Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Michael Crichton Climate Change Denier

In an essay on his home page Michael Crichton, author of Jurassic Park, compares the current debate around Climate Change with the Scientific movement for eugenics and Lysenkoism. He calls it the politicization of science. Well duh science has always been the handmaiden of the ruling class.

"Once again, the measures being urged have little basis in fact or science. Once again, groups with other agendas are hiding behind a movement that appears high-minded. Once again, claims of moral superiority are used to justify extreme actions. Once again, the fact that some people are hurt is shrugged off because an abstract cause is said to be greater than any human consequences. Once again, vague terms like sustainability and generational justice --- terms that have no agreed definition --- are employed in the service of a new crisis.

I am not arguing that global warming is the same as eugenics. But the similarities are not superficial. And I do claim that open and frank discussion of the data, and of the issues, is being suppressed. Leading scientific journals have taken strong editorial positions of the side of global warming, which, I argue, they have no business doing. Under the circumstances, any scientist who has doubts understands clearly that they will be wise to mute their expression. "

Michael Crichton© 1997-2007 Constant C Productions. All rights reserved.

However in describing those who oppose the science and politics of climate change as brave 'authentic', 'objective' scientists whose voices are being suppressed he overlooks their politics, and their political agenda. Which is not the defense of science, or even technology but of capitalism as it currently exists.

As much as Crichton is a popular author, and one who opposes attempts to patent genes, on the issue of Climate Change he ends up using the arguments of the political right who have made the eugenics argument their way of slagging feminism and the left and now those who defend the science of global warming.

What they fail to do, as does Crichton,
is differentiate between the moralist reform movements of the fin de sicle 19th Century (the temperance movement) which sought to keep women in the home and those progressive movements that sought greater liberty for women. Both were precursors to modern feminism and the progressive movements for social reform. But they were politically different, and thus to confuse the two is at best poor scholarship at worst deliberate political obfustication.

In his essay Crichton ultimately sounds like that other defender of science and technology and opponent of the conspiracy theory of Climate Change; Lyndon LaRouche.

In the first half of the 20th century, eugenics in action largely meant governments sterilizing or murdering people they didn't like. (Lenin, Stalin, and Mao slaughtered even more tens of millions in the name of equality than Hitler murdered in the name of inequality. And, as Aleksandr Solzenhistyn has pointed out, the doctrine of "class origins" transformed "egalitarian" mass murder into ethnic genocide since there is no sharp line between family and race.)

Progressives, Eugenics, Women and the Minimum Wage
Stephen W. Carson

American intellectual life in the early 20th century has a dirty secret and its name is Eugenics. Alex Tabarrok points out an excellent article by Thomas C. Leonard on Protecting Family and Race: The Progressive Case for Regulating Women's Work (PDF). Leonard makes the point that Progressive support for exclusionary labor legislation for women, including the minimum wage, was based among other things on ensuring "that women could better carry out their eugenic duties as 'mothers of the race'". Though most know that eugenics had some sort of open popularity prior to the Nazis giving it a bad name, few know how thoroughly it was supported by all the "best and brightest". Here's a partial list from Leonard's paper: Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood, Sidney Webb, George Bernard Shaw, T. S. Eliot, D. H. Lawrence and economist Irving Fisher.

Progressives, in part for eugenic reasons, wanted to make women and other groups unemployable. Their chosen tool: the minimum wage.

...these progressives argued that minimum-wage-induced disemployment was a social benefit. Legal minimum wages and other statutory means of inducing undesirable groups to leave the labor force were, in the progressive view, a eugenic benefit.

The Progressive Case for Regulating
Women’s Work


ABSTRACT. American economics came of age during the Progressive Era, a time when biological approaches to economic reform were at their high-water mark. Reform-minded economists argued that the labor force should be rid of unfit workers—whom they labeled “unemployables,” “parasites,” and the “industrial residuum”—so as to uplift superior, deserving workers. Women were also frequently classified as unemployable. Leading progressives, including women at the forefront of labor reform, justified exclusionary labor legislation for women on grounds that it would (1) protect the biologically weaker sex from the hazards of market work; (2) protect working women from the temptation of prostitution; (3) protect male heads of household from the economic competition of women; and (4) ensure that women could better carry out their eugenic duties as “mothers of the race.” What united these heterogeneous rationales was the reformers’ aim of discouraging women’s labor-force participation.

Eugenic thought crossed national borders, and it also traversed an extraordinary range of political views. Ideologically, the eugenics movement attracted reactionaries, such as Madison Grant, author The Passing of the Great Race, and key movement figures, such as Francis Galton, founder of modern eugenics, and Charles Davenport, head of the Eugenics Record Office at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, who can be described as social conservatives. But eugenics also won advocates of very different politics, such as Margaret Sanger, the birth control advocate who began intellectual life as a radical anarchist (a protégé of Emma Goldman), Fabian socialists such as Karl Pearson, Sidney Webb, and George Bernard Shaw, and the sui generis feminist, economist Charlotte Perkins Gilman.

Love and Eugenics in the late Nineteenth Century
Angelique Richardson

Developed by Charles Darwin's cousin Francis Galton in the 1860s, and drawing on theories of evolution, eugenics looked to provide solutions both for the problems of the urban poor and for the challenge of maintaining national supremacy. Richardson shows how these theories had particular resonance for a number of intellectually and politically concerned women in the period, who firmly believed that "the women of Britain could best serve the race, the country, and their own interests through the rational selection of a reproductive partner" (p. 215). This was the view that time and again comes across in the fiction of some of the best known New Woman Authors, particularly Sarah Grand and George Egerton (although, as she shows, resistance to eugenics is an important aspect of Mona Caird's work). Richardson's achievement is to get us to recognize this fact and its implications, as well as the part played by their writings in the late-century debates between the hereditarians and the environmentalists. This is a bravely revisionist reading, which will give considerable pause for thought to all those who have enthusiastically embraced and celebrated the progressive, protofeminist aspects of the New Woman movement. One understands freshly that the resistance to romance which can be found in so many of the New Woman novelists and polemicists is less a defiant call for woman's autonomy and self-determination than a demand for rational reproduction. Richardson exposes not just the class biases, but in some cases the antihumanitarianism of these writers.

In the first volume of The History of Sexuality Michel Foucault deemed eugenics one of the ‘two great innovations in the technology of sex of the second half of the nineteenth century’. Richardson’s book is a notable aid to our understanding of the scope and importance of Foucault’s remark and the continuing significance of eugenics as a language of modernity. Much scholarly work in recent years has emphasized the pervasive anxiety about degeneration and decline characteristic of the period, in which eugenic thinking played a central part, but Richardson also shows the tremendous eugenic optimism felt by many of its enthusiasts: able to reverse Malthus’s cruel laws, eugenics promised a new and clean way to social perfection … In charting this ground, Richardson leaves us in no doubt about the class violence endemic to eugenic discourse in the period. That advocacy of eugenics was most enthusiastic within collectivist politics is now well known, but illuminated further here, especially in the final chapter on Mona Caird. Biological determinism, Richardson argues, ‘was underpinned by the paralysis of the individual’; at the heart of the eugenic project of this period is a critique of liberal individual, exemplified here by one of the book’s good men, John Stuart Mill. In her suggestive interpretation of this troubled alignment between left politics and the eugenic fantasy of state-managed human reproduction as a means to squeeze suffering out of the social body, Richardson reminds us that individualism ‘was not anathema to Marx’. Mill’s own contribution to the opposition to eugenics in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries is an individualism that shares with Marx a commitment to ‘autonomy, activity, true consciousness, and sociality.’

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Cliff said...

He also has a thin skin when it comes to criticism. After one reviewer took him to task over his climate change views the reviewer found himself put in Crichton's next book portrayed as a child rapist!

eugene plawiuk said...

Oh dear sounds like Werner Patels, lucky Werner isn't a novelist.

Cliff said...

But apparently an unintentional master of surrealist fiction, from what I read here and far to many other blogs across the political spectrum. I've hitherto managed to skip the blog tradition of ongoing troll followers and crazed flame war assaults. I'm quite happy with not being anybody's idée fix.

My sympathies.

eugene plawiuk said...

I suspect that Crichton opposition to gene patents, though aligned with Greenpeace and others, is actually another right wing political agenda, as in opposition to stem cell research, since this is also a current bugaboo on the right.