I’ll be writing down my thoughts and reactions as I watch this movie, and look back on how my views change as I reach the conclusion.
So, right away this movie is throwing up red flags for me as a skeptic. One of the narrators says that science paints this bleak picture of the universe and the relationship of humanity to that universe. Science doesn’t paint any pictures, it illuminates facts. WE as human beings paint our own pictures with those facts. We can spin the facts any which way you like to come to a conclusion that satisfies us, and that is in no way a fault of the scientific method.
This movie is throwing around a lot of science terms that I don’t doubt the interviewees understand, but might be over the head of a general audience. It seems like its aim is to provide justification for people disenfranchised with traditional religion to maintain some sense of spirituality.
The fact that matter is mostly empty space and that I’m not *actually* touching this keyboard is pretty neato.
So far we’ve seen examples of the untrustworthiness of our senses, of spacial relationships between objects, and of sensory delay and the apparent lack thereof. Not sure where this movie is headed yet.
OH SHIT DOCTOR QUANTUM
Oh, I’ve seen this clip before. The experiment implies that aspects of quantum mechanics are altered when a conscious observer is present. From what I know this is one interpretation of those experiments, at least. The problem is that this interpretation is not falsifiable. It’s like saying, “I can turn completely invisible, but only if nobody is looking at me.”
They seem to be really leaning heavily on this “observer” theory.
OK, WAIT THE FUCK UP.
This movie has gotten really weird. Not just the animated stuff, this whole idea they seem to be pushing is new-age fluff justified by inconsistencies in physics. I felt I needed to stop and do some research. First thing I stumbled upon was that one of the people being interviewed for this film, David Albert (the one guy who turns out to be a legitimate scientist, it turns out, but more on that later) was quoted after the release of the film as saying:
“I was edited in such a way as to completely suppress my actual views about the matters the movie discusses. I am, indeed, profoundly unsympathetic to attempts at linking quantum mechanics with consciousness. Moreover, I explained all that, at great length, on camera, to the producers of the film … Had I known that I would have been so radically misrepresented in the movie, I would certainly not have agreed to be filmed.”
Huh. Not a good start for looking deeper into this film’s history. The article I found that mentioned this quote is from Skeptico http://skeptico.blogs.com/skeptico/2005/04/what_the_bleep_.html
So I’m getting a distinct feeling that this film is more interested in pushing a new age agenda than accurately representing a scientific investigation of quantum mechanics. This is not okay. If we want to create a more science-literate society, we can’t go about telling people that it’s okay to twist scientific controversy to suit your previously held notions about the way the universe works. This film feels like a pat on the back to those in spiritual crisis saying, “It’s okay, you can still cling to your notion of god and transcendentalism because look at all this science saying that reality is just whatever you want it to be, man”.
As if distorting the words of an actual scientist wasn’t enough, the film further adds insult to injury by putting the spotlight on charlatans and pseudoscientific talking heads who have no business talking to an audience about quantum physics in any capacity. Let’s run down the list of offenders:
Dean Radin: researcher in the field of parapsychology, or the study of psychic powers, a pseudoscientific endeavor that no scientifically literate person would take seriously, but here we are.
John Hagelin: Ph.Dl. working at Maharishi University, known for such programs as “Maharishi Vedic Science”.
Joe Dispenza: Chiropractor and follower of Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment (I bet he’s stoked to be featured alongside our final guest). Proponent of changing the world around you with your mind. Pure nonsense, and he would like you to pay a subscription for access to his classes where he peddles this nonsense. This is the definition of a charlatan.
Amit Goswami: Physicist who pushes the idea that quantum theory proves the existence of God and embraces alternative medicine. The bullshit detectors are redlining.
William Tiller: Ph.D. pursuing research in “psychoenergetics” and “subtle energies”, both baseless.
Masaru Emoto: Believe that “polluted water can be restored through prayer and positive visualization”. Yep, sounds legit.
And at the top (bottom) of the list, MOTHERFUCKING RAMTHA. Yes, that Ramtha, AKA J.Z. Knight. I shouldn’t have to convince anyone of how hilariously ridiculous this woman is, or how woefully unqualified she is to speak about anything science-related or even rationality-related, because unless this woman is a truly spiteful creature bent on taking advantage of the ignorant, she is most certainly mentally disillusional.
So, now that it’s over, I can say without a doubt that “What the Bleep Do We Know?” is a disgusting corruption of science and rational thinking. It makes baseless claims about a field of science that is still being heavily explored, it employs a cast of unsavory charlatans, gurus, and spiritualists, and it is emblematic of a very real problem in our society; that of perverting science to “prove” the validity of someone’s world view.
I wrote this all down rather passionately, and I know that the point of this assignment is to share our thoughts regardless of whether or not we enjoyed the film, so the requirements are met. I’m almost certain that my views will not be shared with most of the class or my professor for that matter, but science education is extremely important to me and this film throws that concept to the wind. I’d like to discuss the implications of this film with the class at large, but I’m pretty terrible at arguing in person, so perhaps it’s best if I quietly seethe instead. I know several of my classmates in particular really buy into this nonsense, and I stand little to no chance of changing their minds in a direct confrontation.
In any case, this was a good way to exercise my skeptical faculties. There is a schaderfueudian pleasure to taking down a piece of content like this.