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(NOTE: I don't want people to think that I gave this film five stars so I gave it half a star to make it more obvious when really it deserves no stars. I wouldn't recommend this film to anyone unless you want to test your critical thinking skills, or maybe if you enjoy infomercials, because that's really what this film is: an infomercial for New Age bullshit. It pretends to be a documentary but really it's a propaganda film by a CULT!!!)
What the #$*! Do We (K)now!? was recommended to me last year by Donna Segal, who thought I'd be interested to see the CG anatomical "fly-through" animations that peppered the film because I was working on a similar CG "fly-through" a bloodstream. Since I have a habit of hijacking conversations and frequently steering them towards science and/or philosophy, I suspect Donna was also curious about how I would react to the film's claims and implications.
What the #$*! Do We (K)now!? (aka What the BLEEP Do We Know aka WTFDWK) is an overlong infomercial for New Age nonsense posing as a documentary. It mixes pseudo-science with psycho-babble as it first asks the question "What the fuck do we know?", then answers with "not much." (Ultimately the film decides that someone or something, namely "god," does indeed know everything that we don't, but more on that later)
Though the filmmakers are trying to suggest that we, all of humanity, know very little about the "real" world, all they are really demonstrating is that they themselves are ignorant.
They blatantly misrepresent the known science of quantum mechanics by interviewing theoretical physicists, like Fred Alan Wolf and Amit Goswami, whose claims about the relationship between the universe and consciousness are extremely fringe and NOT at all accepted as fact by most physicists. CG-laden dramatizations of quantum principles, like wave-particle duality and Heisenberg uncertainty, mislead the audience into believing the contradiction that it is impossible to know anything and yet anything is possible.
One of the film's supposed "experts" claims that it is possible to "walk on water" if a person only believes it possible.
Another absurd claim the filmmakers make is that matter and the physical world can be affected by thoughts and emotions. The example given in the film is the work of Masaru Emoto, who alleges that water can be influenced by thoughts. Emoto's findings have long since been discredited by the scientific community for his refusal to repeat the experiments following proper scientific methods, specifically double blinding, but the filmmakers ignore the fact that Emoto's a quack and they go so far as to misrepresent his unscientific findings even further to make them seem more mystical.
The film shows a closeup picture of muddy dam water and then shows a magnified photo of the same water after it has been "blessed" by a monk. Miraculously, the formerly disgusting murk has transformed into a beautiful ice crystal (i.e. a snowflake). What the filmmakers fail to mention (quite intentionally) is that Emoto FROZE the fucking water!!! They also forget this freezing fact when showing pictures of bottled water with various labels on the side like "chi of love," "thank you" and "you make sick I will kill you." Again, as though through supernatural intervention, the water that was labeled with postive messages turned into snowflakes after being "left out overnight" and those labeled with negative words turned into jagged blobs.
And again, the filmmakers neglect to mention that the bottled water was frozen, and then photographed by people who knew what the labels on the water said and therefore the photographers knew which sort of ice crystals to look for.
But the biggest bunch of bullshit spewed by the filmmakers is the implication that if positive or negative thoughts could have such an effect on water, then naturally these thoughts can have a direct effect on humans, since afterall, as the film reminds us, that "90% of our bodies are water." No that's not a typo. The film actually makes the factual error that the human body is composed of 90% water, even though, in reality, the human body is only between 78% to 55% water, depending on age and sex.
If the filmmakers can't even get a simple widely-known fact like the human body's chemical composition right, then it's not that surprising to hear them make up history by claiming that Columbus' ships were invisible to Native Americans because the natives had no prior knowledge of large boats and so they were unable to see them until they were told that the ships existed by their "shaman." This nonsense is both historically unfounded and a gross misrepresentation of epistemology.
But why would the filmmakers misrepresent science and flat out lie to their audience?! Well as it turns out, they have a hidden agenda: the promotion of a New Age cult.
That's right, I said "cult."
I knew something was fishy when the film starts preaching about god near the end. After misrepresenting science during the first part of the film, the makers of What the #$*! Do We (K)now!? covertly shift gears and gradually try to convince the audience that scientists are arrogant to think that universe can be explained without god.
See, the "expert" featured most prominently in the film is a charismatic blonde woman (wearing way too much makeup) who dispenses great words of wisdom like "it only takes one sexual fantasy for a man to have a hard on." But it isn't until the end credits that we learn who this woman is and what sort of credentials qualifiy her to make any of her scientific and ultimately spiritual claims. As it turns out, the credits don't really tell us much, only that the woman is "Ramtha, Master Teacher - Ramtha School of Enlightenment, Channeled by JZ Knight."
I was curious just what the fuck "channeled by JZ Knight" meant, so after consulting wikipedia, I learned that the blonde talking head in the film belongs to alleged psychic JZ Knight, but the words coming out of her mouth are credited to Ramtha, 35,000 year-old spirit, "channeled" through Knight, who claims that Ramtha was a Lemurian warrior who fought against the Atlatians [as in "Atlantis" (as in "the lost city of")].
What a load of steaming bullshit!!!
Not surprisingly, the three directors of the film, William Arntz, Betsy Chasse, and Mark Vicente, are admitted students of the Ramtha School of Enlightenment and the concepts of the film, including the final part about spirituality, are all consistent with the "teachings" of this cult.
Now I don't know if any of the film's other so-called "experts" (a chiropractor, an anesthesiologist, and a graduate student among others) have any association with RSE and the film itself never specifically mentions Ramtha or RSE (except in the credits), so I guess the film cannot be labelled explicitly as a recruitment film, but it's definitely stealth propaganda disguised as a serious scientific documentary. Sadly, the film has won several awards in the documentary category. Maybe Scientologists should've tried the same strategy for their scifi epic Battlefield Earth...
Still, I need to thank Donna for recommending this film to me. It is definitely thought-provoking (and anger-provoking), and it further solidifies my resolution in the scientific method by exposing the utter nonsense that results in deviating from it.
I too had someone give me a 'tip' on this film and its 'remarkable' insights while sitting at Starbucks the other day.
I quickly got into an argument over the assertions they proferred regarding the films conclusions vis-a-vis quantum mechanics and conciousness.
As a BSc Biology grad, I see this tiresome ignorance of science too often and am often reminded of the truism: "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing".
Long story short: I thought it sounded like claptrap; on viewing, it IS claptrap; on web investigation it's also a recruiting film for a cult more whack than scientology.
Glad my (and your) bullshit detector is turned on!
ps:For a REAL oddysey through modern quantum physics theory I recommend NOVA's The Elegant Universe.
[twilight zone music]
I forgot that a critical internet blogger usually has the more intelligent basis of an argument.
Maybe you should start poking fun at Stephen Hawkings work too.