An Open Letter to Dan Brown

I appreciate your call for dialogue between "creationists" and "evolutionists." But are you willing to have your own views challenged?

American author Dan Brown during a press conference at the 2017 Frankfurt Book Fair (Frankfurter Buchmesse) on October 12, 2017 in Frankfurt am Main, Germany.

By Michael Brown Published on November 3, 2017

Dear Dan,

Before getting into the heart of this letter, as a non-fiction author myself, I am amazed at your gift for writing fiction. It’s incredible to see how you get the reader involved. How you hold the reader’s interest. How you paint such detailed word pictures. How you build to such intense, page-turning climaxes. And, as one who appreciates careful research, I love the work you put into your books. As you once explained, your publisher wants good books, not fast books.

I remember in the days when the Da Vinci Code took off. On every flight I took, I saw a good number of people reading your book. People would ask me if what you wrote was true. That’s what I call powerful fiction writing! I myself could not put the book down, even though I knew biblically and historically that the central thesis was false. Again, kudos to your literary skills.

But, to the point of this open letter.

What the Priest Told You

I saw your recent TV interview where you expressed hope that your new book, Origin, would lead to dialogue between creationists and evolutionists. You noted that “there is an enormous rift now between creationism and evolutionary science, a rift that needs to be bridged through dialogue.” You even expressed the hope that your book could help spark such dialogue. More broadly, you stated, “I hope they [meaning, readers of your new book] take away a desire to have a dialogue with people whose ideas are not their own.”

If I may be so bold as to ask: Are you willing to help lead the way in that dialogue? Are you willing to have your own views challenged and your own beliefs examined as you challenge and examine the beliefs of others?

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While reading Origin, I kept asking myself, “What happened to Dan Brown as a child? There was something that took place that profoundly influenced him against ‘traditional religious faith.’ What was it?”

A few days later, a friend (who had no idea I was reading your book) pointed me to your interview on CBS Sunday Morning (October 1). It answered my question loudly and clearly. In fact, after a few seconds of internet research, I found this was not the first time you told your story.

An AP article from May 18, 2012, recounted a talk you had just given in New Hampshire. It contained these salient lines:

“I owe everything to my parents,” said Brown, whose father was a math teacher and mother was a church organist and piano teacher.

Brown says he was encouraged to ask questions at home as a child. He believed both his mother’s religion and his father’s science, but became confused when the two conflicted. He told the crowd that one day, at age 13, he asked a priest how to go about reconciling those differences.

He said the priest replied, “Nice boys don’t ask questions like that.”

And, as you explained in the CBS interview, this was the beginning of your journey to find “your truth.”

Does God Survive Science?

How unfortunate it was that the priest responded as he did. He should have said, “What an excellent question! I’m so glad you asked. Let’s explore it together.” Perhaps your life would have taken a very different direction had the priest encouraged honest inquiry and welcomed questions exploring apparent contradictions between religion and science.

To be sure, I imagine you’re quite satisfied with your life so far. Much of it, since the Da Vinci Code, must seem like a dream come true. But what if you could have a beautiful relationship with your Creator, the Father of all fathers? What if you could do more than raise questions for your millions of readers? What if you could point to them to solid, redemptive, life-changing answers? How amazing would that be?

Are you genuinely unaware of the large number of highly educated scientists and researchers who reject Darwin’s naturalism?

I appreciate that you’re calling for dialogue between “creationists” and “evolutionists.” At the same time, you state that historically, “God does not survive science.” Perhaps you are unaware that, to this day, many scientific discoveries are made by people of great faith. And perhaps you are unaware that religious faith worldwide is growing, not declining. You claim that religion has an important part to play in the world. But you have stated clearly that you think, eventually, religious faith will disappear. And you see this as good, not bad.

Of course, you’re quite free to have these views and express them. My concern is that you seem to pick the worst of those you differ with compared to the best of those you agree with. In other words, when it comes to the so-called “brights” — atheists like Richard Dawkins — you write of them in Origin with esteem. When it comes to those who question Darwinian evolution, you point to a website you feel you can easily disparage.

What You’ve Missed

Are you genuinely unaware of the large number of highly educated scientists and researchers — from physicists to biologists to astronomers to geologists and others — who reject Darwin’s naturalism? Have you ever read a scholarly tome on intelligent design (written with no reference to religious belief at all) that makes the intellectual case for a creator? Have you spent a day with someone like John Lennox, a committed Christian who has debated men like Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, and who has served as Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford and Fellow in Mathematics and the Philosophy of Science at Green Templeton College, Oxford, with Ph.D.’s from Oxford and Cambridge in Mathematics and in Science?

Or have you worked your way through an academic study of miracles, such as Prof. Craig Keener’s two-volume work, Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts, which also discusses documented miracles today? Or have you visited countries in the developing world where Christian missionaries are the primary reason why some communities have running water and electricity, not to mention schools, hospitals, and eternal hope?

I’m quite aware that the hero of your recent books, Robert Langdon, is not an aggressive atheist. Even in the lengthy climax to Origin, you raise the question of where the laws of physics came from (apparently not even E-Wave figured that out yet!). At the same time, I wonder what kind of dialogue you’re looking for. And more importantly, if you’re open to the possibility of the existence of a benevolent, omnipotent Creator.

So, rather than revile you as a heretic and an anti-Christ figure, I reach out to you as a fellow-lover of truth, inviting you to have some genuine interaction. Why not lead the way?

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  • Scotty Brooks

    Very nice way of telling him that he is a snake in the grass . . . it’s not about changing everyone’s mind. It is about placing just a tiny seed of doubt. THAT is Dan Brown.

  • monique

    Very good refutation, indeed. There are may dan browns in this world today. I wish they could all read this and challenge their own beliefs, their confused mix-ups of shreds of truth and misconception.

  • punditwannabe

    I doubt very much Dan Brown’s account of what the priest told him. Sounds very cliche. I’m sure it happens, but with the vast number of apologetics works out there, seems a weak excuse for blaming the church for one’s disbelief.

    • Chip Crawford

      My thought was how unfortunate that he was part of such a weak church, apparently bereft of God and his wisdom, and thus had nothing to offer a young man with an inquiring mind.

      • punditwannabe

        I’m not familiar with the Catholic church, so I can’t speak to their vilifying of “all works not printed under their auspices”. As well, sorry if “this commenter” appeared “mean”, certainly didn’t mean to. My experience has been so different, and I’ve heard that indictment so many times in exactly the same way that it rang a little cliche to me, no meanness intended. There are so many Christian intellectuals in the apologetic, philosophic, ethics, science fields, that I just felt it’s not a good enough excuse. Sorry if I offended you.

        • Chip Crawford

          My mother asked our parish priest some years ago about one of her sisters marrying a divorced man, citing a public person who got a dispensation to do the same. He blandly told her that if you have enough money, you can do anything. That was kind of how it went. He was older and very burnt out it seemed. Nothing of pastoral care whatsoever. It happened. Certainly, there are happier examples and I am glad for anyone who had those. But the priest’s detached comments mentioned here were not suspect to me since we had experienced the same level of disconnect. No offense taken. Thank you

  • TruthBeliever

    Well said, Dr. Brown!

  • davidrev17

    At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:25-30/ESV).

    “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart…For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God” (1 Corinthians1:18-19, 26-29/ESV).

    “Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:12-14/ESV).

  • FozzieT

    These days the word “dialogue” often means, “Shut up and listen while we tell you why you’re wrong, you ignorant bigot.”

  • alexa B

    I am so glad that happened….I prefer this DB over any other. I will forever support his book and beliefs. Open your eyes and see who the real god is 😉 (hint: humans if u did not catch that- those who know only destruction)

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