Earth Science - Other

Myths and Natural Disaster

Fran Moriarty's image for:
"Myths and Natural Disaster"
Image by: 

Primitive peoples bowed before smoking volcanoes and offered sacrifice or food. Some cultures offered part of their harvest to the gods to insure fair weather. Weather, volcano eruption, and earthquakes happen. These natural phenomenon cannot be controlled by some god or individual behavior. As human knowledge grows, understanding of these natural events increases. The mystery of surrounding these natural events leave room for speculation. From ancient man to the modern day, myths have grown to explain natural disasters.

Myths arise as explanations of events that are not understood. It provides an explanation. Myths are passed on from generation to generation. For example, fire was explained in a myth that Prometheus, a god, stole fire from Zeus's fireplace and give it to mankind as a gift. This gift provided warmth against the cold and protection from the animals. It's a good story to explain how man first received fire and why it is so important to safeguard it. Volcanoes throwing rocks and spitting lava was an angry god in the Polynesia. Earthquakes are giants walking about. Rain is the tears of angels. For every mysterious and unexplained phenomenon, someone created an explanation or a myth to explain it.

Myths may point to some past cataclysmic event. For example, a flood myth exists in many cultures around the world. It is difficult to believe that the myth began in one society and was carried to other locations around the globe. A more logical explanation is that some major natural disaster struck the earth at some point that caused storytellers to weave a tale about some great flood caused by some wrong doing on man's part. Some primitive cultures rationalized various natural disasters by thinking that "their world" was on the top of a frog or turtle. Through the middle ages, it was believed that the earth was the center of the universe. Challenging these myths could result in rather strong punitive measures. Galileo's claim that the earth moved around the sun resulted in his excommunication and damnation to hell.

Myths answer very human questions: What? How? Why? and Who. These are the same questions that humans face every day. With the knowledge that has been gained over the ages, modern day man has discovered answers to these questions. These discoveries are passed from generation to generation through education. Early man was not as sophisticated or knowledgeable as modern humans. Answers of ancient time lead to angry gods rather than geological or meteorological processes.

Humans are humans- primitive or modern. Modern day myths exist to guide actions or explain events. Tsunamis are dangerous life destroying natural events. The Indian Ocean 2004 tsunami found surfers rushing to the beach to meet "the wave!" Others roamed onto the receding shoreline to collect shells. How many people still run to open windows when a tornado is approaching? There is no evidence to indicate that opening windows lessens damage to a house. The myth persists: open the windows and run to the southwest corner of the basement. It would appear that the best location is actually in the center of the room under a study table.

Predictions of natural disasters are persistent myths that fill the movie screens, book shelves and news stories. Cosmic events, fire and floods are proposed disasters to bring an end to the earth. Separating truth from myth is a constant battle among scientific groups. Science is filled with controversy and disagreement. It is what separates facts from myth.

More about this author: Fran Moriarty

From Around the Web