GOD’S NOT DEAD – Movie review

Five weeks after its debut, Indie film GOD’S NOT DEAD, the story of a student’s confrontation with an atheist teacher, continues to surprise Hollywood watchers.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that, as of April 21, the film grossed $48 million, despite playing in only about half the theaters of Hollywood’s larger films, while spending only $4 million, a nice return on investment.

Film synopsis

The story weaves together events in the lives of several characters, including freshman university student Josh Wheaton (played by Shane Harper), who refuses to deny God publicly in front of his Intro to Philosophy class, even though his grade–and his future–are at stake.

On the very first day of class, Professor Radisson (Kevin Sorbo) tells Josh that since he will not admit that “God Is Dead,” he must prove God’s existence by engaging Radisson in a head-to-head debate in front of the other students. Josh struggles with a lack of confidence in his ability to represent God and spends hours pouring over scientific and philosophical books, while ignoring his homework.

GND_Press6-crop-RRMeanwhile, other characters, including students Martin (Paul Kwo) and Ayisha (Hadeel Sittu), observe and react to Josh’s struggle.

The film is enlivened with a heart-pounding concert performance of the 2011 hit song God’s Not Dead by the Christian rock group, The Newsboys, and a downright hokey cameo appearance by Duck Dynasty stars Willie Roberson and his wife, Korie Robertson.

As the action rises, we see the final (and in one case, fatal) decisions made by several of the characters.

Ms. Contrarian Scientist expects negative reviews for any Christian film from mainstream sites like Rotten Tomatoes, and sure enough, the movie was dissed by many for poor acting, unbelievable characters and a simplistic, melodramatic plot.

Philosophy or science?

One critic, an atheist professor of philosophy, who grew up as an Evangelical Christian, has so far spent over 12,000 words complaining about the philosophical arguments aired in the movie.

In fact, the movie’s writers focused much more on philosophical, rather than scientific arguments to prove that God exists. Josh is taking a class on Introduction to Philosophy, not a science class. And Radisson is a Professor of Philosophy, not a scientist.

What is the difference between philosophy and science? The definition of science is the study of the natural world using observation and experiments to come up with testable explanations and predictions about that world. This is called the Scientific Method.

Though philosophers use discoveries made by scientists, for example in physics and quantum mechanics, philosophy is not science and does not use the Scientific Method.

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The word “philo-sophy” comes from two Greek words that mean, “love” and “wisdom.” So philosophy is the love of, or study of wisdom or knowledge. In college philosophy classes, students learn to argue a point of view, using formal, rigorous logic.

(Watch this short video to see how philosophy uses scientific evidence to grapple with the question, “Does God exist?”)

In his second presentation to the class, Josh argues that noted cosmologist Stephen Hawking, who believes that the universe began spontaneously, is in error. To say that something exists, therefore it must have had a beginning is true. But to then turn around and say it began because it now exists is faulty, circular logic.

So even though Hawking, in his book, The Grand Delusion, claims that philosophy is dead,  Ms. Contrarian Scientist feels that the question of which came first, the chicken or the egg, pushes us firmly back into the realm of philosophy, rather than science.

But what about the science?

As Ms. Contrarian Scientist is not a philosopher, she prefers to weigh in on the scientific evidence for God’s existence presented in the movie.

A recent poll shows that 51 percent of Americans question the Big Bang theory. There is some credible scientific evidence against it (see, for instance The Static Universe: Exploding the Myth of Cosmic Expansion by Hilton Ratcliffe).

But for now, the Big Bang theory is the standard scientific model of the universe. After telling the class that it was Georges Lemaître, a Catholic priest and mathematician who first proposed the theory, Josh reads out loud from the Bible:

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth…And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.'” (Genesis 1:1, 3 NIV)

He then asks the class, “Doesn’t this sound a lot like the Big Bang?”

Some would say that this was one of the pivotal moment in the debate–and the movie.

But, others will argue that scientists now believe that it wasn’t light, per se, that exploded out of the Big Bang, but rather an opaque electronic plasma. The plasma’s charged particles did not came together to create the first atoms until about 380,000 years after the explosion. So light, which is electromagnetic radiation given off by atoms and molecules, could not have existed before then.

Compared with the 13.8 billion years of age estimated for the universe, a pause of only 380,000 years between the Big Bang and the appearance of light is less than a blink of an eye. Thus, Ms. Contrarian Scientist fully supports Josh on this point.

Life from non-life?

Josh then discusses Darwin and his theory of evolution caused by natural selection. He tells the class that Darwin wrote, “Nature does not jump,” because on his travels, the scientist observed that changes in nature take place slowly and gradually, over long periods of time.

This led Darwin to hypothesize that all the different species we see on Earth were caused by infinitesimal changes in earlier organisms, leading back to an original single-cell organism. Some of these changes, or mutations, gave them a survival advantage, and any organism that is more likely to survive will live to pass its genes on to the next generation.

In the debate, Josh points out that the problem with natural selection as the mechanism for evolution is that the relatively short history of life on Earth, compared with the planet’s age, shows that nature has indeed “jumped” in the geologic timescale.

That’s just one reason why more and more scientists, including those who firmly believe in evolution, have begun to look for other explanations for a physical mechanism that led to the existence of life on the Earth.

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The movie doesn’t try to bite off more than it can chew. Rather than explore some of the most recent ideas about evolution vs. creation by an Intelligent Designer, Josh mentions that God might have merely guided the process of evolution, which is an anathema to some Christians.

And he doesn’t quibble over the age of the universe, as many Christians do. These are discussions for another day, as the film’s focus remains squarely on one thing:

[A]nyone who comes to [God] must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Heb. 11:6 NIV)

While the movie provides a rousing call to action for believers, watching the film may not fully answers a skeptic’s questions. More details on the scientific and philosophical debate points covered can be found in the book on which the movie is based: God’s Not Dead: Evidence for God in an Age of Uncertainty, by Rice Broocks.

Ultimately, Ms. Contrarian Scientist very much concurs with Newsboys drummer, Duncan Phillips who said, “I don’t think God minds that we ask questions.”

Still showing near you?

While the show closed in some North American and Canadian theaters on April 24, many new theaters have been added in the U.S. and Canada. It just opened last Friday in the UK and will continue to show there in the near future.

The Spanish language version opened in Mexico on April 24, and openings will continue throughout May and June in South and Central America.

 

About Ms. Contrarian Scientist

Ms. Contrarian Scientist
Ms. Contrarian Scientist

Having studied science in college and then gone to work as an engineer for a large corporation, Ms. Contrarian Scientist (MCS) woke up one day and said to herself, ”I wish I could believe in God. It would be such a relief to know that God is real and that He cares about me, that I’m not just some random accident of the universe. BUT—Science proves that God is not real and that evolution is the way we got here, and there is no need for a God, so in fact there is no God. Too bad.”*

Through the years, MCS has come to realize that she is not the only one who has ever doubted God’s existence, due to a reverence for Science. In fact, she bets that there are thousands, if not millions of folks out there who know that something is missing in their lives and they want to believe in God. But they are sad because they believe that Science as the ultimate truth kicks God out of the picture.

Furthermore, MCS bets there are thousands, if not millions, of God-believers out there who FEAR Science, who fear to look closely at Science because they worry that Science disproves God. And they cower when they hear others loudly denounce anyone who believes in God, because—SCIENCE!

Does Science rule out God?

The word “science” comes from a Latin word that means “knowledge.”

According to all the definitions, science is a methodical study of the natural world. The Scientific Method is a structured way of learning the truth about the world around us. So true science is a search for the truth, which is a great thing.

We don’t have to try to ‘protect God’ from science.

God himself is all about truth. And those of us who believe in God, or who are searching for God, should never fear the true truth. We don’t have to try to “protect God” from science, either. He’s a big God—he can handle it.

Ms. Contrarian Scientist

Now, practical science (or engineering) has brought us many wonderful things—such as iPads, longer lifespans, and no-iron shirts.

However, science, no matter how beneficial it has been and can be, is carried out by fallible human beings. Scientists, no matter how intelligent, are every bit as human as the rest of us. Any honest scientist, including MCS herself, will freely admit—at least in the middle of the night—that he or she is not perfect, the same as any other human being.

Scientists have every right to fight for their pet theories—that’s only natural. But if they can’t admit to mistakes or even downright falsifications, then they are not following the best practices of science.

Existing on a ‘higher plane’

Ms. Contrarian Scientists finds that scientists often fall back on a “scientific consensus,” which they consider their higher authority, similar to the way believers consider God their higher power.

Scientists use this scientific consensus in an effort to prove that, because they exist on a plane much higher than ordinary folks, and because so many other scientists agree with them, they must be right, even when the data doesn’t go their way, or when someone challenges them on their theories.

But voting on the truth is no way to find the truth, and it’s definitely NOT The Scientific Method. Science is a dialog, NOT a democracy.

Science is a dialog, NOT a democracy.

Here at ContrarianScience.com, Ms. Contrarian Scientist will cover the debate over whether humans are causing Earth’s climate to change catastrophically.

And she will cover the debate over whether the Universe was created by an Intelligent Designer, though that topic is also well-covered elsewhere.

Science is a DialogIn doing so, the primary goal of this site will be to demonstrate both the genius and the humanity of scientists—and the inhumanity of scientists who personally attack, withhold funding and otherwise persecute other scientists because they don’t want dissenting (Contrarian) voices to be heard.

Throughout the history of science the powerful have often used their power to destroy others.

Throughout the history of science—and Galileo is just one example—the powerful have often used their power to destroy others in order to maintain their power. Or, even more sinister, they harbor ulterior plans for which they need to steer public opinion through the use of “peer-reviewed scientific studies.” This is NOT science, it is politics and worse.

So the goal of ContrarianScience.com is to give the little guy, the lost sheep, the underdog—YOU, Gentle Readers—ammunition in this battle for truth that is taking place in your own mind and in the minds and hearts of the general public.

In order to do this, MCS will strive to demonstrate the weakness in “scientific studies” that are being used as weapons against ourselves, our religious beliefs, our homes and our businesses.

But she will also do this by showing the human side of science throughout history: The squabbles, the mistakes, the evil plots against outsiders who have dared to go against the “Consensus Science” of their day, and who ultimately were proven right in their predictions.

And so, we begin.

“Stay stubborn.” —Einstein to a young scientist who underwent much ridicule for his experimental results.

*Thankfully, MCS was mercifully united with the Word of God and Maker of all things, who died on a cross to set her free from sin and death.