“Interstellar” and the ride home

Samantha and I had the pleasure of spending a cold, rainy, Thursday, November night tucked warmly next to each other in a comfortable movie theater with popcorn and a plethora of other snacks.  We went to the theater to see the well-reviewed “Interstellar”.  We found ourselves chuckling, cringing, wondering, and pondering as we were amazed by the visuals and gripped by the plot.  The music of the film was powerfully used to bring the audience to the state of mind desired by the creators.  We left the theater very happy we came and quite pleased with our choice of movie.

As I mentioned, the movie created quite a good amount of pondering on our parts and we were able to express our ponderings on the ride home.  I always enjoy a movie that makes me think hard, especially if the kind of thinking is of the philosophical variety.

To give you fair warning, I am going to be detailing important parts of “Interstellar”, so if you wish to see the movie and have not yet, then you probably should not read on (but come back later).

“Interstellar” *seemed to indirectly address the topic of divine assistance versus self-preservation or existence.  In this case, the divine assistance would be represented by the unseen, but often referenced “they”.  “They” are who seemingly help the humans of Earth find a way off the dying planet.  However, as the movie progresses, we find out that there is no “they” but only “us”.

I will not attempt to explain all the cosmology presented in the movie, mainly because there is no way I could explain it all.  I have to admit that it was very difficult following the science behind the movie, but that is not too disappointing because obviously even the best cosmologists in the world could not solve the equations and conundrums that were on display in the film.  However, I can tackle the philosophical ideas and even some of the cosmology.

Somehow Matthew McConaughey’s character was led to NASA by odd occurrences, because of these odd occurrences captained a vessel to the far reaches of space, eventually fell into a black hole, and was able to travel through time and cause the odd occurrences that led to him being led to NASA.  If that sentence was confusing, then good.  I would love to hear from a cosmologist who could explain to me how someone because of certain influences in his past could travel to the future and influence his own past when the person in the future influencing his own past is only in a position to do so because of the influences that happened in the past.  (So how many times did you reread that?)  By influencing his own past, McConaughey’s character dismissed the idea that “they” existed and affirmed that only “we” exist.

Following the “they” versus “us” idea presented in the movie, it seems as if the movie was trying to say that there is no divine help, only ourselves.  There is no “they”, or “God”.  There is only us.  This conclusion leads to a bewildering kind of thinking as detailed above.  I believe that so long as we remove God from our possibilities, then we will only be able to come up with bewildering and contradicting conclusions as to our origin and future.

We humans can do great things without a god.  But there is a limit to our greatness.  By trying to expand the limits of our greatness we only confuse ourselves and create a beautiful but fragile figure of ourselves that is destined to crack and break when reality sets in.  We have been masterfully designing and erecting this doomed figure for quite some time.  Indeed, we humans have erected many such figures over the years and they have all collapsed.  (I think we have been creating the latest version since some time briefly after the end of World War II.)

However, if we were to realize that we were created by God, that He is the One from whom we need to receive our guidance, then the figure of ourselves may be less glamorous, but strong, supported by a Foundation that is immovable, and designed for far greater things than temporal beauty.  When the figure of ourselves includes God (meaning Yahweh), we can study ourselves better and come to a fuller understanding of who we are.

*I would like the readers to notice that I said “seemed” and “indirectly”.  Nolan and his crew may have never thought about his plot leading to the philosophical conclusion that we do not need a god to help us.  I simply found this philosophical thought through my own pondering of the movie.

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2 comments

  1. There is a lot of play in the movie about time, speed and relativity. I’m no cosmologist, but I can tell you what I likely think one would say about the time travel stuff. The fact that he can go to a place where he can see every possible moment of time in his daughter’s bedroom is based on the idea of the Casimir Effect. http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casimir_effect
    Basically it means that there’s this stuff called zero point energy. And we believe if we could harness enough of it we could tear a fabric in space/time and create a wormhole. The movie leads us to believe that future generations of humans figured out not only how to harness zero point energy (like we once harnessed the power of lightning to make electricity), but perfected it (as we’re still doing with electricity) to build a rip in space/time so precisely that they could make a tessaract of all possible moments of a particular set of events in a particular location. And make it accessible by a conscious being without killing him.

    As to the dilemma of how he could affect his past…that’s a paradox. Our brains can’t figure that one out. In mathematics when you run into a paradox it means either there is no answer or we simply don’t have the understanding/tools to solve the problem. With time travel this is famously called “The Grandfather Paradox.” If you travel to the past and kill your grandfather then how could you be born to cause the murder?

    There are a few ways to deal with this. My favorite is the many worlds interpretation. Basically it says whatever can happen does happen. So if you order a vanilla milkshake then in another timeline you ordered a chocolate one and in another timeline you ordered a root beer and every other possibility. If this is true then going back in time simply means you are causing a new timeline to appear. Or you just happen to be visiting the timeline that has always had you in it, its just that you finally get to see it.

    Of course this paradox could also mean that time travel to the past is completely impossible. Much in the same way that dividing any nonzero number by zero is impossible. No amount of learning will ever make it possible. What I like about the movie is that it is SciFi, but not against anything we know is wrong for sure. For example, if one of them gained the ability to breathe fire from the water on that one planet. That would fly in the face of what we know we understand. But it showed us time travel in a way that may not be true, but as far as our understanding of physics knows may be the real way. To think of that movie’s depiction as a prediction feels silly to me, but I’m betting the reader’s of Jules Verne back in the day thought rockets and submarines were silly to think of as soon to be real too.

    As I said, I’m no scientist, but I watch a lot of lectures and read a lot of books, so I hope I could clear something up. I also loved the movie. Super glad you have a blog.

    Rich

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    • Rich,

      Thank you for the reply. I am familiar with the many worlds hypothesis. I actually first came across it in “Dragon Ball Z”. If time travel is possible, that is the only hypothesis I can currently believe. However, that still does not explain how what happened in “Interstellar” could be possible. Trunks from Dragon Ball Z learned the hard way that he could not influence his own past, he could merely create a new timeline.

      I am not saying this represents you, but I know plenty of people who are willing to accept paradoxes in science, but refuse to accept as possible plausible explanations that involve God. These people are usually classified as Naturalists.

      Like

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