Jurassic Park

Matthew Stoecker quinnt at u.washington.edu
Wed Mar 8 15:56:52 EST 1995

In article <3jkdrg$ocv at ixnews2.ix.netcom.com>, Dr.O at ix.netcom.com (JOHN
OPRANDY) wrote:

> In <hynes-0703952041510001 at chevron21.bio.ucalgary.ca> 
> hynes at acs.ucalgary.ca (Michael Hynes) writes: 
> >
> >In article <3jie1f$4gh at newsbf02.news.aol.com>, stevegou at aol.com (Steve
> >Gou) wrote:
> >
> >> For a school project I need to find out which parts in the movie or 
> book
> >> Jurassic Park are possible in real life.  If anyone has any clues, 
> please
> >> e-mail me.  Thanks for the help.
> >
> >According to a fellow who was a consultant to Michael Crichton, and who 
> studies
> >amber at a University in California (unfortunately I can't remember his 
> name
> >but he gave a seminar in our department two years ago) very little if 
> >anything is possible with current technology.
> >
> >The amber used in the movie (Dominican republic) is not old enough for 
> >Dinosaurs and the largest piece of DNA so far isolated from such amber 
> is about
> >1 kb which is insignificant. Sequencing DNA from (putative) dinosaurs 
> would
> >take ages even with the best machines currently available; the human 
> genome
> >project is far from finished and has cost a fortune. each new dinosaur 
> would
> >be a whole new project equivalent to the HGP.  And finally the bit 
> about 
> >filling in DNA with DNA from amphibians is utter nonsense. Life is too
> >sophisticated for such facile solutions. 
> >
> >The part of the book which annoyed me as a scientist the most was the 
> >introduction which suggested that all of us molecular geneticists are 
> a) 
> >receiving large amounts of money from industry (unfortunately not true) 
> and b) 
> >immoral monsters who will do anything to make a buck (also not even
> >remotely true). 
> >
> >I could go on and on about other flaws in the book (which was better 
> than the 
> >movie). Suffice it to say that although very entertaining , they were, 
> from the
> >point of view of a geneticist, very far from reality.
> >
> >
> >Michael Hynes,  Associate Professor
> >
> Hello,
>    I would just like to second the above excellent opinion by Dr. Hynes. 
>  Not only is JP far from reality by the introduction to the book 
> illustrates the harm that a minute bit a somewhat factual information 
> can do in the skillful hands of someone with a little technical 
> training.  Mike Crichton was trained as an MD (Harvard), but never went 
> into practice as far as I know.  His greatest success came as an author 
> of books that propose to inform the public of the dangers of genetic 
> technology and the malevolence of scientists.  As a scientist, I find 
> this offensive and disturbing.  I have met many non-scientists who hold 
> a great deal of what is written in these books to be true.  In addition, 
> Dr. Crichton implies in his introduction that there are no safeguards on 
> research done in academia or industry.  He perhaps forgot about 
> regulations and oversight by the FDA, CDC, NIH, USDA (which also bans 
> importation of dangerous viruses and bacteria).  
>    From the industry point of view, I do not think we would expend a lot 
> of money and energy working on projects that would have little return on 
> investment, alienate our customers (or kill them) and enjoin us in 
> litagation until we were old and grey!  Technology is neither good nor 
> evil, it simply is a tool.  Like any tool, you can build with it or 
> destroy.  Genetic technologies gives us the only real opportunity to 
> diagnose and treat diseases like cancer, AIDS, CF, ADA, and I could go 
> on. Hope this helps and was not too much sermonizing. 
> J. Oprandy, Ph.D.
> Director, DNA Probes Program

Well, I would like to offer a slightly different opinion, with due respect
to Drs. Hynes and Oprandy.  First, the points regarding the unfeasability
of the Jurassic Park project are absolutely correct--it is not currently
possible.  However, objecting to the book on scientific grounds is, in my
opinion, invalid.  Because, this book is science FICTION.  Nobody
criticizes Star Trek because we can't go faster than light.  In fact, I
would reckon that Juassic Park has a greater chance of one day BECOMING
feasible than Star Trek.  But it is today, a work of fiction.  A simple
little diversion.  A thriller.  A hell of a yarn.  Does it give uninformed
people the wrong idea about molecular biology?  Perhaps.  But that is not
the responsibility of the author, it is the responsibility of the reader
to separate fact from fiction.  I enjoyed the book, and sat in the front
row at a midnight preview of the movie.  Scared the hell out of me :)

Matthew Stoecker, Ph.D. candidate
University of Washington

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