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Science, Technology, and Magic

On Being a Modern Day Mage

By Everyday JunglistPublished 3 years ago 3 min read
Now that is one bad ass mage. Image by Lothar Dieterich from Pixabay

As a practicing Mage of the natural sciences I am afraid I must object to the contention that scientists and especially technologists could or should be at all likened to modern day mages. I freely admit that many scientists would appreciate the sentiment. 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.”

While many scientists may actually believe this it is the technologists who have fully embraced this characterization of their profession. Many of us, both scientists and technologists, have grown up immersed in the world of sci-fi and fantasy. Books, video games, movies, all serve to reinforce our worldview. Most often magic is reduced to 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.

I draw a more sharp distinction between the field/pursuit/goal of science and those of technology. Technology and technologists make use of scientific principles and appeal to the scientific method when defending their goals and applications and products. However they are willing abandon the core values at the heart of the scientific process anytime these values conflict with their ultimate aims. Technology is solely focused on the consumer, the end user, how technology might benefit people, and hopefully turn a profit in the exchange.

Science, in its purest form, cares not for applications, or people, or anything beyond the pursuit of truth, the acquisition of knowledge for its own sake. Of course this idealized version of science is rarely achieved in reality but the goal is always foremost in the ideal scientists mind. The only goal the technologist thinks about is personal advantage or profit.

And what of magic? For the technologist magic is a cool idea. Something they hope to replicate or maybe mimic with the latest gadget they invent. If a new device is magical the unwashed masses of mouth breathers might be tempted to spend their meager two weeks pay from the McDonalds drive through on it. For the scientist, magic is something that the established laws of nature can not explain. Magic exists outside these laws. That is what the scientist finds so appealing about it. He has spent his entire life being taught and teaching others that magic is impossible. But proving the impossible possible is what he fell in love with about science in the first place. To see magic or what the Mage claims is magic would reignite that passion. The scientist would redouble his efforts to find an explanation for the things the magician can do.

Only if and when all such natural explanations fail will the true Mage be revealed. Then the scientist, if he is able to suppress his ego, will admit that his methods are not capable of explaining everything. Personally I hope that might be the case yet all the evidence, all the historical precedent, and all our current understanding suggests it is not. This makes me very sad. I very much believe magic is possible. Perhaps not in this universe but maybe in one of the many others.


About the Creator

Everyday Junglist

Practicing mage of the natural sciences (Ph.D. micro/mol bio), Thought middle manager, Everyday Junglist, Boulderer, Cat lover, No tie shoelace user, Humorist, Argan oil aficionado. Occasional LinkedIn & Facebook user

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