Saturday, June 4, 2011

Faiths Double Edged Razor: A Theological Movie Review Of Contact

So I have been super busy in the last couple of weeks, with my BFFF's wedding. (I was the best man, cause I'm awesome) modifying my DVD towers and buying and trying to not fall off a unicycle, yeah, you heard me, a unicycle, so although most of this post was put together 3 weeks ago, it has taken until now to actually get it published. Sorry about that, I know how much your lives all revolve around my musings, so I will make sure to keep them coming for the next while at a steady pace. Now with that out of the way, onto the post.

It takes just as much faith to believe that there is no God as it does to believe that there is. Faith is a tricky thing, cause you can't always be 100% sure about what you believe. I actually think that God made it this way on purpose. You see, if everyone had unshakable irrefutable undeniable proof, that God is exactly who He says He is, (like in every gene that was spliced the words, ‘God Made This’ popped up, or God showed up on every TV, Internet and radio channel all across the world at the same time, and blew people away with his awesomeness, such much so that no one could be stupid enough to argue) then there would be no real choice on our side, we all would just believe and accept, but it would not be called faith. For example, no one doubts that people need oxygen to breath and continue living, not one person on the planet debates this, (and if they tried to without the use of oxygen it would be a pretty quick debate anyway) it doesn't take any faith to take in a breath of air and know that it is real. So instead of God removing all doubt from everyone, thus leaving us nothing to contribute, He gives us a bunch of proofs for those who want to look for them, (in nature, science, morality and the all important slices of toast which seem to have Jesus' face show up in them often) and allows us to say, "Ok, I believe!". Now, where I am going with all this is that in the movie Contact, this argument is brought forth in a really interesting way, looking at science, belief and faith and how they all actually share a lot more in common then we often think they do. So, with that, onto the movie.
Plot: That is the story for those who don't know.
As you might expect, the main plot point of Contact is about making contact, and in this case it is referring to aliens making contact with us. Now the driving force behind this discovery and the main character of the story is Dr. Ellie Arroway played by Jodi
Getting strong psychic vibrations here, I am seeing,
I am seeing.... aww crap, I lost it.
 Foster. She has been fascinated by radios and looking for extraterrestrial life since she was a child and carries this through to her career as a scientist, (they never really say what her official title is, so scientist it is) where she excels but turns down teaching positions to join SETI, which stands for Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (I cut and pasted this from Wiki so as to not get it wrong, aren't I smrt, I mean smart, yeah, definitely the second one), which most people in her field view as a waste of time and career suicide, (but she kinda had to do it, cause A: she passionately believes that there is life on planets, and B: if she didn't we wouldn't really have any kind of movie to watch now would we) So she goes to the Arecilbo Observatory in Puerto Rico where she is given time on a nice big radio to track for, "little
What do you mean I only take
my shirt off once, but I'm
Matthew McConaughey,
Don't they know that!
green men". It is here she meets a good looking "man of the cloth without a cloth" which means he was going to be a priest, but liked women, so he gave it up. Well "Not Quite Priest Guy", (played by Matthew McConaughey who for the first time ever only takes his shirt off once in a movie, this could be a sign of the apocalypse) and Ellie hit it off and although they both disagree about God and faith, quickly fall into bed together. Just as soon as this happens Ellie is kicked off of her ultra cool telescope and she bands together with her coworkers to try and find funding to continue listening for little
Pick Me Jodie Foster, Pick Me!

 green men in New Mexico. It is at this point she is given money by a super smart reclusive gazillionaire and the listening and searching continues. Cut to 4 years later and baddaboombaddabing all of a sudden a signal starts coming through and the entire world goes nuts, (well, that is the quick way of saying that the government jumps in,) so they get a signal, and sooner or later find a design for a machine in the signal and then it all becomes incredibly political with governments and committees deciding who is the person to go into the machine and represent the earth to who ever it was that sent the message. This is where "Not Quite Priest Guy" comes back into the picture, now as the Presidents spiritual adviser and famous pop culture writer, and Ellie and him start up their relationship again,  well, kinda.  From there, after a bunch of mishaps and problems, (you know, like people dying from massive explosions cause no one bothered to check the credentials of an incredibly easy to spot religious nut who was carrying a bomb, sure, like that would happen) and Ellie gets to go into the machine and has an experience that will change her life forever.
Ohhhh, The Claw, I mean, Ohhhh, The Machine
Main Theme: Belief in the unseen.
This is a theme that the whole movie pretty much depends upon, but funnily enough, I think many people miss the fact that Ellie's unwavering faith that there is life in the universe other then humanity, is completely unsupported by any actual fact. She believes so much that we are not alone, that she devotes her life to trying to prove it, yet, she can not understand how people can believe in God, (we will talk more about that later). The belief that whether there is proof or not that something "is" true pops up constantly in Contact, in the science talk but also in the faith talk as well. This climaxes in the end when all the same arguments that
Ellie being Razored
 Ellie used for God not existing earlier are then applied to her when she makes first person contact with aliens and has no proof for it. Believing in something that is unseen is essential for this story, as it is for people in the real world, (not the TV show from the late 90's, I actually mean the real world were we all live) and whether or not you doubt there is a God or not, we all have a belief in things we can not see, and often can not fully understand. For most of us, it all comes down to one of the two following five letter words, "Proof" or "Faith". That is what Contact is really about, the question of can you believe if you have no proof, especially if what you have instead of proof is a very deep personal experience. In the end, it leaves the answer up to the viewer, but it does do a great job in asking the question.

Would you  guys tell Jodie Foster to stop bothering me,
Just because I am green and little does not mean I am an alien.
I am not an alien, I am a monster being, thank you very much!

Theological discussion points
I will be really honest, I am finding this post incredibly hard to write right now, (this was three weeks ago remember) not sure why, so I am just going to give you some bullet points, and you can catch the bullets and do what you want with them*. Sound good? Yeah, ok, so let’s go.

•   Scientific faith, in such things like black holes, and light travel seems very acceptable, but God is impossible?
•   Why does a man who is considered to have the spiritual pulse of America defend the faith so poorly?
•   If Occam's Razor state"the easiest answer is most likely"****, why do they never bring up the fact that millions of years of chance with no direction what so ever is a lot harder to believe in and less likely then believing that a super powerful God made it?
•   Is proof really necessary for belief?
•   How many times does it take a wood chuck to eat pasta? What? Wood chucks don't eat wood, but they gotta eat something, don't they?

I don't know who this guy is but amen to that.

So, in closing, faith is necessary for, well, pretty much everything, and that’s all I got. Stay healthy imaginary webbers everywhere, and blog at you later.

*Word of caution, bullet catching is very dangerous, for cinematic proof check out Christopher Nolans brilliant film, The Prestige, where Christian Bales character loses a finger, and so does his brother. It must be hard being brothers.**
**I just did two thing there, I made a Forest Gump reference, and I just spoiled a part of The Prestige for anyone who hasn't seen it, well at least I didn't mention the cloning thing, cause then I would just be a jerk.***
****I actually found out that Contact was not really using Occam's Razor properly, and it actually flat out misquotes it, so for anyone who is interested, it actually states, "one should not increase, beyond what is necessary, the number of entities required to explain anything", so Hollywood got it wrong, shocking!


  1. hey its me again (davis) In response to your questions/discussion points:
    Scientific faith, in such things like black holes, and light travel seems very acceptable, but God is impossible?

    It's not quite the same. First of all define light travel, I have no idea what you mean. On black holes there is a good sized body of evidence for their existance, and unless the laws of physics are horribly wrong they HAVE to exist given the cosmic conditions.

    f Occam's Razor state"she easiest answer is most likely"****, why do they never bring up the fact that millions of years of chance with no direction what so ever is a lot harder to believe in and less likely then believing that a super powerful God made it?

    because there is a good sized body of evidence for evolution. The use of ocam's razor in this situation basically means that there is a large body of evidence that explains the diversity of life (evolution), and it would complicate things unneccesarily if frequent major direct divine intervention was in the process as well. (disclaimer: this is on the use of a principle, not my opinion, my opinion is more complicated)

    on "It takes just as much faith to believe that there is no God as it does to believe that there is"

    not really, it just takes someone who says " there is no proof (at least from his point of view), so there probably isn't a God". All this takes is someone who is very skeptical, not really much faith.

  2. Hey Davis,

    I just put together an awesome response, and then my computer lost it all, so here is the quick version

    -They talk about light travel in the movie, that is what I am talking about.
    - Evidence is not proof, no one has seen a black hole or light traveled, so saying that they exist is an act of faith that the laws of physics work.
    - The razor, I am not debating proof for evolution, actually I am pointing out that they are ignoring proofs for God and just chock it up to people wanting their to be a God.
    - Razor part 2, I am more refering that God is a much simpler answer for the beginning of life, evolution is not being debated here.
    - I am not talking about skeptics needing just as much faith as people of faith, I am talking about people that have examined life and religion and science and have come to the conclusion that God is not real. Those people then have to base their entire lives around this beleif, cause it should impact their morals and choices, it takes a heck a lot of faith to live your life this way, cause you have to believe as much as a person of faith that you are right. That is faith, just not in God.

    Thats all, thanks for reading and for your comment Davis, I always value your input.


  3. on light travel

    for this I will assume that you mean light speed travel or faster then light travel. This is purely science fiction for the moment. There are VERY few serious scientists that will tell you that FTL is possible. In the scientific community this (aside from several improbable solutions that are basically impossible [ex. one uses relativity, but needs negative mass])is viewed as an impossibility.

    On black hole proof
    It is actually impossible to SEE a black hole by definition. However if telescopes and cameras are to be believed they have located several objects that have basically been proven to be black holes, via accretion disk and other methods. There is currently nothing in the laws of physics besides black holes that can produce these phenomenon (at least not to my knowledge), so they are accepted to be black holes. Also if nothing that is unseen can be considered “proven” then global warming, the ozone layer and several species of elemental particles are not “proven to exist”.

    On razor part 1 and 2
    This will take too long, we need to have this part of the conversation in person.

    On skeptics/morality etc.
    If people decide that God doesn’t exist why should they base their morality around this idea, wouldn’t they just keep living their lives largely the same because of convenience, possibly accept any given philosophical outlook, or just do whatever they want rather then basing their lives around their lack of belief? Also to clarify what does basing their lives around a lack of belief mean? (specific examples please)

  4. Yeah, Davis, we need to do this in person.