Monday, August 22, 2011

Why isn't the movie "Contact" named "Touch."

A movie review, for your speculative pleasure, of the movie Contact (1997). It came out 14 years ago, and late is what you get when your reviewer doesn't read much fiction and has no interest in getting cable tv. I did find Contact the movie interesting, but I am not sure how much it was changed from Sagan's book (Contact, 1985). My assumption will be little and then if I read the book I might revise.  Especially would I like to know if that last scene with religion and science snogging in the back seat of a cab was in the book. Regardless, one thing you see in Contact is how important religion is to science. The gap between the worlds of science and religion, in reality, as someone said of C. P. Snow's picture, a small ditch, is important to science's self understanding, and the movie is evidence of this aspect of modern science. Since any substance to talk of a conflict between science and religion, died a century ago, the question becomes why science insists on beating a dead hamster. My words do not characterize the great ones, of course, like Roger Penrose, but rather the culture of the natural sciences.

So we learn that people are in agony because of the emptiness of the universe. Empty because something that never existed, has gone. For some the truth, no matter what it turns out to be, is invigorating,  but in Contact, the story is sketched that humanity aches for the loss of -- an illusion. We are assuming for the sake of this review, such is plausible.

Do scientists ever get out of the lab? They could at least try a little introspection. As Jan Cox said, you have a laboratory right here (and he would gesture to his skull). That might mitigate the intellectual vapidity of the conclusion of Contact. But our purpose now is just to sketch the issues as we see them in the movie Contact. Facing reality is tough, and only helped by the fact we have other people. That's the message of the movie. But the message is incoherent if examined. Why do these other people have to be on other planets. If other people is the answer, you do have masses of them in most malls. What does it matter if there are other people on other planets, if the existence of other people is the only anodyne for the loss of something which never existed. No one really doubts there are other people on this planet, so how does finding people on other planets ease one's pain?

We have, regardless of whether the book is more sensible than the movie, the unexamined suppostions of the world view of the average scientist, in this Hollywood production. I say unexamined because what is apparent in the movie is that science needs a devil. Now religion has been confused about the status of evil for millenia. That science needs a devil is a more interesting aspect of the modern world. And that devil, for science, is religious fundamentalism. And it has apparently never occurred to scientists that if they just ignored the representatives of that view, that maybe fundamentalism would fade away. But to ignore the fundamentalists would mean maybe, scientists seeing what they have in common with the fundamentalists. For these common factors, when compared to the direction of a Real Teacher, make science and religion alike in certain basic features. Science and religion you see, both, have to have this: religion and science both have to have a --story. Only a Real Teacher can imagine being just on the brink of a story, and being able to balance there. To be continued....

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