These dinosaurs ain't Barney.
(Which is not to say that we haven't fantasized about the famous T. rex attack scene in the movie being performed by a man in a lovable purple dinosaur suit.)
But that's neither here nor there. We're here to talk about Jurassic Park, the mega-hit that got everybody in the 1990s interested in paleontology, chaos theory, and genetic engineering.
The novel's set-up is simple: a billionaire named John Hammond finds a way to clone dinosaurs and builds an amusement park on a remote island to show off his marvelous creations. Predictably, the park has a few hitches, and the lawyers insist that Hammond bring in a group of experts to assess the safety and soundness of the island.
What could possibly go wrong?
Pretty much everything, actually.
The team arrives, along with Hammond's two grandkids. They take a tour of the park, and—long story short—carnage ensues. Lots of running. Lots of hiding. Lots of panic. Lots of pointing fingers.
And lots of cool, ferocious dinosaurs with an appetite for anything that moves. That means you.
The novel was a huge hit, as everyone expected. This is the book that made the words chaos theory, fractals, and Velociraptor enter the popular lexicon. The great Steven Spielberg made a great movie. One book sequel and two movie sequels followed.
The fourth movie, Jurassic World, stars Chris Pratt from Parks and Recreation. We can only assume that Leslie Knope will show up to manage the situation at the park—and, really, who doesn't want to see Ron Swanson battling a Tyrannosaur?
What else can we say? Prehistoric animals still draw a crowd. Even if they go on a rampage. Especially if they go on a rampage.
Jurassic Park is an opinionated novel. No one—not even Chris Pratt—is going to be cloning dinosaurs any time soon, but Michael Crichton's basic message still stands: just because science can do something doesn't mean it should.
In ethical terms, Crichton's point is that scientific advancement isn't morally neutral. Advancements in practical scientific knowledge and technological innovation might be advantageous to human flourishing, or they might be harmful to it. They might even be both.
Because of scientific and technological developments, we live in a world with biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons. We have the convenience of smartphones and the Internet, but we can also be spied on like never before. Our gadgets make long-distance communication easier and faster, but they can also wreak havoc on face-to-face interactions. Just watch Taylor Swift's "Blank Space" music video to see what we mean.
Jurassic Park came out when CD-ROMs were impressive technology, but it holds up well because its cloned dinosaurs are really a metaphor for scientific and technological folly. The novel's not anti-science, by any means, but it definitely takes a critical and unromantic view of scientists doing whatever they want, just because they can—and just because that's where the bucks are. Science getting all cozy with greenbacks can be a pretty scary thing.
Science can tell us a lot about the natural world, but the capacity of science and technology to control the natural world is maybe more limited than we'd like to admit. Sure, science gives us some power over nature, but come on: next to nature, we're still pretty weak.
You don't need cloned dinosaurs to learn these lessons, but hey, they certainly help get the message across.
The Official Jurassic Park
Michael Crichton's official website.
All the Thrills That Are Fit to Print
The New York Times review of the novel.
Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park: the movie that defined summer blockbuster entertainment.
From Guardian of the Galaxy to Runner from Dinosaurs
Jurassic World stars Chris Pratt. Are we the only ones who want a LEGO Jurassic Park movie?
Sequel Number One
The Lost World isn't so lost anymore.
Sequel Number Two
Alan Grant returns, ladies and gentlemen.
Only a C+, EW?
Entertainment Weekly's review of the novel. They had reservations.
22 Years Later
Chris Pratt reveals the basic plot of Jurassic Park's fourth sequel.
Oh, Chris Pratt, This Won't Be Your Typical Job in the Parks and Recreation Department
The trailer for Jurassic World.
Can't Visit the Park? Then see the Dinosaurs in 3D!
The trailer for Jurassic Park in 3D. Because why not?