----- Original Message -----
From: "Lucian Branea" <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>
Sent: Wednesday, March 09, 2005 4:30 PM
Subject: [grup22] state of fear :)

* Asteptam, de citeva luni, ca ultimul roman al lui Michael Crichton, State
of Fear, sa apara in paperback - ca sa nu dau pe el 28 de euro... Intre timp
a aparut paperback-ul format mare, care costa doar 21 - si eram pregatit
sa-l iau, in martie, cu 18, cu ajutorul unui cupon de Waterstones, cind,
surpriza, am gasit intr-un bargain bookshop din Nottingham, un exemplar
hardback format mediu, cica, deteriorat la transport (hm) cu doar 3.99 lire,
un pret superconvenabil. Drept care, recunoscator acestei fabuloase
oportunitati, incerc acum sa mituiesc soarta...:)

Cred ca romanul merita pomenit distinsei dumneavoastra audiente pen'ca e
vorba de un techno-thriller (de fapt, patru intr-unul, cum ar putea spune un
viitor citat dintr-o cronica, decupat pe coperta 4 a paperback-ului) in care
sint vinati niste eco-teroristi. Si, pe acest fond, unul si altul dintre
personaje prezinta o demonstratie completa a motivelor pentru care fenomenul
de incalzire globala si cele mai discutate cauze ale acestuia, emisiile de
bioxid de carbon, sint 'challenged', ca sa ma exprim eufemistic. Implicit,
Kyoto. Din aproape in aproape, se face si rechizitoriul stiintei
'politizate' si al unei miscari ecologiste intepenite in concepte si metode
vechi de 30 ani. Si, in final, citeva solutii de depasire a acestor
situatii. Volumul este un best seller (ca majoritatea cartilor lui
Crichton) - iar eu, ca o persoana care a citit 12 din cele 14 carti
'fiction' ale sale, zic ca e poate cea mai bine construita din cele
categoria thriller.. :)

Poate ati crezut ca va insult inteligenta folosind cuvintele 'roman' (ma
rog, cu variatiile 'fiction', 'techo-thriller' etc.) si 'demonstratie' in
acelasi paragraf. Crichton este 'om de stiinta' (doctor in medicina), ca mai
toate vedetele SF din ultimele decade (modelul Asimov i-a convins). Romanul
sau de debut, din 1969, The Andromeda Strain, a deschis o directie noua in
SF, prezentind cititorilor un puhoi (moderat) de grafice, tabele si rapoarte
raspindite pe parcursul textului de fictiune - ceea ce a facut multi liceeni
sa se apuce de biologie, inclusiv in Romania, unde Germenul Andromeda a fost
tradus in anii 80. Si mare parte din romanele urmatoare pastreaza componente
importante de documentare, cu trimiteri la bibliografii cit se poate de
State of Fear, insa, a exagerat complet din acest punct de vedere. Nu numai
ca e un roman in care abunda notele bibliografice de subsol (!), dar
bibliografia insasi are 21 de pagini [toate referintele 'numerice' de tipul
asta sint la editia pe care o am eu, un hardback format mediu]. Mai sint, la
final, doua anexe - si, data fiind 'delicatetea' subiectului, un mesaj al
autorului de 5 pagini, in care zice ca, dincolo de parerile extrem de
divergente exprimate in carte, pozitia autorului, dupa ce s-a uitat la date
in ultimii 3 ani, este cutare si cutare...

Aveti un glimpse, mai jos, cu privire la viziunea lui Crichton asupra
subiectului - cu mentiunea ca acesta nu s-a implicat, pina acum, intr-o
disputa de o asemenea amploare, pe chestiuni stiintifice cu implicatii
Cit despre carte - cred ca e utila tuturor 'partilor', intr-un fel sau
altul. Si/sau, in cel mai rau caz, este un techo-thriller foarte bine scris.

faceti-l albie de porci, DUPA ce cititi cartea, la


Remarks to the Commonwealth Club

by Michael Crichton
San Francisco
September 15, 2003

I have been asked to talk about what I consider the most important challenge
facing mankind, and I have a fundamental answer. The greatest challenge
facing mankind is the challenge of distinguishing reality from fantasy,
truth from propaganda. Perceiving the truth has always been a challenge to
mankind, but in the information age (or as I think of it, the disinformation
age) it takes on a special urgency and importance.

We must daily decide whether the threats we face are real, whether the
solutions we are offered will do any good, whether the problems we're told
exist are in fact real problems, or non-problems. Every one of us has a
sense of the world, and we all know that this sense is in part given to us
by what other people and society tell us; in part generated by our emotional
state, which we project outward; and in part by our genuine perceptions of
reality. In short, our struggle to determine what is true is the struggle to
decide which of our perceptions are genuine, and which are false because
they are handed down, or sold to us, or generated by our own hopes and

As an example of this challenge, I want to talk today about
environmentalism. And in order not to be misunderstood, I want it perfectly
clear that I believe it is incumbent on us to conduct our lives in a way
that takes into account all the consequences of our actions, including the
consequences to other people, and the consequences to the environment. I
believe it is important to act in ways that are sympathetic to the
environment, and I believe this will always be a need, carrying into the
future. I believe the world has genuine problems and I believe it can and
should be improved. But I also think that deciding what constitutes
responsible action is immensely difficult, and the consequences of our
actions are often difficult to know in advance. I think our past record of
environmental action is discouraging, to put it mildly, because even our
best intended efforts often go awry. But I think we do not recognize our
past failures, and face them squarely. And I think I know why.

I studied anthropology in college, and one of the things I learned was that
certain human social structures always reappear. They can't be eliminated
from society. One of those structures is religion. Today it is said we live
in a secular society in which many people---the best people, the most
enlightened people---do not believe in any religion. But I think that you
cannot eliminate religion from the psyche of mankind. If you suppress it in
one form, it merely re-emerges in another form. You can not believe in God,
but you still have to believe in something that gives meaning to your life,
and shapes your sense of the world. Such a belief is religious.

Today, one of the most powerful religions in the Western World is
environmentalism. Environmentalism seems to be the religion of choice for
urban atheists. Why do I say it's a religion? Well, just look at the
beliefs. If you look carefully, you see that environmentalism is in fact a
perfect 21st century remapping of traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs and

There's an initial Eden, a paradise, a state of grace and unity with nature,
there's a fall from grace into a state of pollution as a result of eating
from the tree of knowledge, and as a result of our actions there is a
judgment day coming for us all. We are all energy sinners, doomed to die,
unless we seek salvation, which is now called sustainability. Sustainability
is salvation in the church of the environment. Just as organic food is its
communion, that pesticide-free wafer that the right people with the right
beliefs, imbibe.

Eden, the fall of man, the loss of grace, the coming doomsday---these are
deeply held mythic structures. They are profoundly conservative beliefs.
They may even be hard-wired in the brain, for all I know. I certainly don't
want to talk anybody out of them, as I don't want to talk anybody out of a
belief that Jesus Christ is the son of God who rose from the dead. But the
reason I don't want to talk anybody out of these beliefs is that I know that
I can't talk anybody out of them. These are not facts that can be argued.
These are issues of faith.

And so it is, sadly, with environmentalism. Increasingly it seems facts
aren't necessary, because the tenets of environmentalism are all about
belief. It's about whether you are going to be a sinner, or saved. Whether
you are going to be one of the people on the side of salvation, or on the
side of doom. Whether you are going to be one of us, or one of them.

Am I exaggerating to make a point? I am afraid not. Because we know a lot
more about the world than we did forty or fifty years ago. And what we know
now is not so supportive of certain core environmental myths, yet the myths
do not die. Let's examine some of those beliefs.

There is no Eden. There never was. What was that Eden of the wonderful
mythic past? Is it the time when infant mortality was 80%, when four
children in five died of disease before the age of five? When one woman in
six died in childbirth? When the average lifespan was 40, as it was in
America a century ago. When plagues swept across the planet, killing
millions in a stroke. Was it when millions starved to death? Is that when it
was Eden?

And what about indigenous peoples, living in a state of harmony with the
Eden-like environment? Well, they never did. On this continent, the newly
arrived people who crossed the land bridge almost immediately set about
wiping out hundreds of species of large animals, and they did this several
thousand years before the white man showed up, to accelerate the process.
And what was the condition of life? Loving, peaceful, harmonious? Hardly:
the early peoples of the New World lived in a state of constant warfare.
Generations of hatred, tribal hatreds, constant battles. The warlike tribes
of this continent are famous: the Comanche, Sioux, Apache, Mohawk, Aztecs,
Toltec, Incas. Some of them practiced infanticide, and human sacrifice. And
those tribes that were not fiercely warlike were exterminated, or learned to
build their villages high in the cliffs to attain some measure of safety.

How about the human condition in the rest of the world? The Maori of New
Zealand committed massacres regularly. The dyaks of Borneo were headhunters.
The Polynesians, living in an environment as close to paradise as one can
imagine, fought constantly, and created a society so hideously restrictive
that you could lose your life if you stepped in the footprint of a chief. It
was the Polynesians who gave us the very concept of taboo, as well as the
word itself. The noble savage is a fantasy, and it was never true. That
anyone still believes it, 200 years after Rousseau, shows the tenacity of
religious myths, their ability to hang on in the face of centuries of
factual contradiction.

There was even an academic movement, during the latter 20th century, that
claimed that cannibalism was a white man's invention to demonize the
indigenous peoples. (Only academics could fight such a battle.) It was some
thirty years before professors finally agreed that yes, cannibalism does
inbdeed occur among human beings. Meanwhile, all during this time New Guinea
highlanders in the 20th century continued to eat the brains of their enemies
until they were finally made to understand that they risked kuru, a fatal
neurological disease, when they did so.

More recently still the gentle Tasaday of the Philippines turned out to be a
publicity stunt, a nonexistent tribe. And African pygmies have one of the
highest murder rates on the planet.

In short, the romantic view of the natural world as a blissful Eden is only
held by people who have no actual experience of nature. People who live in
nature are not romantic about it at all. They may hold spiritual beliefs
about the world around them, they may have a sense of the unity of nature or
the aliveness of all things, but they still kill the animals and uproot the
plants in order to eat, to live. If they don't, they will die.

And if you, even now, put yourself in nature even for a matter of days, you
will quickly be disabused of all your romantic fantasies. Take a trek
through the jungles of Borneo, and in short order you will have festering
sores on your skin, you'll have bugs all over your body, biting in your
hair, crawling up your nose and into your ears, you'll have infections and
sickness and if you're not with somebody who knows what they're doing,
you'll quickly starve to death. But chances are that even in the jungles of
Borneo you won't experience nature so directly, because you will have
covered your entire body with DEET and you will be doing everything you can
to keep those bugs off you.

The truth is, almost nobody wants to experience real nature. What people
want is to spend a week or two in a cabin in the woods, with screens on the
windows. They want a simplified life for a while, without all their stuff.
Or a nice river rafting trip for a few days, with somebody else doing the
cooking. Nobody wants to go back to nature in any real way, and nobody does.
It's all talk-and as the years go on, and the world population grows
increasingly urban, it's uninformed talk. Farmers know what they're talking
about. City people don't. It's all fantasy.

One way to measure the prevalence of fantasy is to note the number of people
who die because they haven't the least knowledge of how nature really is.
They stand beside wild animals, like buffalo, for a picture and get trampled
to death; they climb a mountain in dicey weather without proper gear, and
freeze to death. They drown in the surf on holiday because they can't
conceive the real power of what we blithely call "the force of nature." They
have seen the ocean. But they haven't been in it.

The television generation expects nature to act the way they want it to be.
They think all life experiences can be tivo-ed. The notion that the natural
world obeys its own rules and doesn't give a damn about your expectations
comes as a massive shock. Well-to-do, educated people in an urban
environment experience the ability to fashion their daily lives as they
wish. They buy clothes that suit their taste, and decorate their apartments
as they wish. Within limits, they can contrive a daily urban world that
pleases them.

But the natural world is not so malleable. On the contrary, it will demand
that you adapt to it-and if you don't, you die. It is a harsh, powerful, and
unforgiving world, that most urban westerners have never experienced.

Many years ago I was trekking in the Karakorum mountains of northern
Pakistan, when my group came to a river that we had to cross. It was a
glacial river, freezing cold, and it was running very fast, but it wasn't
deep---maybe three feet at most. My guide set out ropes for people to hold
as they crossed the river, and everybody proceeded, one at a time, with
extreme care. I asked the guide what was the big deal about crossing a
three-foot river. He said, well, supposing you fell and suffered a compound
fracture. We were now four days trek from the last big town, where there was
a radio. Even if the guide went back double time to get help, it'd still be
at least three days before he could return with a helicopter. If a
helicopter were available at all. And in three days, I'd probably be dead
from my injuries. So that was why everybody was crossing carefully. Because
out in nature a little slip could be deadly.

But let's return to religion. If Eden is a fantasy that never existed, and
mankind wasn't ever noble and kind and loving, if we didn't fall from grace,
then what about the rest of the religious tenets? What about salvation,
sustainability, and judgment day? What about the coming environmental doom
from fossil fuels and global warming, if we all don't get down on our knees
and conserve every day?

Well, it's interesting. You may have noticed that something has been left
off the doomsday list, lately. Although the preachers of environmentalism
have been yelling about population for fifty years, over the last decade
world population seems to be taking an unexpected turn. Fertility rates are
falling almost everywhere. As a result, over the course of my lifetime the
thoughtful predictions for total world population have gone from a high of
20 billion, to 15 billion, to 11 billion (which was the UN estimate around
1990) to now 9 billion, and soon, perhaps less. There are some who think
that world population will peak in 2050 and then start to decline. There are
some who predict we will have fewer people in 2100 than we do today. Is this
a reason to rejoice, to say halleluiah? Certainly not. Without a pause, we
now hear about the coming crisis of world economy from a shrinking
population. We hear about the impending crisis of an aging population.
Nobody anywhere will say that the core fears expressed for most of my life
have turned out not to be true. As we have moved into the future, these
doomsday visions vanished, like a mirage in the desert. They were never
there---though they still appear, in the future. As mirages do.

Okay, so, the preachers made a mistake. They got one prediction wrong;
they're human. So what. Unfortunately, it's not just one prediction. It's a
whole slew of them. We are running out of oil. We are running out of all
natural resources. Paul Ehrlich: 60 million Americans will die of starvation
in the 1980s. Forty thousand species become extinct every year. Half of all
species on the planet will be extinct by 2000. And on and on and on.

With so many past failures, you might think that environmental predictions
would become more cautious. But not if it's a religion. Remember, the nut on
the sidewalk carrying the placard that predicts the end of the world doesn't
quit when the world doesn't end on the day he expects. He just changes his
placard, sets a new doomsday date, and goes back to walking the streets. One
of the defining features of religion is that your beliefs are not troubled
by facts, because they have nothing to do with facts.

So I can tell you some facts. I know you haven't read any of what I am about
to tell you in the newspaper, because newspapers literally don't report
them. I can tell you that DDT is not a carcinogen and did not cause birds to
die and should never have been banned. I can tell you that the people who
banned it knew that it wasn't carcinogenic and banned it anyway. I can tell
you that the DDT ban has caused the deaths of tens of millions of poor
people, mostly children, whose deaths are directly attributable to a
callous, technologically advanced western society that promoted the new
cause of environmentalism by pushing a fantasy about a pesticide, and thus
irrevocably harmed the third world. Banning DDT is one of the most
disgraceful episodes in the twentieth century history of America. We knew
better, and we did it anyway, and we let people around the world die and
didn't give a damn.

I can tell you that second hand smoke is not a health hazard to anyone and
never was, and the EPA has always known it. I can tell you that the evidence
for global warming is far weaker than its proponents would ever admit. I can
tell you the percentage the US land area that is taken by urbanization,
including cities and roads, is 5%. I can tell you that the Sahara desert is
shrinking, and the total ice of Antarctica is increasing. I can tell you
that a blue-ribbon panel in Science magazine concluded that there is no
known technology that will enable us to halt the rise of carbon dioxide in
the 21st century. Not wind, not solar, not even nuclear. The panel concluded
a totally new technology-like nuclear fusion-was necessary, otherwise
nothing could be done and in the meantime all efforts would be a waste of
time. They said that when the UN IPCC reports stated alternative
technologies existed that could control greenhouse gases, the UN was wrong.

I can, with a lot of time, give you the factual basis for these views, and I
can cite the appropriate journal articles not in whacko magazines, but in
the most prestigeous science journals, such as Science and Nature. But such
references probably won't impact more than a handful of you, because the
beliefs of a religion are not dependant on facts, but rather are matters of
faith. Unshakeable belief.

Most of us have had some experience interacting with religious
fundamentalists, and we understand that one of the problems with
fundamentalists is that they have no perspective on themselves. They never
recognize that their way of thinking is just one of many other possible ways
of thinking, which may be equally useful or good. On the contrary, they
believe their way is the right way, everyone else is wrong; they are in the
business of salvation, and they want to help you to see things the right
way. They want to help you be saved. They are totally rigid and totally
uninterested in opposing points of view. In our modern complex world,
fundamentalism is dangerous because of its rigidity and its imperviousness
to other ideas.

I want to argue that it is now time for us to make a major shift in our
thinking about the environment, similar to the shift that occurred around
the first Earth Day in 1970, when this awareness was first heightened. But
this time around, we need to get environmentalism out of the sphere of
religion. We need to stop the mythic fantasies, and we need to stop the
doomsday predictions. We need to start doing hard science instead.

There are two reasons why I think we all need to get rid of the religion of

First, we need an environmental movement, and such a movement is not very
effective if it is conducted as a religion. We know from history that
religions tend to kill people, and environmentalism has already killed
somewhere between 10-30 million people since the 1970s. It's not a good
record. Environmentalism needs to be absolutely based in objective and
verifiable science, it needs to be rational, and it needs to be flexible.
And it needs to be apolitical. To mix environmental concerns with the
frantic fantasies that people have about one political party or another is
to miss the cold truth---that there is very little difference between the
parties, except a difference in pandering rhetoric. The effort to promote
effective legislation for the environment is not helped by thinking that the
Democrats will save us and the Republicans won't. Political history is more
complicated than that. Never forget which president started the EPA: Richard
Nixon. And never forget which president sold federal oil leases, allowing
oil drilling in Santa Barbara: Lyndon Johnson. So get politics out of your
thinking about the environment.

The second reason to abandon environmental religion is more pressing.
Religions think they know it all, but the unhappy truth of the environment
is that we are dealing with incredibly complex, evolving systems, and we
usually are not certain how best to proceed. Those who are certain are
demonstrating their personality type, or their belief system, not the state
of their knowledge. Our record in the past, for example managing national
parks, is humiliating. Our fifty-year effort at forest-fire suppression is a
well-intentioned disaster from which our forests will never recover. We need
to be humble, deeply humble, in the face of what we are trying to
accomplish. We need to be trying various methods of accomplishing things. We
need to be open-minded about assessing results of our efforts, and we need
to be flexible about balancing needs. Religions are good at none of these

How will we manage to get environmentalism out of the clutches of religion,
and back to a scientific discipline? There's a simple answer: we must
institute far more stringent requirements for what constitutes knowledge in
the environmental realm. I am thoroughly sick of politicized so-called facts
that simply aren't true. It isn't that these "facts" are exaggerations of an
underlying truth. Nor is it that certain organizations are spinning their
case to present it in the strongest way. Not at all---what more and more
groups are doing is putting out is lies, pure and simple. Falsehoods that
they know to be false.

This trend began with the DDT campaign, and it persists to this day. At this
moment, the EPA is hopelessly politicized. In the wake of Carol Browner, it
is probably better to shut it down and start over. What we need is a new
organization much closer to the FDA. We need an organization that will be
ruthless about acquiring verifiable results, that will fund identical
research projects to more than one group, and that will make everybody in
this field get honest fast.

Because in the end, science offers us the only way out of politics. And if
we allow science to become politicized, then we are lost. We will enter the
Internet version of the dark ages, an era of shifting fears and wild prejudi
ces, transmitted to people who don't know any better. That's not a good
future for the human race. That's our past. So it's time to abandon the
religion of environmentalism, and return to the science of environmentalism,
and base our public policy decisions firmly on that.

Thank you very much.

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