Creative Team Building and Leadership Resources - In our Elements

What the Bleep Do We Believe?

Thursday, May 9th, 2013

Fellow Passengers: This week’s Primary Passage* (Luke 8:22-39) transports me a 2006 DVD-viewing experience, where I endured Marlee Matlin overdramatizing the role of Amanda, a grouchy, dispirited photographer in Portland who wants to make it clear to the world that her anti-depressants aren’t working. There are only a few movies that have left me downright infuriated for having sat through them, and What the Bleep Do We Know? is one of them (it ranks right up there with Bad Santa in my book of stinkers). In this film, Amanda’s annoying angst slowly wanes as she gains wisdom and insight from gurus who connect science and spirituality, especially around strange unexplainable phenomena such as quantum entanglement (a concept from physics describing matter that doesn’t behave according to the more basic laws of science and nature). The short version: The movie’s scientists tout the power of mind over matter, a potential they would lead us to believe we all possess. They invite us to go down the rabbit hole to explore the ever expanding world of wild possibilities and unlimited thought. We are shown, for example, how our minds can alter the molecular structure of water. By the end of the movie, Amanda tosses her anti-depressant meds into the trash, convinced that by sheer willpower she can make her way to mental health and happiness. Given the fairly substantial following the movie garnered, I can only imagine how many suicides and violent crimes ensued when gullible movie-goers gleefully followed Marlee Matlin’s lead, rushing home to toss their own anti-depressants and anti-psychotic meds into the toilet. Or maybe they just spent their time focusing some loving thoughts on the toilet water, unraveling its molecular structure before their own lives unraveled.

So, what am I to make of my anger at a movie promoting the idea that we can manipulate water with our thoughts, and that we can simply make up our minds to overwhelm the troubling spirits that haunt us, when I then read today’s passage and see that Jesus is a guru promoting the exact same notions? He might as well have asked his disturbed disciples, what the bleep do you know? His actual line was more like, where the bleep is your faith? The two stories in this passage, connected by a common set of fears, a common rebuke of troubling phenomena, and a common reaction of astonishment, are nothing if not a dramatic demonstration of quantum entanglement – not in the exact scientific sense, but in the sense of unexplainable movements happening outside the basic laws of nature and science. This is the Jesus who speaks to the crashing waves and threatening winds, and leaves a calm sea in their place. He then speaks to a naked madman running wild in a graveyard, and leaves a clothed man seated and in his right mind.

Before I could get angry and walk out on this passage, I thought more about its implications, that with enough faith we have the capacity to speak to the waters and influence the course of their actions, as well as to speak to the troubled minds and influence the course of their actions. My what the bleep do I know? moment came when I realized how profoundly we have done just that, in the negative sense. We humans over the past century have so altered our environment as to create the troubling waters of climate change; we have made waves by damaging the ozone and wiping out wetlands and expanding deserts and de-foresting large swaths of the planet. We have created our own torment of nature. As for the torment of Legion, we have created a culture that has fostered a meteoric rise of mental illness, with more and more diagnoses of troubled minds every day. What’s more, a recent book by Ethan Watters, Crazy Like Us: The Globalization of the American Psyche, documents how America has exported our ever expanding world of mental disorders to the rest of the globe. We humans do influence the malignant spirits as well as the mighty waters. So, by logic if not by faith, I look back at Jesus’ story and have to conclude that if our cultural quantum entanglement can suddenly cause Chinese girls to start suffering from anorexia out of the blue, then the opposite possibility must exist. By faith we do have the capacity to create a different culture, a different way of engaging the planet and the people suffering from mental anguish. Maybe Jesus, as Son of Humanity, was not so much demonstrating what one human can do, but what humanity can do. The passage tells us that we humans, both those who claim Jesus and those who don’t, are generally afraid of such possibilities, though, backing away from our potential for radical peacemaking and healing that could alter the structure of the world and its many tormented people. May we as a people soon be driven by our fears to rouse up the sleeping Jesus from his comfortable pillow in the stern of this storm-tossed ship of state we’re trying unsuccessfully to sail, and trust again in that power to rebuke the winds and spirits of degradation and destruction. I’m ready to suspend my disbelief and experience some quantum entanglement of the positive variety.

How about you? Where does this Primary Passage take you on your journey of faith? Feel free to comment, and share with friends on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, email, etc.



  • May 10, 2013 at 6:56 am

    Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

    With verses like that, one might be lead to suspect that anything is possible with the power of belief, even, dare I say, changing the molecular structure of water.

    Comment by Jessica

  • May 10, 2013 at 7:04 am

    Yes! I have no doubts that there is more to this world than meets the eye with rudimentary cause and effect laws of nature. As Einstein put it so eloquently, it’s spooky! That said, I believe if Professor Emoto’s water crystalization experiment was valid, it would be replicated in every university’s Chem 101 class, or at least by someone in the scientific world, with double-blind and triple-blind testing. Even so, I’m open to the mystery, and would love for us all to conjure up the faith of a mustard seed to move the mountains of materialism, greed, gun-addiction, discrimination, etc.

    Comment by Stan Dotson

  • May 10, 2013 at 8:12 am

    There exists a very real campaign to deride fields of study that are deemed worthy of contempt by the scientific community at large, and therein lies the inherent problem with assuming that a fringe finding will garner attention and be taken seriously and investigated by the greater scientific community.

    J. Allen Hynek once said, “Ridicule is not part of the scientific method, and people should not be taught that it is.”

    Unfortunately, ridicule IS very much at play in the scientific community.

    Comment by Jessica

  • May 10, 2013 at 8:20 am

    For once, you may be giving the scientific community more credit than they’re due! I love science and the scientific method, but the scientific community is not untainted by unjustly suppressing power structures.

    Comment by Jessica

  • May 10, 2013 at 10:04 am

    Jessica, I do appreciate science; my critiques in the past have been toward those who seem to be making science its own fundamentalist religion, making truth claims and rejecting other truth claims that are far afield of science itself. Anyway, as for this movie, I appreciate the parts of it where quantum physics are explored and explained. I also believe that there exists in this world such a thing as quackery, and I suspect there’s some quackery in the mix here. My point about the water experiment is that it should be easily replicable, and there’s no reason why the scientific community would be against it. The stuff they’re playing around with in quantum physics makes this simple experiment look pretty tame. Even if the mainstream science community didn’t want to fool with it, it wouldn’t be that hard for some of Emoto’s followers to conduct triple blind experiments to confirm his findings. Absent that, I smell quackery. That’s not to say with surety that we aren’t changing water molecules with our feelings. I just think the promise of mind control over matter was far-fetched and bordered on dangerous, especially the implication that people should simply ditch their drugs. I know that anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds can be and are abused and over-prescribed by doctors; I don’t hold that they are the answer to everyone’s problems. Other cultures have found better ways to treat their mentally ill, and we could learn from them. I do know what happens in our current context, though, when some people who are on maintenance meds come off those meds, and it’s not a pretty sight.

    Comment by Stan Dotson

  • May 10, 2013 at 11:36 am

    Actually, yes, there is reason that the scientific community would be against it, and as I pointed out, the reason is fear of ridicule. This is why the scientific community is generally reticent to get involved in NDE research and research into such phenomena as ESP. While I agree with you that people should not be instructed to ditch their drugs, I appreciate the message of self-love and positive affirmations as a means to possibly supplement or even replace anti-depressant medications therapy. I didn’t hear them say that all people should ditch their drugs. Maybe I missed something. I’m not saying that there’s no quackery afoot, but let me ask you, can we verify that Jesus is the Son of God? Can we verify his purported miracles? Why are you not incensed over that potential unprovable hogwash? So, Emoto claims that, with our thoughts, we may be able to change the molecular structure of water. There appear to be much more extraordinary and unsupported claims in the Bible, in my opinion. Where’s your distaste over THOSE unsupported, extraordinary claims? As far as I know, there have been no triple blind experiments to support the resurrection, for instance. Do you believe in the miraculous claims of the Bible, or is it unsupported bologna?

    Comment by Jessica

  • May 10, 2013 at 2:49 pm

    Hey Jessica, I think you know the answer to your questions. There are different categories of truth, some verifiable by science, some not. If, for example, I tell you that I love you and think you’re a wonderful and beautiful person, that’s not the kind of truth subject to lab verification. Neither is the truth that Jesus is the Son of God and that he lives within my heart. Those are subjective truths verified by faith, not by sight. On the other hand, Dr. Emoto was claiming to demonstrate a scientific truth, something he discovered through laboratory experimentation. That shouldn’t be so difficult to verify or disprove, through standard scientific procedure. I read that someone has offered $1 million for anyone who can prove/verify such a thing in the lab. I’m not of the opinion that such verification would be something to ridicule; given what we’re hearing from the quantum physics folks I suspect we’ll be seeing more and more phenomena in the lab that defies old assumptions of science. My point is that he seems to be a quack for taking some credible science and using it to make further scientific claims that don’t seem verifiable. As for the drugs, the Marlee Matlin character gained enlightenment and summarily went cold turkey off her meds. Tossed them in the trash and went her merry way. Now, I am sure there are people who have been miraculously cured from mental illnesses, from all sorts of sources. But I do find it dangerous to send the message to folks that if you start seeing bizarre things on the basketball court, you can toss your anti-psychotic pills and go take a bubble bath.

    Comment by Stan Dotson

  • May 10, 2013 at 8:00 pm

    Haha, well, that bubble bath scene was pretty ridiculous. I’ll give you that. I’m not a believer in the Emoto water molecule hypothesis (not a disbeliever, either). Just playing devil’s advocate.

    Comment by Jessica

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