I had seen this movie when it first came out in 2004, and at the thought it was interesting, but not good science. Since that time, I have delved into more of the science that this movie pretends to portray, and come to realize JUST how bad the science in this movie really is.
Imagine if you took a reasonably intelligent person, who knew NOTHING AT ALL about a specific subject, and taught them a mixture of real information they did not understand, and some information which was just plain wrong, and then asked them to make a movie about this topic. Ok, now stop imagining, because this has happened, and the result is “What The BLEEP Do We Know?”.
For a bit of a background on this movie, I wanted to use a neutral source, but this is actually pretty hard to find online, since one camp loves the movie, and buys into it’s premises 100%, while the other camp thinks it’s inane drivel comparable to a bad science fiction novel/movie (ala Battlefield Earth). The closest I could find to neutral was a small section from Wikipedia’s article on the movie:
[It] combines documentary-style interviews, computer-animated graphics, and a narrative that posits a connection between quantum physics and consciousness. The film suggests that individual and group consciousness can influence the material world through quantum mechanical means. The plot follows the story of a fictional deaf photographer as she struggles with her life.
From there Wikipedia, and other sources (Rotten Tomatoes, IMDB Reviews, Amazon Reviews, Skepitco’s review, etc), all get into the controversy of why people should be skeptical of this movie. I’m including a few of the comments here because many of them made me laugh, and they give a fairly accurate representation of this piece of trash:
- The film has been criticized for misrepresenting science and containing pseudoscience, and has been described as quantum mysticism.
- the subsequent leap—from cognitive therapy into large, hazy spiritual beliefs—isn’t as effectively executed. Suddenly people who were talking about subatomic particles are alluding to alternate universes and cosmic forces, all of which can be harnessed in the interest of making Ms. Matlin’s character feel better about her thighs.
- Scientists who have reviewed What the Bleep Do We Know!? have described distinct assertions made in the film as pseudoscience. Amongst the concepts in the film that have been challenged are assertions that water molecules can be influenced by thought, that meditation can reduce violent crime rates, and that quantum physics implies that “consciousness is the ground of all being.”
- the movie illustrates the uncertainty principle with a bouncing basketball being in several places at once. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s recognized as pedagogical exaggeration. But the movie gradually moves to quantum ‘insights’ that lead a woman to toss away her antidepressant medication, to the quantum channeling of Ramtha, the 35,000-year-old Atlantis god, and on to even greater nonsense.
- most laypeople cannot tell where the quantum physics ends and the quantum nonsense begins, and many are susceptible to being misguided
- Simon Singh called it pseudoscience and said the suggestion “that if observing water changes its molecular structure, and if we are 90% water, then by observing ourselves we can change at a fundamental level via the laws of quantum physics” was “ridiculous balderdash.”
- According to João Magueijo, reader in theoretical physics at Imperial College, the film deliberately misquotes science.
- a clumsy hybrid of romantic comedy and New Age infomercial that plays like the weirdest driver’s education film you’ve ever seen
- The overall tone is that of an indoctrination film for a cult, if such films were made by the people who make training videos for fast-food franchises
- Here’s what we know: We know that What the #$*! Do We Know!? is a tedious, faux-philosophical waste of time.
- One of the first and most glaringly aggravating points about this movie is the editing. Many of the physicists in this movie were filmed for hours explaining Quantum Theory and the mechanics behind it, but only select pieces of the footage were used out of context to make it seem as if these experts were supporting a mystical world view, when in fact they almost universally scoff at it. Coupled with that is the fact that many of these “experts” actually have no physics credentials, Quantum or otherwise.
- The observer effect of quantum physics isn’t about people or reality. It comes from the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, and it’s about the limitations of trying to measure the position and momentum of subatomic particles… this only applies to sub-atomic particles – a rock doesn’t need you to bump into it to exist. It’s there. The sub-atomic particles that make up the atoms that make up the rock are there too.
- David Albert, a physicist who appears in the film, has accused the filmmakers of selectively editing his interview to make it appear that he endorses the film’s thesis that quantum mechanics are linked with consciousness. He says he is “profoundly unsympathetic to attempts at linking quantum mechanics with consciousness.”
- A BBC reviewer described it as “a documentary aimed at the totally gullible.”
And my favorite of all of the reviews:
- There are two minor problems with What the #$*!: it’s bad science and it’s a bad movie.
Now I understand that some people may think i went out and did a bit of quote mining to find the negative reviews, and ignored the positives ones, and to them I would suggest doing the search yourself, and see what you come up with. Not only is it a supremely good example of horrible science, it’s not even a good enough movie (or so bad it’s camp) to allow you to ignore the bad science…
But I do recommend people watch it, because you’ll learn a good bit about what a number of woo practitioners (people like Deepak Chopra) believe in, and the best way to combat ignorance of this kind, is education…
As a final note, I highly recommend checking out this review on Skeptico, as I think he has done as good a job as possible on getting straight to the heart of what this movie is all about, and why people should take a skeptical approach to the information contained in it.
Vodpod videos no longer available.
Yes, I know the quality is not the greatest, but it seems the producers of the movie have made an effort to have it removed from places like Google Video, Vimeo, etc… The only place I could find the full movie was some Russian site, and apparently video quality was not their primary concern.