instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Not just a good idea

Hernan Gonzalez has some disquieting words for advocates of sciencism who equate magic and religion:
Nevertheless, in the sense in that these people use the word "magic", they can well say that it is more compatible with modern science than with religion. The affinity can be seen historically (there was more interest in magic in the Renaissance than in the Middle Ages), and in fact, science and magic are two attempts to manipulate, to dominate the world; (and the "rationality" of modern science is very debatable; in the end, as can be shown, its justification resides in only this: it works). Under this aspect, magic is nearer modern science than religion.... The position of the magician is "we see what service the divinity (and its intermediaries, the cosmic forces) can give man", the one of the priest is "we see what service man can give to the divinity". For that reason magic is against religion.
He goes on to quote a scene from Graham Greens's The Aim of the Adventure The End of the Affair, in which a priest allows that a little superstition is good because it gives people the notion that this world is not everything.

So perhaps the state of adventures is not cut and dried. Still, I'm reminded of Clarke's Third Law, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." Fans of technology love quoting that, but I doubt they've chased down all that it implies.