Posted by Tom Kershaw in on -
What you might not know about Crichton is that, besides being a prolific and talented novelist, he was a scientist—with a degree in biological anthropology and an M.D. from Harvard.
This was all in the 60s, well before Crichton became the world famous author we know today. It was also before the green revolution now sweeping the western world, threatening our sanity and sense of security—much like Y2K or overpopulation or communism did in the past.
At the end of his life, Crichton had something rather intriguing to say about this relatively new phenomenon—and not as a novelist, but as a scientist. He said:
"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 cannot 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."
While environmentalism in particular as religion is certainly an interesting point—one worth considering, debating even, it’s not what most interests me.
I’m intrigued by the idea that we’re becoming a more secular society and that we’re replacing religiosity with something else. I don’t think it matters much what that replacement is.
Is it that humans are always looking for guidance from an outside source? Do we not trust ourselves to progress properly on our own? Or is it that we need some cause to champion? Perhaps we add meaning to our lives with something that seems infinitely larger than ourselves. More than likely, it’s all of these things to different people.
While religion is deemed irrational, inane, or even just silly, science and its claims appear rational, solid, and sober. Yet, self-help gurus abound. There’s a resurgence of interest in the occult, astrology, superstition, general and bland “spirituality.” We look to people like Oprah or some loud-mouthed pundit for guidance. We bicker and stagnate and we still find ways to discriminate and distrust those who are different, even if we’re all careening toward a secular, enlightened society on the same train. Maybe we realize on some level that science isn’t providing us with all of the answers. Where is this disconnect?
Well, I don’t know—and neither does science.
But I think I can point you to something that can help us all figure it out. And if you’ve read the blog, you probably know where I’m going with this. But I’m going to level with you. I don’t really understand it. I only understand the results (some of them, anyway).
THEE is a science and the focus on precise language reflects that. But it’s a new kind of science that strives to be true to our experience. A lot of its complexity can be ignored as you focus in on whatever currently interests and puzzles you. THEE is designed to help us deal with things that can be tricky: not just who I am but who I am not; how I must fit into society and yet how I can change it; my strengths and my weaknesses.
It can help us become more effective, more confident, more aware, and maybe even happier and healthier. And what’s more, it confirms so much of what you already know. Things like:
- You are an individual and you are valuable.
- Success and happiness comes from things like responsibility and integrity.
- You should do and think what feels right to you. Others should do and think and feel what’s right to them.
- You have a purpose in life.
- Progress requires courage and life isn’t always easy.
- You are free to create your own reality, but society and its institutions will constrain you.
Maybe that’s what Crichton was driving at all along. His books (or their films) center around some scientific concept and the human frailties that bungle them all up—arrogance, ego, and the drive for power. Maybe it is time to take a good long look at those frailties.
- Tom Kershaw
- Hi! I'm Tom and I am a full-time writer, musician, and father to a firecracker of a four year-old. My wife and I lease our house and cars from her in hopes that her considerable talents of mess-making, princess-impersonation, and stuffed animal-whispering will pay off and fund our eventual retirement in the south of France.
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