Thursday, May 08, 2008

Book Review: State of Fear

Michael Crichton's State of Fear is about climate change and how questionable is the science behind such mass belief.

As a thriller, State of Fear leaves much to be desired. The plot is simply hard to swallow -- a lawyer, an assistant, and a "paramilitary" MIT head of risk-analysis travel around the world stopping the nefarious plans of environmentalists in their quest to drive the world to hysteria. Character development is all but ignored, and the bulk of the novel is dedicated to debunking the myth of global warming.

But I'm just nitpicking here. If you're like me who enjoyed Crichton's pages upon pages of discussion about chaos theory or alien anthropomorphism in his previous novels, State of Fear continues this tradition.

Crichton begins his discussion by asking, "What is global warming?" Most of us would define it loosely as the phenomenon explaining the worldwide rise of temperature caused by the increase of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide.

Not true, says Crichton. Technically, global warming is the theory that increased levels of carbon dioxide and certain other gases are causing an increase in the average temperature of the earth’s atmosphere because of the so-called ‘greenhouse effect.’ (p. 81, italics in the original)

The keyword there is theory -- that global warming, despite all the hoopla espoused by the movie and environmental groups, is still unproven and that there are sciences supporting both the advocacy and the denial of it. Crichton offers dozens upon dozens of references debunking beliefs that most people already consider as truth, such as:

1. The thawing of glaciers

2. Carbon Dioxide is the leading cause of global warming

3. Ocean levels are rising

As hard to believe as it may sound, Crichton rebutts these 'truths' by citing actual studies and scientific papers. As one character in State of Fear concludes, “The threat of global warming is essentially nonexistent. Even if it were a real phenomenon, it would probably result in a net benefit to most of the world” (p. 407).

After reading the book, readers can't help but ask, "Is this true? Have we been fools to believe the environmental movement?" Like State of Fear's stand on global warming, the answer is -- we're not sure. With such a highly political topic, State of Fear has passionate supporters and detractors alike.

That, I think, is the best thing we can take from Crichton's book. Let's not be zealots and be carried away. Let us study, let us verify, before we espouse the things that TV and popular media tell us. Crichton also talks about this, actually -- how the establishment is advocating 'a state of fear' to keep its citizens in line. But the idea was underdeveloped. It would have been nice if Crichton digged deeper on this topic, especially considering it was his book's title, after all.

Talking about verifying before jumping into high horse of belief, I remember a question
a pastor once asked me when I showed him archaelogical findings supporting the bible -- "Is Scripture still Scripture if it needs archaeological validation?" I haven't had the time to really sit down and answer his question but I will... soon.

The desire to write is slowly awakening again :)

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