Dan Brown on re­li­gion and sci­ence

A quick chat with the best­selling au­thor about the big ques­tions he tack­les in his new book.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Culture - By HILLEL ITALIE

DAN Brown is once again tak­ing on the big ques­tions.

“Will God sur­vive sci­ence?” asks the au­thor of the block­buster The Da Vinci Code (2003) and other philo­soph­i­cal-reli­gious thrillers dur­ing a re­cent in­ter­view.

“All the gods of our past have fallen. So the ques­tion now is: Are we naive to think the gods of to­day won’t suf­fer the same fate?”

His new novel is Ori­gin ,a chart-top­per on Ama­zon.com within a cou­ple of weeks of its Oct 3 re­lease in the United States, and for Brown fans a familiar blend of trav­el­ogue, his­tory, con­spir­a­cies and who­dunit, with asides on ev­ery­thing from the po­etry of Wil­liam Blake to the rise and fall of fas­cism in Spain. (Ori­gin is re­viewed below.)

Brown pro­tag­o­nist Robert Lang­don, a Har­vard sym­bol­o­gist, is in Spain and back in dan­ger. A for­mer stu­dent, Ed­mond Kirsch, has been as­sas­si­nated just as he’s ready to un­veil a sci­en­tific-tech­no­log­i­cal break­through that he prom­ises will bring about the down­fall of Western re­li­gion and rev­o­lu­tionise how peo­ple think of life and death. Lang­don, with the help of a prince’s way­ward lover and a voice of ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence named Win­ston, at­tempts to find out what Kirsch had planned.

The Da Vinci Code out­raged Catholic church of­fi­cials and schol­ars with such sug­ges­tions as Je­sus and Mary mar­ried and had chil­dren. Brown ac­knowl­edged that the con­tro­versy led him to avoid larger reli­gious ques­tions in his fol­low-up novel, The Lost Sym­bol (2009), but his scep­ti­cism re­mains.

A na­tive and long­time res­i­dent of New Hamp­shire, United States, he re­mem­bers vis­it­ing Bos­ton’s Mu­seum of Sci­ence as a boy and be­ing con­fused by the the­ory of evo­lu­tion and how it con­tra­dicted the story of Adam and Eve. Back home, Brown asked a priest about the dif­fer­ences.

“This guy said, ‘Nice boys don’t ask that ques­tion’. I did what ev­ery lit­tle boy does, I started ask­ing the ques­tions,” he says. “I grav­i­tated to­wards sci­ence. Faith be­came dif­fi­cult for me.”

Brown has the time and money to re­search his set­tings first­hand and spent ex­ten­sive time in Spain over the past few years. The coun­try ap­peals to him, he says, be­cause of its blend of old and new, of su­per­com­put­ers and deep roots in Western re­li­gion. The vi­o­lent po­lice ac­tions against Cata­lans vot­ing on in­de­pen­dence were “heart­break­ing” but didn’t shock him; the “fault lines” of Span­ish cul­ture were the rea­son he wanted to write about it.

Speak­ing from a sky-high floor of a New York City ho­tel, look­ing out on the city on a sunny fall af­ter­noon, the 53-year-old Brown also dis­cusses his feel­ings about tech­nol­ogy, the re­sponse to his books, and the fu­ture of Robert Lang­don.

On kids and their dig­i­tal de­vices: “The mir­a­cles for kids to­day – they have noth­ing to do with Noah’s Ark. They have to do with an op­er­at­ing sys­tem. When I was a kid, the mir­a­cles of my life were the res­ur­rec­tion, a can­dle­light ser­vice on New Year’s Eve, the vir­gin birth and the three wise men.

“Things have changed a lot and it takes nu­mer­ous amounts of magic to im­press on a child that some­thing is spe­cial – be­cause they have some­thing spe­cial ev­ery day of their lives.”

On what his friends in the clergy think of his book: “(They) would fall into three cat­e­gories: Those that es­sen­tially say, ‘We’re go­ing to have to agree to dis­agree’. Those who would say, ‘Hey, this is ac­tu­ally a re­ally in­ter­est­ing di­a­logue. It’s mak­ing me think about re­li­gion in a new and ex­cit­ing way. Thank you.’ And those who es­sen­tially say, ‘We can’t be friends any­more’. “You know what – those are out­liers. The pri­mary re­ac­tion I get, from athe­ists to the deeply de­vout, is that the di­a­logue is crit­i­cal.”

On why he’s never writ­ten about East­ern re­li­gion: “I spent some time in In­dia and thought I might write about Hin­duism. But it’s so far re­moved from my ex­pe­ri­ence I couldn’t even get my mind around it to write about it. “Chris­tian­ity, Ju­daism and Is­lam share a gospel, and it’s the one I grew up with . ... Hin­duism is not monothe­is­tic; that’s my tra­di­tion. And this is a re­li­gion of many gods. I can’t de­cide whether it feels more ad­vanced or less ad­vanced. It’s just so dif­fer­ent.”

On why he may write a book that doesn’t in­clude Lang­don: “I think Lang­don wouldn’t mind a va­ca­tion. He’s had a tough few years. He’s the man I wish I could be, clearly. He has a knack for fall­fas­ci­nat­ing ing into sit­u­a­tions. He’s far more dar­ing than I am. I proba­away bly would run from most of those ad­ven­tures.”

On why he’s an op­ti­mist: “We have plenty of tech­nolo­gies we could use to de­stroy the planet and we don’t. There’s more love on this planet than hate, there’s more creade­struc­tive tiv­ity than power. “I know it’s a strange day to be say­ing that, but there is more love than hate by ex­po­nen­tial fac­tors and we’ll find a way to ex­press that.” — AP

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