Well, that’s a good question. Besides the fact that my myths are incredibly entertaining, there’s a couple other things to consider. Let me explain, starting with a little story:
Let’s pretend you and me are a primitive society. We’ve got this really sweet story about how the world is a giant papaya hanging from the tree of heaven (I don’t think this is an actual creation myth, but it’s about as plausible). So years pass, and we’re all hanging out on our giant papaya in the sky, when all of a sudden someone comes up to us like “Hey, there’s no way we’re actually living on a giant papaya hanging from the tree of heaven, because papayas rot pretty fast, and it’s been years now and the world has not gotten significantly stinkier.”
So that’s a huge blow to our worldview right there. Probably we’re not going to want to believe it. But say this papaya skeptic offers us a more believable story, like that the world is a rubber ball tossed into the air by some god a million years ago, and when it lands in another million years we’re all going to die. We are pleased with this new explanation, it’s got a nice kind of poetry to it. It also explains some things the old story didn’t, like why the sun and the moon move across the sky for example. So that becomes the new religion.
It turns out that this is pretty close to how Western science first developed. A bunch of Greek dudes back in 600 BCE called the Presocratics (because they predate Socrates) basically spent their whole lives offering ridiculous explanations for the world and the things in it, and then tearing down each others’ explanations and making better ones. And just like the first tadpoles crawling out of the primordial sea and onto land (if you believe in that kind of thing) those theories began to take shape under the weight of all that criticism, and we began to get things like math and astronomy.
Let’s skip ahead.
We’ve gotten to the point now where it takes a lifetime of study just to update one or two of the stories that already exist, but the way we understand those stories hasn’t changed. Think of how you would describe the Big Bang, or evolution. These are our generation’s myths, and science is possibly our generation’s most powerful and influential religion.
People get mad at me when I say this, and I see why. There’s this belief out there that religion equals irrational, closed-minded, unwilling to change. But that’s a very short-term view. The Tlingit people of the Pacific Northwest abandoned their tribal beliefs for Christianity in the 1800s because Christian settlers brought with them medical technology far more effective than their own. These days, many Tlingit people are moving back to their original religion because it gives them a more satisfying sense of their own identity. And many people all over the world are just straight up dropping out of religions like Catholicism because they find that these religions don’t offer them a robust enough explanation of the world and how to navigate it. Depending on who you ask, we’re either “outgrowing” religion or losing our way.
But we will never outgrow our need for explanations, and right now Science has a lot of those. It doesn’t have as much nudity and incest as our old explanations, and it doesn’t do much to explain the human spirit (yet), but it’s got loads of explosions, and those are almost as good. Even our modern physics, though, are just the best guess we’ve managed so far. We’ll keep telling new and better stories ’til our giant rubber ball hits the bottom of the universe and we all die. In the meantime, read some mythology. You’ll be surprised by how little we’ve actually changed.