- The brightest kid in class (according to the report card) does not know everything
- He/She by any strech of imagination cannot be classified as "intelligent" based on academic performance alone.
- The other kids are always in awe of this category of "bright" people.
- The "bright" kids need not require facts to win a intelligence-based argument. Their reputation will take care of their victories.
- Most students who support this "bright kid" do so blindly. Without veryfying the facts. For most people strongly belive that the "Bright Kid" is right and they don't want the truth to interfere with that belief.
- The evaluation of the academic performances of the "bright kid" is done on merit initially and then it shifts to the "Auto Pilot" phase where the "Bright Kids" reputation begins to dictate the teacher's evaluation of his/her answer paper.
- In other words, the teacher, at the beginning of the evaluation knows the paper belongs to the "Bright kid" and this knowledge leads to the belief that the kid will do well in the evaluation. Regardless of the facts this "target outcome" influences the evaluation to somehow meet the expected outcome.
- Reputation matters more than the truth.
- Research agenda influences research outcomes.
The State of Fear, like The Five Patients ( or is it The Terminal Patient? ), is more non-fiction than fiction. The fictional elements of the novel merely serve as a medium to express Michael Crichton's research on this "dubious concept" called "Global Warming". The footnotes quote real research journals and the graphs and the arguments refer to research papers published in the real world.
Global Warming is a concept that we are all familiar with from 9th or 10th grade science syllabus. It is kind of shocking to note that the common man is capable of believing a carefully orchestrated concept without questioning its validity. Crichton quotes 2 other examples. One is a concept called eugenics, which proposed a theory that weaker races (like jews and some other colored races) were growing in population thereby diluting the stronger and more intelligent races. This led to weaker races being eliminated, sometimes through gas chambers, to maintain the high proprtion of the so called stronger race. The number of Dignitaries who seemed to have endorsed euginics is too staggering. Just about every who's who in the science and literary world seems to have strongly backed this theory ( and later hid in embarassment). Global Warming's popularity shows that people blindly believed whatever was published in the Media just because some famous names were quoted to back the concept (The reputation factor). Just to quote an example that comes to my mind is everybody on the street beliives Michael Jackson molested children or Mohd. Azharruddin accepted some bribe. No convincing evidence is required because we like to believe it.
Global Warming, briefly, is a phenomena where the temperature of the earth is purported to be on the rise because of the depletion in the Ozone Layer (apart from many other causes). The generation of Carbon-Di-oxide seems to be the major reason why this is happening. A common definition of Global Warming would look something like this " The term 'global warming' refers to the accelerated warming of earth's atmosphere that is believed to result from a buildup of one or more greenhouse gases (primarily carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide) due to human activities. Human factors that contribute to global warming include the combustion of fossil fuels, nuclear fission and forest burning. In Australia, continental average temperatures have risen 0.7oC between 1910 and 1999, and are expected to rise by 1.0 to 6.0oC by 2070 . In comparision, globally averaged air temperature is projected to rise by 2.5oC (with a range of uncertainty of 1.5 to 4.5 oC) by the year 2100 . To put a 2.5oC temperature change into perspective, the temperature difference between a glacial and an interglacial (i.e. intervening warm periods between glacials) is about 5-6oC ."
Do a google on "Global Warming definition" and you will get such a definition. What Crichton says through this book is that such a definition is one big fart. I especially loved the way he mocked at the die-hard environmentalist caricatures. People who have no idea about forests, landslides, atmosphere, wildlife, completely condemn industrialization using this tool called "Global Warming". The characters which represent the "There is no Global Warming" point of view, repeatedly seem to poke the pro-environmentalists with questions like " Are you a scientist? Are you a person even remotely educated in anything environmental". How true!( reminds me of the time when I asked the people who committed project schedules if they knew anything about programming or the technical aspects of the project) most of these so-called environmentalsts are movie actors, rich folks desparate to cling on to any agenda. It does give some social status, self-rightoeusness and moral satisfaction to imagine that we represent something noble. So these people blindly believe in and advocate the anti-global warming movement.
What are Crichton's own views on this subject? Although his conclusions at the end of the book are more "neutral" and "politically correct", from the book and the research material quoted in the book, it is evident that he is arguing that the "melting of glaciers" or the "increase in temperatures" are hyped. The statistics (like the definition above )pick one or two "convenient" examples to show an increase in global temperature. The truth is that the glaciers are actually expanding instead of shrinking. The temperature is actually decreasing in most places as opposed to increasing. The book wonderfully argues how little we know about the environment, let alone preserve it. It systematically exposes how incorrect almost all global climate changes predictions have been and how ignorant these "wildlife society" , "environment preservation society" kind of organizations have been in promoting a pro-environment approach. It significantly quotes all predictions of warming in the past and how inaccurate these predictions have been. It primarily exposes our ineptness in measuring anything environmental. It also deals with Crichton's pet subject - that human beings are too insignificant (actually more insignificant than termites) to cause any large scale damage to Planet Earth. I bought a similar argument of his in Jurrasic Park. The one in The State Of Fear is equally convincing. The book conceedes that some of the warming (like the warming in New York) is as a result of human activity. But he says it is more due to concretisation than anything else. The book argues that we are part of a general warming trend (in some places) that started since the 1850s. Since we werent pumping out CFCs in 1850s Global Warming in effect is a statistical fudge by "interested parties".
I do not know much about global warming. I never did anything pro-environment except throw a few cans into the right dustbin. My thoughts on this subject have been kindled, a s aresult of this book, but it is still inconclusive. The aspects of this book that gave me the kicks were assertions that
- We dont know crap about environment
- There is no such thing as "Leaving nature alone". Man has to interefere with nature because, to put it simply, he already has interfered and so is part of it. ( A wonderful example quoted was "if you want to prevent deforestation why dont you prevent the elimination of chicken/small pox. Both are anti-nature. why is one better than the other?". How true!
- Any measurement or projection regarding temparature and climatic increases are completely inaccurate because we dont know how to predict anything about the environment. In short he says "an educated guess is still a guess"
- All research institution that were set up to research "whether global warming is a real phenomena" will invariably conclude that global warming is indeed happening. Because that is the expected outcome . Because that is the outcome which has a lot of reputation and because that is the outcome that will gurantee research funds.
Apart from the interesting revalations on Global Warming, there is not much drama in the book. There are infact many long monologues about scientific issues concerning Global Warming. Some parts border on preachiness. There are logical loopholes in the plot and the end fizzes away like many other Crichton novels. But I guess its besides the point. Its an enjooyable read if you have time to spare. I did not have the luxury. It took me 4 months to complete the 567 pages and I paid a lot of money as library dues. Plus I had to re-read some parts(when I discontinued after long gaps) to get the context. The last 100 pages, I just wanted to get done with the book and save myself some money