony, Hansen ONLY showed results from scenario B, and stated clearly that it was the most probable scenario. The ‘300 percent’ error claim comes from noted climate skeptic Patrick Michaels who in testimony in congress in 1998 deleted the bottom two curves in order to give the impression that the models were unreliable."

http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=74#more-74
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theoceansnerves Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-15-04 05:04 AM
Response to Original message
23. this was utter trash.
it showed up in the local right-wing newspaper, the only reason i happened to see it was because someone left it behind on the bus.
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NNadir Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-15-04 08:43 PM
Response to Reply #23
27. Um we ought not to take this guy seriously. Afterall he wrote Jurassic
Park. You really would have to have a very limited knowledge of science to write that tripe.
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Porcupine Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-15-04 11:15 PM
Response to Original message
28. Man probably mixes his drinks with his Prozac
Nevermind the actual EVIDENCE that the Earths climate is highly variable.

Nevermind that A BILLION PEOPLE are currently malnourished providing the ideal incubater for the next inevitable pandemic virus.

Nevermind the demise of the cod, salmon runs, the tuna, sea turtles and many other species that humans used to harvest in great quantities from the ocean.

Nevermind that his miracles in agriculture rely on vast inputs of groundwater and petroleum that are diminishing and CANNOT BE REPLACED.

Nevermind that AIDS is currently depopulating areas of Africa.

This bozo says we can party forever.
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