Monday, February 7, 2011

Jurassic Park, 7/100

Of course, I had John Williams' score resounding in my head the entire time I was reading it.

I also had this essay from Bookslut floating in my brain. It generally argues that the novel is a conservative, right-wing attack against new science. More specifically, against Pleistocene Rewilding. I found the idea pretty far-fetched, and wanted to see for myself.

And I still find it far-fetched. After all, so much of the book seems to be arguing for more government regulation of scientific corporations. The man we're supposed to hate, John Hammond, the proprietor of the park, does everything he can to avoid the restrictions of government. Oh, he's a cute, fluffy billionaire at first, what with his seemingly noble intentions, until you realize he's batshit crazy.

...the original genetic engineering companies, like Genentech and Cetus, were all started to make pharmaceuticals. New drugs for mankind. Noble, noble purpose. Unfortunately, drugs face all kinds of barriers. FDA testing alone takes five to eight years--if you're lucky. Even worse, there are forces at work in the marketplace. Suppose you make a miracle drug for cancer or heart disease....Suppose you now want to charge a thousand dollars or two thousand dollars a dose... But do you really think that the government will let you do that?...From a business standpoint, that makes helping mankind a very risky business. Personally, I would never help mankind.

Quoth the cute and fluffy old man.

I've always found it interesting that in one of the most popular videogame and film franchises of the past 15 years, Resident Evil (aka Biohazard), the main antagonist is none other than a pharmaceutical corporation. Not a single villain, no King Koopa, no Dr. Robotnik.

Meanwhile, the mathematician and pseudo-philosopher, Malcolm (who will always and forever be Jeff Goldblum in my head), turns out to be the prophet, correctly predicting the ultimate demise of the park. He spends the whole novel railing FOR government regulation and accountability in corporations. Yes, specifically scientific corporations, but big business just the same. Doesn't sound very right-wing to me.

"You know what's wrong with scientific power?" Malcolm said. "It's a form of inherited wealth. And you know what assholes congenitally rich people are. It never fails."

But I found Jurassic Park to be so much less about politics, and more about the continuous fear of misused biological technology and power that has fueled thrillers and horror stories since Frankenstein.

I don't know how many times I've heard mentioned that the moral behind Shelley's classic is that humanity "shouldn't play God." But it's hardly a religious argument. Instead, the fear is of someone being "God" who wasn't meant to. If God is to be interpreted as an individual with ultimate power, but also the moral capacity to use it correctly, then the fear of "playing God" is the fear of humanity having power, but not an equal power to check it.

The fear is not just of new biological technology. It's of what the consequences could be if only a handful of people are allowed to wield the power that technology allows. Specifically if the entire goal of those few people is to make as much money as possible.

BUT. I'm getting way off topic. Anyway.


Dinosaurs are awesome. Jurassic Park was fun to read. When I was little I would always close my eyes at the part in the film when the T-Rex ate the goat. But not when she ate the people.

In the book, I was sad when the baby raptor was killed. But not when the raptors killed the people. Fun fact!


  1. I love Jurassic Park. Just love it. It's probably one of my most favorite books.

    I do see the implications of "playing God" in it, although I agree it's not a religious thing. Of course, if you go with Aristotle, gods are amoral creatures, whereas mankind is more inclined to be moral (good or bad). I could make the case that humans could never be god but just play god because humans wouldn't do things without some type of moral compass. People are too greedy to do something without getting something for themselves, after all.

    I'm still waiting for someone to create dinosaurs. Maybe they should stick with the herbivores, though. ;)

  2. Yeah, when I was writing that I was thinking "this wouldn't really fit the description of the Greek gods..." Mythology was always my favorite thing to study back in school, because it was like a soap opera. Which god got which mortal pregnant this week? Stay tuned!