chapter  10
16 Pages

Myth and public science

ByMary Gerhart, Allan Melvin Russell

Opening the 4 December 1997 Wall Street Journal, we find the headline, “Science Has Spoken: Global Warming Is a Myth.” Alternatively, we pick up the 1992 publication of Mary Midgley’s 1990 Gifford Lectures, and notice the title, Science as Salvation: A Modern Myth and Its Meaning. What these texts have in common, what can be found regularly – especially in writings related to modern science and technology – is the use of the term myth as meaning a false, even deceitful, story. It is ironic that myth, meaning “a false story,” is being linked to the term science, with the root meaning “knowledge.” Research in the history of science shows that scientific work is shot through with “themata” that, among other things, have the effect of making published scientific articles, especially those in the physical sciences, mythic – but not mythic in the sense of false story.