Could we have myths that are true?

This is as of yet a bit vague. Hopefully, I’ll have something clearer later on. But nevertheless, here are some preliminary thoughts on a topic.

“Myth”. Another word that has a double meaning. It can mean an untrue belief, a misconception: “That’s just a myth.” It can also mean a religious-ish, probably magical, story about why things are as they are, like a creation myth.

I’m going to be talking about the latter meaning in this post, and every time I use the word “myth” below.

People who study such things like to talk about how myths are not supposed to be true as such. That’s not their function; that’s not the point; that doesn’t really matter. What matters, originally, is their spiritual function. People everywhere seem to need and create myths to “explain” the way things are. I have to admit their function is not entirely clear to me, but I understand some of it.

There’s talk of modern myths or equivalents of myths, typically based on science or some Hollywood (simplified or just plain misunderstood or even made up) version of it. Well, what I think is this: Why not make better science-based myths? Myths don’t have to be true, but it can’t hurt if they are. I can see the need, even in my own life, for spiritual explanations about our place in the cosmos and things like that, but I don’t need any supernatural fantasies for that.

Now, science itself is a bit bare, the myths that spontaneously develop based on it too one-sided and reductionist (just like traditional myths, for that matter) and not necessarily purposeful and inspiring. And obviously not everyone can really understand it like the experts do. But there’s nothing preventing “deeper” philosophical formulations based on scientific fact that anyone could understand, maybe in a simplified form, that could give them a sense of what their place is in this world, implying the kind of values that people need, and at the same time be more or less true. People are prone to confusing myths and facts anyway, apparently more than ever these days when, according to some authors, we’ve lost the old concept of a myth. Beliefs play a dual role here: both factual and spiritual. I don’t see any problem with serving both of these other than the contingent cultural habits of pulling out the supernatural at this point and looking at the natural mostly in reductionist terms.

True myths. Though that may seem surprising, it does sound good on paper. It deserves a try.

My earlier article “How Does Meaning and Purpose Emerge in a Mechanistic Universe?” can also be seen as a sketch for such a true myth. On the other hand, on believing supernatural things factually, see “In Absence of Evidence”. And, of course, there’s the post called “Faith without Belief?”