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Sunday, 14 March 2021

A review of Contact, an alleged work of science fiction: Part One

I recently had the opportunity to view Contact, a movie that was released over two decades ago—almost the amount of time it would take for a transmission of it to reach the Vega system. I was struck from very early on in the production by the similarities between it and Isaac Asimov's famous story, Nightfall. I have written several posts reviewing that story, which are available here. I suggest reading them now, for background, before going any further. 

Now, I'll start out by saying that although I was aware of the movie when it came out, and that it was discussed in the Christian Media at the time, I've had no thoughts about it whatsoever for the past twenty plus years, so I trust that everything I say here will be uninfluenced by any other reviews. As I review Contact, I'll continue to allude to my earlier observations on this topic, which remain very relevant. Inasmuch as it's a long movie, I'll probably do this review in several installments. But, to begin at the very beginning:

The movie opens with the iconic roar of the MGM lion, framed by the Latin motto, Ars Gratia Artis--Art for Art's Sake. Not a single frame of the actual movie has yet been shown, but already we are being set up to believe that what follows is just pure entertainment--science fiction. But is it? Might there also be a deeper agenda, Art for the Sake of Persuasion? 

We then move into the opening sequence, which is a juxtaposition of animated video and archived audio. The animation is a zoom-out that begins with a satellite view of Cape Canaveral, tracking westward as the sun overtakes it from the east. Meanwhile the audio track is a montage of news broadcasts interrupted by brief bursts of contemporary music, working backward from the present day as the camera recedes from Earth, both tracks accelerating: the animation rapidly passes the Moon, Mars, the Asteroid Belt, Ceres, and Jupiter—already moving much faster than the speed of light—as the audio track has already reached a quarter century before present, to the Watergate Scandal of President Nixon, then immediately on to M.L. King's March on Washington. By the time Jupiter and its moons recede into the background we can hear an announcement of the assassination of President Kennedy. Then, as Saturn fades into the distance, we race through another two decades, passing through the McCarthy Era all the way to the beginning of the American involvement in World War Two. What is being hinted at is that news broadcasts are traveling into space at the speed of light, with the very earliest broadcasts leading the way into the rest of the galaxy. A bit of a stronger hint comes after the disappearance of Saturn, as the sun itself blinks out and we see a rapidly receding series of stars and galaxies as the audio takes us back through the Thirties to the earliest days of Radio. Then the audio itself gradually fades to background static, as we continue to back our way through a dusty nebula and into intergalactic space, where total silence reigns. Other galaxies zoom by with increasing rapidity, until the screen becomes a total blur which resolves into the left eyeball of our protagonist, the young Ellie Arroway. Meanwhile, the audio picks back up again as background static, resolving into the signal of a ham radio she is operating, with her voice now in real time, attempting to make contact with “anyone out there.” Thus the stage is set for a lifetime of hovering over a radio, seeking not only a signal from another rational being, but, most importantly, the opportunity for interaction therewith. And we see her determination as she scans the dials in search of a response, getting encouragement from her father to keep trying—then, when she finally lands a station out of Pensacola, he congratulates her for achieving the “farthest one yet.”

Okay, at this point in the actual screen-acting, we already move from the realm of science to science fiction, because that's just not how the propagation of ham radio waves works. One does not start out pulling in nearby signals, then progressively move to the outer limits on the country, then farther out into the hemisphere, and finally, with “a big enough antenna,” to the other side of the world. The propagation of radio waves on the frequencies of the amateur bands is such that one is actually more likely to land a station a thousand miles away, than an hundred. But, not to let the facts of science get in the way of a good story, the scriptwriters expect us to believe that Ellie will start small, and keep progressing until she is at the point of asking radio operators on the other side of the Universe to “come back.” 

But that's not Ellie's only goal: in the very next scene we see her asking her father, with growing excitement, how far out it is possible to hear: California? Alaska? China? The Moon? Jupiter? Saturn? Suddenly she grows reflective, and asks her dad the question only a ten year old could ask: Could we talk to Mom?

Ah, now the subject of Religion intrudes, because young Ellie is asking an existential question, one immeasurably beyond the reach of the technology that so fascinates her. Science she knows, geography and astronomy she is beginning to understand, but of the Eternal State, she is much the innocent child, asking questions far beyond her ken. Here her father fails her—being unable to give her the answer she wants—because he, like her, only believes in Science, and Science has no answers to any of the deeper questions of life. And here the movie reveals its main argument. Having, at the behest of her father, dismissed the possibility of making contact beyond the grave, Ellie turns to the next best thing: making contact beyond the Solar System. And here we stop to consider the implications.

”Hey Dad, do you think there's people on other planets?” she asks, again in all innocence. “I don't know Sparks, but it seems like if it's just us, that would be an awful waste of space.” And is precisely here that the movie lands on its main theme: this phrase will be repeated at crucial points in the plot, to drive the message home that somewhere, on a cosmic scale, there is a sense that it would be wrong for Earth to be the only populated planet. This doctrine is never proven, nor is there ever even seen any need to prove it. Ellie simply accepts it on faith, and goes on to make it the guiding belief in her life's work, which is to search for, and find, signs of intelligence in outer space. She will run into many obstacles in that quest—the entire plot of the movie consists of her overcoming them, one after the other—but she will never be shaken in her core belief that there MUST be someone else out there—and an unstated corollary to that belief is that they MUST be so immeasurably greater than humankind, both in intelligence and technology, that they will be able to bridge the unbridgeable gulf between us, and make meaningful contact. It only remains for us to let them know we are here, and to devotedly await their response.

Do you see where this is headed? One thing this movie does, and does well, is to demonstrate that humankind is incorrigibly religious: everyone is forced by their very nature to believe in a higher order of beings, ones whose powers and understanding are beyond our comprehension. And the movie will go on to demonstrate our absolute impossibility of approaching these beings using our own abilities, or of comprehending them using our own understanding. Atheistic Science is turned on its head, and shown to be just another religion after all. 

I think that's enough for the first installment; we are now fully seven minutes into a two-and-a-half-hour movie, and in the next scene we will see Ellie instantly transition to Dr. Arroway the astronomer, having finally achieved the ultimate in her muttered ten-year-old goal of "get[ting] a bigger antenna."

Tuesday, 23 February 2021

Lisa Miller, a sister in chains

 Here is the text of the latest letter from Lisa Miller, via Pablo:

Dear Brethren and Friends,

Greetings in the name of our Lord, the ONE Who is All-Knowing. I greet you today from the Florida Detention Center in Miami.  I arrived here on Jan 27 and I am still in quarantine -- day 21 (my bunkie tested positive for COVID, so instead of being released, today I took another swab COVID test and will wait for the results right where I am -- in quarantine.), in a 2 bunk, approximately 14 x 7 feet cell which is locked 24/7. 

My food is served through a 12 x 4 inch slot (within the main door) which is also kept shut and locked except when used to pass items such as mail, clothes and books from guard to inmate or when we needed to be handcuffed (we turn our back to the door, stoop a bit and thrust our hands through the opening).

I am so grateful that God knows all I need.  Even though I am in prison, God has blessed and spoiled me with rest and quietness after the experiences of being propelled through the realities of being handcuffed by marshals (I had 5 escorting me at one point!), patted down, strip searched, questioned endlessly, fingerprinted at every "station" of processing, and other such memorable actions before being placed in cell 31 of the Solitary Housing Unit (SHU) (in lieu of being brought directly into the women's unit).  My God knows just what I need.

Thank you to all who have written to me.  Words cannot express enough how I have been encouraged and built up in Christ by your kindness.  Even though you may not receive a personal thank you, (I am limited to how many stamps I can order per month and I am not permitted to receive stamps from the outside), please know that you have blessed me by your letters of encouragement and with your prayers for both my daughter and me.  THANK YOU!

Please continue to pray for my daughter.  Even though I believe God IS taking care of her she still needs the prayers of His people.  I miss her!  Even so, I feel comforted knowing that she has prayer coverage. 

Please continue also to pray for me.  Pray that I will "make myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them" (I Cor. 9:19b), and that I "give no offense to Jews or to Greek or to the church of God" ( I Cor 10:32).  Personally, I have prayed (for years) that God would put me in the places where He wants me to be; consequently, I know that I am to be here.  Please pray that I honor God in His choices for me.

In His Service,

Lisa Miller #27502-509 [note this number is different than provided on previous newsletter]

P.O. Box 019120

Miami, FL  33101

**Important:  Please note my current direct address. If you do not use this address with my correct prison inmate number of #27502-509, I may not receive my mail. :( 

Thank you!

Also, do not only put the name, address and prisoner's number on the envelope, but also directly on the letter or card you send.


And an update on Isabella:

The now-18-year-old woman at the center of a yearslong, same-sex custody dispute that spanned Vermont to Nicaragua said in court documents filed Wednesday that she wants her name removed from a 2012 civil lawsuit filed in her name.

Lisa Miller is facing federal criminal charges in Buffalo for taking Isabella Miller to Nicaragua in 2009 rather than sharing custody with her former civil union partner, Janet Jenkins, of Fair Haven, Vermont.

In affidavits written and signed last month by Isabella Miller in Managua, Nicaragua, and filed in federal court in Burlington, Vermont, on Wednesday, the now-adult says she has been “happy, safe, healthy and I have been well cared for” since arriving in Nicaragua.

Isabella Miller said she remains outside the United States of her own free will.

“If (and when) I desire to return to the United States I will do so,” she said in the affidavit filed by Vermont attorney Deborah Bucknam.

Friday, 29 January 2021

Lisa Miller's Legal Battle Resumes

It's interesting that it was the very week in which an important deadline passed in the RICO suit against her, that Lisa Ann Miller surrendered to US authorities at the embassy in Mangua. And that this even did not register so much as a blip in the national news, formerly obsessed with the case. Not even when she was put on a plane to be rendered to the Miami Dade Detention Center for quarantine as she awaits trial for kidnapping her own daughter--the daughter who prayerfully accompanied her to the Managua airport. It's as if she is still surrounded by cloaking angels. And certainly she is being upheld in fervent prayer.

Monday, 18 January 2021

BREAKING NEWS in the Miller Kidnapping Case!

 Dear Brethren and Friends,

Greetings in the name of our Lord- the One who is All- Powerful and All- Knowing. I praise Him for providing for, protecting as in a cloud pillar, and sheltering my daughter, Isabella, and I these last over 11 years as I have been raising her for Christ in an undisclosed location. She is now 18 and free from the court rulings that I disregarded that stated that she was not to be taught the sacredness of marriage according to God:

Haven't you read that the Creator made them male and female... for this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefor what God has joined together, let no one separate. (Gen. 2:24, Matthew 19:3-6, Gen 1:28, Eph. 5:31-32)

and from where I was put on the stand for the day concerning my Biblical conviction of how to raise my daughter due to being accused of “emotionally abusing” her with my belief of the two kingdoms- the kingdom of God and the kingdom of this world.

Today, January 18, 2021, I am voluntarily surrendering myself to the U.S. Authorities by walking into the U.S. Embassy in Nicaragua.

Isabella and I will be walking in together; however, we do not know what will occur, especially since neither one of us have current paperwork. We covet your prayers with our following concerns: that we could travel together to the US and that she could find a home that supports her convictions.

In addition, I ask you for prayer specifically for me to honor and to glorify God and for my health. Thank you in advance for your prayers. May our Lord be further glorified in this matter.


For His Honor and Glory,

Lisa Miller

Psalm 91

Editor adds:
Lisa forgot that Monday was a holiday back in the US, so the embassy was closed. She tried again Tuesday; Isabella was issued a temporary US Passport, and Lisa was taken into custody. They weren't sure what to do with her, but she begged them not to turn her over to the Nicaraguan authorities, who are known for their cruel treatment of Timo Miller for his part in this case (as recognized the the federal judge in Buffalo, who reduced his sentence to time served because of it). 

 I have not written about the Johannine Comma for some time, but new information has come available, especially regarding the Latin transmission thereof. Here are some preliminary results of my latest research.  

Different ways the Latin textual tradition renders “(they) bear record” in 1 John 5:7, followed by their distribution in the Stuttgart Vulgate

  • testes (“are witnesses,“ 14x, none in Johannine literature)

  • testificantur (“they testify,” 1x, none in Johannine literature)

  • testimonium perhibent (“they provide testimony,3 of 4 are in Johannine literature )

  • testimonium praebent (“they provide testimony,none )

  • Testimonium dicunt (“they speak testimony,” none)

  • Testimonium dant (“they give testimony,” 1x, only in the Vulgate comma)

In his writings, John uses a form of the verb 
μαρτυρέω (testify) 44 times—a majority of all such uses in the entire NT. It is one of the major themes in Johannine literature. Now, when we look at the Vulgate text, we see that the majority of times the phrase “testimonium perhibent” (“they provide testimony”) is used in the NT are in the writings of John. And this remains the case regardless of what form of the expression is used. And this is, in fact, the common rendering in the Old Latin of μαρτυρέω in 1 John 5, including the several uses in the immediate context of verse 7. I have not yet determined how common it is in translating either half of the Comma, though. Nor where the first usage of testimonium dant is found.