The Prometheus movie and the ever challenging quest for our origins
Warning: this review may contain ‘spoilers’.
Many science-fiction movies raise questions about our origins to set the stage for the story they want to present us. Prometheus is no exception. Director Ridley Scott, of Alien and Blade Runner fame, creates a groundbreaking mythology in which a team of space explorers follow clues to the creation of mankind on earth. It leads them on a journey to the darkest corners of the universe, where they are thrust into a horrific battle to preserve mankind.
Prometheus does have some outstanding CGI effects and regardless of some questionable fundamental premises, it has a highly entertaining story. No doubt it will add to Scott’s already impressive array of blockbuster movies.
Prometheus begins by showing an Eden-like earth replete with beautiful mountains, forests and oceans. In the opening scene, a humanoid alien is seen standing near the top of a waterfall watching the ‘mother ship’ leave earth. The alien drinks a black wormy liquid from a vial and goes into a convulsive fit. The alien quickly deteriorates and falls into the waterfall leaving only its DNA behind.
Fast-forwarding to the year 2089, in a remote cave in Scotland, a Christian archaeologist, Dr. Elizabeth Shaw, makes an earth-shattering discovery. A 35,000 year-old cave painting depicts a giant humanoid creature with several smaller humans bowing down to it and six small circles. Dr. Shaw deduces that prehistoric cavemen were visited by these aliens who showed them where their ‘makers’ came from.
Four years later, Shaw and her team travel to a distant moon on a spaceship called Prometheus in search of mankind’s origins. The expedition is funded by an extremely wealthy corporation owned by an elderly entrepreneur named Peter Weyland. Prior to boarding the ship, the crew members meet to watch a holographic video of Mr. Weyland who indicates to them that he’s always pondered three big questions throughout his life. Where did we come from? What about the origin of humankind? What’s our purpose in life? It’s at this point the movie really reveals its religious agenda.
After arriving on an earth-like moon (supposedly our ‘makers’ home planet) the crew members awaken from hibernation/stasis state to explore their new base. On doing so, they find an alien spacecraft containing the body of an alien in stasis, who they presume is the last of its species. Elsewhere on the moon they find other deceased aliens. Dr. Shaw brings back one of the deceased aliens’ heads to the ship and performs a series of tests on it. A DNA analysis reveals that the alien DNA is exactly the same as human DNA.
Later on, we find out that Mr. Weyland is a stow-away in the ship. He said that he wanted to “meet his makers” and he hoped they could “save him from death”. This is a common theme in UFOlogy—that older and wiser aliens might ‘save us’—a kind of messianic fulfillment. However, Shaw discovers that the sole alien’s agenda is to destroy mankind and the earth. They are hardly our benevolent creators and saviours from space.
With the popularity of science fiction and its overt alien themes, the question of alien life is one that troubles many Christians, because they have been led to believe that the universe is replete with alien life. Many think, otherwise why would God have made the universe so big?
The idea that aliens are our creators isn’t new to Prometheus. DNA co-discoverer Francis Crick proposed that some form of primordial life or DNA may have inadvertently drifted to earth billions of years ago. This idea is known as panspermia. Prometheus promotes the idea of ‘directed’ panspermia, where life was seeded deliberately by older (on the evolutionary scale) and, thus, more technologically advanced beings. At the outset of Prometheus, biological evolution and directed panspermia are key premises of the movie. Several problems emerge from such a foundation. Coming from a biblical worldview, the possibility of intelligent sentient alien life is completely impossible as we’ve pointed out before (please read this article before commenting on whether God created life on other planets).
Science and religion
The main character of Prometheus, Dr. Elizabeth Shaw, is acted by Noomi Rapace. While in hibernation, the onboard robot uses highly advanced technology to view the memories of the crew. It observes one of Shaw’s memories of her as a little girl working with her father who was a Catholic missionary.
Throughout the film, several crew members (including a robot designed by Mr. Weyland) question Dr. Shaw about her beliefs and the impact that finding alien life would have on her religion. In fact, at one point, her boyfriend tells her that she should take off the cross. When she asks him why he replies that God didn’t make us like the Bible says. Seeming undaunted by the question, she turns and asks him, "Well, who made ‘them’?" Several times she defends her belief against her unbelieving colleagues. But unfortunately there is no evidence of her actually taking the Bible as authoritative, especially the numerous times that the Bible declares that God created the world and everything that lives in it. This type of compromise has serious implications to the Christian. Is the Bible God’s inspired, inerrant, perfect revelation to man or not? And if aliens created us, and not God, is the message of Scripture even salvageable? Despite this, Shaw does not seem to have a crisis of faith, but that seems to be more because her faith is fideistic and unconnected to reality.
Questions raised by Prometheus
The movie raises those ‘3 big questions of life’ that most have. So we can relate to Mr. Weyland in wanting an answer to those questions. However, Scripture has very clear answers to those big questions. Genesis 1:1 tells us that ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth’. Therefore it was no accident. Genesis 1:27 says that God made us in ‘his own image’ (not an alien’s). We are not just ‘molecules in motion’. He made us special and with a purpose. Many parts of the Bible allude to this—our main purpose is simply to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever! The atheists are correct: if there is no Creation—no Creator—there is no purpose to life.
Scientific problems with Prometheus
In addition to the many biblical problems with Prometheus, there are also some scientific problems as well. These include space travel to the other side of the universe and alien & human DNA matching 100%. It’s understandable that a science fiction movie would have scientifically-impossible elements. However, there are some who may think that the things we see in science-fiction can someday become science-reality.
For example, to travel at one-tenth light speed, a spacecraft weighing several tons would need the energy requirements exceeding the world’s daily electricity consumption. This is an enormous amount of energy that is purely the stuff of science fiction. It is not a matter of just developing some advanced future technology. There are major scientific problems for the idea of interstellar space travel, including a huge lack of energy, megaton dust bombs, and huge g-forces. The very laws of physics have to be violated to travel at faster than light speed.
The idea that alien and human DNA would be a 100% match (which the movie claimed) itself violates evolutionary ideas. After millions of years of undirected evolutionary processes on differing planets, how would it be the same? The whole basis of life on other planets and that many aliens appear different is because life took differing evolutionary ‘left and right’ turns compared to the earth’s.
Believers who see Prometheus need to have their foundation firmly planted in Scripture, especially in the book of Genesis. Not only will they be seeing a brilliant sci-fi film, but they can also use it to begin evangelizing to someone they know who might not be a believer. Because ET needed evolution, first, one can demolish the evolutionary premise that aliens seeded life on earth and that undirected evolution took over from there. This website has many articles dealing with the impossible premise of evolution.
The Bible’s big picture is extremely important when pondering life’s most pressing questions. Ultimately, where we think we came from determines our overall worldview, our behavior and where we think we’ll go when we die. The movie raises some of these really important questions, but we need to gently remind people not to be looking to the skies to hypothetical and unseen aliens for our salvation. Instead, our hope and trust should be placed in the saving and resurrecting power of what Christ has done for us as revealed in the Bible. He is our ultimate hope. What an amazing thing to think about! The Creator of the universe loved us so much that He became one of us and took the punishment for our sins so that we can have eternal life with Him.