"Dad, do you think there are people on other planets?" asks eight-year-old Ellie in Warner Brothers' science fiction movie Contact.
"If there's just us, it seems like an awful waste of space!" answers her father, affirming his daughter's single-minded quest for contact with extra-terrestrials.
The story, based on Carl Sagan's book by the same title, leaps ahead to the desert research station where astronomer Dr. Ellie Arroway, played by Jodie Foster, works on a SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) project. She meets theologian Palmer Joss whose spiritual experience confirms to him the presence of "God" - a god that fits today's demand for spirituality without moral accountability.
But Ellie isn't convinced. "What if science proved that God never existed in the first place?" she asks.
Interesting question! For Ellie, the humanist, God and science are incompatible. But Palmer brings the two together by adapting them to the trends of our times. Both God and science are transferred from the old foundations of absolute truth and fact into the realm of fuzzy science and global spirituality. Not surprisingly, this new blend matches the teachings of UN leader, educator, and occultist Robert Muller who wrote,
"The scientists have now come to the end of their wisdom. This is where spirituality or religion comes in. Science in my view is part of the spiritual process; it is a transcendence and elevation of the human race into an ever vaster knowledge and consciousness of the universe."
This vast consciousness fits into the new paradigm-the fast-spreading world view or mental framework that sees the world from a global perspective. In this mystical system of evolving truths and values, perception counts more than proof - which today's polls and politics heartily confirm. Apparently, the public is more easily led by impressions and feelings than by facts and logic.
Since social change - or a paradigm shift - is the stated goal of media leaders as well as leading educators, consider the suggestive power of some of Contact's memorable impressions:
Palmer Joss believes in "God", carries what looks like a Bible, but he and Ellie sleep together on their first date.
During a flashback to her father's funeral, a formal, insensitive pastor fails to comfort nine-year-old Ellie.
The sensitive, empathetic Palmer, now spiritual adviser to President Clinton (whose unauthorized appearance further blurs reality), emphasizes relationships, meaning, empathy, and spirituality as ways to happiness.
The noisy tent camp outside the research center where Ellie made contact with the distant star, Vega, includes an eclectic assembly of musicians, skinheads, spiritualist, and UFO fans. A sign says, "Jesus is an alien." An angry-looking man with long blond hair preaches in front of a banner saying "Repent! Purge the evil!"
Inspired by Palmer, an international panel disqualifies Ellie as a candidate for the space trip since, as an atheist, she cannot travel as ambassador for a planet where 95% believe in some kind of god.
A terrorist (the blond fanatical preacher above) blows up the first space station with its key people.
Ellie journeys to Vega, meets a shape-shifting alien in the form of her loving father, returns to earth without evidence, and must admit that her new faith - like Palmer's - is based solely on her own experience.
Those impressions reflect the three paradigms of the last thirty years: Ellie, an atheist who refused to believe what empirical evidence can't prove, typifies the futility of the humanist paradigm. Palmer represents the global paradigm where science merges with an evolving global spirituality - a blend of religions with a universal god as changeable and amoral as the human imagination. Finally, the "religious fanatic" who turns to terrorism suggests the danger of fundamental Christianity - as seen from the perspective of the global paradigm.
CHRISTIANITY HUMANISM GLOBALISM Old Paradigm Transition New Paradigm The Bible reveals reality Science alone explains reality Feelings and experience prove reality God is personal and greater than His creation God is an illusion A impersonal universal god or force unites all things and people Don't tolerate sin (but love sinners) Tolerate all lifestyles Don't tolerate critics of the global community
In Contact, the three paradigms are seen through the mind of the late Carl Sagan. Since he, like Ted Turner and other former humanists, apparently embraced the global paradigm toward the end of his life, the movie shows his bias: Christianity is bad; atheistic humanism is inadequate; and globalism is essential to peace and unity.
Contact not only turns Biblical values upside-down ("Woe to those who call evil good and good evil"), it does so while assuring the audience that it's myth is actually the truth. Thus producer Robert Zemeckis fulfilled his goal: "to create an absolutely realistic representation of a fantastic event." He made science fiction seem as true as factual science.
So when Ellie finally makes contact with "people on other planets", it makes sense. The audience feels her joy and shares her experience. The event adds credibility to the California-based SETI Institute and its costly quest for alien encounters. After all, Ellie wouldn't believe in them if they weren't real, would she? And she wouldn't be so sure they would be good if they could be evil, would she?
To make full use of the soaring interest in extraterrestrials fueled by Contact, the SETI Institute has prepared education programs for elementary grades. Book 3 in its Life in the Universe Series invites students to join "Mission 10: Inventing Life Forms." Young would-be creators learn to "synthesize knowledge and creative imagination to visualize the evolution of life" on other planets. They must roll "a dice to simulate the role of chance in the evolution of your extraterrestrial creature."
For example, "if you roll a 1 or 2, your species has two sexes, [and] every individual has only one sex (like people and other mammals)." The numbers 3 or 4 means that "your species has two sexes [but] every individual has both sexes." The numbers 5 or 6 means that "your species has three sexes."
The key points in the lessons are "chance" and "evolution." There's no personal Creator. But there are all kinds of seductive impressions that fit the new values and ways of thinking.
These seductions spread through many channels, and each channel complements the other. By merging with Time magazineand absorbing Ted Turner's television and education programs, TIME-WARNER gained control over a media empire with four arms: books, magazines, movies and television. Each plays its part in changing the mind of America. So when the TIME-WARNER' top-selling novel, The Celestine Prophecy, popularized the paradigm shift in 1993, it helped prepare the public for Contact's message. Listen to author James Redfield's summary:
"For half a century now, a new consciousness has been entering the human world... We know that life is really about a spiritual unfolding that is personal and enchanting -- an unfolding that no science or philosophy or religion has yet fully clarified... [O]nce we understand... how to engage this allusive process and maximize its occurrence in our lives, human society will take a quantum leap into a whole new way of life..."
All that any of us have to do is suspend our doubts and distractions just long enough... and miraculously, this reality can be our own.
Those who refuse to suspend their doubts and flow with this new way of thinking will not fit into the new "sustainable communities" planned by President Clinton's Commission on Sustainable Development (PCSD). People who cling to absolute truths and scientific facts will fail at the consensus process designed to involve every person - young and old - in the new "participatory democracy."
Such uncompromising separatist will be labeled extremists, radicals, obstacles to unity and solidarity. "Their coalition," declared Time magazine after the Oklahoma bombing, "included well known-elements of far-right thought: tax protesters, Christian homeschoolers, conspiracy theorists... and self-reliant types who resent a Federal Government that seems to favor grizzly bears and wolves over humans...."
Facts, truth, and logic can't discredit genuine Christianity. Misleading media and movie images that link us to terrorism, violence, and anti-social behavior will. Hiding deceptive impressions behind fictional science and love in movies such as Contact speeds the process.
Jesus' message - "no one comes to the Father but through Me" - is intolerable to a world that applauds all spiritual paths. Its ways are broad and well-traveled, while God's way seems far too narrow. Those who base their faith on their own spiritual experience will reject our God and despise His followers. For "the whole world is under the control of the evil one" (1 John 5:19), and he uses familiar as well as alien messengers to confirm his lies and deny God's truth.
But Jesus promises hope and strength for the conflicts ahead:
"Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven." Matthew 5:10-12
In a darkening world that doesn't know Him, His beacon of hope shines all the brighter for those who love Him and share the unchanging truth of His Word.
1. Robert Muller, New Genesis: Shaping a Global Spirituality (Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Co., 1848), page 145.