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schwern (1528)

schwern
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Journal of schwern (1528)

Friday March 05, 2004
05:39 PM

"What the @*#! do we (k)now?"

[ #17776 ]

For anyone thinking about seeing this movie, here's the scoop. Its a big screen Nova episode made by Transcendental Meditationists. At least that's what it feels like.

Decent science. Good intentions. Good, if simplistic, message. Horrible connections. Nothing you probably haven't heard before. Lots of shots of Portland and the Max. Some genuinely enjoyable bits and clever filmmaking. Not the life changing event you might have heard it is. Worth $3 I guess. If you don't see it, you won't have missed anything.

Basically, the message of the movie is that you can control your own life and you can alter your own emotions and ways of thinking if you do it consciously and don't simply react and fall into patterns. A fine message, very feel-good. A little simplistic, but movies tend to be.

There's a lot of time spent talking about quantum physics and human chemistry and DNA and proteins... they do a halfway decent job of providing a popular explaination of all that for an audience that probably doesn't remember much science. However, "Brief History of Time" this is not. If you've done any reading on quantum mechanics and human cell biology you'll already know what they're going to say and its quite mundane. If you don't, you might get something out of it, even if its just a sort of overwhelming "Wow!" which is what the movie is trying to do.

The problem comes when they try to "prove" this and they do it with Quantum Physics and Chemistry. This is where it all falls apart. They try to justify the idea that you control your own fate by trucking out the Uncertainty Principle and Quantum Entanglement and all these things that really have fuck all to do with human behavior. I found myself cringing. I could anticipate what the next false connection they were going to draw was. Later on in the movie they keep repeating the idea that emotion is nothing more than a chemical addiction which you can break. Ok, maybe, but waaaaaay over simplifying. And a little disappointing. The message of the movie stands just fine on its own without trying to prop it up without a bunch of vaguely related science. About half an hour in when I realized that's what they were doing, I got disgusted and nearly walked out. I stayed on to see if maybe they pulled a "fooled ya!" later on. They don't, but the pace does pick up later on.

Basically, its a bunch of very smart people talking about something outside their field. Its largely physists, chemists, biologists and mystics talking about popular psychology. There's only one psychologist and he's a Jungian.
When you get people trying to apply their expertise in one field to another field, things get distored, stretched and oversimplified. That's pretty much what happens in this movie.

Finally, they slip in some mystic bullshit amongst the science. Science. Science. Science. Bullshit. Science. One of the talking heads is a Transcendental Meditation guys (see also TMer and the Natural Law Party). These are the guys that say that if you get X000 people together to do TM in a city, crime will drop by YY%. They slipped this little "fact" in along with all the science going by. An average audience member, numbed by all the new information presented, would simply accept it. Another is and "experiment" "proving" that thoughts can effect the structure of water. They keep coming back to this one to prove their message. "The human body is over 80% water." "If you can do that to water, imagine what you can do to yourself."

In short, this is a piece of propoganda. Some group has their cure-all to life's ills, linked it to some impressive sounding science, interviewed some carefully selected scientists, added a narrative with a sympathetic character to emotionally get their point home and then threw in lots of flashy effects to keep you off balance.

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  • > Quantum Entanglement and all these things that
    > really have fuck all to do with human behavior.
    :
    > smart people talking about something outside their field

    Reminds me a bit of Sir Roger Penrose and The Emperor's New Mind [powells.com]... a very fun read touching many interesting subjects but ultimately drawing ridiculous conclusions due to a few mistaken premises (again involving quantum physics and gray matter).

    -matt