Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Not much apparently

Last night I made the mistake of watching the film "What the Bleep Do We Know?" (2004, Twentieth Century Fox). My sister Susan gave it to me as a gift a few Christmases ago, and I have never been able to watch it all the way through, so with Nan out of town for a few days, I thought I might try again. It turns out I wasn't missing much.

The film tries to draw parallels between quantum physics and our perceptions of reality. It argues that since matter exhibits characteristics of both particles and waves, we can never be certain of anything in the material world. Therefore, reality becomes suspect. Is it just matter or is it our perception of it? If it's our perception, then we can control it in the same way we choose, consciously or unconsciously, to filter and process all the input we receive through our senses. Basically, since we each create our own reality, we can tailor it any way we like.

If this were true, wouldn't we all be rich and beautiful? Or have only certain people discovered this secret? The "power of positive thinking" has been with us for many years, but has it really improved the lives of anyone besides Norman Vincent Peale and the others who have profited from the many books and programs about it, including the recent bestseller, The Secret?

As an educated person with a background in science, my "bullshit detector" is finely tuned. It was in high gear as I watched that film. I found the gospel certainty of it to be extremely off-putting, so I feel obligated to offer my own gospel in return:

Reality doesn't give a flying how-do-you-do about us; it simply is. With us or without us. We can no more affect reality with our thoughts than we can fly like Superman. That tree falling in the forest out of earshot? It is most definitely making a sound. Get used to it.

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