Cover OneFrequencies Cover.jpgCover Three

Watched Frequencies last night, I didn’t intend to write a review of the film but it had been recommended to me by some friends. I gave them my opinion, and since I had already done the heavy lifting of writing it down, I figured I could toss it up on the blog.

Red.jpgThe short answer is that I enjoyed and recommend it. It’s a good measure of a story if you find yourself thinking about it long after the film is over. Frequencies is a pretty original science fiction thought experiment.

I enjoyed the director’s use of color tones, moving between red and blue camera lenses for scenes where the person’s perspective moved from cold logic to human emotion.Blue.jpg

The writer did a lot with symbolism. You can’t always be certain when something isn’t expressly stated, but I am going to go out on a limb here and assume ‘The Book’ was intended to be analogous to ‘The Bible,’ and that the male leads friend is representative of god as he becomes semi-omniscient.

I was a little disappointed with the ending, as it heads straight for the old question: “If we have free will or not, would it change anything? Would you care?” The characters just shrug the question off as everyone does in our non-science-fiction reality. They don’t having anything interesting to say on the matter despite all they’ve experienced, despite the fact that they have had moments where their will has been temporarily usurped. Though writing it down now, it dawns on me that this may have very well been the point. Pondering…

Warning: Navel Gazing to follow.

Other than that there was one thing that bugged me. This happens a lot, especially to atheists admittedly, and its a pet peeve, not something someone should weigh before watching the film.

The characters make frequent references to their ‘souls’ throughout the film. Writers often take this concept for granted, assuming that their audience accepts the idea as reality instead of a manifestation of human imagination. I’ve never heard an argument that validates the myth of the human soul, its always used as an attempt to insert magic when logic fails to deliver the answer mankind wants to hear. The sad thing about it is that most don’t take the time to think about it: the assumed magic of the soul doesn’t actually fix the problem, even if you do believe in it.

Basically what I am saying here is that human beings rebel against the possibility that they are a product of their genetics (Nature) and their life experiences (Nurture), because they have no control over those things. They assume we have souls in order to insert that control, but failing to realize, that even if a soul was a proven reality, we still have no control over the soul we get, just as we have no control over who are parents are, what genes we inherit, what economic demographic we are born into.

It bothers me because it tends to be a source of great religious hypocrisy. A means to give ourselves intrinsic value we have no claim to in the face of freewill being an illusion. I don’t mean to point fingers, or make sweeping assumptions, but this is something I really wish conservatives, or at least religious fundamentalist, would give more thought too. It is scary of course, as one’s sense of identify can be very dependent on our perceived value of our life’s efforts. However, I find that when we get done looking to prove our own value, and see how little control we ever had on what the current outcome of our life has been, we cannot help but find compassion for those who weren’t as lucky.

14 thoughts

  1. Love your book and interesting comments. Is there any evidence free will being merely an illusion? Great question, though.

    And, as a conservative Christian, I can assure you that many thinking conservative Christians wrestle with these types of questions. Perhaps not the ones you know or are aware of, but these questions permeate the conversations of thinking conservative Christians. In fact, the question over the existence of free will is one of the major dividing lines within conservative Protestantism. The “Reformed” side believes that there is none, at least so far as it comes to believing in God, whereas the other extreme, usually called “Arminians”, adamantly believe in free will. And, of course, the vast majority of conservative believers fall somewhere in between the two extremes.

    I tend to believe in both. But we would need a lot of time and more than a few beers to discuss that one adequately!

    1. Hi New Hodges Fan!

      Thanks for your reply. You’re absolutely right, I phrased that poorly. I didn’t mean to make a sweeping statement about all conservatives. It would have been better, or more honest at least, for me to say that watching the behavior of Republican Presidential Candidates leads me to believe that these are questions that (possible) future Conservative Leaders don’t want to ask themselves. I’ve always felt that this came from a strong desire to make people personally accountable for their actions. I understand that desire, but I don’t think it serves mankind as well as we would like to believe. We have to understand our true natures (as best we can) in order to govern a huge society, we can’t make laws, expectation, and social norms based on what we desire to be the truth.

      As far as freewill, I’ve just not been able to see where it would exist. Its like I said above, if a soul is real, I didn’t get to choose my make and model. If I am a product of nature and nurture, well I didn’t get to choose my genetics, and by the time my brain was nurtured enough to make philosophical inquiries… well my experiences had already shaped me. I can make choices and I can change, but all those choices are decided by my previous experiences, my mental biochemistry at the time, (and just for the sake of discussion) a soul that was issued to me. What’s weird though, is this doesn’t bother me. All it did was make me realize what little room I had to judge others. You’re right though, this discussion would take hours upon hours to do any justice.

      Something you said in your reply caught my interest:
      “The “Reformed” side believes that there is none, at least so far as it comes to believing in God, whereas the other extreme, usually called “Arminians”, adamantly believe in free will.”

      The “Reformed” belief system holds that some people are predetermined to believe in God while others are predetermined not to? Or at least, their system holds that where ever an individual happens to fall on the spectrum of belief (Between Fundamentalist and Atheist I suppose), they are predetermined to fall there? That sticks in my head as so peculiar for a religious group. Did I read your meaning correctly? If so, my curiosity is peaked, might go do some research on it later.

      1. Thanks, Ellery. I do have a couple of thoughts about your comments, but am not sure if you want to clutter your blog with philosophical and theological discussions, ha ha. If you don’t, but would like to continue the discussion, we could do it offline. I had to register my email address, so I presume that you can see it.

        Take care, and I’m eagerly awaiting your next novel. You really do combine great characterization with great plot. Kudos to you and my thanks.

  2. I’m sorry my qiestion ia far less philosophical(did i spell that right?), but dles a timeline exist for the release of book two? If so, are we allowed to know? I admit the Jonathan Tibbs is one of two series im willing to read that mix modern/futuristic and any type of seemingly magic, or technology advanced enough to be magic, so I am eagerly awaiting the new book.

  3. On the question of the soul, as someone who’s religous beliefs are… unique, im not the most qualified, but if I were to hazard a guess, some believe that God gives you your soul. This would make it unique from the start, so while not freewill, your soul is you;the choices it makes are the choices you make. If you look at it from a more logic based perspective, while your personality is pretty concrete at around 5-6 years of age, your personality doesn’t make your decisions for you, it simply decides how you look at your options. This would mean that while your choices are moderately censored, its still YOUR choice.

    1. Hi Jordan, its not really something I meant to pick an argument about, I certainly don’t want to offend anyone’s religious beliefs. That said, the point I was making is that the idea of freewill is erroneous from the get go. Adding a soul to the equation doesn’t fix the problem when you put it under a microscope.

      For the sake of discussion, if I was given a ‘unique’ soul, then the nature of that soul was still inherited. I had no hand in its crafting, and its reasonable to assume that it would be impossible for me to choose said ‘soul’ or anything about the makeup of that soul as I would, again theoretically, require a soul in the first place in order to do said choosing. Therefore, the unique soul would make decisions based the ‘personality’ or ‘programming’ built into it by its manufacturer/creator. Said theoretical soul is then placed into a body with the same rules. Inherited, built from the blueprint created by the merger of my parents genetics. Again, I have no choice in this, I am simply at the whim of the soul provided and body I find myself in.

      Now, the rest of my personality comes into existence based on a pre-programmed soul, and a pre-programmed body’s reactions to my environment. My personality develops based on varying degrees of positive and negative feedback from my experiences, but my initial reactions to those experiences are based solely –no pun intended– on my body and mind’s ability to reason out appropriate responses. So, a preprogrammed soul and a preprogrammed body review the data gained from experiences, and draws conclusions that will later affect future decisions. These experience are half chance (would have happened outside my sphere of influence) and half a result of previous decisions that have lead up to said moment in time. But, as we see, since the initial choices were made by programming outside of my control, it is my make up that has lead me in any previous decision.

      Fast forward to the point that my cognitive abilities have reached a maturity capable of pondering such things, and I find I have inherited a history of decisions that were made based on inherited programming. The addition of the soul is really superfluous, its an attempt to inject magic after reason gives an answer that we don’t want to hear. That being said, this is not an argument against personal accountability. It does not mean that we let killers roam the street, as they are still a threat to society. But, it can inform our perceptions about how we treat individuals who have broken our societies laws, it can change our ideas about punishment and reform. It can be the very source of compassion.

      When we see that, had we been dealt the exact same hand in life, we would be fooling ourselves to believe we would somehow made a subjectively better decision than an individual who failed to make said decision. In the end, choosing to see it otherwise becomes an unconscious exercise of ego/narcissism. Finding no logical reason to give ourselves value based on our decisions, we create a false sense that some intrinsic goodness has lead us to lead more productive lives. This of course fails to realize, that said intrinsic goodness, if it is in fact present, was just as much inherited as all the rest.

      I do not particularly like the conclusion, and I see why others would not as well, but without there being a logical case made for a preferable alternate, I wouldn’t choose to disbelieve said conclusion based on simply not liking it. Though, I would change my stance in the face of a better argument. Said argument would require no leaps of faith or assumptions of magic.

      I do apologize if any of this felt like I was attacking you, I was only attempting to put my whole chain of thinking down. For what its worth, I don’t believe for one second that my mental masturbation on the topic will sway anyone in the slightest. I only brought it up because, as I said in the review, its a presumption that not everyone believes, yet is seemingly ubiquitous in our (mankinds) story telling.

      1. First, even if you had attempted to offend me, all it would have done is lower my opinion of you, not actually offend, and you clearly weren’t attempting to offend. The one flaw in your logic is that people are capable of changing, which would mean there is at least an ounce of choice in the matter. You may choose to change because of your souls preprogrammed personality, but you’re still changing your soul. Usually it takes an extreme even to make someone willing and able to change, and some people aren’t capable of it ever, but it can, and has happened. It also takes an extreme amount of work to change, as you have to self monitor every second of every day of every week of every year, something most are unwilling to do. So while you clearly have little control of your life, and for the sake of honesty, no control during your developing years, and this makes the first product, that doesn’t mean that your final product, or what you die as, won’t be at least partially by your choice.

  4. I’m pretty sure that’s 150 words, so would I qualify to enter a name for book 3? If so I would enter a female name that I just like the sound of (probably because of my liable of romanic languages)-Amora.

    1. Hi Jordan, I would definitely consider the response as an entry 🙂 If you win, I already know what character would fit the name. There has been one other entry in the #RollyExperiment so far, but it was for a male character name, unless the contest explodes I’ll use the two entries provided so far.

      Regarding change: I’d argue that the degree of change a person chooses to in act in their lives doesn’t change anything in equation. Saying a person has no freewill (or that souls are an illusion) does not mean people are permanently fixed in their habits, ideologies, or attitudes. It means that any control they had over shaping who they are at any moment in time is an illusion. A person who changes their behavior based on new information (feedback, experience) is simply acting on the fact that they have perceived a flaw. A flaw that they see as important enough to fix. No magic is required for a person to make a small adjustment or a large one. They simply see the need, and if they believe the change is worthy enough, the motivation to make said ‘change’ follows. This decision is still based on their inherited genetics, theoretical soul, and passed history leading to that point in time. They could not have made the same decision if you removed these things.

      I’m not arguing for the sake of argument here. I’ve experience massive overhauls to my personality and the effort required to make them a reality. It doesn’t change the fact that my decision to do so was predicated on what came before… and what came before was irreducibly out of my hands. I am what I am because of what I was born with and what I have experienced since then. By the same logic, if you remove memories/experiences/genes from my total being, you change who I am. This is why we can understand and have compassion for a number of things.

      I once read an article regarding men who had been born with a birth defect that resulted in their having an extra Y chromosome. It was quite awhile ago so you’ll have to forgive me the specifics — I don’t have the statistics memorized, it was nearly ten years ago in a sociology class — but I do not think you’ll find the point of the findings very controversial.

      Basically, it showed that in the general population, the number of people who had this XYY birth defect was rather low, far below one percent. However, when one applied the same statistic to a prison population of men convicted of violent crimes, the percentage of the defect went up substantially. The reason hypothesized was that the extra Y chromosome was resulting in higher testosterone production in the XYY men vs the XY men. Higher testosterone of course having a proven link with heightened aggression and risky behavior…also known as the reason my car insurance was higher than my female counter parts of the same age until I turned 24.

      It was therefore more difficult for a male born with an XYY defect to coupe with their aggression, and as a result, we see higher incident of the defect within the prison population. So the question we have to ask ourselves becomes: if we had been born with the same propensity for excessive testosterone production, is it reasonable to assume we would have had a much more difficult time making decisions where aggression was not a far greater variable in the equation. If so, how much credit can I really give myself for not having this handicap where my XYY counterparts did? How much credit can I take for simply having a less aggressive biology to start with? For me, that answer is zero.

      1. I actually agree with you, I just wanted to play devil’s advocate. Considering I’ve run out of counter-arguments, I’ll just celebrate the fact that I might get to name a character.

        On another topic, as I enjoy writing fiction, do you have any tips for an aspiring author?

      2. Hi Jordan,

        I have a link above for the best resources I’ve found along the way: https://telleryhodges.com/1007-2/

        In addition, I really recommend listening to the Rocking Self Publishing Podcast. I was interviewed on an episode, you can listen to it here: http://rockingselfpublishing.com/hodges/

        Something that came to mind when I read your question: Find a story that carries a message you care about. Write the story, but when the time comes, edit out as much of the message as you can, and focus on the story. It seems counter intuitive, but if the story you created in order to encapsulate that message is working, you’ll find you’ve become much more fascinated with its mechanics. Your message won’t be lost, it’ll become the deeper meaning behind your character’s choices.

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