Ok, I admit it. This is a school assignment. But a very interesting one. Wait, it’s up to you to define your own reality of “interesting”, so just read on…
If you don’t like words, don’t forget that they’re blipping in and out of existence so you can close this page when they all happen to be toggled to parallel-universe mode — and still say you finished reading. Enjoy the ride!
My first impression of the “What the #$*! Do We Know!?” was the mind-blowing CGI effects. The second was on how similar the feel of the movie is to “Fringe”. At first I was highly sceptical of the explanations which “tried too hard” to explain away the questions at the beginning of the movie by “stretching” the link between the physical and non-physical. But as the film progressed, I started to wonder what is really physical, what is really “real”, or even what the difference between spirituality and science is. ‘How can you determine what is real if the self that is determining it is intangible?’ The brain whose job it is to determine what is tangible or not is under reevaluation, and this paper is about my insights as I do exactly that — to my own brain. And my realisations are not comforting.
I was struck all throughout the movie by the recurring phrase “creating your own reality”, and the ramifications of this. Inwardly I thought ‘If what we call reality is actually made by ourselves, how can we become truly objective observers?’ One of the first premises at the start of the movie is ‘An ultimate question demands an ultimate observer.’ I dare not use “the” because there are so many ultimates in the movie, who can define what the ultimate of ultimates is? The Bible verse ‘The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?’ comes to mind. The movie helped me accept the first part, although it disproves the latter (against my beliefs) since the relativist worldview defies the idea of wickedness. Therefore we cannot judge ourselves according to our standards because the reality of each person is unique. This is where the church or Ramtha the Enlightened One, if you please, come in.
The movie posits that the brain only matches patterns, or sees what it recalls as real, and that we are conditioned to accept only patterns and recollections which are defined by cultural norms as “real”. Since these societal constructs, or paradigms, have continuously been proven wrong throughout history, then that trend says today’s paradigm is no different — it can still be wrong, and most probably is. I realised that this same standard can be applied to the movie, and that the paradigm forwarded by the movie can be as wrong as the religion it tries to disprove. I must admit that the “quantum uncertainty” of life as the consequent of quantum physics lends a totally new dimension to the debate which already has too many dimensions to begin with.
The idea of consciousness is the main point of the film, which goes so far as to say that each cell has consciousness. I take consciousness then, not only as a quality but also as a medium, rather like grace, which can be given or taken away. I don’t know by what mechanism this happens, or if the consciousness is just awakened. At any rate, my problem is whether this consciousness is real. For example, watching this movie has made me conscious of subatomic consciousness, but how do I know that the subatomic consciousness I’m feeling right now is the “correct” subatomic consciousness referred to in the movie? Also, is it possible for consciousness to be layered, such that I can be conscious that I’m not conscious? Is this second-tier consciousness the same as the first tier? These are more of hypothetical questions than insights, but they show just what the movie has awakened in me.
The second half of the movie leans more towards biochemistry and neurology, but the big idea is since the self creates reality, only those experiences where we lose sight of ourselves can be truly called “real”. Forgive me, but I am going to make another connection to religion. I’ve been looking for the mechanism by which Christians know that their encounter with God is truly real, and the movie has just provided that. Like the hymn says, “Let’s forget about ourselves, and concentrate on Him, and worship Him…” Since the self is deceitful, the proof that an encounter with God is real is when the believer totally loses himself to God, unlike that hypocrite who prayed, “Lord I thank You that I’m not like this tax-collector.”
I approach this movie with a certain caution because it goes through a yarn-ball of unfamiliar science to arrive at the same conclusion as the religions of old — that we are all gods. Keeping to the scientific track, though, taught me one thing: that the goal of all epistemological pursuits is to create working models of what truly is (I’m not gonna use the word reality anymore), and not an absolute recreation or explanation. I am not advocating relativism, but working models give more legroom for uncertainty and moral culpability. The ambiguity of matter at the sub-sub-atomic level showed me that it is impossible, no, laughable, to give a watertight explanation of “the ultimate questions”. Instead, by using links from the chain of quantum physics and philosophy, a coherent framework can be created.
After all that’s been said and done, I realise that the “physics of possibilities” is not entirely at odds with religion. Certain key ideas such as “not to be in the know, but to be in the mystery” and opposition to materialism (“being conditioned to buy the idea that the outside is more real than the inside”) are common to both. In the end, however, it all boils down to the reality which the viewer of this film chooses to take. (My goodness, I haven’t even explored the reality of God yet. ) How to pursue knowledge “without any interference from addictions” is something ultimately you will have to discover for yourself, unless of course, you’re a Calvinist. XD