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Magic Magic
by Jan Sand
2021-04-23 06:20:16
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As a kid tales of magic fascinated me. The lamp that produced the genie that produced whatever anyone could request arrived conceptually well before Google that produces almost any information anyone could possibly request in quantity to drown all curiosity. My computer still lacks the capability of tumbling out solid objects by dumping gold coins, sumptuous edibles or seventeen nymphomaniac virgins - “Star Trek” is still one up on us in that category.

sfi0001_400Science fiction is, after all, the modern equivalent of the fairy tale with its overwhelming promises of riches and monsters and shapely aliens in gauzy garments that may sport a tail or a few tentacles to make sex more intriguing and hopefully without the appetite of the female mantis that consumes the male as dessert. More rational science, of course, dispels that latter possibility since alien life will surely nullify any conceivability of aliens being any more tractable to humans sexually than a sweet potato.

With Google, as with the genie, one must be cautious with language. A verb or a noun in the wrong place can end you up with the linguistic equivalent of a pudding stuck to the end of your nose. Any mild request about the most common phenomena can easily bury you in hundreds of thousands of slightly related but sometimes rather fascinating results. With the outcome that you kill the afternoon minutely examining the retina of a wart hog or frantically scurrying through symptoms of rare diseases that seem to have erupted just this morning under the big toenail of your left foot.

But the essence of magic lies in its inherent capability, through the agency of occult forces, to violate standard laws of nature and utilize those violations in activities not at the call of the average citizen. Myth confers strange powers on strange fugitive legendary beings and has it that through various graphic and linguistic and gestural symbols plus the occasional talisman those powers can be controlled and manipulated almost any desire can be fulfilled. These powers can command the animate and the inanimate world so one can evoke furies of the atmosphere, the sea, and the boiling rocks that lie beneath the earth and direct them to subdue or destroy whatever is offensive. And they can attract and seduce the most obdurate ally or enemy or object of desire. But magic always works through these intermediary agents, fairies, genies, angels, gods, or whatever.

And this is how magic and science definitely part ways. For science requires no intermediary. No fairies, djinns, devils, gods, or insubstantial spirits. Nor does it violate natural law. Where something not accounted for in scientific understanding occurs, understanding is modified. Anybody with the capability of understanding the factors involved can create a scientifically controlled effect. And once a knowledgeable guy creates the proper setup, any idiot with no understanding of the principles whatsoever can push the button, swing the lever or light the fuse for the effect. Which is why an overwhelming proportion of the population can drive a car or access the Internet or even make a simple phone call with not the slightest conception of how this is accomplished. Or, for that matter, how to wake up in the morning and swallow a cup of coffee.

Nobody has yet intimated that genies or gods have anything to do with cars, phone calls or the Internet but that consumption of a cup of coffee (or equivalent beverage) has been under debate for centuries.

Aside from superstitious considerations, magic and commerce also are segregated by reality. Cars, the Internet, phone calls and cups of coffee are produced for their power to separate people from their cash. I have never heard of any tale where a magician or any other powerful mythological creature offered to exchange his gifts for money as it is assumed that these supernatural creatures are assumed to be able to evoke unending quantities of gold or jewels or whatever at the twitch of an eyebrow or the wave of a wand.

A little consideration of the opposition of magic and commerce reveals that a powerful magician with an unending supply of precious material at his call could, with very little trouble, totally wreck a commercial civilization.

What has not been thought out is that a scientific-technological faction within our current civilization that can produce robots and automatic self sustaining machinery which is capable of satisfying all needs and desires with little or no human intervention is also capable of the total destruction of our current social structures.

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