A discussion on myth, mythology and science

April 16, 2024



I was in Athens a few weeks ago and I visited a church there. Upon seeing a picture hanging on the wall, I told the priest, ‘We have a very similar image in Hindu temples.’

And you know what the priest said, ‘but this is real.’ So, my faith is mythical and yours is real!

In science, we do the same.

A quest for ‘root cause’ is real. ‘Swiss Cheese’ is real, and witch hunt is mythical?

How interesting, huh??

Our ‘progressive society’ is so busy ‘debunking’ myth and creating a divide between what is mythical and what is real. But what really is a myth and can science and our quest for truth ever replace myth? And when we ‘debunk’ a myth what do we replace it with? Is science not a myth?


Here’s a podcast recorded in an Indian temple with my two friends Dr Rob Long and Matthew Thorne where we talk about myth, mythology and mythosphere and discuss a few popular myths of risk and safety.

I hope this podcast will make you think, give you an alternative view on myth not better or worse, just an alternative view) and why human beings can never do away with myth in this day and age or in the future.

If you are left confused or disturbed, that is not necessarily a bad thing. What could be detrimental for learning is the temptation to dismiss an alternative viewpoint and especially one that challenges our deepest beliefs (and myths).

Disagreements and differences are so very welcome – how else do we learn!


Further information


Rob Long, Nippin, Matt Thorne


Nippin  00:00

Hello, and welcome to another episode of embracing differences with me Nippin Anand. Myth.. What does it mean? We have so busy debunking falsifying proving what is true and what is mythical, but maybe we should slow down to ask the question, what really is a myth? What do we achieve by falsifying a myth? And once we have debunked the myth, once we have falsified it, what do we replace it with? Turns out that post enlightenment, we have fallen into this binary trap of what is mythical and what is true. But it is so far away from the original meaning of myth. The Greeks had two words for truth, mythos and logos. The Indians two had two words, Satya and Mitya. And so did the Christians, science and faith. But we seem to have become far too one sided in search for truth. So here’s a podcast shot in an Indian temple with my two friends, Dr. Rob long and Matt Thorne. I hope this podcast will give you an alternative view on myth. And like it or not, science is slowly coming to realise the power of myth in making meaning and have a search for truth. So enjoy it. And you may enjoy it even more, if you watch it on the video on our YouTube channel at Team novellus.


Rob Long  01:33

Well, again, where are we? Nippin?


Nippin  01:38

Good question. We are in one of those famous temples in Chennai. Don’t ask me the name of the temple. Yes, yes. It’s a little bit difficult. But yeah, we saw the priests sitting with us just now. And yeah, we ended up having a conversation with him about the different gods in this place. Every every temple there are about six temples here are all them represent a god. But I think it would be a wonderful place an ideal place to have a discussion about this whole idea of a myth. Yes. What is a myth? Let’s just talk about that. Okay,


Rob Long  02:16

so just in case people don’t hear us properly, mythology, myth. So we spoke in a previous video about methodology that the word ology means the philosophy of the study of so mythology is the philosophy of mythology very, very quickly. People misunderstand myth as fairy tale and fantasy. And anyone who studies myth, no, it’s neither. It is not a fairy tale. It’s not fantasy. But it’s not truth, maximum truth or absolute truth, either it’s in and it’s not even a reality. It’s a created reality by the myth confirmed by symbols and rituals. So most myths, made myths by ritual, and symbol, and story. And usually all three combined to form a myth. That doesn’t mean the myths are not meaningful, they’re very, very meaningful. And there are a range of meanings within myth. So there are some myths that are strong, closer to reality, and some myths that are not as strong, helpful, but not as powerful as certain other myths. And so there are a range of myths just like there are in Greek history, or Roman history, there are a range of myths and a range of Gods attached to each myth, and that God becomes the symbol for the myth. This place here, very, very similar. Each one of these gods, each one of these myths attached to each God has meaning for these people, they come here, and this is very meaningful for them. And each story attached to each myth. And each archetype gives them an energy and amazing energy. It’s like the god is a power source. And you plug into it. What do you think with this? Yeah,


Nippin  04:32

I have struggled with this idea of what is a myth for a very, very long time. And one of the reasons was that I always looked at myth through the lenses of science, which is a myth in its own. So typically, people would say, This Is Mythical and this is true. And what they mean is that this is the truth and this is false. So everything that is mythical, is false. Yes, it’s untrue. Yes. So we get trapped into this You know, scientific so called Scientific narrative. And we are so busy falsifying all the myths, debunking myths, and so on. But I think I’ve come to realise that, especially in the last couple of years is that a myth is not true or untrue. A met is what gives meaning to us. So there are three levels of of truth, the Absolute Truth, which is very, very rare. But you know, there are certain things which are absolutely true, you could say, in some way. So if you don’t eat food, or you don’t drink water for a few days, you might die. And that’s a truth. That’s an absolute Well, it’s close to an absolute truth. But of course, some could argue that if you enter into meditation, you probably can overcome that. But also, well, it’s still you know, for a common person is still very close to an absolute truth. And then you have met, met is the truth of a group of people, that group can extend from a family all the way up to a continent, yes, or even the whole planet. In the risk and safety industry. Zero is a myth. Because it gives meaning to people when something happens and


Rob Long  06:09

invention is symbolised. It’s symbolised, and it has a narrative.


Nippin  06:13

That’s why it’s so and then you have the third level, which is the fantasy. The fantasy is neither a myth nor a truth. It is a fantasy of one individual person which sits in his or own her head. Yeah, imagination. Yes, that’s right. Yes. Now, you talked about mythology and myth. So a mythology is the study of MIT. And MIT is what we describe, which is, which is what gives meaning to a group of people. Yes. And I think there is something else, which is called a metal sphere. So like a semi sphere, you talk about semi sphere, and there’s atmosphere, there is something called a metal sphere. Yes. So a metal sphere is like you’re sitting in India right now. And all those myths that are surrounding us, yes. Have a collective meaning. Yes. Right. So in this culture, for example, everything is tied to the idea that, you know, Earth is no, we have we have a connection with with Earth. And we, we, we have a relationship with nature. So we work together with nature. That is that’s, that’s you could say, at some level, it’s a it’s a big myth. Now, there are smaller myths that support that myth. So not only do you do you worship animals, not only do you worship people, but you also worship rocks, and rivers and trees and so on. So what happens is that a metal sphere holds different myths together. That’s why the idea of a metal sphere is so important. Now you go to a developed country like of the so called developed country, which is a meta game, then they have a different myth, which is that the whole idea of life is to fight against the nature. Yes, yes. So we can somehow overcome the nature conquer. Yes, we can conquer the nature. So we have a different we have different myths that surround it. Yes. So for example, an accident happened, we have to find a cause is, is the matter of certainty. Even if we don’t have one more, we must create what you create. Yeah, we must find somebody to scapegoat which is again, a myth. Yes. Because if you did not scapegoat someone, an organisation or the whole society will come come, come down.


Rob Long  08:28

And we find that answer through another myth like Swiss cheese. That’s right, which is a fantasy. James Reason, invents this fantasy for an industry that wants linear truth. That’s why and they now have all of these things, which are symbolised. symbolisms. Very important for this. So he’s got this mythology, which confirms that is true. And then they call it science. That says nothing about it. That is scientific. That’s


Nippin  09:00

right. Yes. So so in a metal sphere. That idea of science. Yes. Which is scientism, which is positivism? Yeah. Which is deductive reasoning. Yep. Linear reason. Yes. holds together so well.


Rob Long  09:14

Because within this time assumption, that’s right. Yeah. The trouble


Nippin  09:17

is that when you come from that myth, and you want to impose your myth on to the three and a half billion people who don’t belong to the Abrahamic faith, yeah, that’s right. So what do you do? You demonise them? Yes. So you take over another company in another part of the world, we take


Rob Long  09:33

over a country, take the British, the British company, here and say, I know what we want all your goals, right? We want all your diamonds. We want all your rubies. We want everything you got. We’ll send in all our missionaries, and we’ll prove to you that your myths are wrong.


Nippin  09:49

That’s why and we go back to the idea of proving the myth as right or correct, because isn’t that interesting? Because the earlier Victorian anthropologists did exist. cleat that they went to other parts of the world and because they could not understand the rituals and the symbols of those people, yes, they call them savages. savages. That’s right. Yeah. Yeah. Because somebody was speaking words like bah bah bah bah to them. Yes. They couldn’t understand. No, that’s right.


Rob Long  10:15

And they call and they didn’t read or write no. Like the Aboriginal Australians only communicated through dream times. I just couldn’t read and write you were ignorant.


Nippin  10:24

What did we see yesterday in Mahabalipuram near thing written? 3000 years of history? Yeah, we went around. Now takes Yes, even here. Yeah. And that takes us so many gods and goddesses. If you ask somebody, they will tell you Oh, yes, but they will not write it will explain to you what this means because they want you to realise your own myth. Well, even


Rob Long  10:42

within Western society, in the discipline of history. Anyone who’s a decent historian knows that oral history is just as important as written history.


Nippin  10:54

I think it’s a very powerful point in math, because what if you look at it through the lenses of history, and to the lenses of what is right and wrong, then history becomes what is politically justified, we go back to the same idea that my truth is more important, because it’s documented. Yeah, can I can prove it, you can’t hear this. So that’s a society that seduced by the idea of certainty, objectivity, so all holds together so well, until you come to another part of the world. And you’re totally gobsmacked. Yes, that’s right. And what do you do when you’re gobsmacked? You don’t try to understand the mythos. You just demonise it. And this is precisely what happens when we go into safety audits. You go on a ship, you go on all rig, you don’t understand their math, you don’t understand their rituals, you don’t understand their words. And you saw because you’re so busy, super imposing on them your own case,


Rob Long  11:42

and unfortunately, people like mad, the poor, poor bugger, has to do audits to make money, right? He would rather do sport but he has to do audits every day to be paid at knowing that the audit is a myth. It is


Nippin  12:01

it is it he has to do it when we go back to that it holds together. So we’re in the metal sphere,


Rob Long  12:06

oh within there, Mr. sphere, and yet I look at myths like the coloured matrix, the bow tie, Heinrichs pyramid, all of those myths which are symbolised in safety, they actually believe in them. By faith, they put their faith in that symbol, even though it has no science, no logic, no rationality, but the image of the symbol makes sense to them, because they’ve been indoctrinated to say see, all accidents happen in the line with the cheese and they all line up. Then they take that to an accident. And they make that myth work for them. And it’s utter nonsense.


Nippin  12:50

So here’s an interesting one. So what is the biggest myth? The biggest myth here is an organisation is all about systems and controls to create a predictable future. Yes. And we all know, living through this pandemic and these uncertain times. Yeah, that is not that is so far from Oh, yes. So in a way what what we would be an alternative perspective that we are promoting and take it or leave it, it’s entirely up to you is that an organisation is as much as about it is about systems and control. It’s about people and understanding. Yeah, and relationships. I think that that myth actually brings together people Yes, because in that myth, that middle sphere, what happens is that if I don’t understand you’re wrong, yes, I make an attempt to ask you. So what do you mean what? That’s right.


Rob Long  13:35

But that requires humility. And that requires a question. And I find all the time in risk and safety. I never get a question. I never get an inquiry. No one writes to me, no one says, Rob, I would like to understand what you’re saying and doing. Now we don’t even get that far what we get with is, you’re an idiot, you’re a fool. Your view of the world is wrong. You don’t make sense. There’s no inquiry, there’s simply no inquiry. And yet, I read a book recently called The Science of the wielu masters. And this is the latest research in quantum physics. And here’s IT people in quantum physics, the absolute peak of scientists saying quantum physics is exactly the same as Buddhism. They we speak the same language, we speak the same philosophy, and they argue in the book, and the scientists argue in the book, the philosopher’s saying that, guess what, we’ve come back to the marriage again, of science, and mythology. It’s come together back again, like it used to be at the start of science. So way back in the early days, when we’re Newton and these people in science in London, they all had religious beliefs, and they also believed in Christian myths, and they also believed in science, and they could juggle both together. They weren’t moved into the 1900s. We got rid of religion. And now we’ve gone into quantum physics. We’re back.


Nippin  15:06

That’s why my latest research is showing, showing exactly that. Yes, it’s science and art has to live together. Yeah, correct. That’s how you experience the world. So we



bring a bunch of people together in a building, and it’s a temple of physics. I don’t understand is that so their, their common narrative is physics. And so they’re there they live. And


Rob Long  15:33

I think as the reverse might think, I think the quantum physicists are now acknowledging that they don’t know very much at all. Because no one’s been into a black hole and come out, nothing comes out of a black hole, not even gravity. So the logic of a black hole defies all of our logic about gravity. So everything we thought about gravity for 250 years is now wrong. It’s wrong. We now can observe gravity disappearing into a black hole, and we can’t understand it. Because there’s no knowledge coming out. Well, that’s the same as God. So you go to an average person who believes in a God and say, prove your God, he just can’t right? Then you go to a quantum physicist and say, okay, prove your belief was, so how many of us have been inside a black hole and come back out? Nobody. And so that’s what they’re saying. Science. And this whole mythology of the scientific method, and proof has massive limits. Now, it’s limited, just like faith is limited. But it shares more in common with faith and mythology now than we’ve ever thought, Well,


Nippin  16:43

I think it goes back to where we started that if you think of myth as something that needs to be debunked, it’s something to be fine, then you’re back into that same Yes. Which is right and wrong.


Rob Long  16:55

Yeah. Well, because they turned all myth into fantasy this way. So they have fantasy and non fantasy. That’s why yes, yes. But it’s not like that. There’s a whole dialectic. But yeah,


Nippin  17:05

when you start to look at make has something which is incomplete knowledge. Yes. It’s so far away from absolute noise. I mean, at the end of the day, we are all seeking that absolute we are doing that. But we all know that it’s an accessible it cannot be accessed now. Well, it wouldn’t be so nice if we live with that idea that my truth and your truth can only make a better truth. Yes, that’s right, rather than saying my truth and your truth is


Rob Long  17:31

that if one of us have to move, I have the only truth you have nothing,


Nippin  17:34

especially if you have the one more powerful. I have the best checklist, you’re wrong. So that peaceful message that when you start to live and believe that all myth is mythical. Yes. No, that is my motto, y’all will become a lot more humble. Curious about.


Rob Long  17:55

Okay, so Christians can’t and Buddhists and Hindus can’t explain death. But science counterplay explained death either. No one knows what death is.


Nippin  18:04

I think the trouble is that a lot of this science originated from Abrahamic faith. Yes, it does. And the trouble is that at least half the population of the world is


Rob Long  18:14

not Abrahamic. Now, what do you do with no, that’s right. That’s right. Well, and what you do is you you land in Australia, and you start killing Aboriginals as fast as you can. Wow, imperialism, at 200 years of imperialism is is all about you send in the missionaries, you send in the guns, and you try to annihilate what you don’t believe. Wow, convert or else. Yes. We should probably stop it there. It


Nippin  18:44

was a wonderful discussion. Is there anything you wanted to say in closing?


Matt Thorne  18:49

We kind of left you out. No, I was quite happy to listen.


Rob Long  18:54

So if some more books to read by Mary Douglas, yes.



Missy Elliott, who else would you suggest?


Nippin  19:01

made immediately? Yeah.


Rob Long  19:03

And we live by Mary Douglas. Very, very important. And maybe the hero myth they should read by Campbell by Campbell, Joseph.


Nippin  19:12

And there’s another one. You should read. Dave, that partner key is an Indian pathologist, you must be very good.



So there’s some reference that we can all start reading.


Nippin  19:23

Yep. Oh, there’s amazing. Yeah, it makes a lot of


Rob Long  19:27

sense. So we should get our tuk tuk driver. Yes. Now we should go to a Christian church nearby. And look at membership. And Miss though. And leadership. Yeah. And because because we could talk about leadership myths for a long time. And and, you know, oh, I’m sorry to tell most people to go do an MBA. It’s all mythology


Nippin  19:50

song. It’s all it’s all mythology. And it’s so far away from absolute truth. Yes,


Rob Long  19:53

it is. It is. All right. We’ve finished that. Great. Thank you.


Nippin  20:03

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