Science, Magic, and the Inexplicable

Is science a form of magic, or is this a heresy?

In our scientific age, magic has been reduced to conjurers and wands. Yet, Newton and Wittgenstein saw the accounts of science as ultimately inexplicable. Should we see our theories as limited and, in a sense, magical or would this undermine all knowledge?

In our recent IAI TV debate on this subject, mathematician George Ellis sided with Newton: science will not uncover every mystery in the universe; there are some questions best left to philosophers.

Ellis made his name focusing on some of the big questions of cosmology and relativity. Along with Stephen Hawking, he co-authored 1973’s The Large Scale Structure of Space-Time, which attempted to describe the very foundations of space itself. More recently, Ellis has been focusing on top-down causation. 

Here he speaks to the IAI about the dangers of magic, the importance of mystery, and the line that separates science from phil

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RossMilburn 27 November 2015

Dr Ellis says that science has nothing to say about morality, because "good" and "bad" are not scientific categories. However, biology deals with human motivations, and these depends upon values that have arisen from natural selection. Natural selection is ultimately related to competition for energy that is unavoidable because of the laws of thermodynamics. As scientists unravel these relationships, "morality" will be definable, like any aspect of "hard" science.