Curmudgeonalia
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December 5, 2007

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Michael Crichton - ISBN-9780060873165

After State of Fear, all I can say is WOW! He’s done it again.

As another well done tale about the currently troublesome biotech revolution, it is as entertaining as was the former, and cogent to a contemporaneous conundrum. As in the former he signs off with suggestions on a rational approach to the problems.

He uses numerous vignettes recurring throughout the book, each expanding the narratives in which he expounds on the nature and risks of gene splicing, gene therapy, the development of humanoids, smart African grey parrots, “curative” inhalation therapies, etc. These are situationally humorous but serious nonetheless.

He takes his deserved swipes at those who know it all (as was the Hollywood star eaten by cannibals in “Fear”), and exposes modern science for the fraud it has become. Science, in the past, was a noble calling (think Albert Einstein, Neils Bohr, Jonas Salk, the Curies, etc.), but it has be converted into nothing more than a career choice in recent decades and has become as corrupt as most every other human endeavor. “Practitioners lie, cheat, steal, sue, hide data, fake data, overstate their own importance, and denigrate opposing views unfairly.”

Universities do research for the money and drug companies fund research which leads to predetermined, or at least biased results which are not rarely known to be false. This in turn leads to dangerous and/or near useless drugs which cost a fortune . . . and it is getting much worse year by year. Many Universities own myriad patents. Some have holdings which dwarf the ownership of the biggest of industrial giants. And to what end? It prohibits meaningful research by others who have to pay huge sums to explore areas in any way related to these patents; a consequence avoidable only by avoiding such research, thus depriving humanity of who knows what in the way of serious progress.

One of the most critical issues is the patenting of genes, which he observes is not unlike patenting the nose. One cannot thereafter develop nasal spray, nasal trimmers, eyeglasses (which rest on the nose) or do reconstructive surgery without paying the patent holder a fortune. Insane you say? So is the patenting of genes.

Another issue is that of tissue ownership. Taken for one purpose it is being purloined for others without the knowledge or consent of the donors. Whole cell lines are thus established which enrich universities and research labs in millions—or billions—of dollars, all without consent of the donors, many of whom then have to pay whopping fees for therapies which would not exist without them. And, of course, they get nothing by way of compensation for their “donations.”

Only half in jest he notes that “ADULTS DON’T GROW UP ANYMORE.” Formal education requires child-like receptivity which compromises the psychological maturity which would normally occur in the late teens or early twenties. (I remember observing as a medical student that people in graduate school mature more slowly because of their sheltered environment—away from the “real world.”) This is increasingly true now, and frighteningly so! We have perpetual adolescents who take years or decades to complete education, and we have Bill Clinton--only too representative of the “boomer” generation--who is still adolescent in his sixties, as are many of them.

Good read, and entertaining, too. Thought provoking, it clearly defines some of the legislatives updating needed in the new modern era.

Posted by respeto at December 5, 2007 4:00 PM