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Science and Storytelling

“All humans are inherently storytellers,” says historian of science Michael Keas in a new ID the Future episode. “We’re all seemingly wired that way.” Yes, and it’s true of scientists as well, as Professor Keas discusses with host Andrew McDiarmid. 

That’s a theme of Keas’s excellent new book, out this week, Unbelievable: 7 Myths About the History and Future of Science and Religion. To advance the false conception that science is always in conflict with religious tradition, some influential scientists and science popularizers tell us stories about the past and the present — concerning historical beliefs about the cosmos and our place in it, beliefs about the shape of the Earth, about “martyrs” for science like Bruno and Galileo, about the future impact of an encounter with extraterrestrials.

I love Joan Didion’s comment that “We tell ourselves stories in order to live.” We, evidently, can’t live without them. Yet when the story is grossly misleading, it needs to be debunked. That’s what Mike Keas does with these seven historic myths that he briefly outlines in the podcast. Dr. Keas is a delightful explainer of ideas, as you’ll gather from his conversation with McDiarmid. Download the podcast or listen to it here.

Photo: Monument to Giordano Bruno, Rome, by Francesca Soria [CC BY-SA 4.0], from Wikimedia Commons.