Michael Crichton’s Next

Just finished Michael Crichton’s latest “novel,” Next. I put “novel” in quotes because it’s a thinly, badly plotted story designed around Crichton’s research into genetic engineering and bioethics. But, his ideas are formidable and for the most part, exactly right. It’s worth the read simply to get a taste for where the biomedical industry is quite likely going, if you can get past excessive profanity, some seriously demented characters, and the threading of more than half a dozen subplots that make it very hard to follow. Especially valuable is his annotated bibliography at the end of the novel. I know he’s on the right track when he recommends GK Chesterton’s Eugenics and Other Evils (with the lengthiest annotation of any entry) as follows:

Originally published in 1922, this astonishingly prescient text has much to say about our understanding of genetics then (and now), and about the mass seduction of pseudoscience. Chesterton’s was one of the few voices to oppose eugenics in the early twentieth century. He saw right through it as fraudulent on every level, and he predicted where it would lead, with great accuracy. His critics were legion; they reviled him as reactionary, ridiculous, ignorant, hysterical, incoherent, and blindly prejudiced, noting with dismay that “his influence in leading people in the wrong direction is considerable.” Yet Chesterton was right, and the consensus of scientists, political leaders, and the intelligentsia was wrong. Chesterton lived to see the horrors of Nazi Germany. This book is worth reading because, in retrospect, it is clear that Chesterton’s arguments were perfectly sensible and deserving of an answer, and yet he was simply shouted down. And because the most repellent ideas of eugenics are being promoted again in the twenty-first century, under various guises. … Some things never change–including, unfortunately, the gullibility of the press and public. We human beings don’t like to look back at our past mistakes. But we should.

For a lengthier perspective with which I wholeheartedly concur, see Matthew Eppinette’s review on MercatorNet.

Crichton’s last two works have been exceptionally thought-provoking, State of Fear poking a lot of holes in conventional wisdom about global warming. I hope his skepticism might lead him in search of a deeper truth. If he’s reading Chesterton with appreciation, maybe he’s already on the way there.

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