Talk:List of popular misconceptions about science

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removal of point about myth of Freud[edit]

I removed this from the list of major myths-

  • That Sigmund Freud discovered the unconscious, when many philosophers preceding Sigmund Freud, such as Leibniz, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche, in the West, as well a the Vedic and Sufi Traditions predating Freud by millennia, had similar concepts. This myth has been used to allocate modern psychology a special place in understanding human action marking its beginning with Freud or Wilhelm Wundt, and dismiss 'pre-modern' or non-Western psychological models as mythology.

I think it is a misconception among a small number of people, and not a myth, to say that Freud discovered the unconscious, and I do not think that there has ever been any significant group of thoughtful people anywhere who have propagated this idea. Can anyone cite anything to demonstrate otherwise? Bluerasberry (talk) 18:24, 22 April 2009 (UTC)

Old talk[edit]

I'm moving this here after considerable discussion and general agreement that "mythology" is a useful and accurate term for stories like this except among those who might take offense at it. Scientists are unlikely to be offended by the term (indeed, scientists make exposing and learning from their own folly a point of pride). --LDC

For what it's worth, I really like this article a lot! I think the idea behind it is valid -- there DO exist "myths" ("stories that serve to unfold part of the world view of a people or explain a practice, belief, or natural phenomenon") that apply to science.

I do worry, though, that this concept is an invention, and that inventions might not belong in an encyclopedia. Can anyone find references to science mythology anywhere else? -- Cayzle

It seems to me that this is a title which is ambiguous. I see the term "scientific mythology" as referring to the scientific study of myths in the sense of the work of Joseph Campbell or Mircea Eliade. The present article could be science mythology or myths of science; it could even mean "legends of science". I would be inclined to find a better title for this article. Eclecticology

So far as I know, there is no "scientific" study of mythology. Science and history are different things, with different methods and different goals. I'm sure some people might call their ideas about mythology "scientific", but what they really mean is just "methodical"--or else they just use the word for unwarranted credibility. I don't think that merits treating it as a real science--especially in the case of Campbell, who's barely above the crackpot level in my book. All that being said, you may be right that "legends of science" or something is clearer, but doesn't have the same connotations. I wouldn't move this until we actually have some content that might qualify better for the name. -- Lee Daniel Crocker

I have found a few references, not to a scientific study of mythology, but to a mythology of science. The MythologyOfScience page ( ) is one of them.

I think this page needs to say something about ritualism in science. I'm thinking of the many different versions of the scientific method and perhaps the reenactment of experiments we use to learn science at school. --Chris

The recently added link, Dealing with the Modern Crisis of Religiosity: Reflections from the Aum Case is far more about integrating religion into modern thought than it is about anything to do with science. I don't think it's apt for this article to become a platform for a religion vs. science debate. -- April

Although I agree with April's conclusion, I can't be sure that that's what the reference is about. There is a borderland where for some scientists science itself becomes a religion. (God, as commonly perceived, is not an essential component for religiosity.)
On this page I still hold to what I said last spring about changing the name of the article, which I may so do now that I understand Wikistorms a little better. This has more to do with the grammatical effects of the adjective "scientific". There is an ambiguating tendency in articles with titles in the form [Scientific topic]. Are we talking about the the perception of the topic in science, or the scientific treatment of the topic. Eclecticology 10:17 Sep 4, 2002 (PDT)

Some of this article verges on the relativist "debunking" of science. Science certainly has mythology and rituals, but the scientific method makes unique testable claims to objectivity. I think the pro-science point of view needs to be put more strongly. The Anome

Agreed. I think science and mythology should be given their most positive connotations here. I am interested in debunking certain impoverished views of science, but I'll try not to do it here unless it becomes directly relevant. --Chris

Uh, Chris, I don't really like Feyerabend's citation (text follows). It does not follow the NPOV principle and is IMO dangerously misleading (too "post-modern" a point of view). Because it does not follow NPOV, it should be edited; because it's a citation, we cannot edit it; so, we should remove it, eventually. Perhaps you could write similar ideas in a more NPOV way.

Science is much closer to myth than a scientific philosophy is prepared to admit. It is one of the many forms of thought that have been developed by man, and not necessarily the best.

This should be discussed to begin with. Can we really compare thoughts that have different aims. I'd say for the aim of objective and operative knowledge, in areas like physics and biology (far away from psychology), science is the best thought ever. At a higher level, I admit we need non-scientific thought about our aims and the drive of our lives. But that is something else and does not invalidate science, nor does it equate science to myth.

Because Feyerabend "almost" equates Science with Myth in this sentence. Some readers will not grasp the "almost". They will be mislead.

It is conspicuous, noisy, and impudent,

Needlessly breaks NPOV.

but it is inherently superior only for those who have already decided in favour of a certain ideology, or who have accepted it without ever having examined its advantages and its limits. +
And as the accepting and rejecting of ideologies should be left to the individual it follows that the separation of state and church must be complemented by the separation of state and science ,

State is already independent from science at least as much as state is separated from the Church. Did G. Bush invoke Science before attacking Iraq ???

that most recent, most aggressive, and most dogmatic religious institution.

Call that NPOV ? And it's plainly false. Show me that "dogmatic institution" ! Some scientists may be dogmatic. Most aren't. And there's no unique formal institution for science.

Such a separation may be our only chance to achieve a humanity we are capable of, but have never fully realized." (Feyerabend 1975, 295)

Not NPOV either.

If instead of "science" Feyerabend had attacked "some forms of ideology that invoke science", I would be much more likely to agree. But this is not the case.

-- FvdP 10:09 Sep 4, 2002 (PDT)
There's nothing not NPOV about quotes as long as they're properly credited. The above reaction almost proves Feyerabend's assertions. It parallel's a fundamentalist's defence of the Bible. I think this provocative quote should be restored. Eclecticology 10:46 Sep 4, 2002 (PDT)
NPOV is NPOV. What I don't like, is to have non-NPOV statements cast in stone under the form of a quote no one can edit. If the quote is as provocative as you put it, that implies it does not belong to a NPOV-committed encyclopedia. And I don't see why my reaction anyhow proves Feyerabend's claims ? FvdP

I think it's OK to remove the quote. Feyerabend was a supporter of science (believe it or not) and this quote, taken on its own, misrepresents him a good deal. Still, I think Feyerabend and Kuhn had important things to say about certain historical accounts. I'll see if I can find something that fits better. --Chris

On the link: "The Mythology of Science and Technology: Prometheus or Science is in trouble". Certainly the characterization of "Dr. Frankenstein" vs. "Prometheus" views of science falls squarely under "the mythology of science". But, this article is not really about those mysths as myths, but rather employs them as metaphorical devices in making a political point. Certainly the "myths about science" would be great to include here, but I'm not sure that a topical editorial is the best venue. -- April

I saw this page had been moved to "Science mythology". I think that's ugly from a linguistic point of view, while I see no reason not to keep it at 'scientific mythology', I moved it back. Andre Engels 15:55 Oct 16, 2002 (UTC)

I wanted to make it clear from the title that we are not talking about the scientific study of myths, but rather the opposite: the study of science from a mythological perspective. Would "Mythology of science" sound any better? --Chris

If it makes you happy, go ahead. Andre Engels 17:11 Oct 16, 2002 (UTC)

I would again put myself on record as favouring that we get away from this ambiguous term and distinguish between "Myth in Science" which has to do with preconceptions and other myths which have arisen in the course of studying science, and "The Science of Mythology" which refers to the efforts of Joseph Campbell and others to bring order into the study of mythology. I realize that there are members of this community who believe that myths cannot be studied scientifically, but then being dismissive is not very scientific either. Eclecticology 22:42 Oct 16, 2002 (UTC)

Let's see. Yes I think possibly you can study mythology using the methods of science, and maybe Joseph Campbell did so. However he doesn't write much like a scientist and the usual term for the study of myth is Mythography (no article on this yet). In any case, while the title might be ambiguous, the contents point towards your "Myth in science". --Chris


The lack of elaboration for the "myths" makes them look fairly ridiculous. For example:

This refers, I assume, to notion that the moth mutated, rather than just an increase in phenotype selection or something like that. This should be elaborated and not just written off as a "myth," if it is to be included at all. Or link to an article which talks about its "mythical" qualities. As far as I know, and as far as Peppered moth evolution says, it is not a wholly "mythical" phenomena, though I am aware a few Creationists have tried to label it as such.
This refers, I assume, to the fact that a historian has challenged whether Mendel's results involved some data smoothing. I'm not sure that anybody thinks he didn't experiment with pea plants at all, which is what is implied by labeling this a "myth."

And so on with a few of the other examples. A better explanation of Kuhn's take on this might be warranted: that these simplistic, whiggish views of scientific progress with their great men, great experiments, great reason, etc., is a pedagogical tool used to teach science more than an attempt at any deliberate deception or perversion of history. Scientists see themselves as steps in a trek towards truth, which causes them to depict history that way, even if history is more complicated than that, so says Kuhn. --Fastfission 20:10, 21 Nov 2004 (UTC)

Goodbye to 'Science as a ritualistic practice' section[edit]

I wondered how long it would be before the 'ritual' section fell out, and frankly I'm surprised that it lingered this long. I wrote it, but I admit that a) it's not quality material and b) that it does not fit an encyclopedia. So I'll let it go without a fight.

The theme however still fascinates me, so be sure to expect something along similar lines in the future! Chris 11:25, 26 May 2005 (UTC)

It's just not encyclopedic content as it was, that's all. It was more of a personal speculative essay -- which have their place, of course, elsewhere in the world. ;) --Fastfission 15:34, 26 May 2005 (UTC)


To me the section on copernicus reads more like discussion than content. Here's what we say,

Copernicus, his theory, and his reasons for withholding publication. According to Arthur Koestler, Copernicus did not propose a true heliocentric theory; he added a system of cycles and subcycles that made his system even more complicated than the Ptolemaic system, and he withheld publication out of fears of being ridiculed by other scholars, not out of fears of persecution. (However simply looking at pages from the original manuscript would seem to eliminate the first part of this claim. [1] ( Likewise, "more complicated" refers to the greater number of epicycles, with whcich Copernicus replaced equant circles, achieving what was considered a simplification.).

I think we could improve what is said with the help of a little research. To what extent did copernicus use epicycles; were there more or fewer epicycles than in Ptolemaic system? Epicycles and other corrective mechanisms were added to the Ptolemaic system over time, so I would expect it to be more complex, if only because it is older, but we should find out for sure. What were the reasons for Copernicus withholding publication? Quite honestly, the link we are asked to follow didn't help me decide. Perhaps someone could tell us what we are supposed to see there. Was the Copernican system more or less accurate than the Ptolemaic? My understanding is that there was no great difference. Again we should find out for sure. --Chris 08:51, 24 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Kekule's snakes[edit]

What is the source for Kekule's dream being mythical? Septentrionalis 01:36, 18 October 2005 (UTC)

See benzene and Kekulés Traum (Kekulés dream, in German). Cacycle 23:09, 30 October 2005 (UTC)
I don't think that claim can be justified. Kekule himself wrote that it came to him in a daydream (he was on a bus at the time, FWIW). He died in 1896. 24 years later, his biographer came to the conclusion that other researchers had been in the right area with their theories and so Kekule must have got it from them. I am interested to know how Kekule's primary autobiographical record is over-ruled by the later conclusions of a biographer. This seems arbitrary (to put it mildly) and looks rather like a NPOV problem. I propose the removal of Kekule from the myths page. Garrick92 17:24, 23 January 2007 (UTC)

Four days and no objections. Out it goes. Garrick92 14:32, 25 January 2007 (UTC)

Conflict Myth[edit]

The most prevalent science myths are the conflict with religion ones. I've thrown a couple onto the list as they are completely debunked and no longer subscribed to by any historian. I expect some resistance to this as the myths are extremely popular with laypeople!

Another unsourced denial: the chief quotation: In Boston are more erected than anywhere else in New England; and Boston seems to be more dreadfully Shaken, - 0, there is no getting out of the mighty Hand of God. is attested here. I will consult Dr Prince's pamphlet if I can. Septentrionalis 23:19, 20 October 2005 (UTC)
White's quotation last confirmed. last page of 23 Septentrionalis 01:23, 21 October 2005 (UTC)
The lightning rod is going back in: I've blogged on the question here. What White does is pick an unrepresentative quotation and try and make it look like it was the standard view. Yes, you can always find a preacher who'll say anything daft. It is dishonest to pretend this means that it represents what Christians think.
Oh, well then, if the authorities of the Roman Catholic Church had no opposition to lightning rods, clearly Christians had no problem with it! Your source says that "slowness in adopting the new invention did not proceed from ecclesiastical ban or dogma", and "Even though the ringing of church bells during lightning storms continued in Catholic Countries long after the invention of the lightning rod, it was by no means the case that the Church as an institution was opposed to the new invention." (Emphasis mine.) Your quotes say nothing about popular religious concerns among Catholics, much less Puritans from Massachussetts. (Newcomers, please see Septent's first link.) Dan 19:17, 27 November 2005 (UTC)
Not sure what your point is. The myth, repeated all over the net, is that the Church tried to ban lightning rods. This is untrue. Furthermore there was no Christian campaign against lightning rods beyond that single preacher quoted by White. The best you can do is say "A single Christian preacher in Boston thought lightnings rods impious." and that misrepresents the debate at the time.
You have a strange definition of "all over". A quick search finds not one page claiming that "the Church tried to ban lightning rods". I do see a number of pages blaming religious prejudice for opposition to the invention, and you have yet to refute this. Your own quotes implicitly acknowledge the prejudice, while focusing on a straw-man argument (the claim that official Catholic dogma forbade the rods' use). Another apologist, tellingly, spends a great deal of space arguing that the prejudice came into Christianity from paganism -- as if that disproved the conflict between science and religion! I'll change the list of myths unless someone refutes the following claims.
In Switzerland, France and Italy, popular prejudice against the lightning rod was ignited and fueled by the churches and resulted in the tearing down of lightning rods from many homes and buildings, including one from the Institute of Bologna, the leading scientific institution in Italy. The Swiss chemist, M. de Saussure, removed a rod he had erected on his house in Geneva in 1771 when it caused his neighbors so much anxiety that he feared a riot.
In 1780-1784, a lawsuit about lightning rods gave M. de St. Omer the right to have a lightning rod on top of his house despite the religious objections of his neighbors. This victory established the fame of the lawyer in the case, young Robespierre.

Supply a source for these allegations please, particularly that the churches fueled the prejudice. --James Hannam 10:38, 29 November 2005 (UTC)
The person who wants to make a factual claim in Wikipedia -- in this case, the claim that historians have refuted the "myth" -- has the burden of proof. Dan 00:31, 30 November 2005 (UTC)
Dan, I have referenced to a fifty page long academic article. The burden of proof is met. When I asked for sources to your claim you gave me a google search. Not good enough. I want references to academic books (with a page reference) that refute Cohen and address where they think he made mistakes. The internet is not a source for facts, merely innuendo. If you want to argue about this, go to a library and actually do some work on it. --James Hannam 10:25, 7 December 2005 (UTC)
Well, that's the thing. I read the quotes you provided. They do not address the "myth" as I understand it, namely the claim that religious prejudice hindered the adoption of lightning rods. In fact, the quotes implicitly concede that people within the Catholic Church (as well as some Protestant leaders) opposed the invention. They say outright that a superstitious lighting-related practice continued in Catholic churches. So far, you have not even tried to claim that your source refutes the story as it actually appears on the web (as opposed to the story of papal officials trying to ban the rod). Do you in fact make this claim? Will you provide a quote to show that the article at least addresses popular religious feeling? Dan 02:06, 9 December 2005 (UTC)
      • It sounds to me like the claim on the net is that the Church banned lightning rods. This would refer to the Catholic Church as an organization, usually, or any church as an organization. If no organization is behind the banning, then it is a myth in some degree (it may be a qualified myth -- i.e. the organization never banned it though there are accounts of individuals doings such-and-such). If it is a looser version -- just religious prejudice and adoption of lightning rods -- it would sound to me like we'd need to establish that this was a significant effect and not just a few isolated cases. --Fastfission 04:25, 9 December 2005 (UTC)
Again, the webpages I've seen make no such claim. Even White doesn't speak of an actual ban, and his main quote comes from a Protestant pastor. Dan 05:30, 9 December 2005 (UTC)
The myth the church opposed lightning rods: As the myth exists, and I have supplied a source refuting it, this discussion needs to go no further. However, I shall check up on the sources Dan gave me a report back in a week. I have also amended the wiki article to exactly quote the myth as given in the link above. While it has often been stated that the Church banned lightning rods (which is untrue), the myth that it opposed them (also untrue) includes banning them.
We seem to be talking past each other. The first sentence of that site might lead an unwary reader to think that the Pope tried to ban lightning rods. However, it doesn't clearly say that. Instead it talks about popular prejudice and well-documented practices. It repeats the charge that churches (lowercase c) "ignited and fueled" prejudice against the rods, but it doesn't say how -- and we know from Cohen that churches continued to honor superstitions about lightning. Remember that some (perhaps all) of the people pushing the story see the difference between churchgoer superstitions and official Church dogma as trivial. They put both in the category of Religion/Superstition, or 'the silly beliefs of people in these churches'. So you wouldn't expect them to always make the difference clear. Indeed, while you may see the distinction as paramount, they may see it as a deliberate attempt to obscure the proven conflict between Science and That Other Stuff. In light of this, would you call your claim NPOV as written? How does it compare with, say, the claim that scholars knew the shape of the world before Columbus? I had a chance to flip through your source and copy part of it. Cohen repeatedly blames superstition for opposition to lightning rods. On p434-435, he quotes John Adams as saying that a majority in Boston had religious objections to the rod:

I have heard some Persons of the highest rank among us, say that they really thought, the Erection of Iron Points was an impious attempt to robb the Almighty of his Thunder, to wrest the Bolt of Vengeance out of his Hand; and others, that Thunder was designed as an Execution upon Criminals, that no Mortal can stay. That the Attempt was foolish as well as impious.

And so on in that vein. From Zoltan Haraszti, "Young John Adams on Franklin's iron points," Isis 41:11-14, 1950. Dan 21:16, 16 December 2005 (UTC)
Dan, as far as I can tell you agree that no church opposed the use of lightning rods. I accept that there was some popular prejudice against there use. This (according to Cohen whose authority we both seem to accept) was based on superstition and misunderstandings about the science. They are much like today's objections to the MMR vacine and genetically modified food. In time, I expect we will see them fade away as it did for lightning rods. However, Cohen also makes clear that this prejudice was not a result of any form of church doctrine but rather a groundswell of public opinion that eventually faded away. Furthermore, several scientists, including the atheist Marat, objected to their use at first. Even the Boston preacher gave a physical argument to explain the earthquake. Thus my entry is completely NPOV. You are trying to find some wiggle room in order to keep the conflict between science and religion going. What I suggest you do is write a new article or write a section on the one on lightning rods setting out the nuance of your veiws. But that doesn't belong here which is simple statement that something we bioth agree is untrue is untrue. Also, please do not bother reference to an webpage that provides no references for its claims. It is a waste of everybody's time. --James Hannam 23:43, 16 December 2005 (UTC)
Again, I don't think the authors of that phrase meant what you think they meant. They cite Cohen's article, so presumably they don't think he contradicts them. Take a moment to consider the possibility that they wrote in good faith. You think their article accuses the Pope of opposing lightning rods, because you distinguish between churchgoer beliefs and Church doctrine. They don't. They phrase their teaser in a misleading way because they see no important difference between an official decree and a popular belief in the churches. In the authors' minds, the religious opposition would not have existed, had the churches never taught people about the supernatural in general and the demonic/divine origin of lightning in particular. And this seems somewhat plausible, though given the difficulty in proving contrafactuals we can always say that another religion would have produced more opposition. In the authors' minds, then, Cohen's article proves their claim by documenting religious objections to lightning rods. Dan 19:22, 17 December 2005 (UTC)
The article comes from an atheist propaganda site so I'm afraid I'm not going to give them an inch of credit. Cohen specifically states that churches had NO doctrinal objection to lightning rods. He says it twice. If the article's authors think Cohen agrees with them, then they cannot read. As for the difference between Church and popular practice, consider this. Do you think the Catholic Church objects to contraception? Would it be an error to say that it doesn't? Would you reconsider your position given that millions of Catholics use contraception? The fact is that people were worried about lightning rods because they were afraid. They were 18th century people so they expressed this fear in religious terms. Today, when we have irrational fears about MMR jabs or GM foods, we use different language, but the fear is the same. I see no difference between superstitious nonsense and environmentalist gobbledigook. The bottom line is that no-one has produced an iota of evidence that churchs objected to lightning rods and Cohen directly contradicts this. He even suggests the Pope encouraged their use. --James Hannam 19:31, 17 December 2005 (UTC)
I won't try to convince you that the authors wrote in good faith. But the rules of Wikipedia as I interpret them require giving every POV the benefit of the doubt at first. (Oh, yes, and I left the part about White for the moment on the assumption that Russell told the truth about him and the Flat-Earth myth.)Dan 06:46, 31 December 2005 (UTC)


As far as I'm concerned, none of this classifies as either myth or legend(and hardly at all fit the academic definition of myth), but much is more akin to simple fables, wives tales, urban legends, or outright fakelore. At any rate, the naming of the articles is a misnomer, and shouldn't stay at all. Satanael 20:57, 9 March 2006 (UTC)

There is no monolithic "academic definition of myth"; academics use the concept of "mythology" in many different ways based on their areas of research, and the use in this article conforms to some academic usage. It is certainly not fakelore, as you suggested. From the article:
  • Fakelore is inauthentic, manufactured folklore which is created in the hope that it will be accepted as genuine and/or legitimate.
A few examples from the sci-myth article might qualify as fakelore, but most of them do not because they the were not deliberately manufactured. The claims about Copernicus, for example, tend to have complicated backgrounds that involve poor historiography instead of something so simple as fakelore. They are not urban legends because they are about real, documented people and events, because they do not involve "friend of a friend" scenarios, and because they circulate in print (often academic print!), not orally. Their actual historical content also disqualifies them as fables or old wives' tales. They do, however, have some features of mythology according to Wikipedia:
  • Although myths are often considered to be accounts of events that have not happened, many historians consider that myths can also be accounts of actual events that have become highly imbued with symbolic meaning, or that have been transformed, shifted in time or place, or even reversed.
The title "Scientific Mythology" is always going to seem misleading to someone, but so will any other possible phrase, as a scan of this talk page shows. If you want to reclassify the article, be more thorough in your research next time and find a category that applies. Now I am going to see whether a revert is in order. Maestlin 09:14, 12 March 2006 (UTC)
The following discussion is an archived debate of the proposal. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on the talk page. No further edits should be made to this section.

The result of the debate was no consensus. --liquidGhoul 04:31, 22 July 2006 (UTC)

Requested move[edit]

Scientific mythologyScientific folklore – Same as for the now-renamed Tornado myths, as laid out on Talk:Tornado myths, this isn't mythology at all, far from it. It is more a series of legends and urban legends, not myths, a myth being "a cultural or religious narrative with deep symbological meaning". Furthermore, the title "Scientific mythology" implies that there exist a collection of such stories under a common category, and that it is studied by mythologists, which doesn't and it isn't. The pagename is erroneous, and as such contradicts the Wikipedia article on Mythology; and as a core topic, that won't do at all. Please share your opinion at Talk:Scientific mythology — Lemegeton 11:05, 25 June 2006 (UTC)

I created this place for discussion and moved Lemegeton's reasoning here. -- Kjkolb 07:09, 13 July 2006 (UTC)


Add *Support or *Oppose followed by an optional one-sentence explanation, then sign your opinion with ~~~~

I oppose this effort to constrain WP to one narrow meaning of "mythology" before; I strongly oppose it now. Septentrionalis 19:18, 13 July 2006 (UTC)

  • Support - Folklore is a more accurate term. Ricky 10:22, 21 July 2006 (UTC)


Add any additional comments
The above discussion is preserved as an archive of the debate. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on this talk page. No further edits should be made to this section.

Columbus discovery semantics[edit]

It is often stated that the notion that "Columbus discovered America" is wrong, but I actually don't know why. Is it because he didn't visit the American land mass, and the islands are considered to not count as part of the Americas? Or is it because people have decided that the only acceptable definition of "discover" is "to find something before anyone else has"? If it's the former, that is an acceptable definition, but I think people need to clarify that islands are not to considered part of a continent (i.e., Britons aren't Europeans, Japanese aren't Asians). If it's the latter, pretty much the same thing goes: people need to clarify that no one can "discover" a restaurant or a social phenomenon or anything that anyone else knew about first. (This doesn't touch on the flat earth / spherical earth matter.) Boris B 19:31, 6 March 2007 (UTC)

Please disregard the part about Columbus not visiting the American landmass. I totally forgot about his third and fourth voyages. That pretty much answers my question. Boris B 06:53, 9 March 2007 (UTC)


I flagged this page for NPOV violation, because it seems to be biased toward the religious side. It presents a majority of myths about conflicts between religion and science, which are presented in a way to make the religious side look better. Also, the links are mostly to very biased sites, some of which are broken links. Also, perhaps the myth of Ben Franklin using a key for his famous lightning experiment should be added to the list. There is a common misconception that he was holding a key when the kite was struck by lightning, which is untrue. I was unable to find conclusive evidence, but I believe he was either using a leyden jar to collect the static charge or he simply recieved a shock to his knuckle after touching the key, which was statically charged. Monsday 04:03, 31 March 2007 (UTC)

This article discuss many myths in regard to the relationship between religion and science because it is indeed an area with many popular myths that are not supported by current historical research. See Conflict thesis, for example. --LeinadBRAlogo1.png -diz aí. 14:47, 7 July 2007 (UTC)

Yep, this article is blatantly biased towards religion. --Armaetin (talk) 02:25, 27 April 2008 (UTC)

Speaking as an athiest I see no bias in what is said in the 'conflicts' section. If stories have been propagated disparaging religion to the profit of science, it should come as no surprise that the device backfires when they are found to be contrived.
Compromising the truth, even for a good cause, can be detrimental to that cause. To be sure it is unpleasant when it happens, but we have to suck it up, so to speak. Incidentally, this is a message that should be heeded in the climate change debate. --ChrisSteinbach (talk) 06:14, 27 April 2008 (UTC)
I agree that this might be biased toward religion. It seems to present the POV that the idea of a conflict between religion and science was unjustly invented by science-types in the 19th Century. I think Galileo might have a different perspective on the matter....PurpleChez (talk) 18:51, 26 February 2010 (UTC)

AfD heads up[edit]

I'm sorely tempted to AfD nom this as original research and original synthesis, but before I do so I'd like to see if someone can trasmute this article from essay to encyclopedic. Groupthink 07:47, 18 July 2007 (UTC)

I guess your objection is that, right now, we don't know for sure if the concept of "Scientific mythology" is academically used in the way this article deals with it. Then, what if this article is renamed to a more modest title, something like: "Myths in the history of science" ? Under this new title much of the content of this page will still be relevant.
Last month I watched some webcast lectures by the historians of science Ronald Numbers, Colin A. Russell and David C. Lindberg discussing the historical relationship between science and religion. They made clear that historians do talk about current misconceptions regarding the history of science as being "myths". And in at least one of these lectures it was also remarked that the history of science is, as a whole, inclined to this kind of "mythologization". --LeinadBRAlogo1.png -diz aí. 13:13, 18 July 2007 (UTC)
I think you've pegged some of the specifics of my general sense that this article is more op-ed piece than objective survey, but it's not so much the topic as the tone that bothers me. Take the intro, for instance: "There are many stories that inform our understanding of the history of science and technology. Some of these are perfectly true, some are questionable, and some are known to be false. Our understanding, appreciation and commitment to science is supported by ritual and stories. Science itself can be studied through the lens of mythology." All well and good for a Joseph Campbell lecture, but wouldn't the encyclopedic phraseology be more along the lines of: "Scientific mythology is comprised of a collection of anecdotes (some factually established, some of questionable repute, and some known to be false) pertaining to the historiography of science and technology."? Groupthink 17:39, 18 July 2007 (UTC)

Yeah. I agree with the "essay tag" you introduced in the page a few days ago. This is an article I am interested in improving and expanding, the problem is that I am very busy in real life (I had previously decided not to edit WP at all during this year...) Anyway, here is a draft I just wrote for the introduction:

Scientific mythology is comprised of a collection of anecdotes that inform the public understanding of the history of science and the history of technology. Some of these anecdotes are factually established, some are of questionable repute, and some are known to be false among scholars. Historians use the term "myth" to describe these popular accounts of the past that are not supported by current historical research. The history of science has been noticed as prone to these mythological accounts, and this article discusses them.

What do you think? BTW, I am not a native English speaker, so maybe there are grammar mistakes in it. --LeinadBRAlogo1.png -diz aí. 19:42, 18 July 2007 (UTC)

For an ESL person, that's excellent! (But the last sentence has grammar problems – I'd say something like "These mythological accounts have permeated the history of science.") Groupthink 19:57, 18 July 2007 (UTC)
Sounds good to me. I'll go ahead and make the change. --ChrisSteinbach

Newton's Apple[edit]

Although it was long assumed that Newton's apple was a myth, a contemporary reference to it was found in the diary of one of Newton's friends. I'd fix it, but I don't remember where it was that I read it. —WikiMarshall (talk) 01:11, 17 June 2008 (UTC)

Anti-science myths[edit]

There are a number of popular myths that depict science and scientists in a bad light, too. How relevant are these to this article? I'm thinking particularly of the Lady Hope story (that Darwin recanted on his deathbed) and the myth that B. F. Skinner kept his daughter locked in a box and that she committed suicide as a result. --FOo (talk) 08:56, 3 October 2008 (UTC)

Suggested section: Myths about Alexander Fleming[edit]

In light of the sentence "Scientific myths also tend to either overstate or understate the role of chance in scientific discovery," it might be useful to cite Alexander Fleming's discovery of antibiotic penicillin as an example of a scientific myth. The popular tale (one example of many would be John Bankston's "Alexander Fleming and the Story of Penicillin") is that Alexander Fleming serendipitously happened to have an uncleaned culture dish floating around, that just happened to have mold and bacteria growing on it, from a temperature change that just happened to have occurred that day, and that Fleming just happened to notice this and surmised that the mold was producing an antibiotic substance; from which concatenation of chance penicillin was born.

This is a pretty classic example of overstating both the dramatic lone genius scientist and the factor of luck in scientific discovery. As a matter of fact the antibiotic properties of penicillum mold were already known; even without considering a few obscure research papers of junior scientists using penicillin mold to clear infected saddle sores in horses in Arabia (see Ernest Duchesne), scientists in other departments of the same laboratory as Fleming regularly used it as a chemical substance to clear their gram-negative cultures of unwanted bacteria. Its applications for medicinal use in humans had never been seriously considered due to the simple fact that it was prohibitively expensive and time-consuming to produce enough penicillin to be effective in one human being, let alone to be distributed en masse.

And they were right. It was not until the need became urgent during World War II to prevent epidemic spread of disease in wartime conditions and a research team devoted itself fully to mass production of penicillin (see team of Howard Florey, Ernst Boris Chain and Norman Heatley among others) that it actually became feasible to use penicillin to treat bacterial infections medicinally. And if one were looking for inspiring stories of science heroes to teach to our children, you'd think their story would be a much better one. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 03:29, 5 October 2009 (UTC)


This article is appalling. Where to begin? After weeding out the unreferenced rambling, we are still presented with considerable WP:SYNTH. What is a "science myth"? Whose term is this? Does it include historical anecdotes of what certain scientists may have done or said even if this is unrelated to any of their scientific work (Newton discovered the law of gravity regardless of the apple. Galilei defended heliocentrism regardless of the eppur si move, etc. Are these "science myths"? According to whom? How is an apocryphal saying attributed to a scientist in any way different from an apocryphal saying attributed to an artist or politician? --dab (𒁳) 12:50, 29 July 2010 (UTC)

Also, are false reports alleging the Church tried to ban certain items of progress (dissection, lightning rod) properly described as "myths regarding science"? Aren't they much rather "myths regarding the Church"? After all, what is being represented isn't science but the attitude of the Church. --dab (𒁳) 12:50, 29 July 2010 (UTC)

Wondering about AFD here. This also most looks like a kind of fork, "Well if you can have (pick you religion) myth then I can have science myth", now to find stuff to include.Slatersteven (talk) 12:57, 29 July 2010 (UTC)

hm, we can probably have something like a "list of popular misconceptions about the history of science" but it will need to be referenced and stay focussed. --dab (𒁳) 12:59, 29 July 2010 (UTC)

That would workSlatersteven (talk) 13:04, 29 July 2010 (UTC)

you took my suggestion quite literally :) I was just throwing up a title off the top of my head. --dab (𒁳) 14:57, 29 July 2010 (UTC)

translate[edit] Vyacheslav84 (talk) 09:41, 19 February 2013 (UTC)