Study Guide

Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park

By Michael Crichton

Ian Malcolm

Goldblum—sorry, Ian Malcolm—is a mathematician from Texas who wears all black, all the time, and has a rather dismal outlook on the prospects of Hammond's big project. He's calculated that the park will fail—because you can't play God, and you can't control nature—and he isn't shy about reminding Hammond about it.

While relatively young—he's 35 and yes that's young—Malcolm has gained fame as a proponent of chaos theory, an emerging field in mathematics. "I do maths," he says, introducing himself. His theory tells him that Jurassic Park cannot work long-term. Its system is too unpredictable, too uncontrollable. "It is an accident waiting to happen," he says (2.14.61).

Malcolm turns out to be right—and he never stops telling us so. After he's seriously injured and injected with morphine, he turns very philosophical, sort of becoming the mouthpiece for Crichton's own criticisms of scientists.

Scientists, says Malcolm, are too focused on accomplishing something grand and are not focused enough on the responsibility they have for the harm they cause. They care too much for what they can do and not enough for what they should do.

"Science, like other outmoded systems, is destroying itself," he says. "As it gains power, it proves itself incapable of handling the power" (5.47.208). Malcolm believes that science promised the power of total control, but events in the twentieth century shattered that promise.

Science gives power, but it can't tell you how you should use that power. Science isn't morality. Malcolm compares it to inherited wealth: it's attained "without discipline" and "no mastery" (5.47.106), since so much of the work was done in the past, and now you can often just build on that. Progress comes quickly, but disaster follows sooner or later.

Malcolm reportedly dies at the end of the book, but Crichton brought him back in the sequel, The Lost World. He's arguably the most interesting character in the novel, but more because of his antagonistic philosophizing than because of who he is.

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