Re: virus: Sham(an) again

Eva-Lise Carlstrom (
Tue, 16 Sep 1997 09:36:43 -0700 (PDT)

On Mon, 15 Sep 1997, Robin Faichney (mislabeled as David McFadzean) wrote:

> David McF wrote:
> >At 04:09 PM 9/13/97 -0700, Eva-Lise Carlstrom wrote:
> >
> >>My understanding of what magic consists of has undergone changes.
> > I
> >>don't expect you to agree with my use of the term, but I don't separate
> >>magic from memetics. In my view, magic is the use of symbolic and
> >
> >>indirect means to achieve physical, practical ends. I realize this
> >>includes a lot. It's intended to. It's still less inclusive that
> >
> >I'm willing to accept your definition, but then you have to admit
> >that magic is not supernatural and therefore comes under the domain
> >of science.
> Arrgh!! What's not supernatural comes under science?
> What about the arts, humanities, etc? Or to get back to
> first principles: how does science deal with subjectivity?

I had a friend in college who separated human approaches to understanding
the world into four: Science, Magic, Religion, and Mysticism. I am not
sure I understand why he made mysticism its own category (from my
understanding, it is a kind of practice, applicable to either religion or
magic), and I never asked him that (though I asked him a lot of other
things about his idiosyncratic worldview). I think I'd make the four:
Science, Magic, Religion, and Art. And, yes, any given activity may well
share in two or more of them, and they are fuzzy sets, not classical ones.

> > Or on another tack: an extremely large and
part > of human acivity is just the reverse of science: instead of
> operating out of theory, it works on the suck-it-and-see
> principle of evolution. (There's a proper name for that,
> which you can find on the Principia Cybernetica site if
> you're so inclined.) But there's not much of the
> supernatural in suck-it-and-see, is there?

What a great phrase! Good description of bottom-up
investigation--sampling data and seeing where they lead. The Objectivism
debate has been touching on this too; starting from observations vs.
starting with a theory. Part of the problem with understanding that's
been happening there, I think, is that while scientific experimentation
has to start with a hypothesis and use data to confirm or disconfirm it,
scientists have to come up with hypotheses from someplace, and that is
usually, roughly speaking, suck-it-and-see. Although a scientist
may make a completely wild guess as a hypothesis, to see where it
leads, usually the hypothesis derives from observation (under less
rigorous conditions than experimental testing) of an apparent pattern that
the scientist wants to check for validity. Scientific practice uses both
top-down and bottom-up processing, checking them against each other.