Unbelievable: 7 Myths About the History and Future of Science and Religion by Michael Newton Keas

Question: What do celebrity scientists Bill Nye the Science Guy, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Stephen Hawking have in common? Answer: They have all propped up myths about science and religion—both falsehoods about actual events in history and a larger, sweeping myth encompassing all of cosmic reality. In Unbelievable: 7 Myths About the History and Future of Science and Religion (ISI, 2019), science historian Michael Keas busts them all, sometimes with stinging wit that would probably be lost on the celebrities and their followers.

The false narratives about historical events are myths according to the common meaning of the word—a false story—and in Part One, Keas devotes a chapter to each of six fables that have been propagated to cast religion as the perennial enemy of scientific progress. There is the myth, for example, that the Catholic Church suppressed science and thus created the Dark Ages, and that Bruno and Galileo were persecuted because of their science. Each of these chapters is a fascinating foray into the complexities of human events, and all of them shed light on irreligionist lore that, sadly, still appears in textbooks today. Interestingly, some of this lore didn't appear in its present form in American education until the 1960s, which ought to call into question the predilections of textbook authors.

The AI-ET Epic

But the most fascinating part of Keas's myth-busting concerns the other kind of myth—myth in the more scholarly sense of an imaginative, archetypal story that shapes a culture's identity and dominant worldview. This kind of myth is about "the big stories," the ideas that inform our understanding of our place in the cosmos—how we got here, why we're here, and where we're headed. And in this case, the irreligionists have whipped up a whopping twofold fantasy: the AI-ET epic.

The AI version looks forward to the day when artificial intelligence will confer on us super-intelligence and immortality through the merging of man and machine. Believers in this "technological singularity" have adopted the name Singularitarians, and Google chief engineer Ray Kurzwiel is the Singularitarian doyen du jour. In the ET version, a superior being or beings, usually suffused with a vaguely spiritual aura, will descend to us from the heavens bringing enlightenment. Sci-fi films are usually set against the backdrop of one or both of these motifs, as was Carl Sagan's 1980s series Cosmos, and Tyson's 2014 reboot.

Notice the worldview and religious aspects of this grand salvation story. It tells us (1) where we came from (evolution), (2) what our biggest problem is (ignorance and/or cosmic loneliness), and (3) the blessed hope to which we can look forward: a bright, universal future beyond current terrestrial, sectarian limits. The gods usually reduce either to us (in the AI version, we really are the ones we've been waiting for) or to ET. We are saved, not by turning away from our sins and accepting the sacrificial gift of Jesus Christ on our behalf, but by technological prowess, either ours or ET's.

And although this story flies under the banner of science, Keas shows how there is no evidence to suggest that either AI or ET will come through with the deliverance their worshipers anticipate. Rather, in an irony fit for the annals of science history, the whole chef-d'oeuvre fits their own derisive definition of faith as "belief without evidence." Their stories are materialistic fantasy-making, pushed in the name of science. Clearly, some materialists still believe in magic.

is a freelance writer and blogger on apologetics and matters of faith.
This article originally appeared in Salvo, Issue #49, Summer 2019 Copyright © 2019 Salvo | www.salvomag.com https://salvomag.com/article/salvo49/wizards-of-myth