Sunday, August 8, 2010

Are science and law rooted in the practice of magic?

Pre-scientific natural philosophers pursued astrology and alchemy, but are these practices the true beginning of science?

Magical recitations and rituals must be performed precisely in order to produce results. Accuracy in magic is one of the motives behind the development of symbols, mathematics and written language. The attention to detail, accuracy, and repeatable outcomes in the practice of magic is experimental in attitude, a mind set that is also vital to the scientific method.

When researchers inferred that many Stone Age mega sites functioned as sky-watching devices and calendars, a common reaction was that the sites required skills and tools far ahead of the presumed abilities of primitive humans. Only modern machines or generous extraterrestrials could have built such impressive structures, but the union of utility and art seen in ancient architecture could have been made possible by a fusion of magic with the mathematical mind.

Stone Age people who conceived and erected monumental architecture did not see themselves as individuals; the individual is a recent invention. We may look upon early people as inferior because their lives were dominated by physical labor, but ancient builders could look to a collective work of skill, utility, and beauty, and be proud of their contribution to the extended life of the group. The great projects of the ancient world would not be completed in a lifetime, nor would any individual life be seen as an end in itself, any more than a particular bear or wolf was an end in itself.

Law attempts to control human behavior by means of magic words.
Roman (and our) contract law is based in magic. Contracts were written as magic formulas that bound the parties to the strict performance of contract terms. This belief in the magical power of words to control human behavior is fundamental to the system of law today. We live within and are bound by a structure created by lawyers, in which no human action is free of legal description, intervention, coercion, or constraint. Unfortunately for Americans, this supernatural state paralyzes personal and business interactions, invalidates responsibility, and creates distrust. Human behavior is no longer expected to conform to personal or ethical codes, but to whatever bizarre restriction or exemption can be written into law. The result is a shift in meaning away from basic political concepts. Freedom today is not tempered by restraint, or by a feeling for the common good, but has come to mean freedom from consequences for the male hierarchy, which continually writes law to codify selfish ends. Wealth buys impunity for Top Males, just as money bought wizards and priests in the Stone Age. Consequences fall on everyone else. In nature there is no such state of exemption from consequences, and the illusion of impunity has lead to dangerous behavior that affects us all.