Jurassic Park is a Terrible Argument Against Cloning
If humans found a way to clone dinosaurs, would you be down for it?
There’s no right or wrong answer to this question, unless you bring up Jurassic Park as an argument against cloning. Then you’re wrong.
Jurassic Park is a good book and an entertaining movie. But it always makes me grind my teeth when people use it as an illustration of the dangers of human beings playing God. It is not a cautionary tale about the dangers of cloning. It is a cautionary tale about running a shitty zoo.
We all remember the insipid platitudes that Jeff Goldblum stammered through in the movie. Maybe some folks even remember the ever-growing chaos fractal that divided the different sections of the book. But when you boil it all down, everything that goes wrong in Jurassic Park is a result not because of the cloning project itself but rather because John Hammond was a fucking idiot who couldn’t manage a Six Flags let alone a massive tropical resort housing the most deadly predators to have ever walked the Earth.
For the most part in this rant, I’m going to go with the film version of Jurassic Park, which more people are likely to remember. However, almost everything said here applies to Michael Crichton’s original novel as well.
Criminal Levels of Understaffing
Throughout the film, how many people do you see walking around Jurassic Park? Now how many dinosaurs are there? The San Diego Zoo, which is considered one of the better zoos in America and which John Hammond should have at least considered as a model, employs between 400 and 600 employees throughout the year for a zoo that contains 2,600 animals over an area of about 2.6 square miles. According to the Jurassic Park Wiki, Isla Nublar is almost ten times that size. The island’s security force apparently consisted of Robert Muldoon and a bunch of mooks who were never seen after one of them got eaten by a velociraptor. You’re talking about one guy with zero meaningful experience in handling dinosaurs (since these things haven’t been seen for millions of years) who is responsible for keeping track of an island with hundreds of deadly predators over 22 square miles. I realize that the park wasn’t open at the time of the film, but even so, that’s the equivalent of dropping one guy with a rifle into the heart of an African jungle miles away from civilization and saying, “We’re gonna send some kids in here in a few hours. Make sure they don’t get killed, okay?”
And What the Fuck is with the Power Grid?
Staffing issues aside, the biggest problem with the park was the unnecessarily complex power grid that allowed all those killer beasts to roam free. Let’s look at how the park’s power grid was managed. Apparently, the entire island relied on one central command post that was staffed by two men. When one of those individuals went rogue and screwed things up, rebooting the system involved shutting everything down, then traveling across the island to a separate facility in order to manually turn the switches. And even then, the door locks weren’t brought back online until a teenage girl got into the system at another location.
Oh yeah, and let’s not forget the fact that they decided to send the one good computer programmer they had into a velociraptor-infested wilderness without any aid. I guess they had to keep the quota of the black dude dying.
When this overly convoluted system was constructed, somebody should have said, “You know, in the scenario where the power needs to be reset, this place is going to be crawling with carnivorous dinosaurs. Maybe we should build these things closer together or at least have some sort of safe underground passageway that people can use to get from one building to the next.” But no…all the idea people were apparently busy building that stupid little animated short about mosquitoes and tree sap (which, by the way, apparently required John Hammond to be present for every single tour – what sort of billionaire wants to waste every day doing some stupid little act instead of flying around the island of fucking live dinosaurs he owns in a private helicopter?)
What about the Lysine Contingency?
Both the book and the movie mention the “Lysine contingency,” which was put in place to make sure the dinosaurs couldn’t escape the island. The actual nature of this contingency is unclear – in the book, it’s something that will gradually kill the dinosaurs off when they don’t get the nutritional supplement they need. In the movie, it’s mentioned as though it were a kill switch that could pretty much immediately stop the dinosaurs from escaping. In both versions, dinosaurs get around this contingency by eating foods rich in Lysine (which, by the way, is pretty much one of the only instances where the arc words “Life will find a way” are actually relevant).
Of course, even if it were a magical kill switch that could end the dinosaur problem, it never gets put into effect because John Hammond is a stubborn idiot. After it gets brought up by Samuel Jackson (I know his character had a name, but I don’t remember it), Hammond’s immediate reaction is, “Absolutely not.” This is his reaction after the dinosaurs have broken out, the power has been shut down, multiple people have been eaten, and Hammond’s own grandchildren are lost on the island. If that’s not a scenario where you should use such a contingency, I think we can safely assume that it was never going to be used. Basically, Hammond paid a bunch of genetic engineers a lot of money to come up with a way to deal with an emergency, then decided that under no circumstance would he ever use it.
Rich Idiots are the Problem, not Cloning
Ultimately, Jurassic Park isn’t a cautionary tale about the dangers of cloning. A zoo of that size and with that terrible a level of security would become deadly no matter what was inside. You put hungry lions in that sort of environment, and you can pretty much replay the climactic scene at the end with lions instead of velociraptors. Dr. Wu and the other researchers who cloned the dinosaurs weren’t the bad guys in this story – that blame rests with the rich idiot who thought it would be a good idea to bring along his investors’ lawyer and not have an insane level of security to make sure there was absolutely no chance of a last-minute cock-up.
And with that in mind, maybe Jurassic Park does actually serve as a decent cautionary tale. Because let’s face it, the only people who are ever going to clone dinosaurs and put them on display are the mega-rich. You put an idiot trust fund baby in charge of a project that will recreate the Tyrannosaurus, and the best case scenario is that he’s the only one who dies when he gets drunk and decides to try to ride the thing while wearing nothing but a pair of briefs and a cowboy hat.