This Friday, Americans will once again be able to join hands and come together in a unifying event, watching New York City laid to waste in all its cinematic splendor. The Day After Tomorrow rains down on theaters, proving once and for all that you can knock us down, but you will never crush our collective will, our unalienable right, to waste $15 (including medium popcorn and jumbo cola) watching the "fantasy" destruction of Manhattan.

A quick plot summary: global warming goes haywire, massive climate swings, unpleasant tempests ensue, people die, weathered bureaucrat says "I'm too old for this s-t," two young Hollywood hotties save the world then make out. The End. It's the type of big, dumb, $125-million spectacle that makes half-a-billion-dollars even though nobody seems to know anyone who has actually seen it. Oddly though, this science fiction movie has kicked up a tornado of controversy by using fictional science as its celluloid culprit. It's become a referendum on global warming and whether or not the events are "possible." They're not.

Which is not to say that global warming doesn't exist; it does, no matter what sort of "consensus" the White House is waiting for (and if you don't buy into global warming, well here's another organization that's looking for members). What is interesting is that ridiculous movie premise is being viewed by many environmental scientists as a good opportunity to spread the word about global warming. And in a related story, Splash is being re-released to get kids interested in marine biology.

Opponents are howling that it's cheap to use the massive, computer-effects-laden tsunamis and blizzards as a starting point for a debate on the state of Earth. It may seem paranoid and silly to be railing against Hollywood schlock, even if you are in the Flat-Earth Society, but they have a point. The Day After Tomorrow website links harrowing movie stills with stats such s, "in 2003 the hottest European summer on record caused more than 20,000 deaths" and "1.25 million species of plants and animal will be committed to extinction by 2050 due to global warming." If coupling computer imagery of a burning sun and an ice age with raw data isn't dishonest, it's certainly misleading and clear that the intent is to draw parallels between global warming and deadly Gotham big-screen plagues.

Twisting science to sell junk seems out-of-bounds. What does it say about the respect for the knowledgeable when some scientists feel they have to embrace a B-movie as an learning tool? It says science is on par with all the other marketing mechanisms at our disposal. But then again, why shouldn't science be treated like all the other gimmicks used to push product? Phony statistics and pseudo-science is used to promote all brands of partisan arguments or to ignore ones that don't fit with a prepackaged agenda. And it starts at the top. When 20 Nobel Laureates have to join a group called the, "Union of
Concerned Scientists" because facts are routinely ignored when they don't jibe with their layman's opinion, then maybe it is time to fight fire with fireballs -- blazing fireball infernos and Earth-shaking rains, coming The Day After Tomorrow.

In the words of Hippocrates, "There are in fact two things, science and opinion; the former begets knowledge, the latter ignorance." And boffo box office for a disaster/educational film steeped in science fiction.

Published on: May 24, 2004