Re: virus: How Does a Shaman Pay?

Eva-Lise Carlstrom (
Tue, 12 Aug 1997 09:40:36 -0700 (PDT)

On Mon, 11 Aug 1997, Wade T.Smith wrote:

> >You are making a very sharp distinction between science on the one hand
> >and religion or magic on the other. While I agree that they are not the
> >same thing (I do consider the scientific method a valuable tool), I am
> >unwilling or unable to draw such a distinct line. *You should remember
> >that chemistry grew out of alchemy, and astronomy out of astrology.*
> Ah- no, I don't remember these things, and in fact only recall them as
> fables graciously sprinked our way by, imagine, alchemists and
> astrologers....
> Alchemy is in it's own way a bit more enabled to make the dubious claim,
> but astrology is in blatant error.
> Not only do I think such a sharp distinction can be made, but that it
> must be made.

Perhaps it would be more acceptable to you if I said: The predecessors of
modern astronomers were not so clearly scientists; they were engaged in
activities that mixed aspects of what we call astronomy and what we call
astrology. Same for alchemists: They were seeking metaphysical results,
but in the process discovered useful and interesting physical phenomena
that became parts of modern chemistry.

If an alchemist in the 17th century sought to turn lead into gold, you
call that magic and dismiss it. But how about a modern physicist, who
could actually achieve it (at great expense that would be far from worth
it)? If your complaint is that the alchemist had no means to actually do
the task in question, you are objecting to the wrong thing. It's the
process and what is learned by it that makes it science, not how much the
practitioner knows to begin with. If your complaint is simply that it's
silly to study alchemy *now*, given our much-advanced understanding of
chemical reactions and composition, I agree. But at the time, the
elements of alchemy that we now consider magic were no stranger than
those we now consider science.