Contact - Leader's Notes


In 1985 Carl Sagan wrote a Sci-Fi novel – Contact. This movie came out in 1998, directed by Academy Award-winner Robert Zemeckis.

With such successes as the Back to the Future trilogy, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and Romancing the Stone, Zemeckis has proven himself a director whose films are embraced by critics and audiences alike. Zemeckis now returns to directing for the first time since winning the Best Director Oscar for Forrest Gump, a film that was also named Best Picture and that became the biggest box-office film of 1994.

This movie raises some interesting questions about

  • Faith
  • Science
  • Personal Experience
  • A question I am going to ask you later  is “what do you think Carl Sagan believes is the significance of finding other intelligent life in our universe”.  [Explain more if needed]

Story Development

  • The movie stars Jody Foster as Dr. Eleanor (Ellie) Arroway.  Ellie is a brilliant scientist who is working on the SETI Project. SETI – Search for Extra-Trestrial Intelligance.
  • Her work involves searching outer space with radio telescopes but she runs into a problem when her government funding is cut.
  • She then turns to a multinational corporate billionaire for the financial backing she needs.

To get a feel for who Ellie is, let’s watch this first clip.  01:04:15 – 01:06:24

  • With her new funding Ellie leases time on a giant antenna array in Sacaro New Mexico.  Now if this movie was made in the 60s this movie might be about her endless search for nothing.  BUT this movie was made last year, so as you might guess she does indeed find a radio signal from deep space – near a star called Vega.
  • The Signal from Vega in fact has several layers of information
  • Basic layer – repeating prime numbers 1-101
  • Layer retransmission of the first television broadcast = Hitler opening the Olympic Games in Berlin in 1936

The news of this discovery is released to the press and people respond.

Lets’ look at this next clip. 00:58:20  –  01:01:38

  • While the President of the United States is trying to calm everone down the SETI Team discovers a third layer of information in the signal. This layer contains pages and pages of encrypted information which with a little help Ellie is able to decode.

Next Clip.  1:09:50  - 1:11:47

  • At this point it is time to introduce another character – Palmer Joss

Palmer is a theologian of sorts who decided to write a book about technology and it’s emotional effects on people.

Through is book fame he becomes a respected religious scholar and President Clinton makes him his religious adviser. Years earlier, Ellie and Palmer had a one-night-stand that ended quickly because Palmer got a little too personal.

Now they run into each other at a meeting at the White House and agree to hook up at reception later that night.

Let’s see what happens at the reception.  1:15:00  -  1:17:55

  • Well it turns out that Ellie was right- That third layer of information was in fact plans for building a transport  to take someone to the Vega system.  An now the question is who will get to go.  An international committee is formed to select the voyager. In the final cut it boils down to two people Ellie (of course) and a guy we don’t like, named David Drumlin.  To make matters a little more complicated our friend Palmer has been selected to sit on the committee by the United States.

Let’s see what happens to Ellie during the final round of questioning. 1:25:45  - 1:28:20

Question #1

Ellie is rejected as a candidate for the space mission because she is a scientist who has no evidence for the existence of God and therefore cannot believe in God. What is “faith”?  Is there any connection to things like the scientific method or reason and faith in “spiritual things” or is faith a personal issue?

Is it true that there is no proof of God?  Is this a Science issue or a philosophy issue?

  • David Drumlin is preparing to test the passenger pod on the transport machine

Next Clip  1:36:10  -  1:39:40

  • It’s a bummer. The machine blew up. But what no one knew is that a second machine had also been built on a remote island.  And you guessed it!  They what Ellie to go.

Ellie does go and experience some very cool space graphic worm holes, star formations and finally she meet a Vagain who appears to has her Father.  They discuss a few things and then the Vegain has this to say to Ellie...

Next Clip   2:07:48  -  2:10:47

Question #2

What do you think Carl Sagan believes is the significance in finding other intelligent life in our universe?

What effect would that have on you?

Well as you can tell by the end of the last clip it appeared to everyone that Ellie didn’t go anywhere.  And to make matters worst all of the recording equipment she was carrying only recorded static.  The result is that no one believes Ellie story.  In fact the International Committee is reconvened to debreif and question Ellie

Let’s Listen to what they have to say.   2:16:00  -  2:18:54

Question #3

What role does personal experience have in faith?


Whether we are traveling to the center of the Universe or just trying to make it to payday,  I think the question of Faith/Personal experience and Evidence is very relevant.

The Bible claims that God made us as rational beings and God is will relate to us on that basis.  I cannot prove to you with science that God exist but that dose not mean that there is “no data ether way”.

  • Reliable historical source document with plenty of opportunity to check its accuracy in recording events.
  • Records eyewitness accounts of significant events which attest to the existence of God.
  • Provides a unique test for its authenticity though 100% accurate protective prophecy.