The Mythology of Science
Adapted from The Mythology of Science
On the surface, a myth is the illusion of an age or a culture whereby life and its origins are interpreted. As such, the myth has an axiomatic truth to the age and is its criterion for judging and assessing reality.
But much more is involved in the concept of myth. A myth is the attempt of a culture to overcome history, to negate the forces and ravages of time, and to make the universe amenable and subject to man. The myth reveals a hatred of history. History shows movement in terms of forces beyond man and in judgment over man; history rides heavily over man, is inescapably ethical, shows a continuing conflict between good and evil, and clearly reveals man as the actor, not the playwright and director. And this man hates. To fill a role he never wrote, to enter on stage at a time not of his choosing, this man resents. The purpose man then sets for himself in his myths is to end history, to make man the absolute governor by decreeing an end to the movement that is history. Where his myths acknowledge man's lot in history, man ascribes his sorry role, not to his depravity, but to jealousy of the gods. The goal of the myth, ever more clearly enunciated over time, has become the destruction of history and the enthronement of man as the new governor of the universe.
The means used by man to accomplish the goal of his myth is magic. The purpose of magic is the total control by man over man, nature, and the supernatural. Whatever the form magic takes, this is its goal. The relationship of magic is therefore basically to science rather than to Biblical religion. Under the influence of Christianity, science escaped the constraints of magic. The purpose of science gradually ceased to be an attempt to play god and became rather the exercise of dominion over the earth under God. The redeemed Christian is God's vicegerent over the earth, and science is one of man's tools in establishing and furthering that dominion. For science to overstep that role is to forsake science for magic. The purposes of modern science are increasingly those of magic, the exercise of total control. The essential goal of modern science is knowledge in order to have prediction, planning, and control. Thus magic has again triumphed, and modern science is popular precisely because man today, wedded again to the world of myth, demands magic to overcome history, to eliminate the ethical struggle and to place man beyond good and evil and beyond judgment. On the whole, modern science has taken readily to this new role, and it is enjoying its status as magician in the mind of modern man. Science has become magic and is governed by myth.
Basic to God's nature as sovereign is His omnipotence. It is not only an assertion of the Bible, but also a basic presupposition of every page, that all things are possible with God, and with Him nothing is impossible. It is not surprising that man, having succumbed to the lure of myth and believing himself to be his own god, should proceed on the premise that all things are possible with man, scientific man.
The examples of this faith are many and striking. The world of history condemns the sun to death. The sun was created, and therefore the sun can die. It is not eternal nor any does it have self-regenerative power enabling it to revive itself at will. The sun has a history; it moves in terms of a predetermined and predestined plan not its own. The sun, like the entire universe, and man included, belongs to the world of history. It must die. But man the myth-maker wants a world refashioned according to his own imagination, created by his own word. History must therefore either be arrested, or, having run its course, be recreated by the new god, the new great magician, scientific man.
The optimism of science is boundless. Having declared that scientists will create a new sun, it is nothing for them to plan the creation of life. A famous biochemist has said, "This century will go down in history as the century when life ceased to be a mystery...Life is only chemistry. It is complicated, yes. But we no longer have any reason to believe it is beyond human understanding." There is, of course, no trace of humility in this statement, but it is absurd for gods to be humble; humility belongs to men. A British scientist has stated, "I feel certain that in another decade or two we ourselves will be able to create life. I no longer find it necessary to believe in God." Of these scientists, Gunther writes with assurance, "They have found the key to life."
This then is the new mythology of man, the mythology of science. It expresses the basic presuppositions of the humanism of the day, so that its absurdities, contradictions, and pretensions have the ring of infallible truth rather than irrational myth. The magicians of every age have been imposing, and their prestige great. Their accomplishments have often been, whether in Egypt, Babylon, or in the modern world, very real. But their foundations are untenable and their future one of collapse as the myth breaks on the rocks of reality.