The Magic of Science
In history, the Harry Potter series became the fastest selling books with millions snatched from bookstore shelves in just a few days. Magic is so very appealing to children. With the touch of a wand a toad turns into Prince Charming; no need for generations of genetic engineering. With a few drops of magic potion you may obtain eternal youth; no need for expensive years of anti-aging treatments. And with the spell of a befriended wizard your daemons and enemies will be casted off to eternity; no need for extensive therapy or bloody warfare. The very moment your five year-old enters school, his whole young life will be dissected in parts and portions, segments and subjects, all carefully analyzed, with layers of problems identified and solutions custom-fitted. Extensive analytic thinking skills, application of bureaucratic-layer and multiple facetted solution approaches are taught. The fruits of the Age of Reason enable our modern western society to tackle the most complex problems and challenges with ingenious super solutions.
A child’s appetite for magic seamlessly transforms into many adults’ craving for religion. When a loved one gets sick, the patient will enter a hospital where ailments and complaints are painstakingly analyzed with an array of sophisticated tests in different departments. A complex treatment plan with multiple layers of therapy may lead the patient back to health. In the meantime, family members gather and turn to their Grand Wizard with desperate prayers, so their Almighty in his Eternal Grace and Wisdom may touch the patient with his magic wand and a miracle of health will cure the seriously ill. In such despair, the world of magic and religion may touch the world of analysis and science for a brief emotional moment.
The conflict between supernatural magic and analytic science dominates the present Middle East and African conflicts. BokoHara in Nigeria, meaning, “no western education”, and ISIS in Syria, with imminent grand expectations of arrival of a Messiah, or Mahdi, for the Final Day of Judgment in Dabiq, are religious-magic solutions to the challenges of generations of suppression and prolonged poverty.
Careful scientific analysis of social and economic structures of the Middle East Muslim world may reveal multiple ails, such as small exclusive ruling, privileged elites, who extract nearly all surplus from their underlings, and repressive, autocratic absolute rule to the benefit of a few at the expensive of many. A restructure of societies towards an anonymous, inclusive meritocracy, a democracy to the benefit of all, is the most obvious solution. Such solutions are strongly rejected by those who benefited from the status quo for generations. The ruling aristocracy is aided in its selfish plight by clerical fanatics who believe in a holistic approach of the society with magic and religion. Their Redeemer will descend from the heavens use his magic wand and set all wrongs right. It may take a bit longer before the cataclysmic confrontation between the Age of Reason and the Age of Magic will be over, if ever.
By Jacob Gelt Dekker, opinion columnist for Curaçao Chronicle.