If you’ve been reading for any length of time, you probably know that I am a big fan of magic. Not the stage kind (although I am fascinated by illusionists as well), but the mystical, otherworldly, no-idea-how-to-exlain-what-just-happened kind. There is just something about theatre and Christmas and amazing dates that can only be called magic. However, lately I have been thinking a fair amount about magic and whether it still has a place in our scientifically-minded world.
In the past, “magic” was used to explain anything that was not understood at the time. Oracles, shamans, and other mystical seers would use the knowledge they possessed to foretell the future. They looked at animal entrails, the weather, and other natural phenomena to predict what was to come. Since this time, we have evolved to a more scientific method. Or have we?
Everyone complains about the weatherperson. It seems that the forecast changes almost hourly, and what was supposed to be a sunny picnic can quickly become a rainy day indoors. What happened? If the science of today is so superior to the magical predictions of the past, what went wrong?
Meteorologists look at the current weather and natural phenomena to predict the weather that is to come. They observe weather patterns and use that knowledge to try to predict exactly what will happen in the next few days. Yet, despite the advances we have made in our understanding, the forecasts are rarely completely true, and sometimes gravely wrong. It seems to me that in our advancement from magic to science, at least in the area of foretelling the future, we haven’t made many strides forward at all.
Just a little thought for a Saturday afternoon.
January 13, 2014 at 1:48 PM
It’s quite insulting to call meteorologists magicians considering how much life and property weather forecasts in the form of watches/warnings have saved over the past half century. Extra-tropical cyclone Sandy could have been far worse were it not for advanced warnings allowing for evacuations of low lying areas along the coast, just to name one instance.
January 13, 2014 at 3:28 PM
My most sincere apologies for having insulted you and any others who work in the weather field. It was not my intent to belittle the work that meteorologists do to save people and property, just to point out a similarity between ancient oracles and some of the science of today. We live in a society that suffers from what C. S. Lewis referred to as “chronological snobbery,” in that we assume our ways are inherently better because they are more recent. I want to call that line of thinking into question. However, we have progressed in our understanding of many aspects of our world, it’s true. Thank you for adding your voice to the conversation, weatherdude!