If you’ve looked at my Moviefest list, you’ll see that one of the movies on it is “The Exorcism of Emily Rose”. I rented the movie when it first came out because I like a good ghost story and it seemed like it might be a decent one. But when I watched it, I discovered that it wasn’t really a ghost/horror story at all. Sure, it had some odd things going on and some disturbing scenes, but at its heart it was a courtroom drama, and in that courtroom drama was an incredibly interesting philosophical argument that touched on issues of science versus faith, with the prosecution representing science and naturalism, the defense representing faith, and the lawyer representing the middle ground, and perhaps representing what could be called accommodationists under the “science and faith are compatible” line as opposed to the “stop being so nasty” line.
The movie is fairly even-handed, I think. The two doctors representing the scientific “Epileptic Psychosis” theory do come across as fairly arrogant and a bit heartless, while the priest comes across as caring and humble, which isn’t that great. But every single thing that is brought up as proof of the supernatural is countered by the prosecutor as having at least a potential natural explanation. The prosecutor starts out reasonable and becomes more bombastic as it goes along, but his final summary loses the ranting and makes a poignant statement about how facts must be what matters. The defense attorney starts out callous and bombastic and becomes more uncertain and less concerned with winning as it goes along. Overall, I think that if this was a real case in full people might start doubting just a bit on both sides of the doctrinal divide.
I plan to make a post on issues with drugs in the near future, and might do a post detailing the testimony of a philosophical therapist — they did exist, at one point, really [grin] — outlining another theory that fits between the neuroscientists’ and the anthropologist’s theories. But I just wanted to highlight the movie and how good it is at bringing out the philosophical issues around this.
Interestingly, my next movie is “I, Robot” — suggested to me by a professor of mine as an examination of what might go wrong with a purely rational stance without emotion, which is what I favour.