Dr. Strange: Fact or Fiction?

For superhero movies, we’re used to spending the first 45 minutes meeting our relatable heroes and watching their transformations into the fantastic. Sometimes with the package comes insight into other planets, creatures, powers, and dimensions unknown to regular human life. Such is the case with Dr. Strange.

Dr. Strange, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, is a successful neuroscientist committed to belief in the material world – nothing more! He refuses to “believe in fairytales about chakras or energy or the power of belief.” In name, this belief is naturalism, a worldview held by many in the Western world, and, most notably, the majority of scientists.

It’s precisely the prevalence of this worldview that makes Strange’s journey so fascinating.

Strange receives a rude awakening when his quest for physical healing leads him to the Ancient One, a guru who shows Strange his own soul and other non-physical realities within a mysterious multiverse. “You think this material universe is all there is,” she quips, “What if I told you the reality you know is one of many?” Strange quickly discovers there is more to existence than he originally understood.

But could such a journey from naturalism to something more ever take place in the real world?

The film is littered with philosophical themes and statements. Numerous subplots regarding origin, meaning, morality, and destiny are opened up, and all are worth seriously digesting. I find the villain of the story, Dormammu, the most fascinating.  This character is briefly shown to be an extremely powerful, personal being who exists in a realm outside of time and space. A being who by nature defies Strange’s belief in naturalism.

Could such a being even exist? It may shock you to discover that some philosophers have dedicated their life’s work to showing that such a being exists; for example, philosopher William Lane Craig through the Kalam Cosmological argument.

The argument goes like this:

1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
2. The universe began to exist.
3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

In a deductive argument, if the two first premises are more plausibly true than false, then the conclusion follows necessarily. Let’s start with the second premise.

2. The universe began to exist.

Virtually all cosmologists agree that the universe began to exist. Leading cosmologists Arvind Borde, Alan Guth, and Alexander Vilenkin have proven that “any universe which has, on average, been expanding throughout its history cannot be eternal in the past, but must have an absolute beginning.” The universe’s beginning has scientific evidence, but is also philosophically confirmed. The idea that the universe has always existed would mean there have been an infinite number of past events. However, such an infinite regress of causes is an absurd concept. Science and philosophy confirm that the universe began to exist.

Now let’s turn to the first premise.

1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.

Consider if this premise were not true. You would have to believe that things begin to exist without a cause. If this were true, we would expect to see anything popping into existence at anytime without cause. But this is not what we experience. It’s a heavy burden to prove that things begin to exist without a cause. Did time, space, and energy begin to exist without something causing it? They came from nothing, inexplicably? “Nothingness” could not have caused the universe since nothingness can’t cause anything. It has no causal properties since it’s nothing! Besides, all of our experience tells us the first premise is true: everything that begins to exist has a cause.

3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

There is good reason to find premise one and two more plausibly true than false, making the conclusion reasonable. The universe has a cause. There are a few conclusions we can draw about this cause. Since this cause created time and space and energy, it must exist separate from them. Furthermore, it must be extremely powerful to have made matter out of nothing.

Therefore, it is logically possible for an immaterial, personal being to exist outside of time and space. In addition to accurately describing the fictional character Dormammu, this logical argument describes the God of Christian Theism. For myself, I am intrigued by the possibility of existence beyond the material world, especially when there is good reason to believe so. At the onset it seems ridiculous that the storyline of a superhero movie could include truth rejected by most people. However, the moviegoer who watches with his or her brain switched on and is willing to considering the arguments may embark on a journey of discovering life beyond the physical, just like Dr. Strange himself!

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