08 November 2008


Michael Crichton passed away this week. I've always been a fan of his fiction, ever since reading Jurassic Park in 1991 or 1992. His most controversial work was State of Fear, scathing critique of global warming alarmism.

The Wall Street Journal reproduced a speech by Crichton from 2003:

I want to pause here and talk about this notion of consensus, and the rise of what has been called consensus science. I regard consensus science as an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks. Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you're being had.
Let's be clear: The work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus.
There is no such thing as consensus science. If it's consensus, it isn't science. If it's science, it isn't consensus. Period. . . .

I read State of Fear and thought it a fantastic expose. Crichton's books were often popcorn fiction, but they also contained a message worth remembering. As this Wall Street Journal editorial explains:

A medical doctor by training, Crichton knew better than to treat scientists and technologists as a priestly class, immune from temptations of fame, profit or power.

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