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Reply To: The “Mythology” of Science


I believe I grasp what you are saying, Robert, and generally agree – especially when we’re playing with the theoretical and abstract in these discussions. I really enjoy diving into esoteric texts like Fritjof Capra’s The Tao of Physics and Gary Zukov’s The Dancing Wu-Li Masters (indeed, Joseph Campbell knew Capra and appreciated his work).

Nevertheless, I still wouldn’t thrust my hand into boiling water.

I recall, once having asked a young physicist what the temperature was of the room in which we were sitting; and he asked: ‘What part of the room do you mean? Here where I am? Over where you are? Up near the ceiling?  Down here by the window? There’s no such thing as the temperature of this room.’ – Well, yes! But on the other hand, if that young monster of learning had been a little less metaphysically physical, he could have given a good old-fashioned answer, and I should have known whether I was shivering simply from cold or from a fever.”

Joseph Campbell, in his Preface to Myths, Dreams, and Religion (a collection of essays edited by Campbell).

Campbell certainly embraced the deep, profound metaphysical realizations and paradoxes of quantum physics (he often referred to the work of Werner Heisenberg and others); the trick is embracing the practical applications of science in the mundane world as well.

That doesn’t negate anything you bring up (I love the example you provide on how we assign a symbolic representation to the boiling point of water). We can’t talk about science without speaking in metaphors . . .