Sunday Snippet: Michael Crichton

“Let’s be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus. There is no such thing as consensus science. If it’s consensus, it isn’t science. If it’s science, it isn’t consensus. Period.”

While other kids my age were caught up reading Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, I turned my attention toward Michael Crichton. Maybe it’s because I couldn’t wait to grow up, but I was immediately drawn to his more adult-oriented science fiction novels and, to this day, I still believe Crichton is one of the best authors of our time.

You might know him from his work with the Emmy Award winning show ER, but his real claim to fame is as a writer of fiction, particularly in the near “science fact” realm. In books like Jurassic Park, he is able to meld some of the current scientific knowledge with just a few traces that are outside of our reach. In this way, the events that take place in his novels aren’t that far removed from reality.

Instead of diving into biographies and political discussions, I found these slight stretches into imagination to be positively thrilling and engaging. It was great learning about neural manipulation in The Terminal Man and biological engineering in Next. Crichton does such a fantastic job at finding that incredible space between what is currently known and what is yet to be discovered.

This is partly why the quote from Michael Crichton above is so apt. He wasn’t about towing the company line and following what everyone else had to say. He was about making attempts, even if it was through science fiction, to seek the truth yet to be seen in the near future. Consensus is not the same as truth. Don’t be a lemming.

You could almost say that it is partly from this philosophy and from Crichton’s storytelling prowess that I was inspired to take on a career in freelance writing in the first place. I’ve always considered diving into fiction writing, but I don’t think I have the knack for it. Perhaps this ambition is worth revisiting.