Science and Magick

by Mike Sententia on June 5, 2013

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This series is about science.

A lot of people, when they read that, expect to hear about magick and quantum physics. But that’s a particular field of contemporary science, not science itself.

Science isn’t any one field of knowledge or set of terms. Science is a way of understanding the world. It’s about thinking through an explanation, then testing to see if it’s right. Then using that explanation to build a useful solution to a problem — a solution you wouldn’t have seen without the explanation. And, eventually, finding some place where the explanation doesn’t work anymore, and repeating the process to understand a bit more of the world.

If we’re going to use a scientific mindset to explore magick, then it would help to understand science first. That’s what this series is about.

My Science Credentials

It’s only natural to wonder if I’m really a scientist, or if I just play one on the internet.

I have a MS in computer science, and published my thesis in a peer-reviewed conference. (In computer science, we do conferences rather than journals.) Then I worked for 5 years at the national labs in New Mexico, researching genetic programming and a bit of quantum computing, and publishing several papers. So, yes, I’ve both trained and worked as a scientist.

(After that, I got into computer consulting. The money’s better. Mea culpa. And I like being able to take time off from consulting to write about magick, which you can’t do as a staff researcher.)

Science Topics

Here are some of the topics we’ll cover in this series:

  • Modeling vs Trial and Error: The difference between science vs testing options until something works.
  • Isolating the Hypothesis: Most of the effort goes into finding a hypothesis worth testing. Like 90-99% of it. Once you’ve done that, testing it is relatively easy.
  • Why Prediction Matters: Why science uses prediction as the gold standard for actually understanding a problem.
  • Using Negative Predictions: It’s easy to see when a model predicts something that happens. But what about things a model says ought to happen, but it doesn’t? That’s where the real science lives.
  • Complexity Isn’t Free: Simple objects do simple actions. If you want a complex action, you need a complex object. Why proposing an object that “just does” this complex thing isn’t allowed.
Other posts in this series: If you liked this post, consider visiting my current blog at mikesententia.com.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

John W. A. June 5, 2013 at 4:54 PM

I like this a lot.

When it comes to magick, I think it’s important to cast Spells which have clearly defined objectives. What is a success, what isn’t; with little or no gray areas or fine lines; something that is more black and white, so you can figure out what works and what doesn’t.

I also would like to add that being objective about the results you obtain, and being honest with yourself is very important. It keeps one from self-delusion or from being discouraged about his/her skills in magick.

Reply

Mike Sententia June 6, 2013 at 1:25 PM

Thanks, John. Testing, and being honest in your testing, is indeed important. If you can’t tell a success from a failure, you can’t get anywhere. I’ve talked about it before: http://www.magickofthought.com/tag/testing/

But the point of this series is actually that there’s a lot more to science than testing. That if your science begins and ends with verifying your results, you’re missing the real point of science. It’s something they don’t teach in school, and most people never learn it. But there’s a lot more to science. I think you’ll enjoy the rest of this series.

Reply

John W. A. June 6, 2013 at 4:13 PM

I understand that Science is more than just testing. But, I figured that testing is one of the most important aspects.

Although, perhaps you could write something about that in a future post?

Reply

Mike Sententia June 6, 2013 at 5:15 PM

Hi John, the link above (http://www.magickofthought.com/tag/testing/) is a list of all my posts on testing. In it, you can find posts discussing avoiding placebo, coincidence, and other testing topics. Enjoy!

Reply

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