November 5, 2008

Michael Crichton, RIP

The doctor turned thriller author ("Andromeda Strain," "Jurassic Park") has died at age 66 of cancer.

He was probably the tallest man in history to be famous for something unrelated to being tall.

I read his autobiography many years ago. It includes a section about how he was inspired by Yuri Geller to learn how to bend spoons with his mind. He used to attend house parties in the early 1970s of spoon benders -- mostly Lockheed engineers and their families, with everybody sitting around bending spoons telekinetically. He said he got pretty good at bending spoons with his brain waves, but then he got bored with it.

I have no idea what to make of that.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

36 comments:

Anonymous said...

How about John Kenneth Galbraith?

Ross said...

"He was probably the tallest man in history to be famous for something unrelated to being tall. "

JK Galbraith might be his equal there.

James O. said...

I too was puzzled by his references to the paranormal in "Travels." I guess some people--even otherwise intelligent ones like Crichton--want to believe so badly that they'll do mental backflips to deceive themselves.

nada said...

This type of delusion is scary when it comes from a man of Crichton's intellect.

Muswell Hillbilly said...

I read Travels in junior high, so I'm having to cast my mind back here, but I do now recall the spoon bending thing.

That's interesting given his highly skeptical and iconoclastic stance towards popular science-based scares these days, such as global warming.

I guess spoon bending isn't exactly analogous, as that's a matter of direct experience. And it's not other stuff like seeing ghosts, where someone's mind can easily play tricks on them if they let it. He described the spoon becoming as malleable as butter. A sane person doesn't trick themselves into believing that.

So either (1) Crichton did it and it worked, (2) he's a shameless liar, or (3) he was crazy.

Ray Midge said...

I find it hard to believe he was serious. Isn't Crichton the guy who gave that speech on the un-seriousness of the global warming "science."

I recall that speech quite affectionately. A nice piece of hard headed writing.

The same guy? Too strange.

Anonymous said...

Are there any other super intelligent people who sincerely believe in the spoon bending stuff ?

this is just astounding to me.

Black Sea said...

Crichton had five wives, one child. High-achieving, baby-boomer demographics in a nutshell.


"He was probably the tallest man in history to be famous for something unrelated to being tall. "

How about Janet Reno?

Reg Cæsar said...

Crichton and Galbraith were both 6' 9". (And of Scottish origin.) Paul Volcker was a squat 6' 7".

Anonymous said...

Paul Volcker is still alive.

- Fred

SKT said...

Tall people are evil though. Look at Osama, or Obama.

Anonymous said...

Basketball stars.

Anonymous said...

Crichton had five wives, one child. High-achieving, baby-boomer demographics in a nutshell.

Don't assume anything. Maybe most of his bullets were blanks...

Anonymous said...

I guess some people--even otherwise intelligent ones like Crichton--want to believe so badly that they'll do mental backflips to deceive themselves.

Crichton was quite the "believer," to the point of gifting books to, and later guesting on the Integral Naked series of, the increasingly cult-leaderish "New Age philosopher" Ken Wilber. (Wilber's ideas have also influenced Al Gore, Bill Clinton and Jeb Bush. Not to mention the supposed rationalist Sam Harris.)

James Randi has done a lot of work in exposing Uri Geller's glorified/clumsy magic tricks over the years. There may be three possible options for Crichton's claim that he was able to bend spoons with the power of his mind, but there's only one for Geller. And it ain't "batshit crazy."

That's interesting given his highly skeptical and iconoclastic stance towards popular science-based scares these days, such as global warming.

Crichton's misuse of science in support of his anti-AGW stance has been critiqued here.

Reader said...

Brian Josephson, who won the Nobel Prize in physics for his prediction of the Josephson effect (err... it has something to do with superconductivity), is also into the spoon-bending stuff and other parapsychological phenomena.

Pretty sure Uri Geller has been thoroughly exposed as a fraud at this point though.

green mamba said...

I don't know what to make of spoon bending either, but I find that anyone who rejects all psychic phenomena outright to be rather close-minded and shallow. I have enough psychic experiences - primarily premonitory dreams and telepathic communications - to erase all doubt that they exist.

By the way, Rick Darby is Sailerite conservative who is also very much into spiritual phenomena and I recommend his blog: http://reflight.blogspot.com/

eh said...

I have no idea what to make of that.

How are you doing with the fact he was married five times?

Svigor said...

The first thing that popped into my head in response to your question was "he was probably kidding." And I'm not a fan (not a hater or anything, just not a fan, read one or two of his books, liked it, know nothing about him). Spoon benders do their thing by heating and incrementally bending.

Don't assume anything. Maybe most of his bullets were blanks...

Yes, don't assume anything. Maybe they all were...

DYork said...

He used to attend house parties in the early 1970s of spoon benders --I have no idea what to make of that.

Chicks.

Fame, money, status or sex.

In this case it's chicks.

travis said...

Plenty of completely unremarkable people die everyday who don't believe it's possible to bend spoons with your mind. So, yeah, like Steve said, I don't know what to make of that. Perhaps brillant people think outside the box sometimes. Arthur Koestler, one of the most extraordinary men of the last century, was quite fascinated with mysticism and the paranormal.

Anonymous said...

I was never very good at spoon-bending, but got pretty good at pulling coins out of other people's ears and card tricks.

jimbo said...

http://deanradin.blogspot.com/2006/06/doesnt-like-bent-spoon.html

kudzu bob said...

"So either (1) Crichton did it and it worked, (2) he's a shameless liar, or (3) he was crazy."

No. Chess players are the genuine crazies. As for Crichton, he was a fiction writer who of necessity spent most of his time living in a vividly imagined dream world, the process of which is really a form of self-hypnosis. Is it so surprising that some of that would occasionally spill over into other aspect of his life, so that he ended up hynotizing himself into believing that he saw spoons bend through mind power?

A relatively harmless occupatonal hazard, that's all.

beowulf said...

"He used to attend house parties in the early 1970s of spoon benders -- mostly Lockheed engineers and their families."

Its commonly accepted that "house parties in the early 1970s" usually meant wife swapping. Bending spoons sounds positively wholesome.

albertosaurus said...

There was a time when I was convinced that Michael Crichton was personally hounding me.

Somehow in the seventies I ended up working for the Epilepsy Foundation of America. I was working to promote the public image of epileptics. Chricton at this time started publishing his anti-epilepsy books. First in The Andromeda Strain the epileptic scientist zones out and nearly destroys all life on earth and then in The Terminal Man the eponymous character - an epileptic - goes on periodic murderous rampages. Chrichton, Walter Mondale, and Pat Boone sure made it tough to sell epilepsy in those days.

Many years later I decided to get rich with a new technology in an area that I pursued as an enthuiastic amature since adolesence. I decided there was a market for 3D graphical representations of dinosaurs on the PC. Few had ever seen a 3D animated dinosuar. Well Chichton changed all that.

albertosaurus said...

Of course the tallest famous and accomplished man in history was Maximinus Thrax the Third Century Roman emperor. He was eight and a half feet tall.

Reg Cæsar said...

Paul Volcker is still alive. --anonymous

Yes, but is he still 6' 7"? You know what happens with age.

Anonymous said...

Great Uri Geller parody:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UOKrJ3-qy3U

Anonymous said...

What did he make from ER,which I consider one of the most unwatchable shows on TV? Its ben on for thirty-five years now.

Anonymous said...

One of the smartest and most accomplished men in America just passed away and you folks are focusing on spoon-bending? If you read Travels, you'll see that Crichton was skeptical about some paranormal stuff (e.g., past life regression), but he also had experiences he couldn't explain away.

"Yes, but is he still 6' 7"?"

I haven't measured him personally, but judging from the way he towered over Kofi Anon at a press conference about the UN oil-for-food investigation a few years ago (I think Kofi is about 5'9"), he didn't look like he has shrunken much.

- Fred

Anonymous said...

God rest his soul

Anonymous said...

MC got it right on the fraud of global non-warming. That's what I will remember him for. I believe you can still find the video of this brilliant INTJ running circles around comparatively dumb INFJ Charlie Rose when discussing this issue on Rose's program.

James Kabala said...

I'll never forget when Chrichton revenged himself on an opponent (it was over global warming, but that doesn't justify his actions) by using his name and details of his personal life in a novel for not merely a child rapist, but a baby rapist (and poorly endowed to boot). The rape was described in vivid detail and not really relevant to the main plot. That was rather messed up. If you read the passage in question, it takes a sick mind to even imagine, let alone insert a real person's name into.

Anonymous said...

If it was in the early 1970's, he was probably stoned or tripping. Lots of people saw lots of interesting things back then, trust me. Personally, given his skeptical attitudes on lots of other issues, I'd be surprised if he still believed in spoon-bending when he died, but you never know - otherwise intelligen people can convince themselves of lots of stuff. Hey, Christopher Buckley seems to think that a certain buddy of Communist Bill Ayers is a conservative.

jimvkruse said...

How about Peter the Great?

Anonymous said...

There was only one spoon bending party, in 1985, not the 70s, so it's probably not a euphemism for wife swapping.

The posthumous ebook edition claims to be fiction. Check it out on google books.