It pains me to object to anything you have written but as a practicing Mage of the natural sciences I am afraid I must. First I admit that the vast majority of scientists who read this piece would most likely agree with all that you say. Their egos sufficiently stroked they would nod contentedly and respond “finally, someone appreciates us, gets what we do, we are not nerds, you may have mocked us mercilessly at one time, but lo, see what we have become, modern day practitioners of magic, the mages of our modern world.”

It is true that many scientists believe this. Silicon Valley technology types believe it even more so. It is also true that many of us have grown up immersed in the world of sci-fi and fantasy. Books, video games, movies, all serve to reinforce our worldview. Magic is nothing more than science yet to be explained. If we only knew more, understood the laws of nature more clearly, it would cease to be magic.

As a working scientist this “explanation” of magic depresses me to no end. Why believe in magic at all if it can ultimately be reducible to science? This is the point of magic, of fantasy. It can not be explained by natural laws, ever. It exists outside the realm of science. Apart from it. Certainly scientific principles may restrict or enhance particular magical applications but ultimately the allure of the magical is its ability to transcend those limitations. The scientist Mage may be able to invent a device that allows him to cast fireballs but the true Mage needs no such device. He can throw fireballs in direct opposition to all natural laws which “prove” it is not possible to do so.

I don’t want to be a science Mage but I very much desire to be a Mage. In the actual world every day I do things that the smartest men of the Middle Ages would call magic. If the same can be said of the things I do today by men of the future than it is not magic. I freely admit the power of such allusions to draw more people into scientific fields of study but they need to understand they are not mages in training but merely the next generation of scientists. Future mages will also need specialized training, training that the best science and engineering programs in the world will never be equipped to provide.

What say you Martin? Am I misinterpreting your arguments? I very much want to keep magic for the mages, not the scientists. Especially I want to keep it away from the engineers and technologists. Imagine the havoc the Silicon Valley types could reap on the world if they became our modern day mages.

Written by

Research scientist (Ph.D. micro/mol biology), Thought middle manager, Everyday junglist, Selecta (Ret.), Boulderer, Cat lover, Fish hater

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