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Jurassic Park Essay, Research Paper
The Question of Control as Presented in Jurassic Park
According to Arnold Pacey
How could one describe the relationship between humans and nature? Perhaps it is one of control, a constant struggle between the power of the elements and the sophistication of human mechanization. Could it be one of symbiosis, where man and nature coexist in relative peace? Are we, as a species, simply a part of nature?s constantly changing realm? This issue is one that philosophers have debated for centuries. Where does mankind fit into the vast network of interacting environments and beings called nature? From the beginning of time, we have attempted to set ourselves apart from the rest of Earth?s creatures. Given the ability to reason, and to feel, and most importantly, to choose, we find ourselves with ?the impulse to master and manipulate elemental force? (Pacey 86). We must fight, we must advance, and we must control all these elements of the natural world. But just how much of that world do we control? Surely people attempt and perceive control over nature, but do they succeed?
The question of control, over nature in specific, is one of the prevalent themes that runs through Michael Crichton?s Jurassic Park. This novel is set on a small island off the coast of Costa Rica called Isla Nubar. On this island, construction of a new, virtuostic, state of the art park is almost complete, when a gathered team of paleontologists, businessmen, and a mathematician arrive to approve of the park opening. All seems well until the ?experts? lose control of the park, leaving the main attractions, genetically engineered dinosaurs, free to roam and hunt. This loss of control further contributes to the downward spiral the park experiences, resulting in numerous deaths. How, one might ask, could a team of technicians and experts let something like this happen? The answer is simple. They over-estimated their perceived sense of control over one of the world?s most unpredictable forces? nature.
The theme of man?s perceived control over nature is one that Crichton has masterfully incorporated into his novel. The actions of the park experts present to the reader the false idea ?that the proper role of man is mastery over nature” (Pacey 65). Mankind has always attempted to achieve this mastery, and the construction of Jurassic Park is a perfect example. Crichton uses the character of Ian Malcolm to constantly present this theme. Through his eyes, one may see past the awe of Jurassic Park and realize its most fundamental flaws. Malcolm describes the park saying, ?It is intended to be a controlled world that only imitates the natural world? (Crichton 133). Malcolm is very accurate in his evaluation. Jurassic Park is not the natural world. Much like the abuse of over-mechanized agriculture and the age-old desire of man to fly, it is simply an attempt to control and master the elements of nature (Pacey 85). Nevertheless, the experts and at Jurassic Park insist that the animals are ?essentially our prisoners? (Crichton 113).
Very often when mankind attempts to flex this perceived control over nature, it works. Almost every last frontier on this planet has been explored and conquered, hence coming under our control and domain (Pacey 87). But is this the case with Jurassic Park? How did these animals of eons ago match up against man?s perceived sense of superiority, a sense of superiority that had the nerve to assume control over dinosaurs and proclaim, ?After all, they?re trainable? (Crichton 140)? Crichton again uses the character of Malcolm to answer this. Throughout the course of the novel, Malcolm constantly stresses the importance of his chaos theory, reiterating that man cannot assume control over an unpredictable complex system. The attention to detail that such a park required was simply overwhelming for the experts. There were simply too many factors to be included and assumed controllable. The animals were created without the ability to breed, they did. They island was deemed inescapable, it wasn?t. The systems were supposed to control the island, they failed. In short, Malcolm argues, ?? the history of evolution is that life escapes all barriers. Life breaks free. Life expands to new territories. Painfully, perhaps even dangerously. But life finds a way? (Crichton 159). The experts in Jurassic Park were mistaken in assuming that they could control and master life. By employing what one could call, ?high technology?, the over-sophisticated automation going beyond the park?s needs, the experts failed. Any illusion of control was therefore lost because of the false assumptions that their ?halfway technology? could successfully maintain these unpredictable animals.
The technicians in Jurassic Park certainly believed and maintained throughout the novel that they had control over the ?halfway technology? of the dinosaurs. But how could they assume such a thing? After all, dinosaurs are animals that have been extinct for millions of years, and how they would react to an entirely new ecosystem was anyone?s guess at best. The experts had what could be called tunnel vision, or what Malcolm refers to as ?thintelligence.? The experts in the novel looked at the task of creating and controlling the dinosaurs as strictly a technical one. This is where their mistakes began. Tunnel vision often results in the overlooking of aspects of technology that are crucial to its eventual employment of the end user. In this case, the experts failed to take into account how the animals would react to both a new environment and the technical ?fixes? that they employed to control the animals, such as the lysine dependency gene. These components should not have been ignored, but they were. Crichton uses Malcolm again to point this out to his readers. Malcolm puts forth his idea of thintelligence in one of his diatribes against the experts of the park. He attributes much of the park?s failings to the expert?s thintelligence saying,
?They both have what I call ?thintelligence?. They see the immediate situation. They think narrowly and call it ?being focused.? They don?t see the surround. They don?t see the
consequences. That?s how you get an island like this. From thintelligent thinking. Because you cannot make an animal and not expect it to act alive. To be unpredictable. To escape. But they don?t see that? (Crichton 284).
This thintelligent thinking, or what I prefer to call tunnel vision, is the primary reason that the experts ceased to believe that their control over the animals was merely perceived. If this were realized, perhaps their thintelligence could have been turned into intelligence, possibly dodging catastrophe.
At the beginning of this discussion, a question was posed; how could one describe the relationship between man and nature? In the novel Jurassic Park, surely it was an attempt of control. However, in the end, who was controlling whom? Did man, with all of his reasoning and scientific fact, prevail over the savagery of prehistoric animals, or did nature?s most awesome product win out in the end? Control is an interesting notion. The experts in Jurassic Park perceived they were in full control of the island, but they were indeed misled. No technical fix that they implemented could ever have served to control or master the elements of nature, yet through the entire novel they believed the animals to be their ?prisoners.? In this instance, the prisoners broke free from their constraints, and in the end, won the battle of control. Simply put, nature prevailed.
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