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The Science Versus Magic Debate

By Edited Apr 24, 2014 2 3

Recently, as part of the curriculum, my science group went to Oxford to listen to some famous and extremely intelligent scientists speak about their jobs and various sciencey matters. One of the people who we heard was Richard Dawkins, author of The Selfish Gene among other works. As you may be aware, Richard Dawkins argues strongly in favour of Evolutionism, a theory I strongly agree with. However, he also argues that magic is just science that hasn’t been explained yet, and this is the true subject of this article and indeed the entire debate.

Many people believe that science and magic cannot go hand in hand. Even in fiction it is rare to see a world that has both science and magic balanced equally. Piers Anthony’s Incarnations of Immortality is a brilliant exception to this by the way, and one I strongly recommend. It seems to be a common belief that one must triumph over the other, or hold dominance over the other. What I want to know, however, is why?

 The century has already been on of massive technological change and innovation. I remember in primary school being amazed at overhead projectors .Now they are old-fashioned and there are electronic whiteboards instead. If you had told me, five years ago, that one day teachers would be able to underline writing on webpages with an electronic pen I would have asked you what planet you were from. That would be impossible. It would be, well, magical. One hundred years ago and the idea of the internet, of Facebook, would have been magical. Go back far enough and even  fire would have been magical!

All of those are just things that, today, we have explanation for. We know how to make then, and in some cases even how to use them! But there are so many other things we can’t explain. What is the power that drives our conscious thought? Who are we? One day, we may know the answer. But will soul, will personality, be any less magical because of it? People hear words like telekinesis and telepathy and they say impossible, it must be magic. In five hundred years, who knows? But it is my strong opinion that although we may know why something is caused, that does not stop it being magical.

During a rainstorm, on those brief and beautiful occasions when the sun peeps out from behind a heavy cloud and we get a rainbow, people look at the sky and say that it is magical. That beauty can survive during a depressing downpour - that is magical. We know that it is caused by the refraction of sunlight through rain, but the beauty, the majesty, the mysticism of the rainbow remains. Medicine cures a young boy of a disease that two hundred years ago would have been fatal. Where before his parents would have been paying for a funeral, now he is back to school in a week. This, in my opinion, is magic. It is science as well, but it is magic.

Another point that Richard Dawkins made was that with science explaining more and more miracles, it is becoming increasingly apparent that religion, any religion, is no longer necessary or relevant. I agree to a certain extent; science can explain miracles in lot of cases. We have the Laws of Physics which, I am reliably told, you cannot change. Not sure who Jim is though! What I am not sure of, however, is that that is the only answer. Maybe there is something, out there who wrote the Laws of Physics. Who decided that, when light was shone through a rain drop, this would happen. Eventually, if you keep asking questions, you will come up against issues to which no one knows the answer. One day, we may, and I hope that when we do we can still look back and say “This is brilliant. This is science, and it is magical”.

One thing that I consistently wonder is what if, way back when language was still being worked out, the meanings for the ancient roots of the word magic and science had been swapped. Obviously, the studies would have been the same in theory. Maybe it would be Harry Potter and the Chamber of Physics? The Calcuim-Carbonate Stone? Who knows?

I realise that this article is highly whimsical in nature, and thank you for those who have read it. For those who expected a more factual article, I do apologise! But sometimes, there are thoughts that need writing, and I am grateful to Infobarrel for allowing me the opportunity for me to do so, to share this with so many people. Once again, thank you for reading, and I hope you have a magical day! 



Mar 26, 2012 6:41pm
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. Think Arthur C Clarke said that.

Although Isaac Newton is often considered the first scientist, he was just as interested in magic and alchemy.

If you truly don't know who Jim is, it's Captain James T Kirk of the USS Enterprise.
Mar 28, 2012 11:03am
Thanks egdcltd, I had no idea that Newton was also interested in magic! It's so easy to think that if you are interested in science you can't be interested in magic, but looking at the time period it makes sense.
Being the geek that I am, I did know that about Jim, but I had been listening to Star Trekking on and off all day and just couldn't resist popping that in!
Thanks for your comment
Apr 3, 2012 3:23am
Isaac Newton famously stated that he had only seen further than others because he had stood on the shoulders of giants. He would be the first to dismiss the assertion that he was the first scientist.
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