Friday, January 27, 2006

Angels and Demons -- Science versus Religion

Dan Brown, author of the unputdownable novel The Da Vinci Code, is an exhilaratingly brilliant writer. That book's prequel, Angels and Demons, included a riveting monologue that I found absolutely fascinating. I'd like to share an edited excerpt with you.

In this fictional story, the Vatican's carmerlengo, the head of the Sacred College of Cardinals, supposedly presented the following to a worldwide television audience:
Medicine, electronic communications, space travel, genetic manipulation...these are the miracles about which we now tell our children. These are the miracles we herald as proof that science will bring us the answers. The ancient stories of immaculate conceptions, burning bushes, and parting seas are no longer relevant. God has become obsolete. Science how won the battle.

Science may have alleviated the miseries of disease and drudgery and provided an array of gadgetry for our entertainment and convenience, but it has left us in a world without wonder. Our sunsets have been reduced to wavelengths and frequencies. The complexities of the universe have been shredded into mathematical equations. Even our self-worth as human beings has been destroyed. Science proclaims that Planet Earth and its inhabitants are a meaningless speck in the grand scheme. A cosmic accident. Even the technology that promises to unite us, divides us. Each of us is now electronically connected to the globe, and yet we feel utterly alone. We are bombarded with violence, division, fracture, and betrayal. Skepticism has become a virtue. Cynicism and demand for proof has become enlightened thought. Is it any wonder that humans now feel more depressed and defeated than they have at any point in human history? Does science hold anything sacred? Science looks for answers by probing our unborn fetuses. Science even presumes to rearrange our own DNA. It shatters God's world into smaller and smaller pieces in quest of meaning...and all it finds is more questions.

The ancient war between science and religion is over. Science has won. But it didn't win fairly. It has not won by providing answers. It has won by so radically reorienting our society that the truths we once saw as signposts now seem inapplicable. Religion cannot keep up. Scientific growth is exponential. It feeds on itself like a virus. Every new breakthrough opens doors for new breakthroughs. Mankind took thousands of years to progress from the wheel to the car. Yet only decades from the car into space. Now we measure scientific progress in weeks. We are spinning out of control. The rift between us grows deeper and deeper, and as religion is left behind, people find themselves in a spiritual void. We cry out for meaning. And believe me, we do cry out. We see UFO's, engage in channeling, spirit contact, out-of-body experiences, mindquests -- all these eccentric ideas have a scientific veneer, but they are unashamedly irrational. They are the desperate cry of the modern soul, lonely and tormented, crippled by its own enlightenment and its inability to accept meaning in anything removed from technology.

Science, you say, will save us. Science, I say, has destroyed us. Since the days of Galileo, the church has tried to slow the relentless march of science, sometimes with misguided means, but always with benevolent intention. Even so, the temptations are too great for man to resist. I warn you, look around yourselves. The promises of science have not been kept. Promises of efficiency and simplicity have bred nothing but pollution and chaos. We are a fractured and frantic species...moving down a path of destruction.

Who is this God science? Who is the God who offers his people power but no moral framework to tell you how to use that power? What kind of God gives a child fire but does not warn the child of its dangers? The language of science comes with no signposts about good and bad. Science textbooks tell us how to create a nuclear reaction, and yet they contain no chapter asking us if it is a good or bad idea.

To science, I say this. The church is tired. We are exhausted from trying to be your signposts. Our resources are drying up from our campaign to be the voice of balance as you plow blindly on in your quest for smaller chips and larger profits. We ask not why you will not govern yourselves, but how can you? Your world moves so fast that if you stop even for an instant to consider the implications of your actions, someone more efficient will whip past you in a blur. So you move on. You proliferate weapons of mass destruction, but it is the Pope who travels the world beseeching leaders to use restraint. You clone living creatures, but it is the church reminding us to consider the moral implications of our actions. You encourage people to interact on phones, video screens, and computers, but it is the church who opens its doors and reminds us to commune in person as we were meant to do. You even murder unborn babies in the name of research that saves lives. Again, it is the church who points out the fallacy of this reasoning.

And all the while, you proclaim the church is ignorant. But who is more ignorant? The man who cannot define lightning, or the man who does not respect its awesome power? This church is reaching out to you. Reaching out to everyone. And yet the more we reach, the more you push us away. Show me proof there is a God, you say. I say use your telescopes to look to the heavens, and tell me how there could not be a God! You ask what does God look like. I say, where did that question come from? The answers are one and the same. Do you not see God in your science? How can you miss Him! You proclaim that even the slightest change in the force of gravity or the weight of an atom would have rendered our universe a lifeless mist rather that our magnificent sea of heavenly bodies, and yet you fail to see God's hand in this? Is it really so much easier to believe that we simply chose the right card from a deck of billions? Have we become so spiritually bankrupt that we would rather believe in mathematical impossibility than in a power greater than us?

Whether or not you believe in God, you must believe this. When we as a species abandon our trust in the power greater than us, we abandon our sense of accountability. Faith...all faiths...are admonitions that there is something we cannot understand, something to which we are accountable... With faith we are accountable to each other, to ourselves, and to a higher truth. If the outside world could see this church as I do...looking beyond the ritual of these walls...they would see a modern miracle...a brotherhood of imperfect, simple souls wanting only to be a voice of compassion in a world spinning out of control.

Are we obsolete? Are these men dinosaurs? Am I? Does the world really need a voice for the poor, the weak, the oppressed, the unborn child? Do we really need souls like these who, though imperfect, spend their lives imploring each of us to read the signposts of morality and not lose our way?

We are perched on a precipice. None of us can afford to be apathetic. Whether you see this evil as Satan, corruption, or immorality...the dark force is alive and growing every day. Do not ignore it. The force, though mighty, is not invincible. Goodness can prevail. Listen to your hearts. Listen to God. Together we can step back from this abyss.

Thank you, Dan Brown, for your thought-provoking writings.

15 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

When i first read this speech in Angels and Demons i was in awe. It moves me so that i read it over many times. I then went forth to find it online and i have now. Thank you for posting this powerfull setion from a powerfull book.

1:14 AM  
Anonymous The Rick said...

This passage discribes everything I believe in. When I read Angels & Demons and I read that part I had goose bumps. It made me feel glad to be Christian. Thank you for posting this.

1:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

= ) You posted this on my sixteenth birthday. I love this book, i'm still reading it at the moment but part of me doesn't want to get to the end because I love reading it so much! Laura

6:19 PM  
Anonymous Johann said...

Thanks so much for posting the text to this! As soon as I read it in the book, I knew I had to use it as a monologue for my acting! It saves me having to type it up. Thanks again

8:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chris is my name. I have a proyect for inglish and tanks to this speech i got an A+ on a really hard school. Thanks for posting this amazing work by Dan Brown

9:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That was a terrible book. It had unbelievable characters but it had a good idea, one which Dan Brown stole (Just like The Da Vinci Code).

7:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are being incredibly naive if you think Dan Brown wrote this passage himself. I'm doing my Master's in English Literature at the moment, and take my word for - he's a fraud. This book, 'Angels & Demons', in particular is completely disjointed. The writing is fractured. Read the prologue, read Chapter 1 (definitely not the same person) and then read this speech - there's just no way. The sentence formation is totally different, word choice, etc.

To whoever did write this speech, though, well done - it's one of the few shining examples of speechwriting in the 21st century.

9:51 AM  
Blogger Vijay Krishnan said...

I feel Dan Brown is the greatest writer alive...Brilliant works...
He is the only author of whose all published books were all awe inspiring...
All four books are on top of my favourites for a long time...

1:34 PM  
Anonymous Vincent said...

"You are being incredibly naive if you think Dan Brown wrote this passage himself. I'm doing my Master's in English Literature at the moment, and take my word for - he's a fraud. This book, 'Angels & Demons', in particular is completely disjointed. The writing is fractured. Read the prologue, read Chapter 1 (definitely not the same person) and then read this speech - there's just no way. The sentence formation is totally different, word choice, etc."

To whoever did write this speech, though, well done - it's one of the few shining examples of speechwriting in the 21st century.

i really do think dan brown wrote all of this. and although im not taking a master's course in english literature, i personally believe that what you considered as disjointed and fractured, is in truth a manifestation of his great talent. remember that the prologue was written in the third person POV, and this speech, is supposed to be coming from the camerlengo himself therefore it would not be shocking that the sentence formation is different. just my two cents. :D

3:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe everyone has an opinion, and a chance to voice their opinions in a respectful manner. I believe that this speech can be true, but also untrue. Yes, science and the more technologies being invented these days are pulling everyone away from themselves, but science is the one thing that saves lives. People that need medicine to live, without it, people would die. Although technology these days do cause most deaths ie. car accidents, ect, but also, there are different beliefs that occur all over in the christian and catholic perspective. Just the other day I was told two different stories from two different people who know each other about the faith, what am I supposed to believe? Is it really true? No one has come back from the dead to tell us if there is a heaven or hell. Yes, I do respect other people's beliefs, but I also like to respect my own and voice my own opinions, the creation of life, why hasn't god told us why he created us? Did he just snap his finger's for absolutely no reason? There have been some books, trying to prove that religion is the reason for all of this then science, but they haven't been able to prove if what they say in the bible is true or not. The creation of the universe and life in the words of science makes sense. I do not believe in the faith because there is no physical evidence of "God" existing, and also everything happens for a reason (basically God is showing this), for us to learn from our mistakes, if in the bible, it states all the rules and commandments we agree to, what kind of people are we? Discriminating other people for which they don't believe in the God, or discriminating homosexuals, because God said it has to be this way since he created the heavens and earth, that basically we must follow what he says because he created us? Science has proven how the universe and life was formed. About this speech, think about it, if we had no science in the world, where would everyone be? What would happen to the existence of life? As I stated before, without medicine, those who are ill (with longterm illnesses, such as AIDS, diabetes, ect.) wouldn't be able to live for long. Inventions of medicine has been able to keep people alive for much longer living. About abortion, it is in affect for a good reason. God wants more life in the world but does he see within us? He wants a 16 year old girl to have a baby and ruin her future in life? Because she has to leave school to look after the baby. What kind of God would want that? Show me proof there is a God, with the lives people live today, and everything God makes us go through in our lives, why should we believe in a faith like that? Why should we waste our times for a man that puts misery into our lives when we try to believe in him? Believing in god before has caused me more grief then not believing he was the reason for the creation of life, the bible does not explain this to us, just that god said let there be light and let me create adam and eve, nothing tells us why he created life, what he wanted us to do with our lives, but sits up in heaven, day after day, waiting for someone to figure out the meaning of life. If people spent their days trying to figure that out, no one would live fulfilled lives, their lives would be wasted. Why does God make so many people suffer? If we are all apparently his children, why does he make most of us suffer through our lives? Why did he create life? None of this can be proven except people and their own beliefs, not an actual answer. Science has created the universe and the earth and the life which we present ourselves in. If people would think realistically, one man with so much power and magic snapped his finger's to create the universe and everything it holds? Why? Everything has an answer and a reason, except this. Science proved how the earth was created and how life was created, God hasn't proved nothing.

I like to express my opinions and thoughts to other people and it would be nice if they would express their opinions about my beliefs.

8:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you missed the point of the speech. The author (Dan Brown?) was not arguing to completely ignore science. The point was that we should apply science and scientific study with some kind of moral code instead of racing to find the most destructive force and creating more ways for people to ignore the real world.
Also, the whole abortion argument is getting pretty old. I mean come on, "He wants a 16 year old girl to have a baby and ruin her future in life?" that's is such a bogus point because the girl could either abstain from having sex or just use birth control pills and completely avoid the problem. The point of not allowing abortion is so that irresponsible people cannot go around making stupid decisions and have another individual suffer for their own selfishness.

7:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think (to the person 2 above me) that your ideas are a bunch of nonsense blather garbage that you are trying to put together to make science seem "good". Your so called "speech" is full of many flaws and makes no sense.
"Science has created the universe and the earth and the life which we present ourselves in. If people would think realistically, one man with so much power
and magic snapped his finger's to create the universe and everything it holds? Why? Everything has an answer and a reason, except this. Science proved how
the earth was created and how life was created, God hasn't proved nothing." Science didn't create the universe, it only proved that there was other created places besides Earth. Science didn't make the earth or life either, science is a tool of man used to "figure out" the mysterious universe. Shouldn't we keep it mysterious? Isn't that what makes it good? Science was used and made by humans to "better" our world when it destroys us. Science needs to think realistically. One man, he is not a man. He is a force greater then ourselves. And its not magic. And he didn't need to snap his fingers either. God proved everything, since he made everything. God doesn't need to prove anything. If you look around he is there. God is an omnipresent being that is within all of us. I think your opinions are a bunch of biased hodge-podge mix up of worthless ideas and you can go and live your life believing whatever you want for as long as you want. But people need to know that your ideas are WRONG WRONG WRONG. Religion has the right idea which is that everybody is worth something. While you make life worthless.
Even though I am a Christian and I am supposed to love you, I find that you need a change of ideas and we are always here to help

5:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not even christian, but when I read Angels and Demons the entire religion was so interesting. The battle between religion and science. Some of you may not like me saying this, but I believe that this speech affects all religions not just Christianity. Thank You
And God bless you.

7:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like the speach although I don't agree with everthing it says I think science is important and any leap foward is progress toward a better future but you got to take the good with the bad science can cause destruction but so can religion do you remember the holy crusades or sept 11 in the name of.god kill the infadales or how about the jews prosecuting anyone who was christian I guess what I'm saying is that I think sience is better for the fact that it is a theory and not a beliefe a theory can be changed but on the other hand I think we are moving to fast and society needs to catch up with the inventions that are comming out you put a gun in the hands of a child and show it how to use it.the gun will be fired with no regards

10:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Shouldn't we keep it mysterious? Isn't that what makes it good?"
Nonsense. Mysterious =/= good. Pretty much up to individual discretion.
"God proved everything, since he made everything. God doesn't need to prove anything."
What did he prove? Nothing. Man did all the proving, and it's not even concrete.
"I think your opinions are a bunch of biased hodge-podge mix up of worthless ideas..."
Why are you judging? Shows your character. You as a child of God sure spew some irksome words.
"But people need to know that your ideas are WRONG WRONG WRONG. Religion has the right idea which is that everybody is worth something."
Thus, what is the meaning of life? You have not given any arguments why religion has the right idea. You have a load of dubious arguments, far worse than what the person you have rebutted have come up with.

12:39 AM  

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