#139: Nature Demands Humility: Lessons from Jurassic Park World

In a world dominated by climate change and a still deadly global pandemic, we sometimes seem puzzled, annoyed, frustrated, depressed, angry and utterly confused. What is happening? Why is it happening? How could this possibly be what is going on?

Welcome to the world in denial. We have believed that we can create a world after our own image, after our own ideas. The possibility of Genesis – of creation – by human hands was the conflict described in the Garden of Eden, and we know how the story went. It is an allegory for our Nietzschean “will to power”, or rather, to understand the world “as Will and Idea,” echoing but not always understanding Schopenhauer.

Anyone surprise that we cannot just will a world into existence that is controllable by us needs to watch Jurassic Park and its successor movies. All you need to know about nature, human beings in their hubris, and our sad place in nature is contained within these movies.

The latest trailer for the 6th movie in the series contains a series of quotations that illustrate this very well:

  1. “creation is an act of sheer will”: Here we have the Promethean / Faustian conceit that we can create a world ourselves through Titanic and human effort, in rebellion against powers old and new, mythological and real, and that we can be in control over it and shape our future.
  2. “life will find a way”: Orgel’s Famous Second Rule states that “Evolution is cleverer than you are.” You think you can determine when a virus is done doing its magic? Good luck. You think you can foresee everything climate change is going to throw at us? Good luck. You’ll need it, because…
  3. “we’re racing toward the extinction of our species”: not everyone knows it. I am certainly hopeful that it won’t happen, but I am willing to concede that this may be a delusion. Can we call it hope?
  4. “We not only lack dominion over nature, we’re subordinate to it”: Apparently, we as human beings, allegedly sapient, have trouble understanding this.

Horror movies teach humility. Life typically does the same. It may be better to watch the movie to learn your lesson, so you don’t have to live through it in a more miserable way. But do we have the will?

I find myself rooting for the dinosaurs in these movies sometimes, especially when the humans are doing such stupid things. And maybe the movies are onto something: Have we not had our chance? Where is our potential? Have we squandered it? Is it time for nature to error-correct?

I certainly do not hope so – but I just know that if anybody could ever create a modern dinosaur, they would, they absolutely would. The strength of the movies lies in their absolute believability: Yes, indeed, we would build that! And from there on, life – not ours – will find a way…