Monday, February 05, 2007

Michael Crichton's NEXT

That's what I'm reading right now. I'm about half-way through it. Got the book yesterday afternoon while frolicking in Sam's. It's interesting science and a quick read if you have genetics questions. His bibliography includes some good books on genetics, DNA, and the like. I feel like I need to know more about this topic since it really is the future.

Some people believe that all the current science inevitably marches in a positive direction. Reading articles and now Crichton's book leaves me with a vague sense of unease. Nuclear warheads are a cataclysmic event--like one big tumor. And while the fall-out affects the whole world, it doesn't have the insidious potential monkeying (pun intended) with the genome and DNA and our body's expression processes.

On the one hand, scientists work on growing an ear, a hand, a limb. This is fascinating and very hopeful work for those in need. On the other hand, mistakes are bound to happen. Having been around doctors, I can assure you that they are just like you and me, given to hubris, making mistakes. When I contemplate what kinds of research and what viri, baterii, etc. are being created, hybridized and potentially let loose...... It makes me worry less about a suit-case bomb or does it just add to my worries?

A virus is much smaller.

Just a note: Crichton's writing style is somewhat disconcerting. The plot rams all over from chapter to chapter. It's written like a breathy romance novel but it's a book on biotechnology. That makes it more readable and fast. It's almost like he's written the screen-play in advance. I see this as another movie coming to a theater near you.

I had thought I had read one of his books before, but I guess not, after looking at Amazon for a minute. What I had read about ten years ago now was this:

Another disturbing book--this one about Ebola. And if you're in the mood to completely freak out, you can read this or one of the many other books about Bird Flu.

For balance, though, I suggest everyone revisit the Swine Flu epidemic that wasn't. Below is a government paper analyzing what went wrong during the Ford administration's hysteria. What we are seeing worldwide with the Bird Flu problem, and it is big news right now, could be more mass hysteria. We won't know until the virus mutates will we? My money is on hysterics. God seems to have a sense of humor when it comes to these things. (I haven't read either, but they look interesting.)

Remember that huge hurricane season we had this year? Wait a minute.... You don't? Sometimes, it pays to have healthy skepticism of conventional wisdom. From Global Freezing a generation ago to Global Warming today, color me unconvinced.