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Cli-Fi Book Review: State of Fear by Michael Crichton

State of Fear is a 2004 techno-thriller novel by Michael Crichton in which eco-terrorists plot mass murder to publicize the danger of global warming. Despite being a work of fiction, the book contains many graphs and footnotes, two appendices, and a twenty-page bibliography in support of Crichton’s beliefs about global warming. Climate scientists, science journalists, environmental groups and science advocacy organisations dispute Crichton’s views on the science as being error-filled and distorted,[1][2][3][4][5][6] and it was described as “pure porn for global warming deniers” by journalist Chris Mooney.[7]

The novel had an initial print run of 1.5 million copies and reached the #1 bestseller position at Amazon.com and #2 on the New York Times Best Seller list for one week in January 2005. The novel itself has garnered mixed reviews, with some literary reviewers stating that the book’s presentation of facts and stance on the global warming debate detracted from the book’s plot.

Source: State of Fear – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

I found this book so disturbing in its denier stance that I couldn’t finish it and I tossed the book in the trash.  I read so many of Crichton’s books that his position on this was really shockingly disappointing to me.

Wiki also provides this information regarding scientific reviews:

This novel received criticism from climate scientists,[1][6][24] science journalists[7][25] and environmental groups[26][27] for inaccuracies and misleading information. Sixteen of 18 U.S. climate scientists interviewed by Knight Ridder said the author was bending scientific data and distorting research.[6]

Several scientists whose research had been referenced in the novel stated that Crichton had distorted it in the novel. Peter Doran, leading author of the Nature paper,[28] wrote in the New York Times stating that

“… our results have been misused as ‘evidence’ against global warming by Michael Crichton in his novel ‘State of Fear'”[24]

Crichton’s book has been labeled as denier porn and it’s not hard to see how he earned that label.

Crichton spoke frequently against climate scientists and climate action, including public debates and testimony at a Senate hearing chaired by James Inhofe (R-OK), where Crichton took the opportunity to once again accuse the entire scientific community of fudging the science of climate change.

Crichton even helped persuade President Bush that he was wise to do nothing to address global warming. In 2006, Fred Barnes, executive editor of The Weekly Standard, wrote of Bush’s opposition to the Kyoto global warming treaty:

Though he didn’t say so publicly, Bush is a dissenter on the theory of global warming…. He avidly read Michael Crichton’s 2004 novel State of Fear, whose villain falsifies scientific studies to justify draconian steps to curb global warming. Crichton himself has studied the issue extensively and concluded that global warming is an unproven theory and that the threat is vastly overstated. Early in 2005, political adviser Karl Rove arranged for Crichton to meet with Bush at the White House. They talked for an hour and were in near-total agreement.

Such is Crichton’s legacy to future generations.

Source: https://thinkprogress.org/michael-crichton-worlds-most-famous-global-warming-denier-dies-147caec78b70#.mj4knebuw

It is almost overwhelming to consider how many people were motivated by his story.  And this was his last completed book – how sad is that?

He was even invited by cray cray Inhofe to “testify”:

Crichton had been summoned to give evidence by Senator James Inhofe, a Republican senator from Oklahoma, who recently called global warming “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people”.

Some scientists speculated that Crichton might be the best witness Senator Inhofe could find. A 2004 survey of 900 peer-reviewed and published scientific papers on climate change failed to find a single one who went against the belief that man-made change is happening and is dangerous.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2005/sep/29/comment.bookscomment

And that’s really the point of this review. The legacy and the impact of Mr Crichton’s last book is astounding.  The way his “novel” has been used to influence and determine the future of our world is kind of scary.   Spun by politics and those who cling to the security of believing that nothing is wrong he is still held up as the shining light of science.  It’s interesting that Al Gore’s NON-fiction book was also spun by politics but to the opposite effect.  That’s because he was already a politician and so by default his work became partisan.

In conclusion here is a summary that says it all (imho):

Indeed Crichton should hold himself to a higher standard with regard to all the arguments in his book. He is plainly a very bright guy and, famously, a Harvard Medical School graduate. A millionaire many times over, he doesn’t need to be seeking grants. If he has something serious to say on the science of climate change, he should say so in a work of nonfiction and submit his work for peer review. The result could be instructive – for him and us all. Source: https://www.brookings.edu/opinions/michael-crichton-and-global-warming/

Additional reads –

 

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  1. This NY Times climate story captures ‘half of what is imbecilic’ in journalism today – Earth Network .news

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