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A Final StoryScience, Myth, and Beginnings$
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Nasser Zakariya

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780226476124

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226500737.001.0001

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Scientific Myth and Mysticism

Scientific Myth and Mysticism

(p.241) Chapter Eight Scientific Myth and Mysticism
A Final Story

Nasser Zakariya

University of Chicago Press

To some, including Bernal, Haldane, Huxley, and figures such as Teilhard de Chardin, science might embrace prophecy and myth. At the same time, Loren Eiseley, P. B. Medawar, and Theodosius Dobzhansky argued that prophetic science was overstated and flirted with mysticism, however much they displayed different attitudes toward that “extrascientific” dimension. Eiseley dismissed as mythic scientific explanations of life and the call of space travel, travel that for Hannah Arendt signaled human uprooting and the insatiable pursuit of an ever-receding Archimedean point. At the same time, myth in the more general negative sense of false belief was persistently invoked as what science worked to supplant or overcome. These perspectives recognized the phenomenon of science extending its claims into the realms of myth, understood either approvingly or reprovingly, prominent scientists regarding themselves as in a position to provide new answers to what they understood as perennial questions. In contrast to the resistance Eiseley and Bronowski felt themselves to be facing in counter-cultural movements, scientifically-minded, totalizing authors found public platforms welcoming their own political and scientific critiques, and their synthetic visions, such as the fabulaic final biological adventures of Gamow’s Tompkins and the initial scalar filmic sketch of Judith Bronowski.

Keywords:   scientific myth, Tompkins, Powers of Ten, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Loren Eiseley, Judith Bronowski, P. B. Medawar, Theodosius Dobzhansky

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