Michael Crichton, RIP

Farewell to the author who supported spiked spiritually and financially.

Brendan O'Neill

Brendan O'Neill
chief political writer

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Everyone at spiked was saddened to hear of the death from cancer of American author Michael Crichton, aged 66. As today’s numerous obituaries outline, Crichton enjoyed a distinguished career as a medical doctor, author of bestselling techno-thrillers such as Jurassic Park and The Andromeda Strain, creator of TV series ER, and filmmaker (he directed the 1973 cowboy-horror movie Westworld starring Yul Brynner).

Yet Crichton was also willing to stick his neck out in intellectual debate. In recent years, he challenged what he described as the ‘religion of environmentalism’ – not, as some of his critics would have it, because his palms had been greased by oil money, but because he was dedicated to ‘distinguishing reality from fantasy, truth from propaganda’.

His education and training as a doctor meant he had a healthy scepticism towards the use of science for political purposes. We should not simply bow down to environmentalism, he said, that ‘religion of choice for urban atheists’, but should debate on a daily basis ‘whether the threats we face are real, whether the solutions we are offered will do any good, whether the problems we’re told exist are in fact real problems or non-problems’. It is ironic that an author who made science scary in his fictional bestsellers stood up to the use of scary science in public life. He fictionalised some of his concerns about environmentalism in his novel State of Fear.

It was Crichton’s intellectual scepticism that drew him towards spiked. He was, he said, a ‘faithful reader’ of our magazine. Earlier this year he made a donation to spiked so that we could continue stirring up public debate. In March, he was outraged to discover that spiked had been slandered in the UK Independent as being in the pay of ‘Big Oil’. He wrote to me: ‘Isn’t it amazing how this all-purpose smear is applied! One review of my book State of Fear ended with “Enjoy your oil money, Mr Crichton!”, when I would have thought it was fairly clear I was chiefly paid by Warner Bros, Universal, and News Corp (HarperCollins)…’

He was especially horrified by the attempt to limit free speech on matters relating to climate change, telling me how shocked he was that ‘many of our intellectual elites have even expressed the firm view that anyone who questions global warming should be put to death. Not a shred of embarrassment! Not a second thought.’

Crichton’s death is a great loss for contemporary fiction, and also for rationality in public debate. spiked extends its condolences to his family.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

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