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Faith and Pete's Dragon

"Grace’s father Mr. Meacham (Robert Redford, with the kindliest of twinkles in his eye) is a teller of tall tales, but she never believed his stories about meeting a dragon in the woods. But as Pete reveals more details about Elliot, Grace gives her dad another chance to convince her. The stage is set for a variation on a well-known trope of skepticism: the “invisible dragon” argument from Carl Sagan’s The Demon-Haunted World. Sagan posits a conversation between a believer and a skeptic regarding a dragon—the believer keeps qualifying the dragon in the face of the skeptic’s desire for proof (“let me see the dragon.” “You can’t, it’s invisible”). Take that, religion! It’s a vacuous argument, of course, because it assumes the senses are our only path to truth—but belief in the accuracy of our senses is not warranted by the evidence of our senses themselves. After all, if a dragon appeared to Sagan, his first impulse would surely be to think it a trick; so how can he be sure his senses don’t deceive him the rest of the time? There’s a hidden leap of faith in skepticism, and there are more things deep in the woods than are dreamt of in Carl Sagan’s philosophy.

In Pete’s Dragon, there is truly an invisible dragon out there. But how can someone who hasn’t met Elliot know he is real? Robert Redford gives a stirring speech about the magic he experienced on the day he met the dragon. How does he know it really happened? Because the magic persisted, changing the way he sees the world. “It changed how I saw you,” he tells his daughter. That brush with the invisible formed who he is and how he understands the wondrous side of everything in his world. And Grace decides to have faith in this, asking Pete to lead her deep into the woods to meet Elliot. The movie plays this moment with a light touch. But it’s nonetheless a powerful affirmation of meaning that lives beyond a skeptical worldview."

Pete and his dragon, Elliot

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