Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Getting a Grip About Science, Religion, Technology, and Magic

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
(Arthur C. Clark, "Profiles of The Future")
I think the same might be said of any 'sufficiently unfamiliar' technology.

Sparkly Things and Coffee

I remember when some folks were buying 'magic crystals.' Maybe some still do. I like sparkly things, and have a geode on my desk occasionally. I'm more likely to get 'creative energy' from coffee and concentration, though.



That geode is sparkly, but not 'magic.' On the other hand, the crystal block in the next photo probably is 'magic,' sort of:

Viking Sunstones, Lodestones, and Cell Phones


(from Alderney Museum, via LiveScience and FoxNews.com, used w/o permission)
"Researchers say this crystal found at the Alderney shipwreck near the Channel Islands could prove fabled Viking sunstones really did exist. (© Alderney Museum)" (FoxNews.com)
"...if you were to look at someone's face through a clear chunk of Icelandic spar, you would see two faces. But if the crystal is held in just the right position, the double image becomes a single image and you know the crystal is pointing east-west...."
(Megan Gannon)
Gazing into a crystal block to tell direction on an overcast day might seem 'magical,' or might be accepted as an unexplained but useful phenomenon: like a suspended lodestone's tendency to point in one direction.

During the last few centuries, we've been finding new uses for things like Icelandic spar and lodestones at an increasingly rapid rate. Part of what's increased the pace is 'science:' the systematic study of this universe pioneered by folks like Copernicus, Galileo, and Mendel.

Knowledge gained from scientific research has led to technologies like solar cells and the liquid crystal clock display on my desk. Cell phones, computers, and other gadgets we use every day might seem like 'magic' to someone who wasn't familiar with them.

Science, Religion, Technology, and Magic

Some folks don't like science, technology, religion, or magic. I suspect that's partly because it seems easy to get them confused. 'Dictionary definitions' aren't necessarily helpful. I put some at the end of this post, anyway.1

Science, technology, and religion are part of being human. As for "magic," I'll get back to that in another post. Here's an over-simplified look at how I use the words:
  • Science
    • What things are
    • How they work
  • Religion
    • Why things are
    • How we should deal with them
  • Technology
    • Applied science
    • Tools we use
  • Magic
    • Harmless entertainment
    • Unfamiliar technology
    • A really bad idea

Sorting Out Jumbled Notes

I don't see a problem with honestly seeking truth in the visible world and seeking God, and post about both fairly often.

As posts about faith and reason accumulated, I put a short explanation of my position and a link list on one of this blog's 'pages:'
While writing notes about that block of Icelandic spar and Viking sunstones, I wandered off on a tangent. By the time I realized what was happening I'd quoted Arthur C. Clark and the Code of Canon Law.

Eventually I sorted out the mess, and had three more-or-less related posts: including this one.

The next post is a fairly brief look at why science isn't religion: and why I think both can be reasonable. The third one's about technology and three sorts of 'magic.'

Next:
Other related posts:

1 Definitions
  • Science
    • Systematic knowledge of the visible world gained through
      • Observation
      • Experimentation
      (Dictionary.com)
    • Technology
      • Practical applications of knowledge
      • Tools
      (Princeton's WordNet)
  • Religion
    • A particular system of faith and worship
    • A pursuit or interest followed with great devotion
    (OxfordDictionaries.com)
  • Magic
    • Any art that invokes supernatural powers
    • An illusory feat
      • Considered magical by naive observers
    (Princeton's WordNet)

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