Author Dan Brown speaks at assembly on the interplay of science and religion

It is “critical to live with open minds, educate ourselves, ask questions and engage in dialogue,” says The Da Vinci Code author.

Melanie Nelson
September 22, 2017
Author Dan Brown speaks to Phillips Exeter students at assembly.

Dan Brown (l) connects with students after his talk.

Best-selling author and Academy alumnus Dan Brown ’82 garnered a standing ovation for his Friday morning assembly talk about science and religion. Brown, whose new novel Origin will be released in just over a week, was humorously introduced by his father, Richard “Dick” Brown, who taught mathematics at Exeter for 35 years and authored numerous textbooks during the course of his tenure. 

Holding up a homemade book, the senior Brown explained how Dan had written his first novel, titled The Giraffe, the Pig and the Pants on Fire, at age 5. He went on to discuss his son’s perseverance in continuing to write despite an early lack of commercial success, and noted how Dan’s exposure to diverse cultures and socioeconomic backgrounds as a faculty child and then as an Exeter student influenced the international settings and characters in his books. The elder Brown ended by describing how he and Dan have the perfect symbiotic relationship in their writing: “His books keep people awake all night, while my books put ’em right back to sleep,” he joked.

As he took the stage to warm applause, the younger Brown began his address in droll fashion, trading a few dormitory calls with students and holding up his parents’ former license plates — his mother’s reads “Kyrie,” from the Greek meaning “Lord,” and his father’s reads “Metric,” representing the elder Brown’s fondness for the metric system. The license plates, he noted, have become a metaphor for the recurring, and sometimes contradictory, themes of religion and science that drive his storytelling.

Brown proceeded to deliver a sweeping examination of the clashes that have occasionally arisen throughout history as scientific investigation and discovery have given us a lens for evaluating the world and our existence that once only religion provided. He emphasized how “the timeline of human development is compressing” and asked rhetorically, “As technologies race forward, will our philosophies keep pace?”

Brown ended his address on an uplifting note, stating that in order to prevent the polarizing of humanity over matters of science and religion, it is “critical to live with open minds, educate ourselves, ask questions and engage in dialogue,” all of which, he said, happen at Exeter.

Watch highlights from Brown's assembly talk: