Study Guide

Jurassic Park Wisdom and Knowledge

By Michael Crichton

Wisdom and Knowledge

"We live in a world of frightful givens. It is given that you behave like this, given that you will care about that. No one thinks about the givens." (2.14.14)

Malcolm doesn't pay much attention to fashion trends or professional sports—at least not to the particulars. They interest him only in so far as they represent the fact that people behave, think, and feel in ways that have already been prescribed for them. It's expected that you will like sports, just as it's expected that you will not offend the day's fashion. But few people, Malcolm says, stop to think about where these expectations come from. (Malcolm is kind of channeling the Frankfurt School of Marxist Critical Theory here, if you're into that kind of thing.)

"And I trust by now that you all know what the eventual outcome is going to be. You're going to have to shut the thing down." (2.14.18)

Ian Malcolm clearly hasn't seen the movie trailers for Jurassic World. The park is open for business, and more people are going to die. Okay, so maybe someone should have listened to him.

"Theory tells me that the island will quickly proceed to behave in unpredictable fashion." (2.14.59)

As a mathematician, Malcolm works and thinks in terms of calculations. For that reason, he's very theoretical, and he trusts that his theories will to correspond to reality even when signs suggest he's wrong. In the novel, at least, his theorizing proves accurate. So is Malcolm different from the other scientists, or is his kind of knowledge just more accurate?

"I just said the dinosaur is wrong, that's all." (3.19.49)

Tim is something of a dinosaur expert. If a museum has put together a dinosaur skeleton and made a mistake in the construction, Tim will see the mistake straight away. Now, if even a kid can spot mistakes that experts should be catching…

Grant looked at all the computer monitors in the darkened control room, feeling irritable. Grant didn't like computers. (3.20.127)

Grant is a smart guy, an expert in his field, but when it's crisis time and someone needs to work the computers in the control room, Grant is not your geek squad operative. Being an expert in one field doesn't make you an expert in another, and all that narrow specialization can lead people to lose sight of the big picture.

"We don't know why." (3.24.15)

Translation: we don't know what we're doing. Considering how often this sentence is said by the people working for Hammond, you'd think they'd be better prepared for the end of their little island world.

It was Muldoon's view that some dinosaurs were too dangerous to be kept in a park setting. In part, the danger existed because they still knew so little about the animals. (3.25.30)

Muldoon is probably the sharpest tool in Hammond's shed. He's vehemently opposed to the breeding of raptors, he thinks the park should have more effective weapons, and he's wise enough to see he danger of their ignorance. Too bad no one listens to him, either.

"He's a bright kid, and he knew they weren't useful." (4.37.66)

Do you think Tim left his watch in the Land Cruiser to indicate to rescuers that he was still alive? Or did he just leave the watch because it was broken? Or did he leave it because Michael Crichton needed some sign for Muldoon to discover?

"They have what I call 'thintelligence.' They see the immediate situation. They think narrowly and they 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." (5.45.119)

Malcolm likes to be cute, but he's addressing a real problem: smart people who don't have wisdom. The designers knew how to put Jurassic Park together, but they never thought to consider what could happen if things went poorly. They also never thought to consider how the world might be changed by the technology they've brought into being.

"Scientists are actually preoccupied with accomplishment. So they are focused on whether they can do something. They never stop to ask if they should do something." (5.45.124)

In Malcolm's view, science can't be separated from ethics, because when science and ethics are separated, people tend suffer and die. He's pretty down on scientists, actually.