Wednesday, January 31, 2007

This is a Horrifying Story of Political Correctness

This from the London Evening Standard. I get the impression it is a bit of a tabloid, but the story should give pause to anyone who insists that there is no overlap between pedophiles and homosexuality:
Liam Lucas was just one of the children abused by predatory paedophiles who took advantage of far-Left Islington Council's childcare policies in the Eighties and Nineties, when it pro-actively recruited gay social workers.

Paedophiles exploited its well-intentioned commitment to equal opportunities and soon most of Islington's 12 children's homes had child molesters on the staff who cynically pretended to be ordinary homosexuals. Numerous children and other staff made allegations of abuse, but were branded homophobes and ignored.

Liam - now 29, in a permanent relationship and the proud father of year-old Isabella - was even falsely classified as gay by Islington social services, which decided he should be fostered only by single men.


A lengthy investigation by The Mail on Sunday's sister paper, the London Evening Standard, resulted in government-ordered inquiries, but at least 26 members of Islington social services staff, despite being accused of grave offences, were simply allowed to resign, often with glowing references.

Mr and Mrs Cairns and their foster son Liam were so concerned by the 'rigidity' of the current debate about adoption and equal opportunities for gays, and the invisibility of children's needs, that they have decided to go public.

The Church of England's own adoption agency already allows gay adoptions, and it is thought the Archbishop's support for the Catholic Church's exemption plea mainly reflects the importance he places on freedom of conscience and thought.

Mrs Cairns is herself a leading socialwork academic, author and trainer. "I am not anti gay, any more than is Rowan Williams,' she said.

"I have a close relative who is gay, and I am emphatically not opposed to gay adoption. I am, however, deeply concerned by the bullying, intolerant nature of the present attacks on people with religious or other concerns about it.

"It feels horribly familiar and I fear that rigid thinking about equal opportunities may again blind people to paedophiles who claim to be gay, when all they really want is access to vulnerable children.

"On radio and TV this week I have repeatedly heard politicians insist that every adoption agency, whatever its religious beliefs about the best home for children, must offer gay people "equality of access to all goods and services".


Liam himself said: "There's a lot about my childhood I can't remember. There's a lot I can remember and wish I couldn't. The best I can say about it is that it's over, and that I learned a lot, that will probably make me a better person in the end."

He was in and out of Islington's care from the age of two, and witnessed his birth mother suffer domestic violence and descend into drug addiction. When he was nine she died of a heroin overdose.

The distraught, vulnerable boy was initially fostered by a motherly woman who asked to keep him. But the council instead sent him, from age five to 11, to a 'therapeutic' boarding school, New Barns in Gloucestershire. This was later closed following a child abuse and pornography scandal.

During school holidays he was fostered by a man later imprisoned for abusing another child in his care. When Liam was nine, Islington placed him in its children's home in Grosvenor Avenue, run by two single males. Both were eventually accused of abuse but escaped investigation by moving to Thailand.

Last year, Thai police charged the deputy head, Nick Rabet, 57, with serious sexual offences against 30 Thai boys, the youngest six years old. He escaped trial by killing himself.

Liam initially liked Rabet, a 'big kid' who pretended he was a sheriff and even wore a sheriff's badge. The unqualified social worker owned a Sussex manor house, which he had turned into a children's activity centre, with quad bikes, pinball machines and horses. He took Liam there at weekends.

Liam was abused by a friend of Rabet's, a senior social services colleague. It is believed he backed the council's decision to find the boy a gay foster father.

Mr and Mrs Cairns spotted Islington's advertisement in 1990 in a fostering magazine.

Mrs Cairns was haunted by the then 13-year-old boy's photo, and the council's claim that he was 'suitable for a single man'.

She said: "I instinctively felt that the ad was aimed at paedophiles."

Mrs Cairns and her husband, also a senior figure in social services, already had three children but immediately applied to foster Liam.

"Islington insisted Liam wouldn't settle in a family because they had decided he was gay,' she said. "I said, "So what? Don't gay people have families?" Besides, he was still a child - how could they be sure?'

Mrs Cairns believes children in care who genuinely identify as gay can particularly benefit from gay carers, but she mistrusts adults deciding children's sexuality for them. Former Islington senior social worker Liz Davies, who blew the whistle on the abuse scandal, said: "Other Islington children were also falsely classed as gay at a very young age."

A rebel Islington social worker defied his bosses and supported Mr and Mrs Cairns' fostering bid after Liam begged him: "I just want a family, I just want to be normal."

Mrs Cairns said: "He arrived and looked around and said, "Please, please don't send me back."'


Eventually, he disclosed abuse at both the home and at boarding school. But his sympathetic social worker, and Liam's files, simply vanished and nothing was done.

Mrs Cairns found the vice-chairman of the school governors, Peter Righton, former Director of Education at the National Institute for Social Work, had for years openly advocated sex with boys in care.

"Righton and I had sat together on the body which regulated social work training. I researched everything he had published and I felt sick. I was devastated by the betrayal of trust, and social work's naivety.

"He got away with this, and influenced social workers to this day, because they feared seeming "homophobic" by challenging him."

It prompted Mrs Cairns to begin confiding secretly with Scotland Yard.

The impasse ended in 1991, when police discovered Rabet's Sussex children's centre was partly financed by convicted child pornographers and that he was part of a ring of wealthy, well-connected paedophiles.

Police also discovered that Righton was a founder member of the notorious Paedophile Information Exchange, which campaigned for the age of consent to be reduced to four.

In 1992, Righton was convicted of importing child pornography from Holland. Later, two teachers at New Barns were convicted of sexual abuse, five others tried, and the school was abruptly closed.

Islington admitted 32 'gross errors' in its treatment of Liam, and paid him £5,000 compensation.

His principal abuser quit Britain for a Third World country and is believed to have adopted a boy there.

Liam had a breakdown in 1994 after the ordeal of giving evidence at the trial of New Barns staff.

He became angry, took to drugs and drink, was violent and smashed things. "My descent into crime was sudden and violent and frightened me as much as everybody else,' he admitted.

Liam tried to hang himself and even attempted to strangle Mrs Cairns. She said: "He was wild-eyed and kept saying, "What do you mean, you love me? What does that mean?"

"He couldn't trust anyone, he was a child broken by grief and betrayal. It broke my heart but I had to report him to the police for our own safety."

Friday, January 26, 2007

More Moon Shots

This is a picture that I took at prime focus last night with the 8" f/7 reflector, so you get the quarter Moon.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

M-O-O-N: That Spells Moon

If you read Stephen King's The Stand, you know what I'm talking about! The rest of you just need to read it!

I took these with my Pentax K10D, and an 18mm Orthoscopic eyepiece projection setup, used the HP Photosmart Premiere program to do some very basic adjustments for sharpness, sometimes for brightness and contrast, and then cut them down to a size that wouldn't take forever to download. I still haven't quite reached the sharpness that I want, but better than last night, when the quivering atmosphere made focus for more hundredths of a second darn near impossible. Click on each link to see the picture.

1/45th second, ASA 1600

1/60th, ASA 1600

1/90th, ASA 1600

1/90th, ASA 400

1/45th, ASA 400

1/20th, ASA 400

1/10th, ASA 400

1/10th, ASA 100

1/6th, ASA 100

1/3 sec., ASA 100

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Nigerian Scammers

For a very long time, the Nigerian scammers pretended to be African bank officials, government bureaucrats, or widows and orphans of recently ousted dictators. Lately, they have been pretending to be British bank officials or government bureaucrats--where the British English that they can almost write sounds half plausible.

In the last year or so, the Nigerian scammers are pretending to be American soldiers who have come into a windfall, and need our help smuggling the money back to the U.S. Of course, even the most polished of these letters are still obviously written not by Americans, but by people who learned British English. Here's an example that I received this morning:
Good Day

How are you and your family? Hope all is well.

My name is Staff Sgt. Shelby Cross; I am an American soldier, serving inthe military with the army’s 3rd infantry division. With a very desperateneed for assistance, I have summed up courage to contact you.

I found your contact particulars in an address journal. I am seeking yourkind assistance to move the sum of US$8m (eight million United States dollars)to you in United States; as far as I can be assured that my share will be safein your care until I complete my service here.

Source of money:

Some money in US dollars were discovered in dog kennels at a farm house andguest houses in an estate near one of Saddam’s old palaces in Baghdad, Iraqduring an operation, and it was agreed by Staff Sgt. Kenneth Buff, Sgt. 1stClass Daniel Van Ess and I that some part of this money be shared amongst us before informing anybody about it.

Since both of them saw the money first, they did the informing, while I played the outsider to protect our interest.This was quite an illegal thing to do, but I tell you what? No compensationcan make up for the risk we have taken with our lives in this hell hole, in which my brother in-law was killed by a road side bomb last time.
You will find the story of this money on the web addresses below;


The above figure was given to me as my share, and to conceal this kind of money became a problem for me, even after the initial probe of all soldiers of our command which I was cleared from; so with the help of a British contact working here and his office enjoy some immunity, I was able to get the package out to a safe location entirely out of trouble spot. He does not know the real contents of the package,
and believes that it belongs to a British/American medical doctor who died in a raid here in Iraq, and before giving up, trusted me to hand over the package to his family in United States. I have now founda much secured way of getting the package out of Iraq to your country for you to pick up, and I will discuss this with you
when I am sure that you are willing to assist me, and I believe that my money will be well secured in your hand because you have the fear of God.

I want you to tell me how much you will take from this money for the assistance you will give to me. One passionate appeal I will make to you is not to discuss this matter with anybody, should you have reasons to reject this offer, please and please destroy this message as any leakage of this information will be too bad for us soldier’s here in Iraq and tarnish the reputation of other services men. I do not know how long we will remain here, and I have been shot, wounded and survived two
suicide bomb attacks by the special grace of God, this and other reasons I will mention later has prompted me to reach out for help, I honestly want this matter to be resolved immediately, please contact me as soon as possible with my private e-mail address which is for now my only way of communication until I specify otherwise.

God bless you and your family.

Ssg. Shelby Cross
I'm not going to pick out all the signs of having learned British English, not American English, but it is obvious that this guy is a fraud. And yet there Americans who get taken in by these frauds all the time!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Big Bertha's Optical Problems

I mentioned a day or two ago that part of the problem that Big Bertha has for astrophotography is also a problem visually: the focuser that came on it is coarse. In addition, I can't get the focuser to rack in quite far enough for prime focus photography, so I am thinking of buying Moonlite Telescope's CR2 dual rate Crayford focuser. The racked in height of my current focuser is 4.5"; for the CR2, it is 1.45". The extra 3.05" will let me get the focal point well inside the camera body. The downside is that I will need the longest drawtube (the 2.75" one) to get back to where I am now with eyepieces--which means that I will probably need to use an extension tube in the focuser to get most eyepieces to focus visually. I have one, but it is a little clumsy.

However: what effect does the shorter focuser have on the rest of the optical path? I use Dale Keller's newtwin program (a Newtonian optical layout program for Windows) for this sort of thing--and I notice that it tells me that the current diagonal mirror is far larger than it needs to be for the current antique focuser. The diagonal mirror's minor axis is 4.25"; 3.5" is sufficient. The extra aperture both impairs resolution, and light gathering capacity, because it is blocking incoming light from hitting the primary.

With the lower profile CR2 focuser, I could reduce the diagonal to 2.8" minor axis, probably improving both the brightness of images a bit, and improving resolution. I suspect also that the diagonal contained in Big Bertha was whatever the people who made it found available for the lowest price, and a well-made diagonal might improve image quality slightly as well.

One thing at a time: first the focuser (which is the expensive part); then the diagonal (and sell the old one to someone who is building a 20" or 25" reflector). If there are continuing improvements in performance, it might justify replacing Big Bertha's overweight and overly large tube with something a bit more reasonably sized.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Moon Shots

I shoveled the snow off the back driveway this evening to take advantage of a relatively clear night, and rolled out Big Bertha. Not being a motorized (or even motorizable) mount, taking astrophotographs with it is a bit optimistic, but I thought, maybe I can take some decent pictures of the Moon--it's bright, and Big Bertha has lots of aperture.

1. I couldn't do prime focus photography (where you use the telescope as the lens). The focal point of the mirror is too close to the end of the eyepiece focuser, and I can't get the focal point inside the bare camera body. This may be an argument for a lower profile focuser.

2. If I put a 3X Barlow lens in the focuser, it moves the focal point far enough out to get in focus--but just barely, and at the least inward travel of the focuser, it is too stiff to get an even slightly acceptable focus.

3. With eyepiece projection (telescope plus eyepiece combined to form a lens), I was able to get in focus--but the roughness of the focuser still means that the images I captured weren't very sharp.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Some of the grain you see is the combination of setting the "speed" to ISO 1600, and getting a little too aggressive with the sharpening filter in my computer.

I have not been completely happy with the focuser that came on Big Bertha because of an inability to get a sharp focus. If I had sufficient inward travel to do prime focus astrophotography, I would buy one of the helical fine focus inserts for it instead. But perhaps getting a lower profile focuser (which would almost certainly a smoother and finer focus as well) would be worth considering.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Another False Gay-Bashing

From Florida:
BARTOW - On July 25, 2005, when Christopher Robertson reported that the mobile home he shared with his partner at Kings Manor Mobile Home Park in Lakeland had been set on fire and the words "Die Fag" were spray-painted on the front steps, it sparked widespread outrage.

Sympathizers set up an account for donations for the couple and Web sites and blogs decried the anti-gay bigotry and hatred the couple faced.

But Robertson, 24, later admitted to investigators that he set the fire himself to collect insurance money and that he had falsely reported that items were stolen from the mobile home after the fire, although he had actually put them into a storage unit.

On Thursday, Circuit Court Judge Donald Jacobsen sentenced Robertson to 18 months in state prison, to be followed by six years' probation, as part of a plea agreement with the State Attorney's Office. Robertson pleaded guilty in November to filing a false or fraudulent insurance claim, burning to defraud an insurance company and first-degree arson.
If the Uniform Crime Reports bias crime system works the same way that the rest of the Uniform Crime Reports system works, this was reported as an anti-homosexual bias crime in 2005--but won't be corrected, now that the actual nature of the crime is known. There are enough of these hate crimes against homosexuals that are reported--and later demonstrated to be made up--that it probably significantly inflates the FBI's figures for this category.

A bit more disturbing:
Robertson's lawyer, Assistant Public Defender Renee Reid, asked Jacobsen to delay the sentencing hearing for several months. Robertson has a job coming up that would last about six weeks and his employer needed him, she told Jacobsen.

Reid said Robertson also had recently been given custody of a teenager who will not turn 18 until October, and he needed time to make arrangements for the boy to have a place to live.
What is this, foster care? Why would you allow someone to be a foster parent with a serious criminal charge hanging over them?

Friday, January 19, 2007

Creationism and the Grand Canyon

There's an environmental group, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), that claimed the Bush Administration has pressured Grand Canyon National Park to refuse to take a position about the age of the features in the park to avoid offending the young Earth Creationists. The website eSkeptic--which initially bought into their claims--has now done some digging, and concluded that this claim wasn't even an honest mistake. After attemping to track down some of the claims made by PEER--and having them keep changing their story--eSkeptic concludes:
PEER is an anti-Bush, anti-religion liberal activist watchdog group in search of demons to exorcise and dragons to slay. On one level, that’s how the system works in a free society, and there are plenty of pro-Bush, pro-religion conservative activist watchdog groups who do the same thing on the other side. Maybe in a Hegelian process of thesis-antithesis-synthesis we find truth that way; at least at the level of talk radio. But journalistic standards and scholarly ethics still hold sway at all levels of discourse that matter, and to that end I believe we were duped by an activist group who at the very least exaggerated a claim and published it in order to gain notoriety for itself, or worse, simply made it up.

To that end I apologize to all of our readers for not fact checking this story before publishing it on eSkeptic and Shame on us. But shame on you too, Mr. Ruch, and shame on PEER, for this egregious display of poor judgment and unethical behavior.
It turns out that while the Grand Canyon NPS book store does carry a Creationist book, it is in the "inspiration" section, along with books about Native American myths about the origins of the Canyon. As one of the commenters over at Volokh Conspiracy pointed out:
Growing up in a fundamentalist family, I always found it kind of odd that National Geographic would often include fairly strident anti-creationist remarks in their articles while practically fawning over the creation myths from other religious traditions. I mean, it's not as though the adherents of those traditions don't often believe their own myths as strongly as our fundamentalists believe theirs, often with far more deleterious social effects. It always struck me as a little condescending, perhaps with a tinge of racism: "It's cute for those ignorant third-worlders (or Native Americans) to have their myths, but we won't tolerate it among our own kind."

Even though I've outgrown fundamentalism, this brouhaha strikes me as no different: As Eugene notes, "this book is sold in the 'inspiration' section of the bookstore, along with Native American creation myths." Where, I ask, is the outrage?
UPDATE: Apparently Garry Trudeau, the cartoonist who used to be funny, also got taken in by this non-fact, as did one of Australia's fierce Bush-haters.

You know, it doesn't surprise me that leftist Bush-haters bought into the story without bothering to check it. It was, you know, just too good a story to not be true! In this respect, the left isn't any different from anyone else. Most people don't question stories that they really, really want to believe. It is just that the left is so arrogant about their superior intellects!

Monday, January 15, 2007

The Pursuit of Happyness

Will Smith's new movie (and the misspelling is for a reason) managed to even get my cynical son wildly happy. This is one of the most heart-warming--yet grittily realistic movies that I have seen in a very long time. The story is simple: it is about a young father, struggling to make ends meet in 1981 San Francisco, who responds to adversity with courage, determination, and a positive attitude.

This a period piece, and since I actually spent some time in San Francisco in 1981, and moved to the Bay Area in 1982, there were so many little details that caught my eye and said, "Someone put the effort into getting this right." The Berkeley Farms milk cartons. The cars on the streets. The (in retrospect) ridiculous fashions.

This is based on a true story, of a young man who starts from hard times, and works his way up the ladder as a stockbroker, and in that respect alone, it makes it atypical of most people in such difficult circumstances. Of course, many people in difficult circumstances start to whine about the unfairness of the world, instead of recognizing what the hero does--that when Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, he wisely wrote about the right to "the pursuit of happiness"--not necessarily the right to actually reach it. Our hero gets through difficult times because at his core, his values say that in America, you can go as fast and far as your wits and ambition will carry you.

There are parts of the film that are the weird blending of reality and fiction that are inevitable in such a story. Our hero doesn't end up at a no-name stockbroker, but Dean Witter. When he looks for shelter for his son and himself for the night, he ends up at Glide Memorial Church--and it appears that the Rev. Cecil Williams is playing himself.

Rev. Williams is one of those characters that drives me a bit crazy. His theology and politics were a constant source of frustration to me when I lived in the Bay Area, but Glide Memorial was certainly very active in its efforts to alleviate suffering among the poor and homeless of San Francisco in those days, and I presume that nothing has changed since then. Of course, Williams and Glide Memorial were also intimately tied (along with most of the rest of the San Francisco political establishment) with the Rev. Jim Jones and Peoples Temple. (See also here, and here, and here.)

There is one, and only one brief moment of language you can't use on television--and I am a little mystified why it is here, unless it is to get the rating up to PG-13, since anything less makes a movie unwatchable by teenagers.

UPDATE: Here's a newspaper account of the real story. In some ways, it is more dramatic than the movie, in some ways a bit less so.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Proof That Some Universities Have More Money Than They Need

I ran into this list of "The Dirty Dozen: America’s Most Bizarre and Politically Correct College Courses" over at Young America's Foundation. Just to make that they weren't quoting these course descriptions out of context, I went and visited some of the top twelve, as well as some of the "Dishonorable Mentions."

It is entirely possible that the actual content of some of these courses isn't quite as strange as the course descriptions make them sound--but talk about an effective way to cut yourself off the rest of the society, by making the class you teach sound like you needed therapy, but ended up as a professor instead. Like this one, from UC Berkeley's Women's Studies program (I guess we should be pleased that they didn't spell it Womyn's Studies):
Gender and Women’s Studies 170
Instructor: Susan Stryker
Time/Location: M 2-5/155 Donner Lab
CCN: 32960
This course explores the history of gender diversity in San Francisco from the mid-19th-century through the present, and uses that history to launch theoretical and critical discussions of embodiment, identity, desire, space, event, and time. The course will examine such topics as: implications of U.S. imperialism and colonization for the construction of gender in 19th-century San Francisco’s multicultural, multiracial, and multiethnic milieu; the regulation of gender-variant practices in public space by San Francisco’s Anglo-European elites; circulation of gender-variant cultural knowledges and practices between elite, deviant, and marginal social groups; the emergence of scientific sexology and eugenics, and the proliferation of psychiatrized and pathologized identity categories for gender-variant people; the relationship between police regulation of “vice” subcultures and the historical geography of gender-variant populations in the Tenderloin neighborhood; the emergence of transsexual discourses and embodiment practices in post-World War II San Francisco; the social history of transgender social change movements, beginning with the Compton’s Cafeteria Riot of 1966; the relationship between transgender and gay, lesbian, and bisexual communities; implications of the AIDS/HIV epidemic for transgender populations; and contemporary transgender, queer, genderqueer, and post-queer cultural production and politics. Students will be expected to write a research paper based on original historical research, and to contextualize their topic within a relevant critical debate.
Or Occidental College's Critical Theory and Social Justice Program:

A survey of theories of the phallus from Freud and Lacan through feminist and queer takings-on of the phallus. Topics include the relation between the phallus and the penis, the meaning of the phallus, phallologocentrism, the lesbian phallus, the Jewish phallus, the Latino phallus, and the relation of the phallus and fetishism. Prerequisite: a 200-level CTSJ class. Emphasis topic: Queer Studies.
and this other amazing course from the same program:

A critical examination of theories of performance and performativity with a focus on their contribution to gay and lesbian studies. We trace the history of performativity from speech act theory, through deconstruction, to the queer theories of Judith Butler and Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick. We also consider lesbian feminist critiques of queer performativity by Sue-Ellen Case and Teresa de Lauretis. We consider ethnographic accounts of cross-gender performances across cultures, including texts by Roger Lancaster, Don Kulick, and Susan Seizer. Prerequisite: a 200-level CTSJ class. Emphasis topic: Queer Studies.
Oh, in case you don't know what all this use of "queer" as an adjective is about--my how, things have changed from my youth, when "queer" was as an insult for homosexuals. Now, it is a term used by homosexuals who take delight in their countercultural strangeness--people who would regard drag queens as way too mainstream and conservative for their tastes.

And this other offering that almost reads like parody, but I'm sure that they are deadly serious about it:

Stupidity is neither ignorance nor organicity, but rather, a corollary of knowing and an element of normalcy, the double of intelligence rather than its opposite. It is an artifact of our nature as finite beings and one of the most powerful determinants of human destiny. Stupidity is always the name of the Other, and it is the sign of the feminine. This course in Critical Psychology follows the work of Friedrich Nietzsche, Gilles Deleuze, and most recently, Avital Ronell, in a philosophical examination of those operations and technologies that we conduct in order to render ourselves uncomprehending. Stupidity, which has been evicted from the philosophical premises and dumbed down by psychometric psychology, has returned in the postmodern discourse against Nation, Self, and Truth and makes itself felt in political life ranging from the presidency to Beevis and Butthead. This course examines stupidity.
(By the way: his name is Beavis. But I guess someone has to prove her stupidity.)

I could go on all day with Occidental College's exercise in bizarre PC rhetoric, but I'll stop with this one:

This course seeks to engage the emergent body of scholarship designated to deconstruct whiteness. It will examine the construction of whiteness in the historic, legal, and economic contexts which have allowed it to function as an enabling condition for privilege and race-based prejudice. Particular attention will be paid to the role of religion and psychology in the construction of whiteness. Texts will include Race Traitor, Critical White Studies, The Invention of the White Race, The Abolition of Whiteness, White Trash, and Even the Rat was White. Prerequisite: a 100-level CTSJ class. Emphasis topic: Critical Race Theory.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Michael Crichton's Next

This was a Christmas gift from my daughter Hilary, who knows that I am a fan of Crichton's work. Next has many of the strengths and weaknesses of other Crichton novels. Regular readers of my blog will not be surprised to find that I am again disappointed at the weakness of characterization. Crichton can do it; read Prey. I think he's just too focused on the big ideas to spend the time on breathing life into these characters--and that big ideas are Crichton's strength.

To Crichton's credit, Next is far less didactic than State of Fear (which I reviewed here). There aren't any long speeches about the dangers of genetic engineering. I suppose that if you were reading this strictly as a novel, and especially if you weren't very thoughtful about it, you might not even get his point about the emerging trends of genetic engineering. It is clear that he regards the transgenic Island of Dr. Moreau future much as I do--with some alarm and considerable revulsion. But he isn't banging you about the head with his point. He even manages to create a rather comic situation where the parrot with human intelligence and the chimp/human hybrid come together to save the day.

Where Crichton is a bit more...unsubtle, let's say, is with respect to his interest in seeing the law changed concerning the rights of humans to maintain some control over their genetic material being used for profit by others. He also makes in a more subtle and interesting way some useful points about the difficulty of separating environment from genetics in determining behavior. I find it fascinating that Crichton's bibliography makes the point that G.K. Chesterton's early twentieth century criticisms of the emerging science of eugenics--and the dangers of where it might lead--were spot on:
Yet Chesterton was right, and the consensus of scientists, political leaders, and the intelligentsia was wrong. Chesterton lived to see the horrors of Nazi Germany. This book is worth reading because, in retrospect, it is clear that Chesterton's arguments were perfectly sensible and deserving of an answer, and yet he was simply shouted down.... Some things never change--including, unfortunately, the gullibility of press and public. We human beings don't like to look back at our past mistakes. But we should.
Next is more readable, and more of a page turner than State of Fear.