Commentary: The Danger Of Making Science The Villain In 'Jurassic World'
As the latest installment in the Jurassic Park franchise opens in theaters this week, First Coast Connect pop culture philosophy contributor Nicolas Michaud has thoughts about the portrayal of science in the series of films.
Based on the hugely popular series of books by Michael Crichton, Jurassic World once again brings dinosaurs back to life on the silver screen.
In 1993, Jurassic Park did far more than provide us with a full screen imagining of what it would be like to run screaming from Tyrannosaurus rex; the film also asked some important questions and shared an important moral. The books and the films seem to be a fun, yet dark, warning about science run amok. We are warned that science is dangerous, especially when motivated by unbridled greed.
We are warned that we should not play God. We are warned that if we meddle in nature we might suffer terrible consequences. We are warned that science, while amazing and powerful, is also dangerous and that scientists must be watched carefully. Surely, nothing bad could come from a warning that we should beware the dangerous of science? I’m not so sure.
In some ways, the message of the Jurassic Park series is dangerous. Crichton’s morality tale seems to further emphasize the idea that we shouldn’t trust science, something that we rely on every day to help us understand the world better. In fact, the books and films, seem to suggest that life is really powerful and science should be careful about meddling with it. "Life finds a way," one of the characters tells us. Yet, when we really think about it, life often doesn’t find a way.
Life in general may be pretty resilient. But species, and certainly individuals, often do not last that long. We, for instance, are pretty easy to kill. Listening to the news we are likely to hear about hundreds, if not thousands, of deaths around the world caused by disease, natural disasters, and war. One moment you are walking along, and BOOM - an asteroid crashes into you, and you go the way of the dinosaurs.
In fact, isn’t it science that often helps save lives? Think about how many lives are saved on a daily basis by medical science. The natural world is a deadly and dangerous place, Jurassic Park does get that right. But should we be shying away from the very field that helps us develop the tools, skills, and knowledge necessary to survive in a world filled with creatures that want to eat us?
Who do we look look to when we want a better way to defend ourselves, to cure disease, or predict natural disasters? The scientists. So maybe we need fewer movies with “mad” scientists and more with perfectly reasonably scientists who go to work every day to make our lives better.
But, I have to admit, it is nice to see dinosaurs again.
Nicolas Michaud is an author and editor of numerous pop culture and philosophy books, including Jurassic Park and Philosophy: The Truth is Terrifying.