CAN SCIENCE LIVE IN THE SAME UNIVERSE AS FAITH AND MAGIC?

Part One: The Universe of the Human Mind

A child dreams of being an adult, and 
An adult dreams of being a child.
A magician dreams of being a scientist, and
A scientist dreams of being a magician.
Color Diagram Representing The Universe of the Human Mind
The Universe of the Human Mind

Foreword

In our modern world we like to think that science, faith, and magic are separate and very incompatible things, but that may just be a convenient illusion we use to cover the truth. When we turn on a television, we do so with the faith that it will power up and provide us entertainment. Depending on our age at the time, we may perceive it to be either a great piece of technology or a marvelous piece of magic.

Another example of this paradox of science and magic being interchangeable is probably most famously found in the quote from Arthur C. Clarke, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”¹

Interesting as these observations might be, they have a degree of ambiguity that comes from how language can be manipulated, and as such, they are not necessarily an absolute decree of equality. They do, however, create some doubt about the subject. We are left with a dilemma of whether or not there really are fixed boundaries between what we believe to be the rational world and the otherwise fantastic world.

Can this issue be resolved? To be honest, I do not know. I will offer my conjecture on the subject, but ultimately, it becomes a matter of individual faith. We will believe one way or another. Our perception of the world is only a small window that our minds look though. Thus, in a real sense our minds are a universe unto themselves — the Universe of the Human Mind.²

Chapter 1 — Background

At this point, some clarity is required in the definitions of just what science, faith, and magic are. Classical definitions can be found at these links.

Science (from the Latin word scientia, meaning "knowledge") is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Science
– 14 March 2021, at 03:43 (UTC)
Faith, derived from Latin fides and Old French feid, is confidence or trust in a person, thing, or concept. In the context of religion, one can define faith as "belief in a god or in the doctrines or teachings of religion". Religious people often think of faith as confidence based on a perceived degree of warrant, while others who are more skeptical of religion tend to think of faith as simply belief without evidence.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faith – 7 March 2021, at 15:07 (UTC)
Magic is the application of beliefs, rituals or actions employed in the belief that they can subdue or manipulate natural or supernatural beings and forces. It is a category into which have been placed various beliefs and practices sometimes considered separate from both religion and science.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magic_(supernatural)
– 14 March 2021, at 09:21 (UTC)

I have included these very brief topics expressly to demonstrate that it is not out of sheer ignorance that I transgress against the laws of language in redefining these concepts, but that I do so out of willful sin and neglect. However, feel free to dine on the above essays at your leisure.

What started as a muse about how science and magic overlap and compete for space in the universe of our thoughts in no time at all drew in all manner of other topics. The subject matter of just science, magic, and faith combined would require a library of basic references to even begin to cover the scope. Obviously, that is not practical, i.e. probably not even possible, so this will be basically an attempt at a limited discussion that gives a general overview of the topic. I will of course provide as many references as possible to season the meal.

Chapter 2 — The Universe of the Human Mind

Our first stop in this discussion is the concept of objective reality.

Most people assume that there's an objective reality in which all of us exist, with facts that are universally true and more than just a matter of opinion. However, others argue that there is no such thing as objective reality, that everything is subjective and that anything can be questioned or legitimately disagreed with, even facts that used to have near-universal agreement.  https://en.wikiversity.org/wiki/Does_objective_reality_exist%3F
17 March 2021, at 18:05

At first glance, the concept of objective reality seems like a discussion in nonsense. But when we step back and look at how we perceive the universe around us, it takes on another light. Every concept we have about the universe is delivered through a neural sensory network to our brains. We know that this network is different for each individual. Is the color green the same for everyone? That’s an easy no, because we know about color blindness, where red and green are indistinguishable for some individuals. More over, how would you describe the color green to a blind person?

Ignoring the aspect that events deemed to be fatal do seem to be universal and permanent, we can easily assume that the human mind is basically responsible for our personal version of reality. In effect it is a universe unto itself. What then does this Universe of the Human Mind really look like? Can it even be defined?

Color Diagram Representing The Universe of the Human Mind
Figure 1 — The Universe of the Human Mind

The color wheel chart of the Universe of the Human Mind is a simplistic diagram of how I see the overlap of various things that we juggle in our human existence. There are two things to note. First, anyone can make their own version of the chart and define the compartments as they see fit. There are many legitimate concepts that I have not used. “Beauty,” “Love,” and “Emotion” are worthy inclusions. I also debated using “Science” instead of “Reason”, but either works fine. If you want some homework, try it, make a chart of your interests and hang it on your refrigerator door. The second thing to note is that in a paint color wheel the center would be black, the result of the combination of all the primary colors. In this color wheel the center is white, the result of combining light of all the primary colors.³

The basic way to use the chart is to start with an idea, any idea really, and assign it to an area in the diagram. Let us start with food as an example. We need to consume food to stay alive; however, it is generally an automatic activity and no serious thought goes into it. Food is an idea that fits nicely into the general gray area of “The Mind” in a small circle called “Food.” But, you say, “What if I am allergic to some foods?” Then you must use “Reason” to keep from poisoning yourself. Divide the food into two circles: “Safe Food” and “Unsafe Food” and place both in the “Reason” area. Then you say, “How do I know if you give me something to eat that it is safe?” Then you must exercise some “Faith.” “Gifts of Food” becomes a new circle that resides in the “Faith” area because there is no evidence that my food is good or bad. When you eat the food I have given you and I have not properly checked the ingredients, then you may be poisoned. If that happens, then you will place “Gifts of Food” in the “Unsafe Food” circle in the “Reason” area. Finally, you might say, “I do not trust you at all!” and from that point on you will be unlikely to place any item or idea I give you in the “Faith” area, but more likely they will go into the “Reason” area under “Unsafe Idea”.

“Darkness” is the area where things are unknown. Being the mischief maker that I am, I will then reach into “Darkness” and pull out “Magic Food” that will cure your food allergy. The “Magic Food” becomes a new circle in the “Magic” area. Providing that you have some skepticism you may want proof. That proof may be the wisdom of a third individual that you still trust or a little research on just what the ingredients and efficacy the new food item actually are. If you obtain a trusted personal recommendation then “Magic Food” may move to the “Magic/Faith” area. If you do proper research, then “Magic Food” may move to the “Magic/Reason” area. Do you feel confident enough to eat the “Magic Food” at this time? If a sufficient amount of convincing information is not available, the decision must be made according to your risk tolerance, otherwise known as your “gut” instinct. My “gut” instinct says that is not a good idea, but you will do what you do based on where you put your faith. But remember, you do not trust me at all, so you may want to avoid the “Magic Food.”

If you tell me this analogy is childish, I will say “Thank you!” I find young people to be very sharp with their skills of observation. Ask a stage magician about children.⁴ The fact is that I can present the same information in a myriad of ways and it will more than likely never be sufficient for everybody. So, why not make it simple? More importantly though, I find many flawed ideas hide behind complex arguments.

Summary of the Universe of the Human Mind Chart- "Darkness" is the area that holds all the undiscovered concepts that exist.  Ideas reside here where context and validity are unknown.  If they become known, then they can be moved to another area.  Think of it as everything we do not know.- "The Mind" is the area where all of the ideas for an individual exist.  Think of it as everything we know and everything we think we know.  This is everything that makes us who we are, but does not show up in the mirror.- "Magic" is the area where ideas are unpredictable or not understood.  Think of it as where everything that we desire or fear to be true is found.  When we experience bouts of reality, then the lost dreams and vanquished monsters move to our area of reason as myths.- "Reason" or "Science" is where ideas are predictable and understood.  Think of it as where we store our experiences and our education.  Be aware, sometimes things are not as predictable or as well understood as we might think.- "Faith" is where ideas that we simply accept as true reside, whether they are or not.  This generally includes our spiritual and scientific beliefs.  My rule of thumb is, if you can lie about it, it is probably faith.

Although this might look like a psychological profile, it is absolutely not my intention. It is meant as a means of sorting ideas, much like the trays in a utility drawer sort the spoons and forks. As we gain experience, we move things around in the our trays. “Magic” and “Reason” can move back and forth frequently, because there is always something we can learn more about. Some things are deceptive. If we need a race car, that is probably more of a faith issue than anything else, unless of course, we are a race car driver. “Faith” is the most stubborn. It is very hard to change what we believe to be true because once an idea is planted, it sticks around forever. In addition, should we be blessed with stubbornness in our base personality, we will die with an idea before we give it up.

If you choose your diagram to have two and only two zones, labeled “Good” and “Bad” then you are missing the point. Each area of the color chart should have its own areas of “True” and “False” and “Good” and “Bad” because they apply to everything, not because everything fits into one or the other. The difference between most “Good” deeds and most “Bad” deeds is typically the motivation of the individual acting. Selfish acts are generally considered “Bad” even when the action itself is generally considered “Good.” Most importantly, we have all heard stories of “Good” deeds that have generated nightmare consequences.⁵

For those who prefer the utterly complex version, look here:

https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22630190-500-the-human-universe-does-consciousness-create-reality/ 
– 29 April 2015/Douglas Heaven

Chapter 3 — The Concept of Magic

An easy explanation for any phenomenon is to invoke magic. I think as children we all experienced this when we first encountered most of the world around us. As we learned more, some of us picked up a more cynical attitude and we came to understand that most things behave in a predictable manner. Sometimes the mechanism is simple and sometimes it is complicated. Sometimes it is controllable and sometimes it is not, although it feels like that is more often than not. The more we learned about things the better we anticipated reactions and interactions. That is the nature of science.

Things that remain unpredictable remain magical whether they are pleasant or not. Things that are predictable lose their magic, especially as we learn to manipulate them for our benefit whether for indulgence or avoidance. Even when someone else has solved the mystery of something, it is still magical to us if we do not understand the phenomenon ourselves. That is why most electronic gadgets are so marvelous, we are familiar with what they do, but most of us have no idea how they work. Just ask the typical mobile phone user how the current modus of communication works, e.g. think of how a 5G transmission is different from a 4G transmission? For the curious out there:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/5G – 9 March 2021, at 04:37 (UTC)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/5G — 9 March 2021, at 04:37 (UTC)

There is a natural divide over which direction a person’s fascination will lead them, whether toward magic or toward science. Many factors determine where we fall in the spectrum of belief in pure magic and belief in pure science. I tend to think some things are overrated, like intelligence, and other things like curiosity are underrated. My personal favorite, though, is plain old experience. Stick your finger in a light socket. The first time the experience may seem magical, but repeated experiments always give the same result. If you survive, you may conclude that there was no magic involved, because it always behaves the same way. Insert finger and experience pain. Ironically, you were extremely lucky, which is technically magic, but you will not realize that until much later. Intelligence is useful because it limits the number of times something must be attempted before an insight is acquired. Stubbornness is generally not useful because it increases the number of attempts. And without curiosity there is probably only one attempt and no real useful insight is gained. However, in all cases experience is gained that may be useful later if we can apply it to a novel situation. And of course, other lessons are available as well. Adults frown on this type of experiment and become very angry if you involve a sibling in your experiment.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/5G — 9 March 2021, at 04:37 (UTC)

There is a natural divide over which direction a person’s fascination will lead them, whether toward magic or toward science. Many factors determine where we fall in the spectrum of belief in pure magic and belief in pure science. I tend to think some things are overrated, like intelligence, and other things like curiosity are underrated. My personal favorite, though, is plain old experience. Stick your finger in a light socket. The first time the experience may seem magical, but repeated experiments always give the same result. If you survive, you may conclude that there was no magic involved, because it always behaves the same way. Insert finger and experience pain. Ironically, you were extremely lucky, which is technically magic, but you will not realize that until much later. Intelligence is useful because it limits the number of times something must be attempted before an insight is acquired. Stubbornness is generally not useful because it increases the number of attempts. And without curiosity there is probably only one attempt and no real useful insight is gained. However, in all cases experience is gained that may be useful later if we can apply it to a novel situation. And of course, other lessons are available as well. Adults frown on this type of experiment and become very angry if you involve a sibling in your experiment.

In passing, there is a type of magic that we use for entertainment. It is stage magic. The only thing truly magical about it is how well protected the artist’s secrets are. In all other respects it is science in its most clever form. Sad but true, our favorite performing magicians are not actually magicians at all, they are scientists!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magic_(illusion) — 16 March 2021, at 09:33 (UTC)

Chapter 4 — The Concept of Faith

When most of us think of faith, we think of religious or spiritual beliefs, but faith is really nothing more than our expectations. In the context of religion, we have expectations that the proper behavior will lead to spiritual rewards and that improper behavior will not. We have other expectations that are not necessarily religious. We expect to turn on a light switch and have illumination. We expect to wake up tomorrow morning. We expect to reach retirement age and maybe even retire.

When most of us think of faith, we think of religious or spiritual beliefs, but faith is really nothing more than our expectations. In the context of religion, we have expectations that the proper behavior will lead to spiritual rewards and that improper behavior will not. We have other expectations that are not necessarily religious. We expect to turn on a light switch and have illumination. We expect to wake up tomorrow morning. We expect to reach retirement age and maybe even retire.

In that regard, faith can be the drug that keeps us sane or faith can be the glue that provides cohesiveness to our consciousness. If we have no expectation of anything better, it is hard to perform a tiresome job day after day. Faith in a reward at the end keeps us going.

Like all things, faith can have a negative impact as well. If our expectations are built on misery, we may miss the opportunity to take steps to help ourselves because “nothing good ever happens to us.” There is perhaps nothing more sad than a destructive self fulfilling prophecy. Equally destructive is the unjustified expectation. If our expectations are built around gaining something through nothing more than wishful thinking, we will most likely be just as disappointed. How often do we hear someone say, “I have faith that [a particular individual] will fall in love with me?” Or the proverbial kiss of death, “I have faith that [a particular calamity] will not happen to me?”

Thus, as powerful as faith can be, it should be kept on level ground using rational thought.

Chapter 5 — The Concept of Science

What then is rational thought, a.k.a. science?

The scientific method is an empirical method of acquiring knowledge ... It involves careful observation, ... It involves formulating hypotheses, via induction, based on such observations; experimental and measurement-based testing of deductions drawn from the hypotheses; and refinement (or elimination) of the hypotheses based on the experimental findings.          
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_method
– 14 March 2021, at 01:22 (UTC)

If you are not formulating theories on dark matter, it might be simpler to think of science as the study of phenomena with the expectation that the phenomena can be explained and predicted. The scientific method is a defined process for ensuring those predictions are valid and that they are repeatable for anyone properly attempting them. In our current world we mix science and technology into one thing; however, technology is a different expectation that predictable phenomena can be reproduced on demand by anyone at anytime, whether they understand the science or not. And that is why it seems magical!

The big difference between science and magic is that magical phenomena can not be predicted. If the sunrise was magical, you would not be able to predict when it would occur. It might be in the morning, the afternoon, or the evening. It might not ever happen again! Faith is our bias toward science or toward magic. If we have faith that the sun will rise in the morning, then we are being scientific.

Chapter 6 — When Science Marries Magic

Now, where we lose our rational approach is when we deal with luck. Walk under a ladder (bad luck) and trip and fall later in the day. Did the ladder cause the fall or did you program yourself to injury because of your belief in the bad luck of the ladder?

Although I like to think that I am completely rational, I must avoid aspects of “bad luck” myself for another reason. I will tend to be arrogant or dismissive and create my own bad luck with my own careless behavior. “This little [superstitious thing] could not possibly hurt me! Watch me [perform a reckless action] to prove it!” I think this may be more common in other people as well, except they may not be aware of it.

Now consider probability theory. Most of us would probably agree that probability is science and luck is magic, although it is difficult to see the difference sometimes. Believing in one’s luck or a lucky talisman is a belief in magic. Probability defines more likely outcomes and less likely outcomes and is science. It should be noted that odds makers generally make a profit from the superior performance of probability over people’s faith in their own luck in picking winners and losers.

Here is the interesting part. Some physical phenomena are random, e.g. coin flipping, rolling dice, and card games. Being random, it is normally impossible to predict a specific outcome. Will the next coin toss be heads or tails? The odds (in controlled conditions) are always 50–50. This is precisely the unpredictable nature of magic. Science tackles the problem by applying statistics, thus science predicts that if a thousand coins are flipped, half should be heads and half should be tails, even though this rarely happens as the actual count will vary from trial to trial. In this situation, is it better to have faith in magic or faith in science?

This unlikely duality is seen in many aspects of science, mainly quantum mechanics, which is pretty much the poster child for scientific magic. No single outcome in the quantum realm can ever be predicted, but statistical inferences are common for analyzing multiple trials. It probably should be a law somewhere, “Phenomena that are understood by using a statistical basis have a high probability of being seen as pure magic.” And herein is the ultimate marriage of science and magic.

Chapter 7 — Conclusion

In the psychology of the Universe of the Human Mind there is little difference in which labels we use for sorting information. Pure science, pure faith, and pure magic rarely exist. The labels that match our perceptions best are the overlapping areas, especially the middle pure white region, because reason, faith, and magic are basically all intertwined and that is our reality.

You are of course free to disagree, since you too have your own Universe to manage. You are free to remove the concepts of reason, magic, and faith or redefine them to suit your own preferences. Regardless of what you choose, I hope you keep some concept of beauty in there somewhere.

1  Where is the Arthur C. Clarke quotation found?Source: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/arthur_c_clarke_101182 Page Date Stamp: Unknown
This quote is actually one of a threesome known as Clarke‘s 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Laws:
When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible,is almost certainly right.When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.Source: https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Arthur_C._Clarke
Page Date Stamp: 26 August 2019, at 22:44
2 What exactly is the Universe of the Human Mind?My version of the Universe of the Human Mind is a metaphysical concept of how we perceive the universe and is not meant to infringe on any previous work done by other individuals.What exactly is the Universe of Ideas?The original concept of the Universe of Ideas is a construct of Neil deGrasse Tyson:For instance, a lot of books present the universe as “a collection of objects,” says Tyson, like this: “Here’s a galaxy. Here’s a planet. Here’s a star. Then you just remember the universe as objects,” Tyson says. “I want you to remember the universe as ideas.”Source: https://bigthink.com/think-tank/inside-neil-degrasse-tysons-universe-of-ideas-what-to-read
Author: Daniel Honan
Page Date Stamp: 26 March 2013
3 How do you mix colors on a color wheel?This leads to yet another system of three “Primary” colors generating all the others, and another color wheel. This one is a little easier to explain — ink and paint are subtractive (adding cyan, magenta, and yellow yields black) whereas colored light is “additive” (meaning if you blast red, green, and blue you get white…Source: https://blog.asmartbear.com/color-wheels.html
Author: Jason
Page Date Stamp: 31 January 2011
4 Why do some magicians say that children are harder to fool than adults?Sad to say, but a lot of adults I’ve performed for have been, at least a some level, arrogant and overconfident in their intelligence... Because of this, it’s easier to perform for them because they are already presuming they know more than me. Adults can disadvantage themselves by assuming that they’re “too smart” to be fooled while a kid probably won’t have that disadvantage.Source: https://www.quora.com/Why-do-some-magicians-say-that-children-are-harder-to-fool-than-adults
Author: T J Fritts, Amateur magician 2010-present
Page Date Stamp: Likely 2019
5 How can good things created for good reasons be bad?Algorithms are often elegant and incredibly useful tools used to accomplish tasks. They are mostly invisible aids, augmenting human lives in increasingly incredible ways. However, sometimes the application of algorithms created with good intentions leads to unintended consequences.Title: Code-Dependent: Pros and Cons of the Algorithm Age
Source: https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2017/02/08/code-dependent-pros-and-cons-of-the-algorithm-age/
Authors: Lee Rainie and Janna Anderson
Page Date Stamp: 08 February 2017

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JB Johnson

I am a science and technology junky and this is my place where I can share my ideas.

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