So, what on earth do I mean by “The answer is never magic?” Which, not coincidentally, is the title of my new book (see About the Book to learn more and for info on getting a copy, and Book Sample to check it out).

Well, people have been trying to explain stuff ever since we’ve had language. People would ask the wise men (and occasionally the wise women), “What’s that bright light in the sky? Why did my sheep die? What can I do to make my sick baby get better?” Thousands of questions that everyone wanted a real answer for.

And for millennia, the answers were always things like, “The sun god is riding his chariot across the sky.” “Your jealous neighbor cast an evil spell on the sheep.” “The shaman needs to burn smelly herbs and sacrifice a chicken.” In other words, “it’s magic.”

Since then, we’ve figured out a quite a few things. The sun is a huge ball of hydrogen undergoing nuclear fusion, the sheep had a bad case of worms, the baby needs IV fluids and antibiotics.

So here’s the thing. Whenever we’ve figured something out, really gotten to the bottom of it, found the “real answer,” the answer has never been “magic.” It’s not like doctors say, “Well, we’re sure that type 1 diabetes is caused by an autoimmune attack on pancreatic beta-cells, which produce insulin, but research clearly shows that type 2 diabetes is caused by spells cast by an evil wizard who lives in a dark tower in Jersey City.” Each and every answer we’ve gotten, and have ever gotten, every single natural phenomenon we’ve come to fully understand—fire, plague, stars and planets, storms, tides, all the things that have puzzled mankind over the centuries—has been non-magical. So why would we persist in thinking that the ones we haven’t figured out still might be magic?


One Response to Home

  1. cfdems says:

    Note I’ll be speaking at the Freethought Society Tuesday, Feb 26 at the Ludington Library in Bryn Mawr. Time 7:00.

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