Re: virus: Sham(an) again

Eva-Lise Carlstrom (
Tue, 16 Sep 1997 16:54:15 -0700 (PDT)

On Tue, 16 Sep 1997, David McFadzean wrote:

> At 08:52 AM 9/16/97 -0700, Eva-Lise Carlstrom wrote:
> >There's no such thing as the supernatural (and see Robin's reply too).
> Hey, if we can all agree on this point we can move to the next (game) level!


The same college friend I mentioned earlier, the one who divided methods
of understanding into Magic, Mysticism, Science, and Religion, also had a
kind of philosophical joke about what is included in "the natural".
The laxative Metamucil uses the slogan "If not Nature, Metamucil."
He enjoyed interpreting this as a statement about the fundamental order of
the universe: Anything not included in "Nature" is to be included in the
category "Metamucil". Thus, "Metamucil" becomes a term for anything not
natural. Of course, the trick is that Metamucil also makes much of the
fact that it is all-natural. Thus including everything that is in the
category of Nature, directly or indirectly. Sometimes, if only by
accident, advertising contains truths.
(Sorry, I'll now return you to more sensible forms of argument. :) ).

> >Actually, I'd be inclined to say science is a form of magic. But if you
> >prefer it the other way around, that's fine too. They're both valid ways
> >of looking at it, depending on which aspects you want to concentrate on.
> Agreed.

Of course, I've gone and, in one post, said Science and Magic could be
interpreted as being subsets of each other, and in another said they were
two of four contrasted modes of thought and action. I'm still trying to
figure out what I mean by all that. I'll work on it.

> >By "real magical powers" I presume you mean classical fairy-tale magic
> >where someone waves her wand and turns a mouse into a carriage horse, and
> >the like. I would call such a person a "fairy godmother". :) Seriously,
> >I'd call em a storybook magician.
> OK, would I be using the term correctly if I said the Judeo-Christian God
> is a storybook magician? (If that's offensive to Judeo-Christians we should
> look for another word).

Both fairy-tale wizards and the Judeo-Christian God are claimed to perform
miracles. They produce phenomena for which not only is there no known
means of production, but in many cases there are known laws of nature
One important difference is that God (TM) can do some things we're
willing to grant him without claiming impossibility, like produce
earthquakes, which we would not grant to a human magician (at least, not
one with only the technology of the Old Testament or the medieval setting
of most fairy tales). This is because God is understood to be behind
natural phenomena. We quibble with God's stated achievements only when
they break his own laws, as when the sun is said to have stopped in the
The comparison is reasonable, but we probably need a different
term if we're going to include both divine and human miracle-workers in
one category. Or maybe we should refer not to the practitioner, but to
the alleged impossible act. After all, a given shaman may do what I call
magic, and also be alleged to do things we might call "storybook magic"
or "fairy-godmother-magic". Yes, I think I prefer that approach. Kind of
like I think it's of dubious value to describe people by their sexual
preferences, rather than describing the behaviours and preferences
We should also exercise a certain amount of caution in using any
such term, since we might turn out to be wrong about what is in fact