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The Truth About Da Vinci Weblog

This blog is the outgrowth of the www.TheTruthAboutDaVinci.com Web site. Many people have asked questions or raised points of discussion on Dan Brown's book and its recent movie release. Therefore, this blog was created to take the discussion farther - to capture certain thoughts and answer some of the questions we've received at the site.


To post a comment to this blog, click on the Comments link below each post.


September 2006 Blog Summary

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Did you know it's Da Vinci Code Wednesday?

While the controversy over The Da Vinci Code seems to have fallen off the radar for most people, there are interesting signs that the book and movie's influence continue to permeate aspects of popular culture.  Let's take a look at some recent news items:

  • Kathleen McGowan, a woman who believes she is the direct descendant of Jesus and Mary Magdalene just published her first novel entitled The Expected One based on her beliefs and echoing Dan Brown's thriller.  It hit the NY Times bestseller list in August - three months after the Da Vinci movie and hype were supposed to have saturated the market.
  • In Lincoln, England, the Lincolnshire Tourism bureau have created "Da Vinci Code Wednesdays".  Tourists and site visitors can send a text message from their cell phones on Wednesdays to get admission discounts to tour the Lincoln Cathedral which was featured prominently in the movie.  The Tourism group challenges you to "Crack the Code in Lincoln."
  • Forbes Magazine just ran an article listing the top ten most trusted celebrities with Da Vinci Code star Tom Hanks topping the list.

The Forbes article noted that Hanks routinely plays likeable characters that we root for on a consistent basis and "we subconsciously confuse--or even substitute--his onscreen persona for his real-world one, which we know little about".  The article also quotes James Houran, a clinical psychologist who researches celebrity worship, as saying "we will trust Brad Pitt if he tells us to do something before we will trust Sen. Ted Kennedy."

So, does the casting of Tom Hanks as Robert Langdon make a difference as to whether the public believes the "facts" surrounding the Da Vinci Code?  You bet.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Da Vinci in China

As we waited outside of the large portico leading to Fudan University in Shanghai, a woman pushed a cart in front of us. It was filled with books. Our host explained to us that these were all published underground and banned by the government. A policeman on a bicycle drew near and waved the woman off. She nodded, moved a few inches away and remained in the portico. I looked down, and there was a Bible in Chinese. You cannot purchase Bibles in any store, though they are allowed to be sold in the Three Self churches, the government-sponsored Protestant Church.

Then I looked over to see several volumes by Dan Brown. Again, our host, a Christian professor at the University, explained that the Da Vinci Code, both the book and the film, were forbidden in China. Well, we did find a nicely bound copy of the book in the Shaghai airport bookstore. So, perhaps the book is not completely banned. Nevertheless, it is certain that the government has made every effort to suppress Dan Brown's worldwide best-seller. The reason? The Roman Catholic Church is featured. The government sees this story as a way to promote the organized church. But, I pointed out, the Church looks very bad in this story. No matter, said the professor, the very fact that religion is featured in a story as the drive behind the actions of various groups, from Opus Dei to the Priori of Sion to the Vatican makes availability of such a story dangerous. It might give people ideas!

There are enigmas and ironies here. We are currently attending a major conference at Wuhan University, co-sponsored by the University of Birmingham, U. K., on the subject of Secularization and Enlightenment in the East and the West. All the speakers freely evoke religions of all kinds, from Christian to Buddhist to Daoist, organized and informal. Not only are we perfectly free but a couple of high government officials are present, not for censure, but to learn from the assembled scholars. Barbara, bolder than I, asked one of them at the lunch table whether he believed in any religion. No, he said, quite as a matter of fact. Yet he has been participating fully in the discussions, and shows only signs of interest.

The Chinese government declares freedom of religion. And yet it is against the law for any faith not to register. There is a long history here of protection of the governing authorities from any "cults" which could be allowed to criticize them. So, at the least, some 70 million Christians meet underground in the house churches across the land. Many other Christians have decided to register, despite the restrictions on the official "Three Self Church" to which they must belong. Some day there may be consistency between the constitution, which allows the free exercise of religion, and the policy on the ground. In the meantime, The Da Vinci Code is on the index. Ironically, its message is profoundly anti-Christian. True enough, though, the religion promoted in the story is certainly a dangerous cult!

William Edgar
Hubei Province, China

Friday, September 15, 2006

The Truth About Conspiracy Theories

An interesting article appeared in the Vancouver Sun discussing conspiracy theories - narratives that question the "official" version of events - and the motivations of the people who hold or promote them. The article was focused mainly on 9/11 and who "really" was responsible for the attack on the towers, but it shows why belief in all conspiracy theories such as the ones offered in The Da Vinci Code can become so popular.

The article quotes from philosophy professor Brian Keeley's paper "Of Conspiracy Theories" that appeared in the March 1999 Journal of Philosophy. Keeley's article notes some of the attractive features of a conspiracy theory:

  • Conspiracy theories offer a single unified theory that has broader explanatory reach: it explains more phenomena than competing theories.
  • Therefore conspiracy theories can explain "errant data" - those facts that we know happened but we don't know why or how they fit into the plan.

However history, much like the rest of real life is messy. People don't always act with a master plan. Sometimes things happen that don't have anything to do with the historical event you may be trying to study, and some events must go unexplained.

Keeley notes that by trying to explain everything, the conspiracy theories show their artificial construct. Keeley writes, "Given the imperfect nature of our human understanding of the world, we should expect that even the best possible theory would not explain all the available data." The conspiracy theorists also place too much emphasis on small sets of data at odds with the official account. In a balanced view, such unexplained data would not be statistically interesting. However, these points become the crux of the theory and take on more strength than they are entitled to hold.

Finally, Keeley notes an interesting phenomenon of conspiracy theories themselves: the more evidence that is set against the theory, the more they use it to their advantage. Keeley writes "The more evidence piled up by authorities in favor for a given theory, the more the conspiracy theorist points out how badly 'They' must want us to believe the official story."

I find it interesting that The Sun closes its article with the idea that conspiracy theorists exist because they want to make sense of a world and the events that happen therein but can't attribute the "big events" to a reasoned cause. The article says "people tend to believe that big effects must be the product of big causes" such as God keeping an ordered universe. "But in the 20th century, such beliefs were dashed, as scientists presented an indeterminist universe, a world without meaning, where many things happen by chance. ...conspiracy theories manage to make sense of senseless acts, and return meaning to the world."

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

An Odd Cousin Once Removed
In the whole scope of things, did all the hype and hand-wringing over The Da Vinci Code book and movie really accomplish anything? It may seem to many that Dan Brown's 15 minutes of fame passed by and now we're on to other things - school's starting, football season is kicking off and we're all talking about how well Katie Couric will do in the anchor chair at CBS. The same celebrity tabloids that gave the film front page coverage are now highlighting Paris Hilton's recent arrest. Doesn't that put it all in perspective?

Well, yes and no. Yes it is true that the general public seems to treat real culture the same way they now treat television commercials- they'd rather just TIVO right through it. Whatever the latest celeb is doing is the hot ticket - something to gossip about and forget tomorrow. But we're also talking about a book that sold some 60 million copies. Do you think that made a difference in anyone's perspective?

When reviewing the history of any culture, one can see that there are certain points at which popular entertainment has had a lasting impact. Some of these caused major changes - such as the Beatles - and some less so, but the influence can be profound. For example, people will disparage the ideals of a traditional family life by saying "this isn't the Brady Bunch." With one verbal sleight of hand, they've equated the idea of a traditional nuclear family with a farce.

In saying all this, I'm interested to see how the second interpretation of Dan Brown's theories will impact the culture. We're already beginning to see the influence in artists and others "finding inspiration" in Brown's book. A local newspaper in Kansas reports that artist Byron Smith has recently unveiled his exhibition of paintings inspired by The Da Vinci Code. One painting in particular is causing quite an uproar. It's of Jesus and Mary Magdalene -who are both completely nude. And this is Kansas!

Now, the point in all of this is that these works, although inspired by Brown's book, do not carry any type of label that says one should view them that way. We have a new point of influence on people that's one step removed from the "it's just fiction" clause. You see, fiction or not, these ideas seep into the shaping of the next step in our cultural development. They color the way we look at the world. And if we start with wrong ideas, then we really are looking at the world through wrong-colored glasses.

 

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Nag Hammadi papyri, The - Collection of more than forty Gnostic documents, unearthed in the mid-1940s near Nag Hammadi in U...

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Da Vinci Code Truth

  : This website is a response to Sony Pictures movie "The Da Vinci Code"
  based on Dan Brown's novel The Da Vinci Code