Jurassic World: A new step in science and philosophy

I’m not kidding, I am ecstatic about the opening of the new Jurassic Park franchise film Jurassic World. I may actually be more excited than that—but needless to say, I can’t wait. I love those movies deeply because they embody questions very relevant to our times regarding philosophy, science, morality, and economy that are not explored more effectively than in any other venue. It was Jurassic Park that really introduced over twenty years ago the concept of DNA replication to bring to life extinct species. A lot of science has been unraveled since then really demanding this latest edition—where scientists needing a ratings boost in park attendance make a hybrid dinosaur that gets loose and destroys the fully realized Jurassic World—the dreamy creation of the former John Hammond whose dream of a fully realized dinosaur park is finally made into a reality.

I loved the Michael Crichton books when they first came out, Jurassic Park and then The Lost World. When the movie hit in 1993 I made a big deal about it and took my little girls at the time to see it on opening night. They still remember that movie as their first theater experience. For this last Christmas my youngest daughter gave me a Jurassic Park t-shirt as a present because it is something that is specifically our thing. To this day she loves biology, botany, and paleontology because of her childhood spawned from the first Jurassic Park movie. A few years later when The Lost World came out I drug my wife’s side of the family, something like 25 people who had been gathering at a lake house on Nolan Lake to Elizabethtown, Kentucky to see the opening night in the only theater within fifty miles of the remote residence. The family often gathered at that lake for Memorial Day. In that group of people are a lot of science lovers, particularly my father-in-law who held multiple degrees in geology and was a school teacher—so they all wanted to see it. We packed up in several cars and made a pilgrimage into town to watch The Lost World. My kids were older at the time and had an absolute blast with their cousins.   I don’t think they ever forgot the experience.

When Dr. Grant returned to Jurassic Park III my kids were in high school and I let them take a day off to go see the movie on opening day. Dr. Grant was always my favorite character so I was excited and my kids were excited because I was. It was a marvelous experience. The movies declined in quality a bit from the first one, especially as Steven Spielberg moved away from direct involvement with the franchise as the director, but they are still good regardless. Each movie is like the approach to a theme park at the beginning of the day when the sun is out, the air is cool, and eagerness fills the mind. There is nothing quite like the morning approach to a Orlando park whether it be Universal Studios, Disney, Sea World, a day at the local zoo, a thrill park, there is magic in the air that is unique to the human experience emerging from such a creation. Each Jurassic Park film embodies that same type of optimism where act one is filled with that type of energy. Act two in the movies becomes something of a Hitchcock type mystery where problems of clashing philosophies set up act three. In that third act all the optimism from act one gets tossed out the window and the films become a haunted house experience where a new thrill is around every turn that is wrapped up nicely at the end with heroics and fanfare. They are fun in the least, but at their best they ask deep questions very relevant to modern science—and they drive advancements in technology.

In my family we all loved playing Jurassic Park Builder on XBox and later on our cell phones. My kids play those types of simulators often and that love started with seeing the movies and dreaming of what it would really be like to see a fully realized Jurassic Park. So it will be wonderful to see what a Jurassic World will look like in the movie, where the whole island originally conceived in the very first film has finally been built into a fully functioning amusement park. I overlook the obvious attacks on capitalism which always spawn in the second act as a simple plot device to ask “what if.” If not for capitalism there wouldn’t be anything relevant about Jurassic Park so without it, there wouldn’t be any dinosaurs or topic to contemplate. Rather the theme of the movies is what happens when undisciplined use of capitalism leads people astray, which is what happens in Jurassic World.

As cool as all the dinosaurs are, the cost of running such a large theme park is excessive so they need increased attendance just to cover their costs. So they invent a new dinosaur which is wrong in so many different ways. But what is to stop human kind from doing such a thing. Very soon genetic research which was in its infancy in the first Jurassic Park movie, will allow people to alter themselves into whatever they want to be. All you have to do is manipulate your DNA code and we can all be taller, faster, and prettier—whatever we wish. The same topic of conversation is emerging in the discussions of giving birth once again to extinct species of animals. What is to stop zoos from making a wholly mammoth when they can change it into something that has never before existed. What are the limits in playing God?   Religions will say that nobody should play God, but science dictates that we should—so where is the happy medium? Those types of questions are what the Jurassic Park movies explore and leave movie goers talking about those very topics on the way home after the movie. That is why these movies are important, because they put hard science into the spotlight of what we should and should not do as a species with very advanced tools in our possession.

Needless to say, I am excited and will continue to be the closer the movie gets to a release date. There are a lot of great movies lined up for the summer, but none of them are as exciting to me as Jurassic World. Will it be as good as the first one? Probably not. Likely it will be somewhere between the second and third film—it probably won’t make as much money at the box office as Universal hopes it will, but it will still be enjoyable, and relevant. I hope it does well enough to justify another movie in the franchise, because I could watch them forever. It is always fun no matter how many times we go, to pull up to Disney World for a fresh adventure. There is always optimism in the morning before attending an amusement park. And those are the same type of emotions experienced before seeing a Jurassic Park movie. It is one of the few films of its kind that really captures that optimism fully. That is the reason I simply can’t wait for the movie to open. When it does, I will be one of the first in line!

Rich Hoffman


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