INTERSTELLAR: The Thin Line Between Science and Pseudo-Science


INTERSTELLAR:  The Thin Line Between Science and Pseudo-Science

By Dr. Ted Baehr, Publisher

Since there was a debate in the MOVIEGUIDE® office about the movie INTERSTELLAR, two of us went to screen the movie to give another opinion and resolve the issues. Of course, the issues demand a lot of reflection.

A Time magazine article talks about how Christopher Nolan and his brother Jonathan was captivated by Stephen Hawking and the science of General Relativity, Special Relativity and Quantum Mechanics. Nolan immersed himself in all of these subjects and required the actors to do the same. According to Time, Nolan and the other filmmakers behind the movie (which included Nolan’s own brother who worked on the movie’s script with Steven Spielberg before Christopher came on board) also enlisted a theoretical physicist from Cal Tech named Kip Thorne, who’s one of the leaders in considering the cosmology referenced in much of the movie.

As Divine Providence would have it, I was taking a course in astrophysics from University of California Berkeley Professor Alex Filippenko.

The movie INTERSTELLAR follows Professor Filippenko’s course almost verbatim, and this is where the difficulties arise. On a dramatic level, Nolan, who is usually better with his actors and dialogue, has focused so much on the physics that there’s static dialogue, jumping dialogue, plot holes, and some silly repetition. All this drags out the movie out, probably leading to some very negative viewer reactions, including the elderly couple sitting next to us at the theater who kept asking again and again, “What’s going on?” Comparing the acting in GRAVITY to the acting in INTERSTELLAR, one has to feel sorry for Anne Hathaway and some of the other stars. At one point, Anne Hathaway looks like she’s experiencing an odd gravitational change. Nolan must have ignored his filmmaking skills.

The real issue in the movie comes from the physics, however.

Professor Filippenko points out in his class on General Relativity that there are few possible physical proofs based on binary pulsars, but these proofs may be colored by the biases of the astrophysicists, so scientists should keep an open mind because the physics may be something completely different from the current speculations. At another point, the professor points out that one famous astronomer let his bias fudge the figures. When he was found out, it hurt his career, of course.

What all this means is that a lot of thought experiments of Stephen Hawking and Kip Thorne may just be anthropocentric speculation.

Having worked for a research company that worked for NASA, I understand how one can get caught up in the enthusiasm for scientific breakthroughs and how thin the line is between astrology and astronomy, physics and metaphysics. Nolan is like the wide-eyed sophomore who doesn’t discern the difference between speculation and science. So, he runs into some serious roadblocks that could have been resolved with a little more research, such as Hawking’s erroneous view that the creation of the universe, and man’s interaction with the universe, doesn’t require God.

Even so, Nolan’s preoccupation with the science sometimes gets in the way of the drama, and the movie’s attempts to visualize Hawking and Thorne’s speculations are as strained as Stanley Kubrick’s metaphysics in the wonderful movie 2001.

That said, a little further investigation on Nolan’s part would have found that there’s incredible design in the universe, which can’t be explained from man saving himself but only by a loving Creator who has made a world just for us to live in so we can find out His truth that can set us free, have a more abundant life, and find real eternal life. IN this regard, there are lots of great books and DVDs that we’ve reviewed in MOVIEGUIDE® about the design of the universe.

In addition, I’ve had the opportunity to debate scientists at several different venues, including at the largest applied science convention in the world. Although they all say they can’t even consider the possibility of design, the result of my debates with them has been enthusiastic support for the providential point of view.

To make this very simple, the musings of Nolan and his brother, Stephen Hawking and Kip Thorne can lead to the frustrating circular reasoning of metaphysics, occultism and ultimately the Tree of Knowledge where the Serpent said, “You will be as God.” Or, they can lead to connecting the dots to see that all of creation testifies to the loving Creator who wants to give us a wonderful eternal, heavenly existence with Him.

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