THE SCIENCE OF BELIEF
Sci-Fi’s Return to the 80s
“There has been an awakening. Have you felt it?”
- Supreme Leader Snoke, Star Wars: The Force Awakens
There’s always been tension between seeing and believing.
Especially over the last few decades, there has been an increasingly
heavy emphasis on the belief that truth exists only when we can
prove things scientifically or experience them for ourselves. This
debate has caused tension between the Church and the scientific
community, seemingly forcing people to pick a side.
Unsurprisingly, this has also shown up on the big screen.
Let’s look at some of the most popular science fiction stories in
recent years. Films like Prometheus, Interstellar, and The Martian
have all been hits at the box office and explored questions of our
purpose in life. In each case, the films shoot for lofty ideas but land
on the premise that life is really about
us and what we can do. For instance,
often called a “love letter to science,”
The Martian also argues that if you
solve enough problems, you get to
In an interesting twist, even some
of the most recent Biblical epics
attempted to explain God’s interaction
with creation in a more scientific
manner. Films such as Ridley Scott’s
Exodus: Gods and Kings and (arguably)
Aronovsky’s Noah have both offered
new depictions of the Biblical stories
with a smaller focus on God and a
greater emphasis on our human perspective and understandings as
a source of hope.
Now, hear me out. I’m not taking a shot at science. Not at all!
Science is our primary way of understanding our world. However,
what I am noticing is that the pendulum of knowledge has swung so
far in the seeing-to-believe direction that our culture seems to have
lost its ability to believe in anything other than itself.
I think that the pendulum is about to swing back.
All of a sudden, science fiction has opened the door enough to admit
that, sometimes, they don’t have all the answers. This year alone,
there have been some substantial film releases that take a scientific
approach that, although helpful and meaningful, isn’t always the
final word on what’s real. Films like Jeff Nichol’s Midnight Special,
this summer’s underrated Ghostbusters reboot or even Netflix’s
massive hit Stranger Things, have all fused a scientific worldview
with an eye staring keenly into the spiritual.
These shows tell us that we have to believe to see.
Just look at Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
When rebooting the franchise, one of the most important factors
in the film’s success was bringing back an emphasis on the mystery
of the Force. Whereas George Lucas wanted to explain away this
amazing power in his infamous prequels—remember Midichlorians?
The fans and director J. J. Abrams wanted the Force to be mysterious. By emphasizing the power of the Force, Abrams breathed new
life into an idea that had lost its grandeur, without taking away any
scientific explanations Lucas had introduced.
Science and faith were friends again.
Interestingly, all of these examples have a throwback feel to them.
Whether they take place in the 1980s themselves, or are simply
reboots of old franchises, each case seems to point to a simpler
time. With this in mind, one has to ask if perhaps our world is
wondering if, for all our advancements, we’ve lost something along
the way. Is it possible that, with all we’ve learned, we are starting to
realize that there’s still something powerful that we can’t explain?
Does God really fit into our scientific worldview?
Maybe our culture has finally realized that to understand our world,
we need both seeing and believing.
Where and how is Steve celebrating Christmas?
He expects that he will be at home. He and his family often travel between
their home, his parents and his in-laws over Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
has opened the
to admit that,
don’t have all the