Friday, January 02, 2004

Speeches by Michael Crichton have been making the rounds in the blogspheres, including this one about how he considers global-warming orthodoxy a religion, and this one about how he blames SETI and the Drake Equation. Now, I'm inclined to mildly agree that global-warming orthodoxy sets off my bullshit alarms, so I didn't talk about the subject when the first Crichton speech seeped through the blogspheres. But there are other things that set off my bullshit alarms, and among those things I must now include this second speech, blaming SETI and extraterrestrial-optimism for a pseudoscientific mindset that contributes to cryptoreligious dogma on subjects like climatology.

Mind you, Crichton's not saying that flying-saucer, alien-abduction cultism is to blame. He's blaming the SETI project and the "Drake Equation" in particular. He noticed that the Drake Equation isn't exactly rigorous - it's more a way of organizing our notions of the possible possibilities on the subject of extraterrestrial life and intelligence - and decided to blow rather volcanically up about it. Crichton apparently believes that nearly forty years of negative results is proof that the Drake Equation is unfalsifiable. He also seems to think that negative results are also evidence of wasted effort. For a writer to be so excited about falsifiable hypotheses, while so damning of an ongoing experiment with negative data suitable for eventual falsification of said hypothesis, is somewhat inexplicable.

Of course, the fact that Crichton is in no sense a scientist might have something to do with this. I sort of want to agree with his dismissal of chicken-little climatology, but the man makes it damn hard...

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