Friday, June 13, 2008

What's Happening

So, I have a great idea for a movie. Why doesn't someone remake Hitchcock's The Birds but without the birds? Oh someone did? You mean The Happening isn't a cool update to that classic 70's sitcom What's Happening with Rerun et al.? It sure as hell should have been.

Seriously, it is The Birds without the pesky flying things. And that would be fine if it wasn't so dull and so pointless and so not even interesting to look at. But most importantly for the theme of this blog, it's anti-science. 

Throughout the film is the general premise that science can't answer everything. And that is true depending on the area you are investigating. For example, science can't really help us out with logical arguments. We use those for science, not the other way around. But the problem is that in this film science apparently can't answer questions about natural events. You know, stuff that happens in nature. You know, the stuff that science actually looks at and deals with all the time.

Whalberg's character is a science teacher who, while discussing the mystery of the disappearing bees, is happy with a student's response that some things are just an act of nature and cannot be explained. This pretty much cements him as one of the worst science teachers ever. It couldn't be worse if on the chalkboard he had written "Next Class: The Great Ideas of I.D."

If you can't explain a natural event with science then you don't just toss up your hands and say, "Oh well, guess I'll go mow the lawn." You do some research and you work on figuring it out. A science teacher should be encouraging students to study things we don't know about, but not from the viewpoint that we can never figure it out so don't bother. M. Night's past movies have always had some pseudo-science in them, and that's fine. But when he starts just out and out mishandling science, that's a crime against his audiences intelligence. 

I won't get into how badly M. Night bungles evolution or neuroscience. I won't get into how bad the special effects were that garnered him the coveted "R" rating. I'll just leave it at this: if you are a skeptic, a scientist, or a friend of them, skip this one.

The Rational Moderate


Anonymous said...

The science teachers point was that if an event happens for a short time and we are unable to find out exactly what happened, then we would need to come up with some theory as to why it might have happened.
Just like the happening in the movie. The movie was in no way anti-science. Apparently hillbillies from Bethlehem PA of all places think it is anti-science.

Rational Moderate said...

"Hillbilly" - funny and amazingly off the mark just like your comments about the science teacher in the movie. When a student specifically says that the bees disappearing may be "just an act of nature that is unexplainable," the science teacher congratulates him on his great answer. That is anti-science and you would have to be scientifically illiterate to not recognize that. When a scientist makes a claim that they don't know the answer o something, the next step is not to give up (as Intelligent Design proponents would ultimately have you do) but rather figure out ways to answer the question. Proclaiming that it's an unexplainable act of nature or an Intelligent Designer did it is not an alternative to science, it is the opposite of science.

Moreover, the main scientific expert shown at the end of the movie fostered the same opinion, that science cannot answer questions about acts of nature. And again, I feel I have to repeat for you, that is the exact opposite of the whole scientific endeavor.

Time and again, the whole notion of finding a theory to explain what was occurring was shown to be impossible and that they should just accept the event as unexplainable.

This movie is also anti-science in it's abysmal use of evolution theory (individuals do not evolve within their lifetime- species evolve) and neuroscience (it's flipping a switch that makes us really dumb, walk backwards and then kill ourselves in spectacular ways - yeah right)

Lastly, to round out your complete lack of knowledge, Bethlehem PA is a really urban and hip place to live that is right in the middle of Philadelphia and NY. For example, George Hrab is here representing the skeptical movement quite nicely. I strongly recommend you come visit even though I'd hate to see our collective IQs drop by your presence.

Seriously, thanks for posting and go read a book about how science actually works so you don't look like a drooling idiot next time you post here and on Cynical-C.

The Rational Moderate

Anonymous said...

The very fact that you are going on at lengths to debate scientific points about a movie shows your IQ.
Fine .. the movie is about Intelligent Design and you live in a hip city.

Sodfather said...

Regrettably, so far (having not yet seen the movie and not planning to), I utterly agree.

That which is "just an act of nature" is eventually explicable by determining what, precisely, the act of nature was. Additionally, we can then determine how it happened, or at least a likely path. Regarding the bees, it's mites, kids. The mites are now resistant to pesticides, including the natural ones bees make, and the bees have been weakened by the same pesticides. Hence, bee problems.

It's neither an easy problem nor an easy answer. However, science teachers should

I can't see how plants could override our self-preservation instincts, even if hayfever season does make me want to kill myself every year. :-) Thank the FSM for Claritin.

That would, however, be a fascinating evolutionary study to determine the mutations in the genes and the selection filter that refined them.

We're assuming it could happen, or that it would be an advantage of any kind. Given that I maintain more species in my gardens at far greater health than nature would normally grant them, it would be detrimental for my plants to take me out. There goes the premise of the film. Far smarter for the trees would be to kill off gypsy moths. That hasn't happened either.

I also live in Bethlehem, PA, and I agree that it's a...well, perhaps hip is too strong a word, but certainly citified enough to please me, with more than enough open space as well. Being so close to Philly and NYC is also a major advantage.

Sorry for the disjointedness here, I was trying to cover several points. Usually I'm fairly succinct and on focus...

Rational Moderate said...

I'd like to point out that I never said the movie was about intelligent design, but rather it shares the same anti-science conclusions about intelligent design.

And of course you can debate the scientific merits about a movie that contains, however badly, science as justification for it's plot. The whole notion that you can't critique it because it's fiction is nonsense. Since it relied on science as a background and gave no indication that the world the characters inhabit was vastly different from our own we can easily ask ourselves if what happened in the movie fit or honored these prerequisites. If it does neither, as I think this one did, than we can rightly criticize it for being a bad movie.

Thanks for posting. Having terrible allergies myself I recommend the zrytec that's over the counter now if you haven't tried that. It works, for me, a lot better than claritin, though it does make me a bit groggy. I usually end up mostly taking claritin and then switch to zrytec on the really bad days.

I agree that the study of the evolution of flora on protection would have been a really interesting way to go for this movie, but as it was it just made some vague references to the trees or plants rapidly evolving in their lifetime to knock us out. Although, in fairness to the film, M. Night did leave it open to the possibility that it was the nuclear power plants causing this from the shots of the towers over by Philly, and the bit at the end in France. Of course nuclear power is one of the cleanest sources we have if we are to believe that the plants are attacking us because of the pollution so I think M. Night is even more confused about what he's trying to preach.

And lastly, Bethlehem is pretty hip. Good festivals, good places to eat, great parks, nice historic area, dog friendly, and the people (unlike some other areas - Emmaus I'm looking at you) are really friendly. Plus, the cigar shop right downtown is fantastic. At the very least, it's not hillbilly-ish.

The Rational Moderate

Anonymous said...

I'd still disagree .. however, thats just my point of view.
Anyway, I apologize for the hillbilly remark .. that was uncalled for.


Rational Moderate said...

Consider it forgotten.

The Rational Moderate

Amanda said...

I really wanted to like this movie but felt insulted when the "science" teacher explained that some things just can't be explained. That doesn't sound like the "science" I was taught. I kept hearing echoes of "God dunnit" in all the "scientific" explanations.

But apart from that and apart from all the actors just walking through their parts, what I found most annoying was the premise -- how many times have we heard it before: humans beings are a virus on the planet. We're killing the planet. We need to be stopped. Yawn.

A plot that would have been infinitely more interesting might have gone like this: humans exposed to the mystery toxin suddenly logic themselves into thinking "Hey, we're a virus on the planet, and for the good of the planet, we should all whack ourselves," and THEN they all step in front of the lawnmower, or dive into a chipper-shredder. Zombies are so much more interesting/frightening when they appear to have CHOSEN their zombieness. (Zombiehood? Zombification?)

And it wasn't at all scary, which bugged me. A couple of gross scenes doesn't equal scary. I was so disappointed...

Rational Moderate said...

hmmm, you're right. It was kind of a zombie movie in that people became mindless drones, but instead of attacking other people they attack themselves. So, I guess that makes it a boring zombie movie. So just like it was "The Birds" without the birds, it was also "Night of the Living Dead" without the living dead.

It would have been interesting to see the contrast in your version between those who saw the reason to kill themselves and those who didn't. That would have made for some very tense and scary scenes. Wouldn't it be nice to watch a movie where you could actually believe that the protagonist and antagonist actually have a point?