Sunday, September 6, 2015

Interstellar and Religious Dialogue

Just got back from vacation in Ireland. I saw Interstellar in the plane. I know I am way late to these things because I don't see all the latest movies. Still I thought is was pretty thought provoking. I fount a review in Christianity Today that picked up on some of those themes. Still I thought the stuff I read still missed a lot. I don't see the fact that movies tackle the same questions as religion as being that interesting. Of course these do. These are the deepest questions of human existence. Nobody denies that. So artists as well as scholars are going to address them. What I find interesting is that the artists give answers that have the same problems that bother skeptics so much about Christianity. Atheists sometimes claim that they could design a better word that the Christian God designed for us. Obvious they don't give details. Yet when even gifted SciFi writers try and imagine another world it runs into the same questions. I will explain after the break but there will be spoilers there.

The two big objections to Christianity are: Why is there evil? and Why isn't God more obvious? The two answers are love and faith. Love requires the possibility of selfishness which opens the door to evil. Faith requires the freedom to disbelieve which means the evidence can't be overwhelming. In this movie you see both love and faith on display. How do they get around the objections? Mostly they don't.

People say God should make Himself more obvious. If He really wants to be in relationship with us and is really so powerful then why does He make it so easy to dismiss the evidence? Yet what happens in this movie. A super-intelligent entity communicates with people but with only a few people and only in an indirect way. It is so hard to believe that only one person really believes it. Why does he make it so hard? That is never really explained. It just is. 

Then there is love. Love is an important theme of the movie. Is there something more to love than our brains being evolved to fool us? To make us better at conceiving and nurturing children? The movie says Yes. Yet we still wonder why. Or do we? At some level we know love is something so special that wondering why makes little sense.

The other objection is why it take so long? Christianity says God is love and we claim God has been teaching us to love since ancient times. Atheists balk at that. Why does the book of Judges seem to have a less perfect love than the New Testament? Yet these apostles of love start at some date in the future after the human species is in danger of extinction on earth. If you can go back in time then why not start earlier?

The other thought I had was the strength of St Thomas Aquinas' proofs for an uncaused cause. The manipulate time and make current man dependent on future man. Obviously future man also depends on current man. So it becomes a chicken and egg thing. Both depend on each other. That still leaves the question of why this dependency exists. To explain eggs in terms of chickens and chickens in terms of eggs does not really answer why that species exists at all. The same question would exist with time if we depended on future humans to save us. History would be a circle of dependency but how would the circle come into being? 

I found it interesting that Cooper would just assert that this amazingly advanced piece of technology that was obviously manufactured just to save the human species must have been made by future human generations. Knowing the nasty causality problem that creates it is just about the least rational theory out there. Another contemporary civilization would make more sense. Yet they would need a cause and meaning and all those things. It seems like in this story humanity itself is the great uncaused cause. Yet where does the essence of humanity reside and why should individual humans care about it? 

I guess I think about these questions so much it is hard not to scrutinize everything that way. I still enjoyed the movie. I was able to suspend disbelief even while asking these questions. The premise has enough detail thought out to work as a story. 

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