Based on the book by Carl Sagan (famous atheist astronomer). Starring Jodi Foster as Dr. Eleanor (Ellie) Arroway and Matthew McConaughey as Palmer Joss.

Contact reminded me a lot of Abyss in it's attempt to extract morality from science. Both movies give the lesson: "It's gonna take aliens to show you silly humans how to co-exist." Also, both movies are relatively mundane until the last 15 minutes, when one daring person encounters the dazzling aliens.

Ellie learns from her hardships not to trust anything but science. Then she runs into a missionary/priest named Palmer Joss. She's hot for him and he's hot for her, so they decide to do each other. Eventually, though, her scientific convictions win her over and she leaves him in favor of listening for signals from space aliens.

After four years of listening to static Ellie's diligence pays finally off: She hears and records the first ever message from space aliens. Much to everyone's surprise, the message is a recording of the first television broadcast, which happens to be Hitler delivering an energetic speech to his fellow Nazis (you know, that same clip we always see on the History channel). This is less than ideal because people start thinking that maybe the aliens are Nazis. A few other things go wrong, but Ellie eventually gets to travel through a worm hole using a large "wormhole digging tool," (as translated directly from the alien blueprints). The wormhole digger works. She contacts the aliens and lives to tell about it. Unfortunately, no one back on earth believes her.

I think that Carl Sagan sees himself as a real-life Dr. Eleanor Arroway. He sees himself as one independent thinker amongst a sea of religious/militaristic/governmental zombies. He is Jodi Foster, sitting there in front of a board of interviewers, battling that scourge called "religion" that oppresses ninety-something percent of the world. Much like Jodi Foster, Sagan is determined to prove that wormholes and aliens exist, which will, in turn, prove that God does not exist. Step aside you bomb-strapped Jesus freaks! Step aside you closed minded military guys who wants to nuke the world... make way for progress! Make way for Science!

(beware of this man)

Seriously, though, Sagan must have had a few disenchanting experiences with religion, probably some sect of Christianity. The same is probably true of Jodi Foster as well, or else she would not have taken that role.

In light of this, Carl Sagan and anyone who hides behind religion to excuse their disbelief should know: God has between little and nothing to do with religion. For your own sakes, get over it.

Sagan does make a good point, albeit indirectly, about the majority of the world being religious. Carl Sagan, for example, is religious.

Being a fanatic can be a good thing... it just depends on what you're fanatical for. Carl Sagan, for example, is fanatical for atheistic science. The fruit of his dedication is: He can point out what he does not want to be (a religious fanatic), but he can't point out what he actually wants to be.

Note: The religious nut with the blond hair (pictured above) is not a Christ-follower. A true follower of Christ wouldn't be so insecure about scientific exploration because God is not insecure about scientific exploration. Why would God be insecure about exploring His own creation?

Of all the causes in the world, the one most worthy of fanaticism is Jesus Christ. Christ-followers (if they are for real) are fanatical about everything that is good, pure, admirable and praise-worthy. In short, they obey God.

The more Christ-followers there are in the world, the better off the world will be. For example, people who imitate Christ will sacrifice themselves for the good of others. They will do what's right even when no one is looking. They will excel at whatever they do. Such people will stick to their word, they will be unconditionally loving and they will rejoice to learn any truth, no matter where it comes from.


Anonymous said...

For me, the moment this film reached it's zenith was the moment Ellie was asked if they (being the Government and population of the Earth) should take her "experience" with the aliens on faith. What makes this interesting is that we are ready to accept our own faith, but struggle to accept others, especially if that faith is different from our own.

Pat R said...

interesting, it didn't occur to me that her testimony before those people was in fact a statement of faith, thx for the input rodney

Anonymous said...


Carl Sagan was not a fanatic atheist trying to prove that God does not exist. I have read Pale Blue Dot by Carl Sagan in the past and learned that he did not believe that we should let our intellect be confounded by our limited ability to understand, especially not that of the religious flesh.

Having said that, Ellie in Contact experiences an anomaly represented by a worm hole. The known physical laws governing space and time seized to exist and could only be accepted by having faith in the message of in this case “Ellie”.

In a sense you could see that as a mystical experience. We have faith in the message of Jesus. Still it was an “experience” to be submerged in his essence, life itself that made me fully accept the words of Jesus.

I hope others will someday “experience” that also.

H. Blum

Abecedarius Rex said...

I find it odd that moderns, so devoid of real stories, are so ready to abandon the great story of Christianity for the more paltry and titillating story of aliens and alien contact. This latter story is something of angels clothed in modern garb. Unfortunately, try as Sagan and others might, they can't quite instill their stories of Aliens coming "To Serve Man" with same sort of hope and joy which emanates from the story of suffering, death, and resurrection. Perhaps if Jesus were in modern times he might say "Do you think I cannot call on my Mothership, and it will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of aliens?" Doesn't quite have the zing of Matthew 26...

Pat R said...

But that's what i mean exactly... it's okay to admit that a person is fanatical for one thing or another. Carl Sagan is a fanatical atheist; i say that to his credit. He has decided what he believes (or doesn't believe) which we can tell by the way he dedicates himself wholeheartedly to that belief (disbelief).

And i agree with you that experience is vital. no need being in denial of our genuine experience... God's certainly not afraid to acknowledge reality seein's how He invented it.

Mark of Cascadia said...

Thanks for leaving a comment about The Abyss on my blog. I've seen it quite a few times. I took the time to read your postings on Contact and The Abyss and you have interesting takes on both films, although I'm certainly not in agreement with all of your viewpoints. I especially cannot agree that Carl Sagan was a "fanatical atheist." The whole idea that disbelief is a form of belief . . . well, how is that possible when by definition they are opposites. Sagan was a skeptic that required evidence for things like alien spaceships. And scientists welcome criticism and the opportunity to be disproved, because it expands our knowledge. I consider myself an agnostic because I have no way of proving or disproving the existence of a god. I'm always a little dumbfounded by believers, who claim to know not only that God exists, but what his intentions are.

Anonymous said...

There were several key scenes in the movie that struck me as some insight into Dr. Sagan's position.
There was the one point where Ellie and her friend were talking about God and she said that she required proof. His response was that he asked her if she loved her father. She of course said that she did and he replied, "prove it". He placed the onus on her to prove something that was unprovable, yet true nonetheless thereby demonstrating that just because there is no proof of God, does not mean that there is no God.
The second scene is just as what Rodney said. The board of inquiry asks her to prove what happened to her was real, and she couldn't.
I actually met Dr. Sagan once at a seminar. I only got to speak to him for a moment, but my impression was that he wanted to believe, but his whole life had trained him not to without proof. He just couldn't get past that. Alas, I fear that as kind and brilliant as he was, he is doomed. But at lest now he has his proof.
He was the first person to bring to my attention that proof and faith are mutually exclusive of each other. Faith does not seek proof, and proof leaves no room for faith.

Anonymous said...

Please, please, please people! Stop talking about what you think Sagan's point of view is based on a Hollywood movie. Read the book.

Better yet, skip "Contact" and pick up a copy of "Cosmos" or "Pale Blue Dot". You owe it to yourself to give him a fair shake.

Anonymous said...

Do yourself a favor and read the book. Obviously the book differs quite widely from the movie; but importantly it does so on several points you've decided are key. First of all in the movie there is not just one person who meets the aliens. Second of all the book goes much deeper into the theist/atheist debate and the concepts of evidence and bible prophecy. Most dramatically, the conclusion of the book is precisely that Ellie proves that the universe is "intelligently designed".

Anonymous said...

Carl Sagan was NOT a fanatical athiest. I have read everything he ever wrote...every article, published paper, research piece as well as most interviews. I even had the pleasure of discussing some of this with him at Cornellon several occasions. His views on religion and the claims by people that he was some sort of militantly anti religious person or rigorously athiestic are just plain wrong..and it actually bothered Carl somewhat that his views were taken quite out of context and mistakenly as a trophy for real fanatical atheists ...or more to point, what he referred to them as....anti-religious...not simply content to follow their own belief system, but felt the need to attack those who didn't. He gave a talk at Cornell where he spoke on this subject at length and pointed out the irony of professors right there at that university who on the one hand decried (rightfully) religious zealots for trying to prosthletize people in the past then would go out the next day and get in someones face to tell them they were wrong for not believing as they were.

The bottom line is that Sagan is *grossly* misunderstood on this subject...

Pat R said...

again, i'm not saying it's a bad thing to be fanatical... whatever you do, it's good to be be all-in, or all-out

I'm sure the book is more detailed and goes deeper into everything, but most people will see the movie and never read the book. Like it or not, most people these days prefer moving talking pictures as a medium of communication, learning and especially for entertainment. That's the premise for this blog as well, that's why i concentrate on movies even if they're based on books.

The movie Contact may not convey every jot and tittle that Carl Sagan intended in his novel, but we can at least watch this movie and see the fruits of his efforts. as Jesus said, "By their fruit you can know them."