Pera:Do You Believe in Magic? | Musings of a Mountainman
by Jack Pera
Aug 29, 2007 | 286 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Wanna know who are some of the most unrecognized heroes of all time?

The mavericks. Those who have dared challenge prevailing thought and standard procedure with so-called radical new ideas.

Here’s a quick example: In 1912, German scientist Alfred Wegener proposed that continents were once attached to each other and drifted apart. This idea, which was later verified and eventually evolved into what is now known as plate tectonics, was initially ridiculed as absurd.

On Aug. 7, as part of the Pinhead Town Talk lecture series at the Mountain Village Conference Center, Dr. Michael Kellman, a professor of theoretical and physical chemistry from the University of Oregon gave a lecture titled “Is it Science? Global Warming, Intelligent Design, the Cosmic Anthropic Principle, and Einstein’s Moon.”

The basic thrust of his lecture was that science doesn’t know all it claims to know – and will never find out all it thinks it’s going to. That isn’t anything most of his peers would ever believe or want to hear, and it certainly won’t win him any glowing acclaim or support from most of his colleagues.

During the course of his lecture, he got on the subject of quantum entanglement. Briefly, quantum entanglement is the notion that if you split a subatomic particle like a photon and change the orientation of one, the other responds instantly, no matter how far apart the two are. In theory it could be on the other side of the universe and it would respond instantly. Time isn’t a factor because no time is involved. The theory has been proven correct – scientists like to call it “spooky action at a distance,” and it disproves Albert Einstein’s theory that nothing in the universe can travel faster than the speed of light. Professor Kellman went a step further and said such behavior at the subatomic level is about as close to magic as you could get.

Magic? Genuine magic, actually witnessed? Horrors! Banish the word and perish such thoughts! To most scientists, the word magic is as terrifying and repugnant as the idea that a supernatural deity created the universe. Science simply refuses to believe in genuine magic. Magic is for magicians. Science is for theorists and experimentalists. Yet, one must wonder: Is genuine magic possible? Does it exist?

So exactly what is this discipline called science that refuses to believe in magic? One definition of science supplied by my computer program dictionary is “the knowledge gained by the study of the physical world.” Science can believe as it will and I don’t care, but I think it tends to forget that we humans also inhabit a non-physical universe. Is thought made of physical “stuff” or does it consist of a type of energy not unlike that of photons, which apparently don’t have a physical existence?

For that matter, does thought even reside in the universe? Don’t rule out that it doesn’t. Remember that instantaneous quantum- entanglement thing? Quantum physics is a weird area of science. It’s so weird it’s open to infinite interpretations.

Science notwithstanding, I can conjure up magic at will. Since my column topic is often based on “maverick” devil’s advocate assumptions, facts and thought, allow me to offer a few examples.

Let’s see now, there’s so much magic among and within us, where to start? How about the human body? Is it not magic that our digestive system breaks down the food we ingest into various components and efficiently delivers the right chemicals to the right place to make it all work and keep us alive? This is a vast simplification and science will break it all down, if you wish, but overall our enormously complex chemical system seems magical to me.

Is it not magic that our muscular and skeletal systems work in perfect harmony to permit a pro basketball player to hit a turnaround jump shot from 30 feet? Try that one yourself and maybe you’ll be convinced. Wouldn’t you agree that our entwined DNA opposite-sex reproductive system, which contains all the ingredients and orderly instructions needed to create another of the same species, complete with a sexual bonus, is pure (genuine) magic?

Is it not magic that our immune system usually knows when a harmful foreign agent that wants to kill us enters our body and proceeds to attack it viciously to save our lives, usually succeeding, which lets the majority of us live a basic normal life? Is it not magic that our respiratory system ingests oxygen and converts it into energy to fuel billions of individual cells (via a magical circulatory system)? A circulatory system that rids the body of waste products, among other functions?

Is it not magic that our nervous system creates a heart, brain and associated sensory network that directs all the metabolic systems plus the sensory functions that enable us to function as living entities as opposed to, say, a rock? Is it not magic that we happen to be living, intelligent entities, say, again as opposed to being created as a lifeless rock? Is it not magic that multiple senses – such as hearing, seeing, feeling, tasting, smelling and balance – integrate into that marvelous sense of awareness we call consciousness? Isn’t life itself a miracle (genuine magic)? What about gravity? Isn’t gravity, which is so mysterious that science is having a difficult time figuring it out and never will completely, “spooky action-at-a-distance” magic like quantum entanglement?

We must give credit to the disciplines of science and human ingenuity, for they have learned to supplement and enhance the various chemical and physical systems of our body to improve and lengthen our lives. Science likewise enriches our knowledge through its discoveries of how the universe and the natural world work. That the human race is able to do such things is a form of magic unto itself.

The phenomenon of consciousness, which allows us to contemplate the magic of everything that is, including the universe itself, whatever that encompasses, must surely be classified as genuine magic by any reasonable benchmark.

In a nutshell, I say, creation is magic. Is creation a miracle, which implies a creator, or is it an accident, as science believes (any event not deliberate logically must be accidental), or should we just abstractly pass it off as magic and let it go at that? If creation didn’t “accidentally just happen,” then as far as we can know, at this point in time, it must have come about because of either or both of the other two. Science, which is mostly scared to death of the idea of a God creating conditions allowing humans to exist and absolutely refuses to believe in miracles and magic, has made its choice very clear. Its substitute is the principle of evolution, which at its absolute root is either abstract or magic, take your pick. If one dares wander into the extraordinary, evolution would seem to be yet another form of magic.

 “Maverick” scientist Dr. Kellman is my kind of guy. Personally, this inquisitive, skeptical and agnostic* mind and feeble old body has witnessed and pondered enough different types of genuine magic thanks to the miracle of creation to last anyone a lifetime.

Parting shot: Would you say genuine magic only comes from ordinary or extraordinary sources?

Agnostic (n.) Someone who doubts that many questions have a single correct answer or that a complete understanding of some things can be attained.

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