Cult Science

Dressing up mysticism as quantum physics
A new film mixes computer graphics depicting the interior of cells (far left) and brains (middle) with live-action scenes. Captured Light Industries

Beware: A ridiculous new science movie is coming to a theater near you. What the #$*! Do We Know?, an independent film slated for national release this month, pretends to be an exploration of the grand questions of science, reality and life. It jumps between a fictional story about a divorced photographer and snippets of interviews with authoritative-looking individuals. Although several of them have big bookshelves in view behind them, it quickly becomes clear to the attentive viewer that few of these talking heads are making any sense. They speak of “infecting the quantum field” and refer to bio-body suits and antigravity magnets without explanation. Not until the credits roll, when the “experts” are finally introduced, do we learn that the two people who do most of the talking about neuroscience and physics are not actually scientists. One is a chiropractor. The other is a 35,000-year-old warrior named Ramtha, who is being “channeled” by a blonde woman from Washington. Oh, and the chiropractor is one of her devotees. As are the filmmakers. In short, what we’ve got here are the musings of a cult masquerading as a science documentary. If the movie even has a central message, it could best be summarized as, “We don’t know #$*!”

Not everyone finds this amusing. One of the few legitimate academics in the film, David Albert, a philosopher of physics at Columbia University, is outraged at the final product. He says that he spent four hours patiently explaining to the filmmakers why quantum mechanics has nothing to do with consciousness or spirituality, only to see his statements edited and cut to the point where it appears as though he and the spirit warrior are speaking with one voice. “I was taken,” Albert admits. “I was really gullible, but I learned my lesson.” Yet the real shame with this film is that it plays on people’s fascination with science while distorting and misrepresenting that science. Before its national release, the film packed theaters up and down
the West Coast. Instead of stoking the curiosity of those moviegoers, What the #$*! numbed them with mindless quantum drivel.