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Neuroscience, Hinduism, and “Avatar”

Scene from Avatar

I really enjoyed the movie “Avatar,” which I saw on Sunday. News stories say that it cost $310 million to produce, and it’s easy to see where the money went. It’s right there on the screen.

As spectacular as the movie was, the story seemed to borrow ideas from a lot of places. I noticed two cases of that: one from neuroscience and one from comparative religion.

At one point in the movie, the chief scientist (played by Sigourney Weaver) says that each tree in the planet’s forest connects via its roots to 10,000 other trees in the forest. As it happens, each neuron (nerve cell) in the human brain connects to between 5,000 and 10,000 other neurons, although the number of connections can go even higher. So it seemed to me that by referring to 10,000 connections, the movie suggested that the forest was a giant brain and was conscious.

The indigenous people on the planet were called the Navi. Their most intimate greeting to each other is “I see you.” That seemed to have been suggested by Hindu religious beliefs. In Hinduism, darshan is a spiritual experience in which a person sees and is seen by God. To see or be seen is very significant.

Copyright 2009 by Rinth de Shadley.

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