Science is a kind of magic

The science of magic and the magic of science

We often think of the scientific revolution as having displaced a belief in magic, the supernatural, and the occult. But paying a closer look at premodern writings on magic, we find that they explicitly reject the supernatural. What is more, the key figures of the scientific revolution like Giordano Bruno, Francis Bacon, and even Isaac Newton, all believed in the occult. According to Newton, gravity required the supernatural. Even today, philosophers of science have a hard time demarcating science from pseudoscience or magic, argues Jason Ānanda Josephson Storm.


Sometime in the 15th century, a group of university students got together in the town of Oberdorf in Bavaria to do what students have done the world over: drink beer. After they had been at it for a while, they decided that whoever fetched the next round wouldn’t have to pay for it. One student went to get beer, but on opening the door, he saw an unusually dark fog and he refus

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Karl Smith 28 May 2023

I think the turn that Francis Bacon embodied was -- as you state -- not from magic to science but from the Arcane to the Technological. When you see magic as Arcane it becomes immediately obvious why it's not "falsifiable" or more to the point why it probably seemed to be generally confirmed. The key point is that the failure of magic was by all accounts -- including that of the magician -- going to be primarily a reflection of his grasp of the Arcane rather than on the Aracne's veracity. This indeed, made a lot of sense, as there was a great deal of knowledge that could be obtained from old Greek and Arabic texts.

So, then on the one hand magicians are going to be loathe to perform perform magic that they do not intuitively think is going to work. This intuition is going to encompass a lot of factors, outside of the magician's awareness. So for example, a magician is unlikely to a spell to rid the castle of scorpions when he does not intuitively believe that the scorpions are in the decline. He could of course appeal -- and honestly so -- to the fact that his crystal were not responding in the proper manner and that the alternative magic seemed to be too powerful.

It interesting that Crystals play an important role here because Crystals are among the easiest inanimate objects for humans to project there own emotions into. This is why they are meaningful to us as symbols of commitment. The magician projecting himself into his crystals naturally would receive more negative feedback when he himself was doubtful.

I strongly suspect -- although this is pure speculation -- that the practice of magic in effect revolved around effective projection. So, that a good magician was wholly unware of his own conscious doubts or suspicions and instead completely projected them into his magical items. This type of projection would insulate his intuitions from the second-guessing effects of reason and language and thus would produce on net an intuitive process much more potent than non-magicians could muster.

In addition, some spells were likely able to draw in the projections of others so that even if say a lady in question were carefully concealing her affection for some gentlemen she would not be able to conceal microexpressions related to supposed love potions and their association or not with the gentleman in question. This effects compound of course so that the magician even if not skilled at consciously reading microexpressions could nonetheless get a read from his crystals as to their potential efficicay in enchanting a love potential by the way in which the lady in question responded to the association between such a crystal and the gentleman who wanted to employ it.

Lastly, of course is the obvious effect of introjection or self-fullfilling prophecies. Believing that a tailsman worked as a protective agent would increase confidence, alertness, etc and thus provide protection. When all of these elements are combined and compounded again with the fact that magician is going to assume the failing is his you have a situation in which experiments were probably performed when the projection, introjection, circumstance and other intuitive factors all combined to say that they could.

Lastly, layer on top of this a Darwinian element that magicians who were overconfident or poor intuitionists or did not dally long enough to draw out projections would be both eliminated as incompetent and have their failures so explained away. Thus the only surviving records of what counted would be from magicians who were the most skilled at choosing the right experiments and thus by definition the ones who achieved better than luck results.

So, its not hard to see how the Arcane is both incredibly self-reinforcing and somewhat effective. What Bacon is doing is introducing the practice of riding spells rather than spellcasters that don't work and thereby creating an even more effective though probably at first slightly less self-reinforcing paradigm.