India experienced immense upheaval in the 1990s. In the early years of the decade, Coke and Pepsi appeared on store shelves and computer centers mushroomed.
1993 came Jurassic Park. The film redefined cinema and brought the prehistoric animals to life in spectacular ways. People were fascinated. It was a surreal achievement in computer graphics; a species never before seen in action.
The film featured a fictional advanced DNA technology that very likely looked true.
Since then, many films have featured far more advanced computer graphics, and even overdoses of it.
But what does Jurassic Park What is special is the philosophy behind it.
Michael Crichton (1942-2008) was an extraordinary storyteller. It would be surprising for readers to know that his novel terminal man (1972) was translated and published in the popular Tamil magazine of the 1970s Kumutham and was a huge hit with readers.
It was about how a medical attempt to control human behavior with a neural implant “brain pacemaker” goes haywire.
His 1990 novel Jurassic Park also revolves around the same topic, but in a more detailed way.
He later wrote a sequel, The Lost World (1995). The focus is on the mathematician Ian Malcolm, who comes into play as the voice of the holistic approach Jurassic Park.
His statement that “life finds a way” is a fairly unofficial philosophical statement of Crichton’s worldview.
Both novels Jurassic Park and The Lost World Teach readers some of the core concepts of theoretical and systems biology, particularly as they relate to evolution.
They also bring up questions of bioethics and show us how great forces can create disruptions in the intricately interconnected ecosystems that make up the planetary process we call Earth.
In essence, both novels are stories of caution and also motivation to understand the phenomenon called life with reverence and humility. The philosophical core of Jurassic Park is expressed through the insane words of mathematician Ian Malcolm, which is worth quoting at length:
This is also one of the core problems of knowledge acquisition.
The first film was true to the author’s spirit and values. Now in 2022, 29 years after the first Jurassic Park film and 14 years after Crichton died, we have it Jurassic World Dominion, Directed by Colin Trevorrow.
It’s a world where the failed Jurassic Park experiment has poured out its genetically resurrected and manipulated dinosaurs, and the prehistoric animals have settled for a new kind of balance through their own evolutionary paths.
Then there is corporate greed and the perverse side of human depravity. These create corporate genetic control of the planet’s food chain on the one hand and illegal trade in dinosaurs on the other (wet markets from dinosaur meat to velociraptor wrestling rings).
Then a human-dinosaur relationship develops, which is based on a kind of empathy.
It is not planned to tell the whole story here; See it for yourself, but you get a picture of the world in which the plot unfolds, don’t you? Essentially, it’s about corporate greed to manipulate genomes versus unfolding chaos thwarting control-based science. In other words, the plot is the same as the original Jurassic Park but scaled up for a planet with improved graphics and our new knowledge of dinosaurs.
The movie is sure to bring some new dinosaurs with it. There is Giganotosaurus (not gigantosaurus as is often misspelled. It’s giga as in gigabytes) as apex predator. Here is how National Geographic News reported the discovery of their fossils:
There are also feathered dinosaurs in the film.
In 1996, a Chinese farmer, Li Yumin, who was a part-time fossil hunter, discovered a fossil plate from Lianoing Province in China. It was sold to a museum. Phil Currie of the Tyrrell Museum in Alberta, who was on a fossil tour in Mongolia, recognized the importance.
When this became known, the Chinese government banned all photos of the fossil, and a team of Chinese scientists began work on it. Until her work was published, there would be no photos.
In the same year, Chinese scientists published the paper in a Chinese museum journal. Called Sinosauropteryx (Chinese lizard wing), the fossil became sort of crucial evidence in settling the fierce debate over whether birds evolved from dinosaurs.
The dinosaurs had feathers.
Feathered dinosaurs are now part of general paleontological knowledge. The current paleontological conclusion is that even velociraptors had feathers.
This is just a glimpse of how the film franchise has updated itself with scientific discoveries – better than the way our textbooks update themselves. What is needed is a passionate drive to bring science to children and fuel their brains with the need to explore. Too bad our textbook makers lack what even the Hollywood industry has.
There are other major changes in the film franchise. (Here are the two sequels Jurassic Park and subsequent others Jurassic world Movies are not considered.)
One is the way velociraptors are portrayed. In the first film, they were portrayed as packs chasing down ferocious predators. In fact, there seemed to be an underlying assumption in the first film – herbivorous dinosaurs are good, carnivorous dinosaurs are bad. Even the facial features of the former were rendered pleasing and wanton cruelty emanated from the way raptors and tyrannosaurus rex were portrayed.
In reality the species shown in the original Jurassic Park was Deinonychus antirrhopus, also known as Velociraptor Antirrhopus, who inhabited what is now America.
In the 2022 film, velociraptors seem to understand humans and human characters are made to empathize with velociraptors, almost like in ancient Indian wonder films where the snakes seem to hear and understand what humans are saying.
The film also speaks of mother-child bonding and nurturing in velociraptors. That may seem pretty far fetched. While we don’t yet have such evidence for velociraptors in general, the fossil evidence shows varying degrees of parental care. Examination of the behavior of the next dinosaur descendants such as ostriches shows remarkable parental care for the young.
More important is the way we rapidly change by expanding our empathy. What was a hideous monster in 1993 has become an animal that humans can empathize with.
In a way, this reflects the same tendency in science as well. As the first oviraptor Fossil discovered in 1922 near what appeared to be petrified eggs thought to be the stolen eggs of another species of dinosaur. protoceraptos. Hence the given name meant “egg thieves”. But now we know that the fossil was actually a parent.
In fact, a stunning fossil discovered in the Gobi Desert in 1994 shows one oviraptor spread over her egg nest. The skull was missing. She incubated or protected her eggs much like the birds do today. She was ready to sit above the balls and face disaster rather than maybe run. Perhaps she was as “selfless” as any mother in protecting her offspring.
The fossil, now in a Mongolian dinosaur museum, commemorates ‘Ya Devi Sarva Bhuteshu Matru Rupena …’. This is a statement that is as true of at least some dinosaur species as it is of modern mammals, including humans.
The new film is full of the usual clichés – the corporate villain manipulating nature through reductionist technology control, dinosaurs always killing the bad people while always overlooking the good ones, and a US-centric approach. However, this is still the best movie to introduce your kids to the fascinating world of dinosaurs, evolution and ecology.
The film ends with a plea for coexistence and mutual respect for all life, with a silhouette of elephants and dinosaurs moving together minutes before we exit the hall.
Personally, I can only wonder if the mahout-elephant relationship isn’t one of those. Nowhere else has such a majestic animal been incorporated into human culture and life with so much love and respect. Although vilified by fashion-statement wildlife enthusiasts today, and despite some systemic course corrections that it requires, the elephant-mahout relationship in the traditional Hindu ecosystem is a classic example of a historical demonstration of such coexistence and mutual respect.
Respectful coexistence with the infinite variety that evolution produces is a core value of Hindu civilization and is powerfully underscored by such popular films today, despite its clichés and US-centric obsession.