Friday, January 06, 2006
What the bleep do we know: the fallacy of exclusive premises
For my sins, I watched "What the -bleep- do we know?" It really was the most reeking piece of drek I've seen in quite some time. It fails for so many reasons however I will somehow excise this garbage from my thoughts by explaining a couple powerful errors.
1) As an introduction to thinking about things that one might have previously ignored, it fails since the movie is a relentless string of sciencey sound bites. Its a litany of conclusions without exposition, a run-on of unsupported statements that don't invite the audience to think but rather to accept. It forms a kind of faith-based science lingo that is really no different from any other kind of belief without contemplation. Whatever work they may have accomplished will be undone by some other idea that comes along in the viewers mind later on because the movie gives no credence to Why any of these ideas should be considered. In this sense they perpetuate a faulty way of thinking. The movie mistakes content of thought for mechanism of thought. Until the later is addressed, the content is irrelevant.
2)The Content or A Wizard ought to know better. It has ceased to amaze me the liberties that people take with the world of physics. The necessity for quantum physics is that the rules that govern the Newtonian realm break down at the quantum level. And yet how quickly people want to take behaviors at the quantum level and apply them to the classical realm. There is a tiresome transference going on here that I forgive from laypeople but when it comes from PHDs, I cannot forgive. Their rational is so transparent as to be almost unworthy of comment but today I will bother. The physicists being interviewed clearly have preferences regarding how they prefer to behave and how they prefer the world to behave. They have preferences of what "the good" is. Unfortunately, as specialists conditioned to rationalize and justify belief, they are blindsided into rationalizing a domain of thinking that contains no rational justification. But lo and behold, here are all sorts of metaphorical niceties at the quantum level. The oft misunderstood Uncertainty Principle, the ephemeral nature of existence, wave-particle duality and the rest of the quantum dramatis personae make easy metaphors for social preferences. This appeal to the objectivity of science serves to both impress and make truths out preferences. Most often the audience has no idea that these appeals are committing the fallacy of exclusive premises. The mathematical relationships at the quantum level Do Not Say Anything about human interaction! It is a set of relationships that apply at its own scale, just as the Newtonian relationships are only valid at the classical scale ( I am of course excluded unified field theory which is a childish fantasy that I cannot deal with here as my "Fermatian margin" is too small!) Its unfortunate how conceivable it is to me that all the academics that lined up for this movie forget this salient feature. Indeed, specialization seems to be the death of critical thinking and academic credentials become its epitaph.
To quote Shakespeare: "It may not be true, but its what we wish were true" I just wish we'd understand the difference and not influence people with jargon, influence them with credentials, and sway them with emotion. If you want to learn to think read DeBono instead, if you want an escapist kind of awe, watch Baraca.
Posted by and then the_doctor