Review: Scientific Mythologies

Scientific Mythologies: How Science and Science Fiction Forge New Religious Beliefs

Author: James A. Herrick

Paperback: 288 pages

Publisher: Intervarsity Press

ISBN: 978-0-8308-2588-2

Intervarsity Press


Recently, I have begun to explore theological and religious themes present in science fiction. I have always been a fan of sci fi.  As I have gotten older and read more sci fi, I see an abundance of religious imagery and theological themes in the genre. Which leads me to the book Scientific Mythologies by James A. Herrick.

In the introduction, Herrick writes,

My purpose in this book is to explore the various ways in which the Western world’s present spiritual needs are being addressed by new mythologies, an emerging canon of transcendent stories that provides meaning to our lives and that organizes and directs our individual and social decisions. And as we shall see, today’s myths often arise from rather unexpected sources. In particular, I will focus attention on the mythmaking work of two powerful engines of cultural influence-speculative science on the one had, and the works of science fiction on the other. (13)

Two chapters stuck with me while reading the book. They are: New Myths for a New Age (Chapter 2) and The Myth of the Extraterrestrial (Chapter 3).

In chapter 2, Herrick discusses how within the past 100 years, the old creeds are being replaced by new myths.

As the Western world has turned away from traditional religion, science fiction and speculative science have been quick to fill the resulting spiritual vacuum with ideas bearing little resemblance to those that were jettisoned. (36)

In essence as we leave the creeds from traditional religion, ideas from science and science fiction that do not resemble those creed fill in those holes. But what does Herrick mean by the term “traditional religion?” Is it one that supports creationism and dismissed evolution? Is it one that supports patriarchy? Is it one that supports a complementary view of women? Or is it one that merely professes Christ crucified and risen? These were just some of the questions that I had after reading the above sentence.

In chapter 3, Herrick discusses the myth of the extraterrestrial and how this myth has influenced popular culture. Specifically Herrick discusses the perception that an encounter with an alien race will “lead to remarkable technological advances for humanity and inaugurate a destined human-alien future.”” (43) Several obvious questions stem from this perception: Why is this perception so prevalent? In other words, why do we think that an encounter with an alien race will inaugurate this period? Especially when the other reference to alien encounters leads to war.

This book was not what I was looking for as I further examine the intersection of religion and science fiction; however, that doesn’t mean this was a bad book. In fact, I enjoyed this book, despite not being immediately relevant to current projects that I have undertaken. It is intriguing to see if and how culture affects religion.

I received this book free from Intervarsity Press. Providing me a free copy in no way guarantees a favorable review. The opinions expresses in this review are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


2 thoughts on “Review: Scientific Mythologies

  1. Pingback: Geeks of Christ… November 2, 2012 Edition | Geeks of Christ

  2. Pingback: 100-Word Challenge, Day 138 | My Writer's Cramp

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