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What the #$*! Do We Know?

  • compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2004 1 Jan
What the #$*! Do We Know?

from Film Forum, 09/16/04

What the #$*! Do We Know? combines documentary tactics with narrative and sprinkles the result with special effects and animation to give audiences a mind-bending trip. In doing so, they attempt to convince viewers that the study of quantum physics leads us to the discovery that there is no real right and wrong — except that religion is wrong and just about anything else is right.

Amanda (Marlee Matlin) plays a woman who has a "through the looking glass" experience when her daily routine begins to fall apart. She is confronted with the volatile world of quantum physics at work behind familiar realities. And the movie would have us believe that these phenomena lead to the de-bunking of religion, that morality is proven to be an illusion, and that human beings are, in fact, gods in the making. Real truth, it seems, comes from a woman who is supposedly channeling an ancient being from Atlantis.

As you can imagine, the few religious press critics that have bothered to spend time with this nonsense point out its obvious flaws and dismiss its rather ludicrous agenda.

Denny Wayman and Hal Conklin (Cinema in Focus) offer this critique: "Not only is fact woven with fiction, as shown by the film's combining of science with science fiction, philosophy with new age religion, and psychiatry with occult channeling, but we also have a documentary woven with a drama. The end product is an amalgam that is novel as a film genre but of little value from the perspective of searching for truth. We cannot trust its assertions because its validity is so compromised. [The film's argument] leads to the assertion that it is religion that has harmed humanity with its moral teachings."

In his blog, Brian Godawa, author of Hollywood Worldviews and director of the film To End All Wars, picks the film apart piece by piece. "The real purpose of why these people made this movie," he says, is "to attack the Christian God with their hatred of his goodness and his law and his judgment of their sins. Funny, how scientists and the like all say that religion has no right to judge scientific things because religion exists in a realm apart from science, and then they always turn right around and have the unmitigated gall to use their so-called science to try to judge religion as wrong. … How stupid do these Nazis think we are?"

Richard Schmitz (Christian Spotlight) calls the film "clueless."

Mainstream critic reviews range from high praise to ridicule to utter bewilderment. Lou Leminick (New York Post), for example, calls it "two hours of New Age hooey. What the bleep do we care!?"

from Film Forum, 09/23/04

Mike Hertenstein (Looking Closer) takes aim at this pseudo-philosophical pseudo-documentary, which he says attempts to exploit pseudo-scientific ideas about quantum physics in the service of bad pseudo-religion: "What some may end up doing is writing off the quantum facts, and that would be too bad. For the facts of quantum mechanics really are amazing. A good faith presentation of those facts—without any particular New Age agenda—would have succeeded in achieving at least one of the filmmakers' goals: blowing the viewers minds. … Part Waking Life, part I Am Joe's Neural Network, part Est Seminar, this often-entertaining film offers lots of great questions and some true facts, but all woven together with a fair amount of horse bleep."