Our Place in the Cosmos: Faith and Belief in Contact

In Kimberly A. Blessing & Paul J. Tudico (eds.), Movies and the Meaning of Life. Chicago, IL, USA: pp. 17-31 (2005)
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Based on the 1985 science fiction novel by the astronomer Carl Sagan, Contact tells the story of what a first encounter between humans and intelligent extraterrestrial beings might be like. It also details the complexities of faith and belief in a world where religion and science often come into conflict—a favorite theme of Sagan's, and a major subject in the history of philosophy. This chapter explores tangles of faith and belief through the lens of philosophy and the characters and concepts of Contact. We pay special attention to Sagan's mouthpiece Ellie Arroway, who embodies the practice of doubting as essential to living a life rich in insight and meaning. While this is far from the sole philosophic quandary raised by the film, it is perhaps the central one.

Author Profiles

Heather Keith
Radford University
Steven Fesmire
Radford University


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