Saturday, June 14, 2008

More Hollywood Credulity

I've heard two separate interviews given by M. Night Shyamalan in the past week. Both were on science oriented shows, and both left me wanting to pound my forehead against the nearest concrete wall. Last week Ira Flatow interviewed him on NPR's Science Friday, and this week Steve Mirsky did the same on the Scientific American weekly podcast (here and here).

MNS is, in my eyes, a talented screenwriter and director. All the same, I personally lost interest in his movies after Signs revealed his now obvious belief in a greater power that gives the universe some sense of order. That's easy to show in a universe that you've created on your own where aliens are attacking Earth and ghosts speak to small children.  I see no evidence for such order in the universe that I currently reside in.

In these interviews he made it quite clear that he believes there are certain things in our universe that we do not understand, and in fact, will never be able to fully understand. This is utter BS. There are indeed many, many things that we do not yet understand. And some of those things we may never get around to understanding. But there is nothing inherently not-understandable in the universe. Except, perhaps, that last sentence that I wrote. Otherwise though, we base our lives on the premise that there is a reason for everything - arguments from ignorance aside.

He also stated that he became interested in Einstein's increasing belief in God as he aged. Say what? He clearly did not do his research on this, because it has been so thoroughly debunked that had he simply googled 'Einstein' + 'Personal' + 'God' this is what he would have found at the top of the list. And the notion that he became more interested in god later in life can be summed up in this quote from 1954 (he died in 1955):

"It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it"(1).

Religious folks love to portray Einstein as a believer in order to prove that someone who understood so much about the nature of the universe thought that it was designed by a creator. This is clearly not the case. He used the term 'God' frequently, but only when speaking about the natural order of things. And he clearly felt obligated to set the record straight late in life because his quotes were being so abused by people of faith.

A good and thorough review of "The Happening" can be found here. I'm sorry Mr. Shyamalan, but you're simply talking about things that are out of your your league. Scientists can't go about their jobs with the premise that there are "forces at work beyond our understanding". Research would hit a standstill. All progress would end. That sort of speak can only seem logical when you start from an ideology and move out from there. And that's just not the way science works.

DS

1. Dukas, H., Hoffman, B. Albert Einstein: The Human Side

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