What the Bleep Does Ramtha Know?

Have you seen or heard of the movie What the #$*! Do We Know!? Here’s a summary of the movie’s plot from the Internet Movie Database:

Amanda [Marlee Matlin, above left], a divorced photographer, finds herself in a fantastic Alice-in-Wonderland experience when her daily, uninspired life literally begins to unravel, revealing the cellular, molecular and even quantum worlds which lie beneath. Guided by a Greek Chorus of leading scientists and mystics, she finds that if reality itself is not questionable, her notion of it certainly is. Stunning special effects plunge you into a world where quantum uncertainty is demonstrated – where Amanda’s neurological processes, and perceptual shifts are engaged and lived – where everything is alive, and reality is changed by every thought.

The purpose of this post is to educate the reader about what this movie is and is not. It is not a cool cutting-edge movie about quantum physics, as its marketing leads the innocent to believe (actually only the first half is “about” quantum physics — the rest is “about” how people are enslaved by their own unhappy thoughts and beliefs). While in many ways this is a feel-good movie offering common-sense advice (think good thoughts about yourself and your life), the “science” presented as backing up these ideas is mostly fallacy — fallacy taught as fact by the “Ramtha School of Enlightenment.”

What the Bleep was produced and directed by followers of the Ramtha School of Enlightenment, an organization that promulgates the teachings of JZ Knight (that’s her on the right in the above image — she appears throughout the movie). Knight claims to “channel” a 35,000-year-old spirit named Ramtha, and in What the Bleep Knight is actually credited as Ramtha. As its central premise, the movie repeatedly (and incorrectly) states that because of the actions of the quantum world, people can choose their own reality. This isn’t a quantum physics concept, but it is a central concept of Knight’s books and videos. Could this movie be a marketing tool for Knight’s organization? I just wonder.

As well as teaching that people can create their own reality, the Ramtha School of Enlightenment, through its website Ramtha.com, currently claims that it can teach telepathy and clairvoyance at eight-day workshops. Below are images taken from screenshots of ramtha.com on August 28, 2006.

remote_view.png

telepathy2.jpg

As well as Knight, also appearing in What the Bleep is Dr. David Albert, a Columbia physicist. From a salon.com article, here’s what he has to say about his contributions to the movie:

I don’t think it’s quite right to say I was ‘tricked’ into appearing,” [Albert] has said in a statement reposted by a critic on “What the Bleep’s” Internet forum, “but it is certainly the case that I was edited in such a way as to completely suppress my actual views about the matters the movie discusses. I am, indeed, profoundly unsympathetic to attempts at linking quantum mechanics with consciousness. Moreover, I explained all that, at great length, on camera, to the producers of the film … Had I known that I would have been so radically misrepresented in the movie, I would certainly not have agreed to be filmed.”

He has more to say here in a comment thread where he calls the movie “wildly and irresponsibly wrong.”

Below is an excerpt from a review of the movie by University of Queensland grad student in physics (and at this writing, soon to be Ph.D.) Joel Gilmore. Gilmore points out plenty of gross and misleading errors in the movie, particularly its central idea that people can “choose” a reality of their own making:

Let’s take one of the central themes from the movie: humans have the capacity to create their own reality. In quantum mechanics, there’s an important principle that when we measure a system, we affect it. The idea goes is that an object (electron, atom, basket ball) can be in two or more places at once – called a “superposition”. But when we try and see where it is, it’s forced to choose where it will be: we say that the superposition collapsed into a definite state. It may seem strange, but experiment agrees brilliantly with this picture.

The movie says this shows that we can affect the reality around us, and by positive thinking we can create the reality we want. ‘Fraid not. The collapse mentioned above is non-deterministic: you can’t control which position the object collapses in to. You can make statistical guesses, which are right in the long run (like tossing heads 50% of the time) but you can’t predict, let alone control, each collapse. This is strongly backed by experiment. Furthermore, it doesn’t have to be us doing the measurement – as even one of the experts points out, the “collapse” can come from interacting with a rock or a tree – should we assume they also create their own reality?!

But it gets worse – while they correctly note that atoms, and hence matter, are mostly empty space, they then liken atoms to “thoughts”, and suggest that matter is made up entirely of thoughts and our imagination! One expert claims that he firmly believes humans can walk on water if they set their mind to it.

I’m not saying don’t see the movie; I’m not in the habit of telling others what to do. By all means see it; it’s an excellent exercise in critical thinking. I’m just saying see the movie for what it really is: An expensively produced mishmosh of feel-good self-help babble, science, antiscience and outright untruth. It’s not a horrible movie. Just a horribly misleading one.

For more debunking of the movie and the “science” in the movie, see this Wikipedia entry, this salon.com article, this Skeptico piece, this Australian Broadcasting Company article, or this thread from the blog of a physics professor.

19 responses to “What the Bleep Does Ramtha Know?

  1. I was one of the poor souls duped into watching this movie, soley because I was under the impression I was going to get a layman’s view of quantum mechanics. I am sad to admit that it was nearly half way through the movie when I realized that this was all an introduction to new age dogma and not a movie based on science, whatsoever. In fact, if there was one shred of truth or scientific fact in that movie, it has been soiled by the movie’s true purpose. Brava to so many, not so easily duped as I was, for bringing the truth out about this movie.

  2. This movie was marketed as popular science, and I myself wanted to see it in the theatre. Heavens, don’t blame yourself for being “easily duped.” You were the innocent victim of a dishonest marketing campaign. I nearly was, too.

    Hell, Columbia physics prof Peter Woit saw it in the theatre because even he thought it was going to be about quantum physics. Here’s his thoughts on the movie:
    http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/wordpress/archives/000083.html

    I was lucky and read the the salon.com expose in time, and realized I’d be wasting my time.

  3. hmm…I didn’t see ANYWHERE in the movie where there was talking about channeling or spirits. Have you even SEEN the movie? heellooo…its has alot of the same basic concepts found in Nova’s series on String Theory. The water experiment is something I’ve heard before and has absolutely nothing to do with the any new religion. The second movie “further down the rabbit hole” actually shows you the physics experiences that prove some of what they are saying.

    Hagelin and others interviewed in the movie hold PhD’s from respectable universities…I don’t hold to any chanelling nonsense but I do think this movie had some interesting points to discuss.

  4. Passion_8,

    You didn’t see anybody in the movie talking about channeling or spirits, but that blonde woman? That was JZ Knight, actually “channeling” “Ramtha.” But aside from that one money-grubbing, lying shyster, there really wasn’t anyone else channeling anybody.

    And yes, I’ve seen the movie. I skipped it in the theatre after learning about its origins, but I did rent it, twice. It was shown to students at my local community college, creating quite a buzz. I knew I couldn’t debunk the movie to my classmates without seeing it first, so I rented and watched it.

    I haven’t seen the second movie, but I note that some of the people in the first movie do have a formal education in the sciences. Like Dr. Albert, who has gone on record saying his words were manipulated to make it seem he was saying something that he has publicly decried as nonsense.

    BTW, are you now or have you ever been a follower of Ramtha who is trying to make this movie seem less ridiculous than it is?

  5. Thanks so much for the review and links to other research. I watched half of the movie, also thinking I would learn more about quantum physics. Living in a new age meca of sorts (Encinitas, CA) I’m surrounded by this stuff and have been my whole life. It’s valuable to have your writing as a resource and rebuttal.

    Regarding the water experiments: I have two of Dr.Emoto’s books on his water experiments. It is a fascinating concept, but the passion_8 must not know that Dr. Emoto is a believer in the new age consciouness concepts. He talks about it in his books, from the asian Zen buddhist perspective…

    Often I think when dealing with this type of information, that the experiment of phenomena could be accepted as it is; the problem is in the INTERPRETATION of the evidence. This is my non-scientific observation.

  6. Pingback: Bleep Bleep Yet Again - Asymptotia

  7. Hey — I saw over on Asymptotia that you’re looking for good popular-level descriptions of Quantum Mechanics.

    I think that the first half of “The Elegant Universe” does a good job at this and at GR. The string theory half of the book isn’t as readable. And, I’m less satisfied with Brian Greene’s quantum stuff than his GR stuff, but at least the GR is among the best popular-level descriptions of the Physics I’ve seen.

  8. Rob — THANKS. There’s a PBS documentary version of the book, with Greene narrating. Apparently it’s archived online:

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/elegant/program.html

    I welcome any opinions of the DVD…

  9. I’ve seen the PBS show, and last year in my undergraduate General Relativity class brought all the students in one evening to sit around, eat pizza, and watch the movie.

    It’s pretty good. Students couldn’t help but laugh at parts of it, becuase they were all a little self-conscious and had to be seen making fun of what they were watching so as to appear superior themselves… you know how students and people are. And, yes, parts of it are kinda cheesy. But the science in it is quite good, even though I always have a little trouble as a physicist wrapping my brain around “macroscale quantum” things like the Quantum Cafe.

  10. “Regarding the water experiments: I have two of Dr.Emoto’s books on his water experiments. It is a fascinating concept, but the passion_8 must not know that Dr. Emoto is a believer in the new age consciouness concepts. He talks about it in his books, from the asian Zen buddhist perspective…”

    I’d just like to point out that Zen Buddhism is not in any way related to New Age stuff. Zen has been around for centuries and has nothing to do with New Age beliefs. Besides, just because someone believes something doesn’t automatically negate their research. I’m not saying I believe the research, I haven’t looked into it enough. But trying to dismiss someone simply because of their beliefs is awfully closed-minded.

  11. Nice review (and thanks for quoting me! ;) ) – I really liked your opening statement that the movie isn’t, in fact, cutting edge physics like its posters proclaim; I hadn’t really thought about that additional claim to factuality.

    I recently educated a group of psychologists who were going to see this movie as a group activity – they ended up running it as a “critical thinking” workshop!

    Looking forward to checking out your other posts.

  12. I am very sorry that you feel that way. From what i read it seems as though you did not research this enough. Or you would agree with the films message. I however have done a massive amount of research on the subject to find out weather or not this is true. I have looked at it through the prespective of a Christian aswell as a budduist, and yet both are saying the same thing. However both of this have been badly misunderstood, so the messege has been lost. Based on what i have read on your web site, i assume that you are a Christian or at least have had some Christian influence (spelling) in your life. Both teachings show that the ideas in the film are on the right path. Ramtha looks at all three beliefs and constucts his teaching based on that. These ideas show that all the socalled mericals (spelling) that are told about in both Christian and budduist relegions, that are the same, show that they are conpletely possable. So i hope that you do a little more reseach before you make up your mind about this becouse it is true. Thank you and may “GOD” be with you.

  13. I really don’t care so much about what can be proven or not about the science of this movie. All I know is that since I began applying the basic concepts of this movie, as well as teachings by Abraham-Hicks, my life has completely changed for the better and I would never go back.
    Brightest Blessings to you all!
    Happy Halloween!

  14. This movie is horrible. It´s the most boring thing that I ever saw. It´s exibition should be banned by the Geneva Convention.

  15. You see there is no real truth or fiction, everything depends of us, you see I think each of are a Jesus or a Buddha the only thing is even if it’s already in us it needs a lot of work. And I think don’t judge anyone before being able to make a clear judgement about your self, it’s beacause you don’t believe in something that you have to destroy it, and stop putting fault on every thing, and everyone your the only one making your on path, your hell and your heaven. And I’m not saying that what I’m saying right now is the pure truth, I only talk about my experience, my reading and my research in the spriritual wolrd like I said there no true and false. You make your one.

    Peace, and I love you all.

  16. It’s really too bad that the film was so misguiding. In general, I really believe that the pairing of scientific and religious thought would be a fantastic way to start a new spiritual awakening. They tried in the 70s, but as always, the baby boomers got greedy (JK for instance) and it all fell to the almighty dollar. Let’s face it, America and perhaps the world could use a new unifying religion to stop all the bombing and spiritual fanaticism and usher in a time period, where, gasp, we are all equal as human beings!

    But… religion should be truthful, and most of all, FREE!! Of monetary price that is, and I know for a fact that Ramtha charges an arm and a leg for spiritual guidance.

    • Christine, I do appreciate what you had to say. In my own experience I am finding that the whole RSE thing costs so so much more than an arm and a leg (ie lots of money, and it does $1100.00 for the 8 or 9 day retreat). Numerous followers of this female gender bending freak of a nutcase have left their families behind, husband/wife and children, not to mention their parents, brothers and sisters. I though family was always first but, obviously not if you can not convince your loved ones to buy into this non-sense bull-$h1t. Oh and it’s not spiritual guidance that she really offers, it’s pure unadulterated CRAP. I have a really interesting future that I would like to create for Da Ram. Any one that is/does believe this Ramtha crap should just check out the LARSE sight for information, yes it’s detrimental to the whole Ramtha theme. Watch the You-Tube video of an interview of Jeff Knight, J(CRAY)Z Knights’ ex-husband and the interesting things you can find out about HER. I am myself becoming very ENLIGHTENED about the frauds of this world and people like JZ make me believe that the world must be coming to an horrific and certain end, because with so many followers there is no way the rest of us poor bastards can make up the difference in the lack of sense that her followers display. Wake Up People. ITS NOT IN THE CARDS.

  17. Ramtha…….bullshit. Mindless babbling of a cunning money grabbing remorseless creature that has sucked in countless people many of whom are now amassing huge debts that apparently wont have to be repaid when the “world ends” or nearly ends in 2012 or thereabouts. Geez, its just sickening,sad,unbelievable even. Mass brainwashing at its worst…..and, good grief !!!! it appears to be all quite legal.

  18. Time to open your eyes.

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