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Calling the Kettle Black

I enjoyed reading Dan Brown’s novel, The Da Vinci Code. You might have noticed the Da Vinci quote at the top of this blog and that book was where I first read of it. Also, the background is a cropped portion of a Da Vinci sketch that I manipulated in one of those ‘photoshop’ things.

I saw the film last evening in a packed theater that must have been 90 degrees. Ugh. Could have done without that. The film was OK, I suppose. It hit the main points of the story, but almost in a mechanical and rushed way. It naturally wasn’t nearly as entertaining as the novel. As an aside, his Angels & Demons (written and published prior to TDVC) was a far better, more action-packed novel, in my view.

What a kerfuffle we’ve got here, eh? Up. In. Arms. To say the least. Wow. Y’know, I found the excitement concerning the novel to be quite charming and entertaining. Here you had people recommending it and talking about it in hushed tones to others as if it were a legitimate, scholarly refutation of core beliefs. I suppose that where intelligence, reason, logic and the scientific method won’t suffice, you’ve always got fiction.

Occam’s Razor comes to mind, once again. You know; that’s the principle, roughly stated, that says when you hear the beating of hooves, think horses, not zebras.

…when multiple competing theories have equal predictive powers,
the principle recommends selecting those that introduce the fewest
assumptions and postulate the fewest hypothetical entities.

Well, this is not a rigorous treatment of the thing, by any means, but it strikes me as rather hilarious that we have an unprovable, untestable supernatural explanation surrounding western civilization’s chief myth, employing hundreds of inter-connecting and self-reliant assumptions, countered by an admittedly fictional though natural explanation for this mythology and some cannot understand the allure. The allure is simple. Dan Brown’s explanation is better. It makes more sense. It’s more "plausible," but certainly only in a relative sense. It’s probably just as whacked as the Bible’s version, but as long as we’re believing in fairy tales, what difference does it make which version?

Here are some quotes that cracked me up, from here and here.

…the head of one group went further, calling the movie "a real, real danger" to the faith of Catholics and other Christians. ("Danger?" -ed)

…many Catholics and Christians don’t know church history to the detail
that Dan Brown gets into" in his "Da Vinci Code" novel and its film
adaptation. (So the "danger[ous]" Dan Brown knows church history, does he? -ed)

Baehr told the Washington, D.C., news conference that fiction can have a powerful impact on people… (How ironic! -ed)

films can have a particularly strong effect because darkened theaters
eliminate most distractions, giving moviegoers a "monopoly of the mind"
that can be more persuasive than books or other visual media. (…or massive cathedrals of stone and marble adorned with exotic hardwoods and tapestries, whose occupant authorities wear flowing robes? -ed)

he and his organization are also urging the public to boycott the film because it is "a fantasy passing as reality" (…and he should know. -ed)

…the big-screen adaptation of Dan Brown’s best-selling novel distorts history… (…which, you know, we’d like to keep our running monopoly on. -ed)

It deliberately presents fiction as fact. (We are against deliberately presenting fiction as fact. -ed)

…the film muddles fact and fiction… (…completely corrupting the fiction. -ed)

…upsetting people who have been Catholics all their lives who now don’t know what is true and what is lies. (What, still? -ed)

Greek authorities banned the film for viewers under 17, saying it
touched on "religious and historical questions of major importance that
a minor is not able to evaluate." (I guess the Greek Orthodox Church doesn’t ‘touch’ on "religious and historical questions of major importance." -ed)

[Monsignor Jean-Michel di Falco] Leandri said he would not call for a boycott because the movie "really
isn’t worth worrying about — it’s so far-fetched that no one will
believe it." (Obviously an authority on the "far-fetched." -ed)

So, there you have it.

(Article links: Carlos)

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More

17 Comments

  1. David K on May 21, 2006 at 00:59

    What unsettles me about the concern of the catholic world toward a movie based on a book dealing with fiction.
    Is an utter lack of it toward the factual case of Father Marcial Maciel.
    The near 90 year old founder and those he appoints to run the daily operation of the order of the Legionaries of Christ
    One of the churches richest and most influential orders were given a pass on the truck load of sexual abuse allegations dating back forty years.
    Fiction inspires outrage amongst the "theologians" while truth about "holy" men who spend a life time raping children and teens is glossed over.

  2. Greg Ashbaugh on May 21, 2006 at 01:57

    I've heard the movie wasn't getting a great reception so far. To be honest, the trailer doesn't even make me want to see it. You'd think a picture with such hype would have an amazing trailer. Oh well, go see Mission Impossible III instead. Pretty cool movie. Cheers.

  3. Kyle Bennett on May 21, 2006 at 09:09

    "God is beyond our comprehension"

    "all one needs to understand […] God is commonsense"

    "Because, my covenant with God is [based on] a personal experience with Him…"

    Wow, it's impossible to even begin arguing with someone who starts from direct contradictions. But then, that's the point, isn't it? To, as William F Buckley once said of Charles Wrangle, "Cheerfully exploit the immunities of invincible ignorance".

  4. Richard Nikoley on May 21, 2006 at 10:06

    "The so called "Christians" who are hysterical over the "Da Vinci Code" are mostly the hypocrites. Because, they are not sure of their own faith and future."

    Indeed. Using one's mind as the reality-integrating organ that it is, rather than as a 'reality'-creating organ that it's not would naturally tend to shake faith, the explicit purpose of which is to dismiss any requirement for evidence, logic, or reason.

    "One billion Dan Browns cannot change my mind on my faith in God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit."

    Granted. You've said it, I believe you. Essentially, nothing anyone could offer, by any standard of evidence, could change your mind. Is that a fair assessment?

    "Because, my covenant with God is not based on hearsay or what I read in a book…"

    Are you sure?

    "…and who became flesh in Jesus Christ to save me…"

    Hearsay. You read that in a book.

    "God is beyond our comprehension and beyond our imagination."

    Beyond human comprehension, certainly (the nature of a contradiction of reality), but quite obviously not beyond human imagination, as such is the precise nature of God.

    "You either believe in God or you don't."

    While true enough, it's not that simple. You see, on the first hand, such belief is not innate. Children are taught to believe, just as they are taught and do fervently believe in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny. They believe with all their heart, being, and imagination. While it's certainly charming, it is, nonetheless, an imaginary false belief.

    On the second hand, learning objective, integrated, critical-thinking skills (also not innate) will tend to preclude beliefs in fairy tales.

    In the first case, people have little choice about such beliefs and it becomes mentally and physically painful to consider their veracity. Hence, the dire need for what we call faith. In the second case, people have the option, but they are inherently mutually exclusive. From everything we do know, God is an impossible concept and therefore must be rejected by a critical thinker if he is to be thoroughly, rigidly, rigorously consistent.

    "And may God help us in our ignorance."

    This would be the equivalent of saying: "may [Faith] help us in our ignorance." And that is precisely what is going on. It's not your five physical senses, the precepts those senses create, the concepts then created by one's mind and integrated into a hierarchy of factual, verifiable, testable information about reality. It is–excuse me, but it is–abject laziness that just throws up its hands, gives up, and believes any old thing that can be carved into a "real-enough" story to get people to believe. And, certainly, the training we do with introductions to things like the aforementioned Santa (God-Lite) surely doesn't diminish our efforts later on to stunt the intellectual capacity and prowess of young minds.

    "But, all one needs to understand the mysteries of the universe and God is commonsense. Unfortunately even commonsense is no longer common."

    You're exactly right. The so-called "sense" in which former fervent believers in Santa Claus hereinafter believe in God is certainly quite common — just as it was common, for instance, to believe that the Earth was flat, that it was the center of the Universe and all manner of other false "theories."

    I will disagree with your characterization of your perceived decrease in the prevalence of such "common sense" as "unfortunate." First of all, it's still quite prevalent, so you've nothing to worry about. And while a move away from "common sense" is deeply lamentable to you, I'd certainly consider it a blessing–an Uncommon blessing.

  5. Richard Nikoley on May 21, 2006 at 10:12

    "It wants to be both. It simply moves into unknown gaps in DaVinci's existence (never mind about Jesus) and fills it up with tenuous theories. That's where the line between fact and fiction begins to be blurred."

    OK, so if granted, what's the big deal? It's one collection of mostly fiction masquerading as fact (The Da Vinci Code) attempting to counter another collection of mostly fiction masquerading as fact (Christianity).

    One certainly has a right to prefer one fairy tale over the other, but Brown's does at least have the virtue of offering an explanation that requires no supernatural events while the other relies on extra-natural phenomena that no human being has ever observed.

  6. Don on May 21, 2006 at 05:02

    In essence I agree with what you are saying. The book is a novel!! Novels aren't written as fact, but to look like fact to get your interest as you read it. And yes, this novel is probably written with a lot of fact in it, but also with a lot of conjecture and plain fiction! It was a good read, and I will be going to the theater when the masses are less (and the AC is working. ;)), to watch a MOVIE, not a documentary!

    Makes me wonder how much of what Dan wrote IS right on that has the Church so worried.

    Aho,

    Don

  7. Alex on May 20, 2006 at 23:23

    Some good points. I think it is funny how the catholic church is so worried. What is the problem. If the church's voice was so enlightening then what do they have to fear. I think people who agree "Yea, the church says I shouldnt read it, so I won't" are just funny. You are defending another person's control of your thinking. Anyways, I haven't seen the movie yet, but I'll be posting my thoughts in my blog when I do.

    By the way, first time visit. Like the blog.

  8. EKENYERENGOZI MICHAEL CHIMA on May 21, 2006 at 07:43

    I am a Christian and thank God today is Sunday.

    I don't lose sleep over controversial accounts of biblical facts of history.

    The so called "Christians" who are hysterical over the "Da Vinci Code" are mostly the hypocrites. Because, they are not sure of their own faith and future.

    One billion Dan Browns cannot change my mind on my faith in God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Because, my covenant with God is not based on hearsay or what I read in a book, but on a personal experience with Him who gives me the breath of life and who becmae flesh in Jesus Christ to save me and who has given me the power of His Holy Spirit to overcome all the lies of Satan whether in fiction or in myth.

    If one cannot understand the mysteries of the universe, one cannot understand God.
    Because, God is beyond our comprehension and beyond our imagination.
    You either believe in God or you don't.
    And may God help us in our ignorance.

    Even when Jesus Christ asked a man, "Do you believe?", the man replied, "help my unbelief!"(Mark 9:24, Holy Bible).

    But, all one needs to understand the mysteries of the universe and God is commonsense.

    Unfortunately even commonsense is no longer common. Otherwise, innocent American soldiers will be wasting their precious lives in the war in Iraq in a senseless manhunt for who?

    God bless.

  9. the commentator on May 21, 2006 at 09:46

    Da Vinci scholars are nowhere in the vicinity of what this book or Mr. Brown posits. This is a piece of fiction with a history opt-out clause. It wants to be both. It simply moves into unknown gaps in DaVinci's existence (never mind about Jesus) and fills it up with tenuous theories. That's where the line between fact and fiction begins to be blurred. For some, this is a concern as it happens all too often now – historical alchemy I guess. The Church had to react. It would have been odd for it to not respond since the sheer popularity of the darn thing attacks the very heart of Christianity. Question for heavier and more coherent minds than mine: Would the reaction have been the same, less or worse had a Muslim or Hindu etc. version of the 'Code' been written?

  10. new illuminati on May 21, 2006 at 05:47

    This can all be seen in the context of a long-term attempt to reinvigorate the moribund corpse of christinanity, by grafting a consort onto a patriarchal myth.
    Another attempt to fertilise the dead fields of Osiris.

    'religion is a region with a li(e) in it' – r. ayana

  11. jbruno on May 21, 2006 at 06:53

    new illuminati: You have quite a flare for the dramatic… I don't know how much of a "corpse" Christianity is; I think many Christians are lost and trapped in their dogma, but I wouldn't call it dead, or even irrelevant. The base principles are not much different from Buddhism. But I don't believe in aliens or co-evolution either, New.

    Don: I think about that too! Maybe Brown and other DaVinci scholars aren't too far off.

    Anyway, great post, nice points, and as always, a fulfilling visit. Thanks again!

  12. Richard Nikoley on May 22, 2006 at 08:48

    "Please, some studies would be quite helpful to you."

    "Studies," eh? What was it you were saying about hearsay?

  13. the commentator on May 22, 2006 at 07:07

    So let's go with what has been granted. Two wrongs make it right? – or in this case 'no big deal.' Though I do think there's a whirl of difference between the importance of Christianity (or any religion) to society and this book. Like it or not, the 'Code' hits a nerve. People need, well, faith.

  14. EKENYERENGOZI MICHAEL CHIMA on May 22, 2006 at 08:08

    There is an Indian woman here in Nigeria who met Jesus Christ when she was still an unbeliver and no Christian ever preached to her.

    Then, there is another woman in the Midlle East who also had an encounter with Jesus Christ without anyone preaching Jesus Christ to her.

    Please, some studies would be quite helpful to you.

    God is as real as you and I.

    Our beginning is of God and our ending is of God.

    God bless.

  15. Richard Nikoley on May 22, 2006 at 15:35

    Bill:

    Thanks for the comment, and the very nice writing.

  16. contratimes on May 22, 2006 at 15:08

    Dear Mr. Nikoley,

    It is nice to find an empiricist who so eloquently defends his beliefs! But, alas, I shall disappoint: I am one of those Christian theists bouncing between reason and faith. Of course, you may not be a Christian theist, but do you not bounce between reason and faith? Perhaps we shall talk on this some other time.

    I think that The-Dude-Who-Commented-With-The-Really-Long-Name is wrong when he avers that the only Christians who are offended by "The Da Vinci Code" are the hypocrites. In fact, it would be hypocritical of Christians NOT to be offended by Brown's book. Why? Because, as you know, there are people who believe that Brown's fiction is not one whit fictive. Such people can only be described as "deceived" (by self?), "stupid", "misled" or Democrats (OK. Cheap and silly shot). And it is precisely the misled, the deceived, the ignorant, that Christians SHOULD care about. And on the outside chance that there is a hell, well, then Christians might want to care that any one sheep has fallen into the nettles.

    You are right that fiction should be understood as such. But we both know there are too many people who believe that the moon landings were pure theater; or that 9/11 did not, well, happen. Christians should CARE about this, as should empiricists, rationalists and even (I can barely let myself say this) dufuses. In fact, I would argue that reasonable atheists and protesting Christians are allies (in this case), warring against threats to the human mind.

    Is Christianity irrational? I've never thought so. In fact, it strikes me as thoroughly logical: Jesus either rose from the dead or he didn't. No Christian violates the wondrous law of non-contradiction by asserting that Jesus did and did not come back to life.

    Here is my take on "The Da Vinci Code", for what it's worth.

    Peace to you. It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance.

    BG

    PS. And though we apparently come at things from a very different set of presuppositions, I found it amazing that we should end up at the same place on Mr. Gore's "VERY IMPORTANT" film. Try my "A Very Inconvenient Fact" from May 16.

  17. contratimes on May 23, 2006 at 12:27

    Dear Mr. Nikoley,

    I thought I already sent along a reply to your nice comment. If there is a double posting of my reply, please forgive me.

    I appreciate your kind words. Of course it is clear to me––and surely it is clear to you and your readers––that you are a great writer yourself. I truly meant it when I said that it was a pleasure making your acquaintance.

    Keep on "kick[ing] at the darkness 'til it bleeds daylight."

    Peace,

    BG

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