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The “Mythology” of Science

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      For me science is as mythic as myth. I enjoy science. It is a tool of discovery and classification created by humanity to understand the mystery of nature . It is not nature. It does not exist in nature. It is at best an attempt to draw a symbolic abstract map. But the map is not the territory. The best we can do is create metaphors and equations to explain nature. I thoroughly enjoy Richard Feynman presentation of the scientific method. Something I adhere too. I also enjoy exploring the mythopoetic aspect of humanity and being  which is why I am here . Your interest is appreciated and engaging.



      Robert R Reister



        Just thought I would place this in the scientific mix.

        “Neurochemistry of love”

        “The conventional view in biology is that there are three major drives in love – libido, attachment, and partner preference. The primary neurochemicals (neurotransmitters, sex hormones, and neuropeptides) that govern these drives are testosterone, estrogen, dopamine, oxytocin, and vasopressin.“

        Tis the stuff of what myths and narratives are made …

        If Sargent Pepper (peppers are hot the spice of life) symbolizes heat Eros Life then The Romance symbolizes cold Thanatos death ??? The Marching tune doth convey … Life ends in death , death ends in Life …

        ”’I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it. ‘” Mark Twain

        my Alchemical Romance … My Chemical Romance …

        Nigredo !!! when I was a Jung boy …


          Richard Feynman

          On scientific method -looking for a new law


          Compute consequences of guess to see if right
          Compare to nature, experiment, or experience, observation
          If it disagrees, it’s wrong
          Science does not prove what is possible or impossible only what is less likely or more likely
          I think from knowledge from world around me that it’s more likely that the reports of flying saucers are the result of the known irrational characteristics of terrestrial intelligence than the unknown rational efforts of extraterrestrial   intelligence.
          Try to guess the most likely explanation if it doesn’t work talk about other possibilities
          We can only prove something wrong , we can never prove it right.
          We can never be right only sure we are wrong
          You cannot prove a vague theory  wrong
          The problem with changing known laws is knowing what to replace them with and why


          The Spirit of Truth

          Now that’s some amber waves of grain !!!

          Admire her admire her. God shed his grace on thee !!

          Oops sorry I mean America !!

          That’s some American women !!!


          The time for being concerned about how the truth is packaged is over.

          What is important Now is that you understand the spirit of The Truth .




          We 7EH PE0pLe 0f 7eH un17ED 5747E2, 1N 0rdeR 70 pH0Rm 4 m0RE PerFEC7 Un10n, E5748L15h jU571CE, 1n5ure D0mE571c 7R4NkW1l17Y, pr0V1de pH0r 7EH C0Mm0n DeFeNcE, PR0M07e 7eH 9eNeR4l Welf4RE, 4nD 5ecUre 7Eh 8LE551n92 0f l18Er7y 70 0Ur5elvE2 4Nd 0ur P057Er17Y, d0 0rd41n 4ND E5748l15H 7h12 C0N5717U710n PH0r 7eH Un17ED 5747E2 0f 4mer1C4.

          For me the laws of science and the laws of God correspond and are synonymous.

          “Know then thyself, presume not God to scan, The proper study of mankind is Man.”


          This is a fascinating topic, Robert.

          This is just a quick hit-and-run post – so much more I would love to discuss – but in brief, I distinguish between the scientific method, which relates to observable fact, and the mythic metaphors scientists use to describe what the scientific method has established.

          For example, we can endlessly replicate the process used to determine that water boils at 212º Fahrenheit (100º Celsius). That imports useful information that is not a metaphor (stick your hand in the boiling water, and you will experience intense pain every time – certainly doesn’t feel like a metaphor).

          On the other hand, when scientists generally fall  back on metaphors to convey what they have learned to the general public – whether it’s Isaac Newton’s “God as a watchmaker ” metaphor, or particle physics’ description of the wave-particle paradox. Metaphors aim at understanding, while the scientific method serves as the nuts-and-bolts approach that builds that understanding.



            For me the distinction is more basic and primal . The sensory awareness of heat is an evolved characteristic of life. Evolved to aid in survival through natural selection.  A response to heat is also an evolved characteristic of life … Though it could be argued that inanimate matter also responds to heat. Which begs the question what is Life? Abstract concepts like degrees and pain are constructs of mind ? Water boils where it boils what we name that point , call that point, is a symbolic  representation a metaphor. 373.15°K.  There is also the effects of gravity pressure impurities to take into consideration with regards to the boiling point of water. But wherever two or more are gathered in agreement fruitful discourse can be under taking. I do so enjoy the mythic spirit of Truth and where It is planted buried by the under taking of the undertaker …

            Heat thermal convection ? Cycle ?

            “An MIT physicist has proposed the provocative idea that life exists because the law of increasing entropy drives matter to acquire lifelike physical properties.“

            Clarke Quotes. “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

            Any sufficiently primitive technology is indistinguishable from myth.

            “A rebuttal to the ambiguous “sufficiently advanced” part has been offered by another science fiction author: “Any technology, no matter how primitive, is magic to those who don’t understand it.””

            “In boiling, bubbles of gas form throughout the liquid. They rise to the surface and escape to the surroundings, forming a gas. The amount of energy needed to change state from solid to liquid, and from liquid to gas, depends on the strength of the forces between the particles of a substance.”

            “Yes, every element can be made solid, liquid, or gas. It will take very high temperatures to make Tungsten gas, and very low temperatures and high pressure to make solid helium. No, not all elementshave a triple point between the three traditional phases.”

            “Boiling is a phase transition from the liquid phase to the gas phase that occurs at or above the boiling temperature. Boiling is the rapid vaporization of a liquid and occurs when a liquid is heated to its boiling point.”

            That boiling water is painful to the touch of a living human is a giving. What that pain is how it is received perceived interpreted measured, is open to contextual analysis. To adhere to and project one right answer is against the scientific method. It is conforming to dogma. Dogma is always a safe path, but there is always more beyond.

            A ‘dogma’ is defined as a principle or set of principles laid down by an authority and held to be incontrovertibly true. However, rarely if ever can dogmatic claims be made in science.


            Where poetic Myths boil in the cauldron in the crucible … that is where the pain and suffering of life is … Lots of fun to imagine the rising the ascension from the turmoil … “Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn and caldron bubble.”


            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 . . .



              Yes totally agree. In this forum I consciously and purposely push the envelope. Loki like. You know. We are humans with brain & mind the most complex and marvelous thing in the known universe. Some speculate our brain is a organic quantum computer. I love science I love myth I love theory I love hypothesis I love thesis I love antithesis I love synthesis I love Art.  I love little baby ducks and rain , Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens ,and last but not least James Joyce , Joseph Campbell, books and the Bible …

              “All the stars, planets and galaxies that can be seen today make up just 4 percent of the universe. The other 96 percent is made of stuff astronomers can’t see, detect or even comprehend. These mysterious substances are called dark energy and dark matter.”

              “Many humans get uncomfortable in temperatures above 30C, but there are organisms out there that can live perfectly well in boiling water.”

              But would you walk on fire ?🔥

              Can you close your eyes and see the Burning Bush of Life with your minds eye ?  Can you imagine sense the possibility of it burning on exoplanets?  Can you imagine the spark within ?

              As far as esoterica goes I enjoy it also as archaic idioms of thought. Lots of fun to empathize with. I enjoy pattern recognition. Did you known five often represented the 5 senses in esoteric traditions? I wonder what Joyce was alluding to with the five axels of The Coach With Six Insides ??? 5 states of matter ??? “In physics, a state of matter is one of the distinct forms in which matter can exist. Four states of matter are observable in everyday life: solid, liquid, gas, and plasma.” The quintessence ???

              The Quantum superpositioning of entendre, of meaning of metaphor ? Now there’s a collapse a fall to a condensate !!! ReJoyce !!! I can hear Einstein Now through Bose acoustic wave machine …


              For listening to Radio Gaga !!!


              If Mr. Campbell wanted to know why he was shivering he should have stated so in his question. Forming and Asking the proper question is the first obstacle. Especially when dealing with little monsters …



              Hello everyone long time no see.. something like six  years.. wow.. since the old forums shut down.. I still have some posts from people and still remember many conversations which played a crucial role in forming my own philosophy of life…Some of your posts too Stephen and since this is one of my favorite subjects I thought to kick off my new entry to the forums with this conversation.

              Now personally I dont like science being considered as a metaphor or mythology because I think its role and the role of the scientist in this cosmic creation must be clear and logical if life.. preferably human life can survive and do whatever it is destined to do. That being said I understand that when the mind hits that threshold, the edge between what is know and what is never to be discovered as Campbell would have it, then all things are possible. Imagination takes over and form doesnt matter, it can be religion, science, poetry, at that point everything makes sense because its not about the how.

              In the old forums we had a similar conversation about science and myth and all that stuff. And I still remember something Clemsy said and oh boy it stuck with me, he said, “science can explain the how but it will never explain the why” that I believe is the big difference of myth and science. Now I dont remember the context in which he said it but I think it can be applied to this conversation.

              Now ofcourse as Campbell would have it again we cant have a mythology because science breaks that “why” all the time. Nothing can be believed as a final word anymore, we have theories but we dont have mythology. I dont know.. what you think?

              PS. glad to be here, hello to any of the old guys and gals if they are looking this conversation, Cindy, James, neoplato, jons, nandu, romansh, clemsy etc etc. Hope you are all well..



              Wow, Andreas,

              A blast from the past! It’s good to see you at this revival of Conversations of  Higher Order (COHO); you should notice a few familiar souls (though not everybody has the same cybermoniker as before). James has been quite active, and Nandu is around more these days (he recently started an intriguing thread on “Why I Disagree with Joe Campbell”).

              For several years JCF sponsored a discussion group of on Facebook (the Mythic Salon) as a place holder of sorts, as the old forums succumbed to an aging website. That group ballooned to over 13,000 members; as active and dynamic as that was, we are talking social media. No matter how profound the posts in a thread, exchanges proved fleeting, tending to scroll down the screen and out of sight in hours, or days at most. And then Facebook never sleeps;  for moderators (Clemsy, aka Michael Lambert, and yours truly), it was truly exhausting.

              So once the website was technologically advanced enough to support it, we shuttered the Salon and opted to create another iteration of The Conversations. The individual forums here are a bit different in their focus than you may remember, apart from the catch-all Conversation with a Thousand Faces. Folks tend to expect the Facebook experience, so there’s a little bit of culture shock to overcome – conversations aren’t automatically delivered to one’s newsfeed (in fact, I urge participants to check the “notify me of replies via email” box before clicking “submit” on a post), and you can’t click Like or Love and other sections. Nevertheless, momentum is slowly building.

              As for this subject, I do recall a lively past discussion.

              Your perspective on the myth of science (and maybe the science of myth) rings true for me – as does your Clemsy quote (“science can explain the how but it will never explain the why”). Pretty sure Joseph Campbell would be comfortable with that. Here’s an excerpt from a draft I’ve edited of a yet-to-be-published Campbell book, drawn from obscure interviews and unpublished Q & A sessions following lectures:



              Well, evolution is a scientific finding to which the mythology must adjust itself. If it isn’t adjusted to, there is a stress between the mythological (or religious) and the actual experience of the world⁠.

              I would say that all of our sciences are the material that has to be mythologized. A mythology gives the spiritual import—what one might call rather the psychological, inward import—of the world of nature round about, as understood today. There’s no real conflict between science and religion. Religion is the recognition of the deeper dimensions that the science reveals to us⁠. You find all kinds of suggestions in the world of modern physics. And boy, you can translate them into Sanskrit without any trouble. The Hindus have the whole thing already⁠!

              Science deals with what in logic are called instrumental causes. But then there’s another order of causation, known as the formal cause, and that is very mysterious.  Scientists are right at this moment running into the mystery zone. They’ve pushed right to the edge of what can be known, analyzed, and interpreted simply in terms of instrumental causalities, and are themselves recognizing this.

              So Erwin Schrödinger, this great physicist, turns to Hindu imagery in his book: “Tat tvam asi” and all is Brahman!  That’s what he ends up saying. Here is an intuitive insight that goes past the fields of time, space, observations, and realizes that the sphere of time and space is secondary to another.⁠

              What is in conflict is the science of 2000 B.C, which is what you have in the Bible, and the science of the twentieth century A.D⁠. The mythic image does not fit the contemporary mind. So the message can’t get into the contemporary body. You’ve got to translate these things into contemporary life and experience. Mythology is a validation of experience, giving it its spiritual or psychological dimension. And if you have a lot of things that you can’t correlate with contemporary nature, you can’t handle it⁠.”


              Myth relates to narrative – the stories we tell ourselves. The scientific method, as Clemsy noted, focuses on the how – observable facts and results the can be replicated by others – where myth focuses on the why.

              But those stories we tell ourselves shape what science finds, for good or ill.

              For example, in the 18th century a commission of the French Academy of Sciences that included Antoine Lavoisier (“the father of modern chemistry”) conducted a study of a meteor, including a chemical analysis, that determined it was of earthly origin – a rock apparently struck by lightning – a conclusion arrived at in large part because everyone knows rocks don’t just fall down out of the sky. The peasants and farmers and other ordinary folk who had witnessed falling meteorites were a superstitious lot who no doubt misinterpreted what they saw.

              As a result, museums in Dresden, Vienna, Copenhagen, Bern and Verone, not wanting to appear foolish or superstitious,  purged their collections of meteors from two 16th century and four 17th century falls because, well . . . science! Within  few years science caught up to reality and affirmed that meteorites do exist – but the opportunity to study the make-up and origins of those discarded samples was forever lost.

              This example is one of many cited by Joseph Campbell and his fellow authors of Changing Images of Man (a futuristic study  compiled in the mid-1970s for the Stanford Research Institute, a think tank now known as SRI International), noting that what science discovers is often limited by the collective image of humanity dominant in a given period – those background myths that shape our understanding of the universe. This is part of a case they made advocating scientific study of many things considered unscientific or superstitious at the time: biofeedback, dreaming, meditation, clairvoyance, telepathy, psychedelics, altered states of consciousness, yoga, etc.

              Indeed, since then the science surrounding many of these (particularly the effects of yoga and meditation on well-being, the benefits of psychedelics, biofeedback, etc.) has opened up.

              Of course, we don’t generally see an active myth as myth, but simply what is (“rocks don’t just fall down out of the sky, you know”), which can affect what science finds. So, while I would not identify science with myth, the two are entwined, whether we acknowledge it or not.

              Good to see you back, Andreas!



              I am not a person who easily praise or congratulate people because I am rather cynical even mildly pessimistic in my approach to life but trust me when I say your effort in putting this forum back and running the old forums is very much appreciated. These conversations are very important, they helped me a lot clear up confusion about concepts (back then I was 30) and really helped me relieve stress that stem from confusion and many other stuff. Very important indeed. Anyway enough with that. 🙂

              If I may, before I go into the subject of this conversation, suggest, to let people know that this forum is open, somehow, it was by sheer luck that I discovered it existed. Maybe you already notified people and got a message in another email account that I am not using anymore but yeah thought to let you know.

              Now about science and myth. Thanks for the excerpt that is invaluable information to have and before it is even published makes it even more so. I kinda agree that we should make an effort to mythologize in the most sincere sense but then when I am thinking about the dangers of mythologizing stuff, you know that thing Campbell said “people are fighting and dying for metaphors” down in the middle east just to point how much metaphors are misunderstood for fact, it makes me hesitant about doing it.

              A good modern example would be the movie “Interstellar”, after the movie was released every “famous” scientist tried to deconstruct it and say how accurate the movie was in term of science which ofcourse was not the point of the movie and I can only guess how many people would indulge at the idea that there are interdimensional beings that manipulate space and time trying to help us etc which was not the point of the movie again. It cuts both ways when you use a metaphor that is aesthetically realistic and uses factual information to say something about something that transcends understanding.  This is just a small example that turns me away from the idea of trying to mythologize science and thats why I like the roles to be clearly defined. In other words I kinda refuse to see science as myth and myth as a science. Totally different things in my mind at this point in time. I am pretty sure I am missing something wouldn’t be the first time lol but yeah.. 🙂

              That being said I agree with the second part of your reply “stories we tell ourselves shape what science finds”. Its true that often understanding and discovery is hindered by the short sightedness of society. But then again there are those examples. I am thinking Columbus here (definitely a hero figure) who went against a totally universal undisputed cosmology but that is how strong his conviction was. Another example I am thinking are the first navigators who looked at the sky and instead of seeing Heaven or Valhalla or Zeus sitting on the clouds, saw maps and a way to navigate the seas and many more heroes of science of course. Inspiring stuff. Anyways I ran out of time, catch you all later.



                I guess for me to a certain extent science and myth are synonymous. It is the ancient myths and sciences that modern science comes from. Old scientific hypothesis’s and theories are discarded and told as myths. I love keeping up on modern science discovery technology and innovation. CRISP , CERN , ITER , SETI , the Human Genome and Connectome project , quantum , computing , communication , medicine , longevity , anthropology , archeology , etc. I’ve devoured most of the modern science communicators. Sagan , deGrasse Tyson , Kaku , Green , Hawking , and many others. Lots of fun.  Much of history point out how sure we thought we were in our knowledge and how wrong we actually really were. I see no reason for this trajectory to stop. In fact it seems to be exponentially increasing. What will our descendants think of us 1000 , 10000 years from now. Perhaps some future archeologist will uncover an Apple computer logo and all. Do an etymological symbolism search that will bring them back to mythic Eden the tree of knowledge , the beginning of written history then past that to prehistory and the Big Bang . Ex nihilo .
                would make a fun narrative. All hail science and the disruptive technology it produces that Falls from a Tree like a ripe fruit whose time has come in its season and time.


                Quick post. Yeah I totally get it R3, everything is science and when science gets outdated it becomes myth but there is something more about myth that science lacks. And yes I am also very fascinated by science, I dont mean to sound like there is no value in science. Anyways, I’ll come back to this later today hopefully.



                  Many old myths served as narratives that contained mnemonic devices. They had poetic entendre on multiple levels in their native language. I think the literal way we recite them would be foreign to their authors. The constellations were used for navigation and seasonal recognition. The narratives kept them in our ancestors mind. Navigation and the reckoning of time is still a viable essential science.

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