Thesis: Though science is able to discover what is fact and what is fiction in the world, humans will still cling to myths that make the world easier or more pleasant to understand.
Science continues to reveal the mysteries of the world with what can seem fairly pedestrian explanations. The wonder of the world is disappearing as science turns its objective lens on the operations of nature. Additionally, science reveals truths that most people would rather ignore. For instance, the concept of entropy, that all matter and processes tend toward decay and disorder, illustrates why human bodies decay and why immortality is impossible. As Feder puts it, “Science can only show what works and what does not. Ultimately, it is up to each of us to accept or ignore what science reveals” (15). Many of us choose to believe in myths and pseudoscience because it makes our world more palatable.
Further complicating the matter is the amount of misinformation that is available for people to believe. For instance, Gould illustrates the myth of the flat Earth, which most Americans were taught in elementary school. The myth states that the medieval scholars believed that the Earth was flat, when there is no evidence that they did. In fact, “Virtually all major medieval scholars affirmed the earth’s roundness” (Gould 3). The myth lives because we want to believe that we are much better than earlier generations, but this is not always the truth. In the end, humans want easy explanations that make them feel pleased with their knowledge of the world.
At the same time, science attempts to develop a world view that is not bound to human emotions, but rather clings to a criterion of objectivity that in an ideal situation is undetermined by these same emotions. However, this is not to say that science is always able to reach this type of complete world view. In this regard, one can see the historical importance of God in scientific discourse, as Tyson notes: “(Scientists) appeal to a higher power only when staring into the ocean of their own ignorance. They call on God only from the lonely and precarious edge of incomprehension.” (1) In scientific discourse, God plays the exact opposite role than it does in non-scientific discourse: God is evoked at exactly that time when there is no easy explanation, whereas in non-scientific discourse, God is precisely an easy explanation for all occurring phenomena.
How can this dichotomy be grasped in light of our initial thesis? Popular discourses evoke myth in so far as they wish to provide an easily digestible world view. In contrast, science is not concerned with synthesizing the facts it discovers with any human level of acceptability. Nevertheless, science has its own boundaries, and recognizes these limits. The popular discourse, therefore, by clinging to myth precisely does not recognize these same boundaries, providing the complete explanation for everything that science strives to achieve, but perhaps recognizes that it can never achieve. Humans bind themselves to mythos, therefore, because of the picture of wholeness and closure that it gives, a wholeness and closure that is synonymous with an understandable world view.