The Battle Between Science and Religion, Reflected in Dan Brown’s Works
This paper aims at highlighting the connection between science and religion, especially the battle between them and the way they are shown in Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon book series, focusing on the most recent novel Origin which raises the questions: ”Where do we come from?” and ”Where are we going?”. In this paper, I will discuss the main idea of the novel and what conclusions can be drawn from the whole perspective that the book presents.
The debate between science and religion has been going on for centuries, and it is a discussion that may never come to end because this matter would require a lot of research and the debate is very deep. This conflict started with people wondering about how humanity even began. Throughout history, two versions are most common: first, that humanity was born from Adam and Eve, so the theory of creationism, and the second, Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, from which we can understand that humans evolved from organisms that changed over time. In short, these two are seen as domains that are preoccupied with different areas of life, meaning ”science concerns the natural world, whereas religion concerns both the natural and the supernatural”. But both of them have changed over time, even though religion’s basic doctrine remained the same. As Alfred North Whitehead puts it,
In the early days of Christianity, there was a general belief among Christians that the world was coming to an end in the lifetime of people then living. We can make only indirect inferences as to how far this belief was authoritatively proclaimed, but it is certain that it was widely held, and that it formed an impressive part of the popular religious doctrine. The belief proved itself to be mistaken, and Christian doctrine adjusted itself to the change.
So, both science and religion suffered changes over time, just science has evolved more, and is still under development. But it is not our concern for the moment to get into details, because it is not part of the purpose of this paper.
This topic has resurfaced with the publishing of the novel The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown in 2003. In a world where J.K. Rowling ruled the fiction genre with Harry Potter, Dan Brown really turned everything upside down with the publication of this book, and also brought this subject into light, making it an interest for millions of readers. The whole idea of the novel, the idea that Jesus Christ was married, and following the Last Supper of Leonardo Da Vinci, speculating this controversy that had readers glued to the book and constantly talking about it. The book was so successful that it made readers want more and read his other books. According to Zhenwu Zhu and Aiping Zang ”each of Brown’s novels not only covers a wide range of subjects, such as history, art, literature, religion, and science but also connects them to long-standing mysteries and sensitive issues in today’s world”. Although people were interested in this kind of fiction, Christians do not see this theme as one really well-intended, rather than one who has the desire to destroy the foundations of religion itself. But the subject is thrilling, and that is one of the reasons Dan Brown’s books are so popular worldwide because it strikes curiosity.
While The Da Vinci Code explored the controversy lying between Da Vinci’s paintings, Angels & Demons treated the hidden conflict between the Illuminati and the Catholic Church, and Inferno dealt with the danger of a man-made plague that would kill a big part of the population as a solution for the overpopulation of the planet, Origin is way thrilling because it deals with the beginning of our species, which has been debated over the centuries. The main plot of the book consists of a huge discovery made by an atheist scientist, Edmond Kirsch, one that disturbs the great heads of the Church. He was to announce this great discovery at an event, but eventually, he was assassinated, which sparked a lot of controversy and speculations. His friend, professor Robert Langdon goes on the way to get to his transmission with the help of his AI, Winston, a ”machine” that Edmond created in order to make sure that the transmission with this breakthrough would be broadcasted all over the world. Almost at the end of the book, one can find out the exact explanation of the origins of humanity. Darwin’s theory is mentioned, and the Miller-Urey experiment where only the laws of chemistry were used and the fact that it failed, and it only produced some amino acids. This experiment was supposed to demonstrate that life does not need divine intervention in order to be created. Eventually, 50 years later after the experiments ”the new analysis of the vials … identified several important nucleobases—the building blocks of RNA, and perhaps eventually … DNA”. Then the character’s ideas begin to be even more interesting and really thought-provoking. The scientist used virtual reality to illustrate the passing of time, proving that over years life really does form. It is further explained the fact that the universe functions by chaos, and the fact that the only purpose of everything is to spread energy ” If Professor England’s theory is correct, then the entire operating system of the cosmos could be summed up by a single overriding command: spread energy!”. According to this perspective, Evolution is the way the universe continually tests and refines its tools. The most efficient tools survive and replicate themselves, improving constantly, becoming more and more complex and efficient. Eventually, some tools look like trees, and some look like, well … us.
And the conclusion is very interesting:
The truth is—we come from nowhere … and from everywhere. We come from the same laws of physics that create life across the cosmos. We are not special. We exist with or without God. We are the inevitable result of entropy. Life is not the point of the universe. Life is simply what the universe creates and reproduces in order to dissipate energy.
The scientist’s answer to the question ”Where are we going?” is even more captivating, as it really relates to the reality of our world and the way it will look in the future. Edmond Kirsch explains the fact that technology is a big part of our lives and it can be considered a species of its own, in the book even having the name ”Technium”. According to the program, he ruled, technology will still be a constant presence in our lives that it will absorb us, in a way that humans and technology will be fused into one single species. It is an idea that is not uncommon to us in real life. Medicine and technology collaborate so that different things and machines are created in order to prolong human life, and it is not wonder that technology may be integrated in the human organism:
”Human beings are evolving into something different,” he declared. “We are becoming a hybrid species—a fusion of biology and technology. The same tools that today live outside our bodies—smartphones, hearing aids, reading glasses, most pharmaceuticals—in fifty years will be incorporated into our bodies to such an extent that we will no longer be able to consider ourselves Homo sapiens.”
Even though in the book this broadcast has spread a lot of concern about the credibility of what Edmond Kirsch says, the ending is very positive, because humanity fusing with technology is not as scary as it seems to be at first. Because humanity will not be annihilated as a species, but it will constantly evolve, and that is the consequence of evolution. It is obvious that these ideas will give every reader something to think about and judge with his own perspective of the world, which is profound.
And the whole reasoning for writing these kinds of thriller novels is fascinating because Dan Brown was very inspired by his own experienced and he wrote these books in order to explore these two worlds, as he comes from a mother who is a Christian church organist and from a father that is a mathematics and probability teacher. So that is the source of fascination:
These two different worldviews posed all kinds of contradictions. The Bible said that God created the universe in seven days but in school, I just learned about the Big Bang. The Bible said God made Adam and Eve and all the animals but I had gone to the Boston Museum of Science and have seen fossils and heard about how everything evolved. And so I asked a priest how should I reconcile these inconsistencies essentially I asked him which story is true and this particular priest replied that nice boys don’t ask that question. At that very moment, I became fascinated with the interplay between science and religion.
His character, professor Robert Langdon, is an embodiment of Brown’s views because the character lives ”on the dividing line between science and religion”. Brown also considers that ”science and religion are two different languages attempting to tell the same story”. So, the purpose of these books is not as wicked as many people tend to believe. The whole philosophy of his writing is that science and religion are both ”inquiries into divinity” and the difference between them is that ”religion focuses on the question itself, while science concerns itself with the search of the answer”.
In conclusion, the battle between science and religion may seem at first as something that may endanger the Christian doctrine, but the main goal is to determine these two things to collaborate and to give a whole view of the world and the secrets that are yet discovered, because it is clear that none of them will disappear too soon, because science is very important for the tangible part of the world, while religion deals with the spiritual part of life.
- Brown, Dan. Origin. PDF File. 2016
- Zhu, Zhenwu, and Aiping Zhang. The Dan Brown Craze: An Analysis of His Formula for Thriller Fiction. Cambridge Scholar Publishing, 2016 (pp. 1-7)
- Whitehead, Alfred, North. “Religion and Science.” The Atlantic (1925) Accessed 13 January 2020
- De Cruz, Helen. ” Religion and Science”. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2017) Accessed 14 January 2020
- ” Will science kill God? - Dan Brown, Author of The Da Vinci Code”. Youtube, uploaded by Web Summit, 10 December 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MIds81TTNj0&list=PL8PvZpA2xd2_m-e82AgOxexyKf26wTVAM&index=2&t=1s.
- Shakeel, Musab. ” Fact and Fiction in Dan Brown’s Origin”. sites.middlebury.edu (Word File), 2017. Accessed 14 January 2020