I remember when in the process of leaving Christianity the other new age concepts seemed very attractive to me. This movie really took me when it came out and I even got a copy of the 5-disk extended version. I was such a sucker... Here's a review: (note to self - find author to reference it)
When documentaries like Fahrenheit 911 were getting all kinds of press and attention the Ramtha School of Enlightenment, a cult-like “school” that teaches Transcendental Meditation and a whole bunch of other bizarre New Age crap, quietly slipped a quasi infomercial/documentary into theaters, and amazingly receiving several good reviews, with some reviewers describing it as “deep,” and “profound.” Personally, if I were to describe a cheesy proselytizing infomercial starring a creepy looking cult leader who claims to channel a 35,000 year-old yoga master from Atlantis, any use of the word “deep” would be immediately followed by the word “end.”
This “film,” entitled What the #$*! Do We Know, purports to analyze the spiritual implications of quantum mechanics and to show that the human consciousness can shape reality. In short, it is to New Age religion what Creation Science is to Christianity. It attempts to take known scientific principles and twist them to fit the odd tenets of the cult it is advertising. What is most disturbing about this film is that it features actual PhDs in Physics, including a fairly prominent Harvard-grad, all of who should know better. While this film fails to prove that the human mind can shape reality, it does prove that even people with PhDs in theoretical physics can be manipulated by weird cult leaders.
From a cinematic perspective, What the #$*!… combines really cheesy, “new-agey” visual effects with a dramatic narrative about a deaf woman named Amanda who goes to weddings, meets weird little kids who explain the laws of quantum physics, and eventually achieves a higher state-of-mind in which she squirts toothpaste all over the bathroom and scribbles all over her body with a marker. That’s enlightenment, baby!
The narrative is frequently interrupted by interviews with various scientists, authors, and 35,000 year-old Atlantians, who explain in very uncertain terms the “science” behind the narrative. Unlike most documentaries, this movie does not identify who is speaking until the very end of the movie, when they break it to us that we have been listening to PhDs and other experts. I am not sure why they choose to use this method, although my guess is that it is supposed to be a kind of shock, as if to say, “See look. We’re not just a bunch of quacks. We are real, live scientists!” Unfortunately, this tactic only works if you actually sit through the entire movie; I don’t suggest doing that, by the way.
If the whole “35,000 year-old Atlantian yoga master” thing isn’t enough to convince you that this film is nuttier than a Baby Ruth, I will briefly touch on the rather bizarre interpretation of science in this film. What the #$*!… claims that the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle as well as some aspects of neurology that we don’t quite understand prove that we are all in control of reality, and that our thoughts can manipulate reality — nothing is set in stone until the “observer” makes it so. It is kind of like the old question of, “If a tree falls in the woods and there is nobody around to hear it, does it still make a sound?” only in this case, it is more like, “If a tree falls in the woods and there is nobody there to see it, does it still fall.” Obviously, trees fall in the woods all the damn time without anyone seeing them. The Uncertainty Principle is fascinating even to a non-scientist like me, but it doesn’t prove anything near what this movie claims. Reality may have an underlying uncertainty at the quantum level, but that does not mean people can manipulate reality with their minds. What the #$*!… doesn’t just make a gigantic leap (several actually). It makes a gigantic leap followed by a multiple story plunge into a pit of stupidity.
Some of the “evidence” the film uses to back up its theory would be comical if the producers weren’t serious about it. For example, near the beginning, we are hit with a truly bizarre and ridiculous historical legend: first, our friendly ancient Atlantian informs us that “the way our brain is wired up, we only see what we believe is possible.” The movie then describes a “so stupid I can’t believe they’re trying to pass it off as true” account of the first meeting between Columbus and the natives in the Caribbean: when Columbus’s ships approached the islands, the natives could not see the ships because they had no concept of them. Go ahead and re-read that for emphasis. The film doesn’t claim the natives were surprised or baffled by the ships. It doesn’t claim the natives thought the ships were something other than ships. Nope, this film seriously claims that the natives were physically unable to see the ships because they had no concept of a large ship. I’m sure Columbus and his men got some great laughs out of running up behind natives and yelling “boo!” and watching them jump. I wonder how long it took for that joke to get old.
If you want to watch a quasi-documentary produced by a bizarre cult supposedly led by a 35,000 year-old warrior from Atlantis, then by all means, watch this film. But just be warned: as interesting as that may sound, this movie is not even that good to watch for a laugh, or out of curiosity. In fact, it will probably just put you to sleep.
But then, if you fall asleep, you’re not watching it, and it doesn’t exist.