“What is truth?” ~ Pontius Pilate
As I mentioned in a previous blog, this past summer, I saw the movie “Prometheus[i]”, a prequel of sorts, of the movie “Alien[ii]”. As I discussed in the first blog which you can read here, there were several worldviews on display throughout the movie. The most prominent was Postmodernism.
Though Postmodernism comes in many forms, there are three unifying values: (1) a commitment to relativism; (2) an opposition to rationalism; and (3) the promotion of culturally created realities, all of which are designed to deny any true worldview or belief system for which we would be willing to kill or die.[iii] In other words, what is true for you may not be true for me, and vice versa.
Consider the following statement by the main character, Elizabeth Shaw, (Noomi Repace) when she contacts Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce), the character responsible for funding the Prometheus mission:
“Hello, Mr. Weyland. My name is Dr. Elizabeth Shaw. If that name sounds familiar to you, it’s because I’ve called every day for the last month. I think your people were hoping I’d give up. I am not good at giving up. What I am good at is my job. I am an Archaeologist. I have doctorate degrees in Paleontology, Anthropology, Human Ethology and Memetics — all of which I received from Oxford. I graduated first in my class at the age seventeen. This is not who I am – It is simply what I know. I make the distinction, sir, because there is a difference in what a scientist knows and what they believe…That difference is proof. My partner and I have found something, Mr. Weyland. Something very important.”
Now consider this exchange between a father and his daughter as they observe a funeral in the distance. The father is wearing a priest’s collar and the sun glistens off the cross dangling around his neck as he prepares stew over a small fire:
GIRL – What happened to that man?
FATHER – He died.
GIRL – What are they doing?
FATHER – Saying goodbye.
GIRL – Why aren’t you helping them?
FATHER – They don’t want my help. Their God is different than ours.
GIRL – That doesn’t make any sense.
FATHER – I know, sweetheart.
GIRL – Why did he die?
FATHER – Because sooner or later, everyone does.
GIRL – Where is he now?
FATHER – Everyone has their own word. Heaven. Paradise. Whatever it’s called… It’s someplace beautiful.
GIRL – How do you know it’s beautiful?
FATHER – Because that’s what I choose to believe.
And again, consider the following exchange between Shaw and the crew when she makes reference to an advanced form of humans that she believes created humans on earth:
SHAW – We call them “Engineers.”
FIFIELD – Uh huh. And what’d they engineer?
SHAW – Look at them. Two eyes. Two arms. Two legs. What did they engineer? They engineered us.
MILLBURN – You… know that? For a fact?
SHAW – No. But it’s what I choose to believe.
HOLLOWAY – What we “believe” doesn’t matter. What we can prove does. And we have the opportunity to be the very first of our kind to literally meet our makers.
What’s really fascinating about the film is that the main character (Shaw) claims to be a Christian! Religion is not absent from the movie.
Postmodernism is ubiquitous throughout this movie. I heard the phrase, “it’s what I choose to believe,” several times from different characters. Each of us can choose to believe whatever we want; the only sin is criticizing another’s belief.
While postmodern ideas are easily seen and promoted throughout the movie, what is not as easily observed is the fact/value dichotomy. As you can discern from the dialogue above, you may choose what you want to believe as long as that belief relates to values, e.g. morality, theology, etc. Facts, on the other hand are scientific, empirically testable, and universally valid. In Saving Leonardo, Nancy Pearcy uses the upper story/lower story house to describe the fact/value dichotomy; one house, two stories. The upper story is private, subjective, and relative. The lower story is public, objective, and universal.[iv] The upper story represents my values (private); while the lower story contains universally accepted facts (public). What we believe (upper story) does not matter. Therefore, it becomes impossible to make a case for our values or beliefs in the public square.
Notice the statement above from Holloway, “What we believe doesn’t matter. What we can prove does.” With the fact/value dichotomy in place, anything that those in power want labeled as truth is simply tagged as science. The type of molecules to man evolution displayed in this movie is a perfect example. Evolution is portrayed as fact (scientific), while Christianity is simply a personal belief.
Watch out for Postmodernism. It’s probably best defined in Judges 21:25 “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.[v]
Watch for the fact/value dichotomy or separation. Value cannot be separated from fact.
Lastly, watch out for those who would tag their ideas or beliefs as science. If scientific claims are made, make sure their ideas fall within the scientific method. You can read more about operational versus historical science here.
If you go out to the movies this weekend, evaluate the worldviews that are on display. Afterward, discuss them with family and friends.
[i]Prometheus, July 28, 2012 <http://www.prometheus-movie.co.uk/#>
[ii]Alien, July 28, 2012 < http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0078748/>
[v](New King James Version Bible, 1982)
New King James Version Bible. (1982). Thomas nelson, Inc.
Noebel, D. A. (2006). Understanding The Times, The Collision of Today’s Competing Worldviews (2nd ed.). Manitou Springs, CO: Summit Press.
Pearcey, N. (2010). Saving Leonardo. Nashville: B&H Publishing Group.