dreaminsanity: THE MARTIAN, the Oscar’s, and Rational Thought

Image of Mars, http://mars.nasa.gov/multimedia/images/?ImageID=6453
Image of Mars, http://mars.nasa.gov/multimedia/images/?ImageID=6453

I watched The Martian last night for the first time. After reading the book by Andy Weir a couple months ago, I was excited to see what Hollywood would do with such a detail-rich and well-researched story. They glossed over most of the super-scientific information (understandably so) to get to the heart of the human interest story of an astronaut lost on Mars, and the NASA scientists and astronauts trying to bring him home.

The movie was really well done, and even knowing the ending I found myself sharing the anxiety and stress and emotional conclusion with the characters. I don’t know if it’s Oscar-worthy. Granted, I’ve only seen three of the big Oscar films for tonight’s awards (Mad Max: Fury RoadThe Revenant, and The Martian), but I think The Revenant is a much more remarkable achievement of cinematic storytelling. I also think DiCaprio’s role as Hugh Glass in that film is more deserving of the Best Actor award. Matt Damon’s role as Mark Watney in The Martian was convincing, but it did not seem like he had to try too hard. Most of his on-screen dialogue was spoken into a webcam to a global audience, whereas DiCaprio’s pained grunts and expressions were directed at no one at all.

Anyway, this is the first year in a long time that I’ve seen more than one or two of the big Oscar films in time for the ceremony, so I actually feel slightly invested in who wins the major categories. That being said, I won’t be live-tweeting the event, or even watching it. Mainly because I have writing to do, and I also don’t have a Twitter account. Because I despise Twitter. Because Twitter is the bane of all rational thought.

Which reminds me… what the fuck, B.o.B.? I just found out that B.o.B., a rapper whose first album I greatly enjoyed, spent much of January 25 tweeting about how he refuses to believe that the earth is round. His ranting escalated to the point that Neil DeGrasse Tyson got involved. I’m not getting into the gritty details. I just want to point this out as an example of why a digital megaphone like Twitter can be a bad thing. Because some moronic rapper can claim that the earth is flat, and 8,000 people can favorite his Tweet, ostensibly agreeing with him, and ultimately perpetuating a very nasty habit we have developed as a society.

Due to the unprecedented dissemination of information and ideas through the Internet, we seem to have confused rational thought with the notion that because more than five people agree with you, you must make a valid point. Now, people can choose to believe whatever they want. They can also spout those beliefs and find other people who believe the same things. But belief does not equate truth. You have the right to your opinions. You also absolutely have the right to question anything you learn or hear. But an opinion, when proven wrong by hard evidence, is just plain wrong. Ignoring the evidence does not make your opinion valid. It just makes you a fucking moron.

Social media in general has given the collective us the impression that rational thought is defeated by belief. The appropriate response to a rational argument, to evidence, is to reconsider your position. What we typically get is more yelling, more “theories”. I would never advocate for requiring an intelligence test to have access to something like social media, but shit like this makes me think twice.

Instead of basking in the achievements of the scientific community, like the detection of gravitational waves, we have people who are handed a megaphone and given the opportunity to deny everything we have collectively learned about our existence over hundreds of years of scientific questioning and research, simply because they don’t believe it.

I’m pretty sure most Flat-Earthers could be taken into space and given a view of Earth from their shuttles, and still try to claim that it’s some form of government conspiracy. Morons.

I take consolation in the fact that these people are most certainly in the minority, and that real scientists like Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Andy Weir can still give me an overwhelming sense of awe about the universe, even if The Martian is a fictional story.

Steve D

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