The idea that magic and science are incompatible is oft repeated, for example in this paraphrase of commentary on Prince of Thorns :
I also can’t understand a novel that decides to try and be almost science fictiony but still uses magic and never even tries making it all at sciencey or even gives the slightest explanation. Mr Lawrence, you cannot have it both ways! You can’t have your cake and eat it too!
This is stupid for so many very different reasons.
We’re told that God doesn’t require us to believe in him. This goes double for science. Step off that cliff and you’re going to drop, Road-Runner, whether you happen to know the equations for gravitational attraction or not.
If magic is incompatible with science then it’s incompatible with _everything_. If magic is governed by a set of rules that can be deduced and described … then it _is_ science.
Item 1: Science is not technology. It’s simply a successful approach to analysis.
Perhaps people who think science is incompatible with magic (in books or elsewhere) really mean that technology is incompatible with magic? After all at no point did anyone in Prince of Thorns sit down and start ‘doing science’. So it’s technology that’s incompatible? Our friend up-post doesn’t think you can have a space rocket and a fireball-flinging magician?
Item 2: Everything is technology.
When our ape-like ancestors picked up a rock and used it to open a nut (any kind you like) … that was technology starting. It’s been a gradual and continuous process since then. Fire, bronze, iron, printing, computers etc … all technology. There’s no sudden ‘switch on’ point between wheel and light-bulb where it flips into being ‘technology’.
Our friend above presumably doesn’t cry foul if the magician in the story where he permits magic to be mentioned is wearing clothes or rides in a cart? So where does technology reach the point where it precludes magic? Is clockwork a step too far? Does magic fail if we refine petroleum? Is it electricity that causes the problem? It all seems a bit arbitrary and frankly … stupid (have I said that already?).
So … the final implication was if there was some ‘science’ then it must be used to explain the ‘magic’ … even if the character observing both the ‘science’ and the ‘magic’ understands neither, draws no distinction between them and calls them both magic? Meh.
Now we’ve face-palmed that one let me address a second bugbear.
Interview Question 7 (from at least 20 interviews so far – albeit not always Q#7): You’re a scientist – you should be writing science-fiction. Why aren’t you writing science-fiction… you monster? Quit tramping over our magic swords with your dirty scientist boots!
Ok well it’s not posed quite like this but you get the picture. It’s not unreasonable for the interview to pick up on some of the scant info offered in my author-blurb and frame a question around it . . . but when you’ve answered the question as often as I have you start to think more deeply about what prompted it.
All the other authors who get interviewed have (or have had) a day job. I’m willing to bet that none of them wrangle unicorns for a living or polish dragon scales or struggle to perfect the lightning bolt spell, so none of them are particularly aimed at fantasy by their training. Moreover some of them will be lawyers, doctors, policemen, farmers or have had romantic moments with members of the opposite or same sex whatever, and might be asked ‘why don’t you write romances/legal thrillers/detective stories/medical mysteries etc’ but generally ARE NOT asked that.
All this leads me to suspect that the question is driven by the aforementioned belief that science and fantasy are somehow more incompatible than ‘anything else’ and magic, and that scientists themselves will not be interested in / good at ‘fantasy’. The notion that a scientist might be better equipped to write science fiction than a non-scientist obviously is a motivator too. However, a large chunk of science fiction on offer could well have been written by people who had simply read or watched a bunch of the stuff. After all – science fiction is very often incompatible with science. If it wasn’t it would be called SCIENCE.
So to conclude – before I call anyone stupid again – Science is not technology and neither of them preclude magic any more than does say ... biology, or ice-cream, or rocks, or swords.