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Science and Myth. By Stephanie Gonzalez - LAS 497A – Assignment 1. What’s the difference?. “Scientific theories tell us what is possible; myths tell us what is desirable. Both are needed to guide proper action.” - John Maynard Smith, Science and myth

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science and myth

Science and Myth

By Stephanie Gonzalez -LAS 497A – Assignment 1

what s the difference
What’s the difference?
  • “Scientific theories tell us what is possible; myths tell us what is desirable. Both are needed to guide proper action.”
  • -John Maynard Smith, Science and myth
  • Scientific claims are those which can be tested and confirmed repeatedly by numerous scientific experiments.
  • Myths are stories repeated throughout society conferring knowledge, and providing “moral and evaluative guidance.”
what did smith think
What did smith think?
  • John Maynard Smith, a theoretical evolutionary biologist and geneticist, discusses his encounter with someone trying to reconcile his thoughts on the existence of homosexuality with the theory of evolution.
  • The individual believed that since evolution suggests all human actions are performed with 1 goal in mind, reproduction, that homosexuality in today’s world is unnatural, and the only way for it to become acceptable is to be proven otherwise by science.
  • Smith comments that if that is the case, then what about other social phenomena like feminism and women in the work force, which takes the emphasis off of bearing children as a life long duty, and for many removes it altogether.
  • Lamarkianism is the belief that certain traits are passed down from a parent to its offspring due to a special need that occurred during the parents’ lifetime. For example, a giraffe stretched its neck to reach leaves so it passed down its long neck to its offspring. George Bernard Shaw used this theory to justify “free will and individual endeavor.” This is very much an every man for himself type of approach.
  • Smith argues the existence of concepts like socialism and social services provided to groups of people, as a collective result of the cooperation of groups of people, counters this belief.
the 3 approaches
The 3 approaches
  • Smith felt there were 3 approaches to understanding the relation between science and myth.
  • The 1st belief is normative science, which is when both scientific concepts and myths would be reconciled by the mind in an attempt to find relation and justify specific actions.
the 3 approaches1
The 3 approaches
  • The 2nd belief is that science only disperses truth and myth is without reason.
  • The 3rd belief, is that we need both science and myth in order to have a more holistic understanding of our world, but we must place the utmost importance in distinguishing the both. Smith makes it clear he feels that religion is primarily myth.
how is this applicable
How Is this applicable?
  • John Maynard Smith may not have gone into great detail about his ideas when he wrote “Science and Myth,” but his musings on the matter certainly give you something to think about.
  • How do you justify everyday actions of individuals as well as society overall?
  • Are there some stories or beliefs you’ve always held without truly considering if they are based on facts or based on unproven collective beliefs?
  • That leaves me to ask you….