Sunday, July 29, 2012

Weekend Post - Mythtakes

Tall and short, fast and slow, left and right, science and mythology, they’re all examples from the primary school classroom of opposites. Science is the exact opposite of mythology. Science is backed up by research, evidence and facts and mythology is backed up by, errrr, nothing apart from tradition. And often that tradition is meaningless and made-up anyway.

The problem is that myths are all around us, we’re surrounded by them. I’m not talking about innocent fairy-tales like Father Christmas and the Tooth Fairy but those so-called truths that are in fact lies and distortions and that many of us fall for. Personally I blame the Internet but some of them have been around for ages. Here goes.

Alternative” medicine. It’s nonsense. The distinction between “conventional” and “alternative” or “complimentary” medicine is a myth created in order to sell things. The only real distinction is between medicine that works, and fake medicine that doesn’t. As has been said before, we tested all the alternative medicines and the ones that worked became medicine. The rest is just a bunch of herbs, some of which smell nice.

Cell memory”. Despite what alternative therapists say, it simply doesn’t exist. Cells cannot remember things. Sorry to all those followers of The Journey, but cell memory is a myth. Find me a single piece of truly scientific evidence for it and I may re-consider. The trouble is there isn’t any. None.

“Darwin denied evolution on his deathbed”. No he didn’t. That was made up by a certain Lady Hope, a lying fundamentalist Christian who claimed she had been there at Darwin’s side as he passed away. No she wasn’t. She made it all up. She never met Darwin. Not even once so she couldn’t have witnessed a deathbed conversion that never happened.

Hypnosis is an altered state of consciousness”. Well, I suppose that’s true, but only in the same sense that sneezing is an altered state of consciousness. Yes, hypnosis affects your brain but so does coffee. Hypnosis is just a mixture of extreme relaxation and some people being incredibly suggestible. There’s no magic involved, nothing deep and meaningful. Almost everything you’ve read or seen about hypnosis is utter nonsense.

Crystals have healing powers”. No, they don’t, they’re just pretty. There’s nothing special about crystals. They’re no more amazing than the glass in your window. Hang on, lenses are crystals aren’t they? If crystals could heal your ailments why can’t your spectacles?

“They’ve founds traces of Noah’s Ark”. A huge number of largely American Christian fundamentalists believe the Bible legend that Noah created an Ark and that it’s remains have been found on Mount Ararat in Turkey. No, this simply isn’t true. Much of this can be traced to a film-maker who said the Ark had been found, but the funniest thing is that this was a deliberate hoax to test the gullibility of certain religious groups. It was such a good hoax people still believe it!

“The Greeks and Romans stole their philosophy from Africans”. Yet another myth without any evidence. Much of this so-called “Afrocentrism” comes from Masonic texts. The Masons have a long history of making extravagant claims about their origins, much of it based on earlier books that, in turn, made up Egyptian history. These earlier texts were written well before we could read Egyptian hieroglyphics so Hey Presto, we have yet another myth. It’s a mythological chain made up of mythological links. Myths, all of them.

“Mary Magdelene was the secret lover of Christ”. How on Earth are we meant to believe this? It wasn’t “The Da Vinci Code” that started it, this story has been going on for ages. However as not one of the so-called historical documents is even slightly reliable how can we tell?

“Intelligence is related to race”. Well, as nobody can agree what either intelligence or race really are it’s all nonsense. It’s about as sensible as saying that “success in life” and “being a nice person” are related. We’re not going to agree on definitions of those either so it’s all a bit, well, mythic don’t you think?

“The author is a cynic who believes in nothing”. No, I believe in lots of things. Like truth that is based on facts, not just believed in because someone says we should. I believe in wonders like the safety glass that saved my eyesight when I had a car windscreen explode in my face a few years ago. An eye full of glass fragments and not even a drop of blood. That’s the sort of thing I believe in.

Some myths are fun. Those of us with kids have no doubt repeated many of them. I know I have. I’ve gone to great lengths to construct reindeer footprints outside my house on Christmas Eve, I’ve slipped Tooth Fairy money under the pillows of my children when they lost teeth and I’ve threatened them with eternal damnation if they disobey me. But none of these things are actually true. None of them are scientific, they’re all mythical and deserve either to be ignored or rejected by grown-ups. With the exception of entertaining immature children shouldn’t we abandon them?

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