“Inferno,” the new novel by “Da Vinci Code” author Dan Brown that hit bookstores Tuesday, has no shortage of mysterious references to historical artifacts and future science. One question many critics are asking in their reviews of the new book is: How will “Inferno” affect readers’ interest in independently learning more about the history of Florence, Italy, or scientific theories regarding human survival?

“Scholars (are) divided over whether Brown’s populist thrillers encourage greater interest in history, art, and Renaissance culture, or cheapen the legacies of some of the Western world’s cultural giants,” Nick Squires reported Tuesday for the Christian Science Monitor. “While some welcome the spotlight that Brown shines on the likes of Leonardo or Dante, others argue that he distorts historical reality by postulating conspiracies, codes, and enigmas where they do not exist.”

NBC News science editor Alan Boyle recently wrote, “Dan Brown's fans will be puzzling over a few new scientific allusions as well. One theme has to do with the possibility of unleashing a devastating plague. … Another theme focuses on transhumanism, a movement that aims to enhance humans through genetics, smart drugs, implants and other technologies.”

Jamshid Ghazi Askar is a graduate of BYU's J. Reuben Clark Law School and member of the Utah State Bar. Contact him at jaskar@desnews.com or 801-236-6051.