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Friday, March 07, 2014

Revisiting Jurassic Park

I just finished reading one of my all time favorite books - Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton. I had read it years ago when it first came out, but then later I couldn't reread it because the print was too small and the unabridged version wasn't available in audio. But then I saw it was a kindle book :)

The last time I read the book I posted this about it ...

I've come to a place in the book that reminded me of complementarianism, that belief the Catholic Church holds that says men and women are not just biologically different, but also "ontologically" different, a belief used to justify disallowing women priests and also disallowing same-sex marriage (needless to say, I think compeimentarianism is just wrong).

In Jurassic Park, the subject of successive hermaphroditism comes up and I thought it mght be an interesting sort of challenge to the idea of complementarianism. In the story, the scientists at the facility have genetically engineered all the dinosaurs to be female so that there won't be any chance of them breeding. This plan fails, the dinosaurs do breed, and paleontologist Alan Grant tries to explain to the scientists why introducing amphibian DNA into the gaps in the dinosaurs' DNA is the cause ...

"[T]he phenomenon happens to be particularly well documented in frogs. Especially West African frogs, if I remember."

"What phenomenon is that?"

"Gender transition," Grant said. "Actually, it's just plain changing sex." Grant explained that a number of plants and animals were known to have the ability to change their sex during life -- orchids, some fish and shrimp, and now frogs. Frogs that had been observed to lay eggs, were able to change, over a period of months, into complete males. They first adopted the fighting stance of males, they developed the mating whistle of males, they stimulated the hormones and grew the gonads of males, and eventually they successfully mated with females."
- (p. 375)

My favorite character in the story is mathematician Ian Malcolm (played by Jeff Goldblum in the movie) ...

The book has him die at the end but he's resurrected for the sequel, The Lost World. Anyway, the book is fairly different from the movie and is full of interesting stuff about chaos theory and genetic engineering, and lots of people get eaten by dinosaurs :) You can read an excerpt from the beginning of the book here at NPR.


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