Did you hear the one about the guy who lived in the land of Uz, who was perfect and upright and feared God? His name was Job. In the new movie version, “A Serious Man,” some details have been changed. He’s called Larry Gopnik and he lives in Minnesota, where he teaches physics at a university. When we first meet Larry, in the spring of 1967, his tenure case is pending, his son’s bar mitzvah is approaching, and, as in the original, a lot of bad stuff is about to happen, for no apparent reason.
At work, Larry specializes in topics like SchrÃ¶dinger’s Paradox and the Heisenberg Principle — complex and esoteric ideas that can be summarized by the layman, more or less, as “God knows.” Because we can’t. Though if he does, he isn’t saying much.
As the Pontiff notes, A. O. Scott, the author of the review in question, can’t even be bothered to get the right names for the crucial scientific principles that he waves off as “complex and esoteric.” This is a pretty sad showing, given that I can explain them to my dog:
This is exactly the sort of thing that sets me off on rants about the innumeracy of intellectuals. Were I to write something about film that airily blew off “the incomprehensible foreign films of Bergdorf and Einstein,” Scott and other film critics would most likely write me off as a hopeless philistine for not knowing Bergman and Eisenstein.
But when it comes to science, it’s perfectly ok to not have the foggiest idea what you’re talking about. After all, it’s “complex and esoteric,” and not the sort of thing respectable people need to concern themselves with knowing…