I just watched Contact again for the first time in a while. A major theme of the movie is that the goals of science and religion are so hard to untangle that the two main protagonists have a very complicated adult relationship based on it.

In the current context of the debate about religion in the science classroom, I think about my own feelings about science quite a bit. Far from feeling that science and religion are incompatible, I actually feel that they are two sides of the same coin. I mean, think about it. How often do people’s deeply held, innermost core beliefs actually tend to be different? Can we really believe that, given the size of the universe (which I guess you’ll have to grant me) and all the diversity of our planet, that two of us humans could really be all that tremendously different in our innermost models of what our purpose is in the universe? OF COURSE SCIENCE AND RELIGION ARE THE SAME THING, HOW COULD THEY NOT BE? WE’RE ALL PEOPLE, WE ALL WANT THE SAME THINGS AND WE ALL FEEL THE SAME WAY!

I hope that a more sophisticated dialogue is going on somewhere in the world, and that it spreads to this country. In particular, I wish that some religious representatives would realize that pursuing science is a way of appreciating the Universe, or God, or Nature, or whatever Large Thing you care to call it. If God did create the Universe, why wouldn’t he want us to understand all the wonders he created? Is it sinful to break apart an atom and see what God made inside the atom? Far from it, it’s an expression of wonder to pursue such knowledge. If you interviewed all the scientists who do stuff like that, you’d find many or most of them are on a search for something larger than themselves, a way to be connected to the Universe. Listen to the moving speech that Jodie Foster’s character gives to James Woods’ character and his committee at the end of the movie.

Greg Langmead
Machine Learning Engineer

I am a software engineer and mathematician. I work on NLP algorithms for Apple News, and research homotopy type theory in CMU’s philosophy department.