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January 4, 2004 Odds and Ends

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Intellectual Life Out Here in Los Angeles (Pasadena, actually): Aliens from Outer Space


The California Institute of Technology hosted this:
Aliens Cause Global Warming
A lecture by Michael Crichton, Caltech Michelin Lecture - January 17, 2003

I missed it, but the link will take you to the whole thing.


And it's not so outrageous.  Here's how it opens.


My topic today sounds humorous but unfortunately I am serious.  I am going to argue that extraterrestrials lie behind global warming.  Or to speak more precisely, I will argue that a belief in extraterrestrials has paved the way, in a progression of steps, to a belief in global warming.  Charting this progression of belief will be my task today.

Let me say at once that I have no desire to discourage anyone from believing in either extraterrestrials or global warming.  That would be quite impossible to do.  Rather, I want to discuss the history of several widely-publicized beliefs and to point to what I consider an emerging crisis in the whole enterprise of science - namely the increasingly uneasy relationship between hard science and public policy.


What Crichton is getting at is that science should be at odds with public policy, in his view.  Or it should be separate from public policy.  He reviews the history of extrapolating prediction from scientific findings into government policy.  It's kind of sad.

Yes, it is mathematically possible that there are other sentient beings out there in the universe.  The math is clear.  But do we build expensive arrays of radio telescopes for listening for these folks out there?  The math isn't THAT good.

Crichton also reviews predictions of overpopulation and famine, and concludes we really should not be here at all, fat and happy.  Even if the math was right, the predictions were wrong, and thus policy based on such prediction is not wise.

He thinks good science is being "used" by folks with other agendas. 
Perhaps so. 


He wants to keep science "pure" -  so to speak.  I think he feels used. And that folks should be more careful.


You tell me you can predict the world of 2100.  Tell me it's even worth thinking about.  Our models just carry the present into the future.  They're bound to be wrong. Everybody who gives a moment's thought knows it.


So, should we do nothing about global warming?  He's not saying that.  He's saying one doesn't know.  But doing something couldn't hurt.