Palmer Joss: [Ellie challenges Palmer to prove the existence of God] Did you love your father?
Ellie Arroway: What?
Palmer Joss: Your dad. Did you love him?
Ellie Arroway: Yes, very much.
Palmer Joss: Prove it.
Quote thanks to imdb.com
This “oldie but goodie” is one of my all time favorites. I have always been fascinated by the faith versus science debate. Do faith and science have to be exclusive of each other, or can science prove matters of faith?
“Blessed are those who have not seen, but believe.” John 20:29
Jodie Foster plays Dr. Ellie Arroway, a SETI (Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) scientist whose mother died during childbirth and was raised by her father until his death when she was around 10. Early in her career, she ends up doing SETI work in Puerto Rico where she meets Palmer Joss, played by Matthew McConaughey, whose questions of faith get under the skin of Ellie and all those involved in SETI research. Her time in Puerto Rico is short-lived as funding is pulled and she ends up working for innovator S. R. Hadden.
Then one night, the team stumbles upon a signal. It isn’t long before they realize that embedded within the signal is video and plans for a machine. There’s a lot of fumbling for credit and questions as to whether or not this signal is friendly or not. But, eventually, the machine is built and the search is on for who will take the maiden voyage in the machine. Palmer Joss comes back on the scene and ends up on the committee who is in charge of selection and tanks Ellie’s chance to go out of fear of losing her.
But, nothing is simple, and the person chosen to go dies when a religious zealot sabotages the machine. But, government redundancy being what it is, there was a second one built simultaneously and secretly, and Ellie goes after all.
While gone, she has an amazing experience, however, all they see back on earth looks like nothing happened. So then, a big debriefing occurs and Ellie’s experience is questioned since she has no proof of her experience.
There are tons of faith verses science exchanges throughout the movie – I wish I could list them all, but then it’s a great reason to check it out for yourself.
So, what do we learn in our contact with Contact?
1. Just because it hasn’t been proven yet, doesn’t mean it won’t or can’t be. The battle between faith and science have been ongoing and what is interesting is how many times they actually seem to reinforce each other or that they’ve bowed to each other. The Catholic Church has apologized to Galileo for refusing to acknowledge that the Earth revolves around the Sun instead of vice versa. Catholic teaching at this point does not contradict evolution. You do not have to believe or deny the theory of evolution to be considered a Catholic in good standing. Those who choose to believe in evolution do so based on the idea that God’s time is not our standard seven-day calendar week. Therefore, the work of creating the world could have stretched across months, years or eons.
2. Watch what you say because one day, the shoe may be on the other foot. Ellie, I would venture to say, was atheist, but when it came to asking the panel to believe that she was really gone for about 15 hours, when all they saw was about two minutes of apparent failure. With no proof to speak of, she asked them to have faith in her. Sadly, her own arguments prior to her experience were used against her.
3. We are all searching for truth. Where do we come from? Why are we here? Are we alone? Are we as wired for God? Does God exist? What other questions might faith and science be trying to answer? Do you think they’ll come to an understanding, or do you think it will drive people to one side or the other?
4. Some of the most notable scientists have been believers. Why? Why are so many not? There’s an anecdote out there about Louis Pasteur and an atheist having a conversation when the atheist saw Pasteur pray the rosary. Whether or not the story is true, Pasteur was known for his Catholic faith. Many scientists claim that there is still too much out there that is unexplained to give up belief. Some say the more they learn, the more they believe in God because something so complex as our world and our bodies couldn’t be a fluke of misaligned atoms. Others, will always see science as proving we don’t need God. Does our upbringing or preconceived notions of faith affect how we view the findings in the field of science?
So, do you find yourself more in Ellie’s camp, or Palmer’s? Does it depend on the day, what’s going on in your life? Do you think Palmer ever waivered during the film?
So, if you haven’t seen this one in a while, I encourage you to watch it again… and if you’ve never seen it, it is a treat.