Earth Shakers: The Counter-Enviro Power List

Michael Crichton: Writer

May 1, 2005
Outside Magazine

The 62-year-old author of stunningly successful novels like Jurassic Park, Crichton is a master at using science as a springboard for blockbusters, which is one of the reasons environmentalists have been so distressed by his latest bestseller, State of Fear. Weighing in at 603 pages, the novel is a relentless diatribe against the environmental movement, featuring nefarious, grant-hungry greenies who conspire to create deadly natural disasters just to fool the world into believing that global warming is a threat. To reinforce his view that climate-change theories are hokum, Crichton laced the book with graphs, appendixes, and footnotes from scientific journals.

A number of scientists have charged that Crichton often misinterprets data, cites questionable studies, and overlooks the consensus of the overwhelming majority of climatologists: that global warming is a serious threat. Several leading authorities—including NASA climatologist James Hansen and NYU physics professor Martin Hoffert—have said Crichton distorted their research in his work. "Crichton is not a scientist, who would examine evidence evenhandedly to get at the truth," Hansen says. "He is a scientific fraud and a charlatan."

The flak didn't stop more than 570,000 Americans from buying State of Fear—and perhaps buying its message as well—in its first three months. As one online reviewer notes, "You can laboriously read tomes on the science or you can give yourself a break and read Crichton to get enough to fortify or enlighten the non-scientific mind."

SOUND BITE: In a 2003 speech in San Francisco, Crichton called environmentalism "the religion of choice for urban atheists."

NEXT UP: Though the Chicago-born Crichton is not a scientist—he graduated from Harvard Medical School but never practiced—he now lectures about "Science Policy in the 21st Century" before influential outfits like the National Press Club. His thrust: decrying the poor quality of research on which environmental policy is based.

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