What You Missed In Jodie Foster's Movie, Contact

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Contact is a fictional book written by a well known atheist (and strong supporter of the existence of aliens) named Carl Sagan. His main goal in writing the novel was to ridicule Christianity. It was Carl's best shot at proving atheism was the only true belief. Within the book, Sagan discusses the relationship between science and faith. He establishes that science has all the answers without God. Hollywood discovered the story line and developed a movie out of it. The main character, Ellie Arroway, represents science. Carl Sagan wrote himself in to be her part. The antagonist, Palmer Joss, represents Sagan's view of faith. The two characters, as well as what they represent, are constantly being compared and contrasted throughout the film. Science and faith are intertwined in each other more than Carl Sagan ever imagined.

For a writer who is so blatantly anti-Christian, Sagan is awfully familiar with the idea of General revelation. General revelation is the knowledge of God that can be seen through nature taken and interpreted from the passages in Romans 1: 19-20, which says, "[S]ince what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse."

Throughout Contact, characters are mesmerized by the heavens. Ellie gives a compelling testimony about the aliens she sees and how spectacular all that creation is. Even Palmer talks about his general revelation experience when he looked at the stars and, "I knew I wasn't alone…it was God."

When any of the characters look at the stars, they can't believe how magnificent they all are. God has made plain to these scientists his existence through the heavens and they use it as proof against him. If anything, science should make faith stronger. A Christian would see the heavens and all of creation and refer to them as general revelation as described in Romans 1.

Psalm 8 says, "You have set your glory in the heavens…when I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?…" All of these things are done by Ellie. She fantasized about alien civilizations and completely misses the big picture.

Romans 1:22-25 says, "Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images…They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator…" This is the big picture Ellie is missing. She fails to realize that she is worshiping science.

Science is not fact, instead, it is the study of the universe. It is studied by humans and is, in turn, faulty. Science is something human created, not God created. She has general revelation, but she worships the creation and not the creator. Psalm 19:1 says, " The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands…" According to Ellie, the heavens declare there must be aliens. Looking for aliens is not looking nearly far enough.

Ellie had been to Sunday School before, dabbling in religion as a child. She was "asked not to return" and thus turned her back on any idea of religion. Romans 1:21-23 says, "For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being…" Ellie became foolish by thinking that aliens were all that there was. The aliens themselves were futile in their thinking that the emptiness is only bearable with others. Even the alien she saw was in the image of her father, a mortal human. She has faith in that alien when she returns because they sent to proof with her to show everyone that she really did visit them. Everything Ellie does concerning her faith in aliens mimics the kind of faith she should have in God, basically worshiping the belief in the existence of aliens. This being when the existence of God is right before her. Sagan portrays general revelation almost perfectly, and the movie still is supposed to ridicule, not support, Christianity.

Science and Faith are related on a rocky ledge. It would be very easy to slide to one side and disregard the other. Science is the study of creation. It cannot be worshiped because without the creator it would be nothing. Faith is the same way. It's the idea of having a creator to believe in. Without the creator, of course, faith would be nothing either.

Palmer is the only one who understands the big picture. He says, "Nothing [about science is wrong], so long as your motivation is the search for Truth." This search for Truth is the very foundation on which his faith was built. He had a general revelation while looking at the sky, as Romans 1 describes. Ellie, or Sagan, however, does not understand that Science without Faith is meaningless. They must go together to understand what is possible about God.

Sagan unknowingly shows his ignorance by contradicting himself. His goal was to ridicule faith, but his character of faith seems to be more rational than the others. He portrays faith as inconclusive, whereas, his character of Ellie is the one changing sides. Ellie is the one who is supposed to be all science but her dialogue becomes faith-like, similar to Palmer's. Ellie, science, and Palmer, faith, are constantly meeting and separating and meeting again. If science was completely unrelated to faith, the two shouldn't meet at all. They find common ground at the end of the movie, but they shouldn't with Sagan's philosophy. Sagan contradicts himself again with his beloved aliens, as well. They don't know who was there before them, who created the 'transit system' or who created the creator of the machine was. This sounds remarkably God-like, but Sagan doesn't believe in God.

Science without faith would not fill a person with awe as Ellie says it would. "I wish that everyone, if even for one moment, could feel that awe and humility and hope…" Science does not make a person humble. It does quite the opposite. Science with faith, on the other hand, would make someone hopeful in the power of God, humble because only God is that magnificent and full of awe because only God can do such great things. Aliens don't make people feel insignificant; God does.

Ellie is constantly searching for meaning within science. In Palmer's book, he says, "Ironically, the thing that people are the most hungry for…meaning…is the one thing that science hasn't been able to give them." Science cannot offer meaning, only God can do that. Ellie thinks that, "[S]cience simply revealed that he [God] never existed in the first place?" Palmer changes the subject because Sagan didn't want faith to have any answers. Really, though, Ellie just missed the whole idea of science. Ellie is willing to give her life to the discovery of aliens, all for the sake of finding meaning. Meaning cannot be supplied through science, but with the help of science through faith, truth and meaning can be found.

Things don't work out for Ellie when faith isn't in her life. She loses her funding, and finds direction, but never resorts back to faith. It is faith that tries to work its way back into her life. Palmer doesn't want to lose Ellie, and without realizing it, Sagan contradicted himself again because
science and faith belong together, and he had the characters play that out.

The characters never seem satisfied with simply science. When Ellie is talking to the alien, Sagan's ideas show through. The alien refers to the human race as 'lost'. Sagan thinks that the existence in aliens will love the problem. Aliens won't solve the problem. Science alone won't solve the problem. The characters that represent science are in a search that wont be fulfilled. Palmer isn't searching for meaning because he found his in faith. Ellie finds her faith in science and, more importantly, aliens. Without her faith, her testimony would be nothing. There was the acknowledgement that faith must be present to find fulfillment and meaning.

It is easy to confuse the lines between science and faith. Faith is a belief in something bigger, something that cannot be proved with evidence, but has already been made evident to humanity. Science, according to Sagan, is the idea that all that exists is what can be seen and proved. The distinction between the two must be made. They fill in each others gaps. They are incomplete without each other. It is easy separate them because it is easy to not understand how related and interwoven they are. The process of understanding is key.





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