May 26, 2024

Why does it always go terribly wrong?

Hi there,

I must confess that I have a weakness for B-grade
science fiction movies, so I am looking forward to Rise of the Planet of the
, which opens this weekend. To nobody’s surprise, I suppose, the origin is
a genetically engineered cure for Alzheimer’s which goes terribly wrong etc.  

In fact, as far back as I can remember,
genetic engineering always goes terribly wrong etc in Hollywood. There’s
Jurassic Park, with dinosaurs gobbling up tourists; The Boys from Brazil and
Hitler clones; Gattaca and genetic discrimination; and Never Let Me Go and
forced organ donation. One of my favourites is I Am Legend, which depicts a
world taken over by zombies after a cure for cancer goes terribly wrong etc. (Emma Thompson’s in-depth
is a classic illustration of overweening confidence in science.)

It’s hard to understand why Hollywood is so
suspicious of science on the silver screen and so enthusiastic in real life. Remember
the campaign for California’s Proposition 71 back in 2004? Christopher Reeve,
Jerry Zucker, Brad Pitt, Michael J. Fox, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Mary Tyler
Moore were all strong supporters. Embryonic stem cell research was hardly in
its infancy at that stage, but Hollywood celebrities were among its most ardent

Can anyone out there explain the paradox?


Michael Cook