He walked in, in a black slim-fit suit, to deafening applause, elegantly pausing every two steps for pictures. On 6th November, Dan Brown, the author of best-sellers like The Da Vinci Code and Inferno, smilingly greeted a packed ballroom of eager fans at the Sharjah International Book Fair 2014, traversing the age-old question of ‘Science vs. Religion’ in his own unique fashion.
In excited anticipation, a number of children squeezed into the few remaining seats in the front before his arrival. The atmosphere was so charged, we half-expected a band to begin playing on stage. Brown began in his characteristic narrative manner, speaking of how often he is asked ‘Why this obsession with Science and Religion?’
He traced his love for the two subjects back to his parents – his mother a church organist and his father a Math teacher – and an upbringing that encouraged asking questions. He said they had “no vacation from religion” and recounted how the Brown family had “floating church services” at the lake by their family cottage. In contrast, he told us how cutting of baby carrots, at the dinner table, was an opportunity for his father to teach them all about ellipses, circles and hyperbolas.
Further highlighting the differences of his parents’ beliefs, Brown held up his father and mother’s license plates: One read KYRIE [means ‘Lord, have mercy’ in Greek], the other METRIC. Seamlessly talking about the coexistence and clashes of science and religion, Brown said that he began questioning the differences between the two when he turned 13. Brown said questions like “What did the edge of the universe look like?” kept him up at night when he was little.
Having asked a priest at his church about which version was true – evolution or creation – he was told “Nice boys don’t ask bad questions.” Brown went on to say that while Science is filled with impressive evidence of its claims, religion is far more demanding, but the deeper science goes, the more uncertain it becomes.
Traversing these sensitive topics, Brown infused a few light-hearted anecdotes, the best of which was Tom Hanks helping him put on a kilt in a hotel room for an after-party. He said, laughingly, that Ron Howard, director of the Da Vinci Code movie, asked if he had imagined while writing the book that he’d be in this situation.
He ended on a high note about how there are no distinctions in culture or religion when we all face the unanswered and feel awe while looking at the star-filled heavens: “Whatever that is, it’s bigger than us. It’s beyond our grasp.”