Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Reexamining Contact

Early in the semester we covered the topics of faith and belief in God. One of the examples which we discussed thoroughly in class was the movie Contact. In the film, Ellie is overlooked for a mission to contact alien life because of her agnostic beliefs. An attack on the mission kills the committee’s chosen candidate, Drumlin, and Ellie is asked to take his place. When Ellie’s perception of time during the mission is different than the rest of the people on Earth, a formal inquiry is conducted to find “what really happened.”

But what if the attack had not occurred? If Drumlin had been sent on the mission, and had a similar experience to Ellie, would his reception have been different? Drumlin believed in God before the start of the mission, would this change the official reaction to his description if events? In this question we examine not only a gender reversal, but a faith reversal.

First, consider the matter of gender. Women are typically considered to be more emotional in our society. They have lower levels of authority and status. Men are viewed to be more self-regulating and less communal. In most situations, the word of a man is taken with more authority than that of a woman. So purely based on his gender, Drumlin’s story would be more believable than Ellie’s was. (1)

Now let’s take into account Drumlin’s faith. Would his faith have allowed him to better relate the events that occurred than Ellie? He believes in the existence of God, something that cannot ever be proven. This gives him a previous foundation on non-fact based argument and possibly a point of connection for others to understand his experience on the mission. If he were to connect his faith that what happened was real to a faith in God, it would give others who believe in God a way to relate to his experience. This most likely would also give him an advantage over Ellie in his attempt to convince the world his experiences actually happened.

Maybe, Drumlin was the best candidate for the mission. Not because of what he may have found when he the transport was activated, but because of what he would face when he stepped out. His faith gives him a basis of communication which Ellie lacks and his gender lends him more credibility. But still I can’t fault Ellie’s doubts or her honesty.

Kierkegaard held an interesting opinion on faith and doubt. He believed that real faith couldn’t exist without doubts, supporting a kind of agnostic theism. A rational mind will always have doubts about what can’t be objectively proved.  If a person believes in Christianity without admitting to himself the thing cannot be proved, he is credulous. Kierkegaard wrote, “Doubt is conquered by faith, just as it is faith which has brought doubt into the world.” (2)

11.       Carli, Linda L. "Gender and Social Influence." Journal of Social Issues 57.4 (2001): 725-41. Print.
22.       "Søren Kierkegaard." Søren Kierkegaard (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy). Stanford University, 3 Dec. 1996. Web. 01 May 2012. <http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/kierkegaard/>.

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