This is Faith in Play #23: Kralc’s Law, for October 2019.
I don’t want to say that Arthur C. Clarke is famous for this; he is, after all, author of the book behind one of the most iconic of near-term science fiction space travel movies (have I limited that enough?), 2001: A Space Odyssey. However, he is quite frequently cited for one of his proposed “laws”, with sufficient prominence that it has become known as “Clarke’s Law”. It states
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,
and a significant part of the point of the quote is to imply that magic never has to be the explanation for anything, because something we do not understand could well be technology beyond our knowledge.
I don’t know whether Clark believes in magic; I don’t know enough about the man. James “The Amazing” Randi is a devout disbeliever and debunker, yet I read a short story by him years ago (in Omni Magazine) in which the lead character, a stage magician, discovers that there is real magic in the world outside his knowledge, and so seeks to learn it. It is easy to assume that what we are watching has an entirely scientific explanation—what we would perhaps prejudicially call a “rational” or “logical” explanation.
However, the reverse is also true. Read more