Expert Says THOR on Earth Would be Cult Sensation

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Even by comic book standards, there is a sense of plausibility behind the heroes introduced so far into what is known as the “Marvel Cinematic Universe.” With just little license taken, Iron Man, the Hulk and even the forthcoming appearance of Captain America can each have a solid grounding in reality which would have made their debuts no less shocking, but not ultimately world-changing.

Tony Stark’s suit of powered armor is amazing, but even at its heart, it is just a combination of advanced technology and machinery. Right now in the real world the creation of powered exoskeletons is ongoing in both the US and foreign militaries as well as private firms. On the Christmas episode of the FOX TV series Glee, a prototype of the ReWalk frame from Argo Medical Technologies allowed Artie, a paraplegic, to take a few shaky steps with its mechanical assistance.

Recent controversy in professional sports has reignited the debate about the use of performance enchasing drugs. The latest steroids and the employ of Human Growth Hormone can turn a man, after a fashion, into a ‘hulk.’ Though the Captain America: The First Avenger movie is still over a month away from premiering, the little available information about it would not have it contradicting his comic origins. Which means in addition to the unique chemical/radiation process that transformed Steve Rogers’ body, it would include the kind of physical and tactical training that Special Operations forces employ with great skill in the most dire situations today.

With the release of Thor, however, an element of the truly fantastic has entered a world that is not too unlike our own. How would people react to the appearance of a man claiming to be a god of the ancient world, complete with power over storms, able to call down lightning and even with the aid of his hammer, the ability to fly?

“A sexy Scandinavian with a giant hammer would have more fawning followers than he'd know what to do with,” quips Rebecca Watson, co-host of The Skeptic Guide to the Universe podcast and founder of Skepchick.org, a leading skepticism and critical thinking blog. When asked about prospect of a claimed incarnation of Thor drawing, voluntarily or involuntarily, a cult around him and the possible revival of faith in the Nordic pantheon, “There would definitely be a good-sized cult. I mean come on, they form cults around asteroids and men who claim to float while hopping up and down cross-legged.”

Considering how news disseminates in the age of Twitter and YouTube, Watson postulates, “[…] that most people wouldn't actually be able to see this guy's powers with their own eyes, and would instead be relying on eye-witness reports and videos. I'd guess that the overwhelming reaction would be, ‘Oh look -- a viral marketing campaign for Axe Body Spray.’"

However, the fact of Thor’s presence on Earth might be most deeply felt by the current majority religions and their monotheistic structure. Billions of people put their faith in ancient accounts of miraculous events written in sacred tomes such as the Bible or the Koran. How would they react to the appearance of the Odinson firing bolts of energy at the Awesome Android high over the skies of New York City? Rebecca Watson speculates that it might not be end for them, “Having grown up Baptist in a church that regarded any hint of magical powers as the work of the devil, I'd say that fundamentalist and evangelical Christians would see this as a test of their faith. Like fossils.”

It is possible that the greatest impact of Thor arriving (back) on Earth could be felt by scientists and skeptics, “’Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence,’” quotes Watson the most famous line from the legendary astronomer, author and educator Carl Sagan, before she lays out what she’d need to know, “If [the Thor claimant] could show that he had these powers under laboratory conditions, if the tests were overseen by someone knowledgeable in magic and [deception], and if the results were replicated to remove all reasonable doubt, than I'd accept that he had those powers. I don't know that I'd be interested in sacrificing any goats to the guy, though. [P]roving you have a certain power is not the same as proving you deserve my undivided attention every Sunday morning.”

Instead, on upending science and changing the way the world is viewed forever, Watson would see an opportunity to expand our knowledge, “[Thor] would just add a new data point -- several new data points, in fact. […] We could study Thor and increase our collective knowledge about the universe by an incredible degree, and for a guy who's immortal, it would be kind of rude to not let us at least have a bit of blood and DNA to get started on curing cancer.”

Watson herself sees even more benefits for the world upon Thor’s arrival on Earth, digging deep into his classic Marvel Comics’ power-set, “Thor's wikipedia page says that another one of his powers is ventriloquism, so maybe we'd be able to find a cure for that as well, and finally be rid of Jeff Dunham for good.”

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