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Magic Versus Science
aka: Science Versus Magic

"Science is a way of talking about the universe in words that bind it to a common reality. Magic is a method of talking to the universe in words that it cannot ignore. The two are rarely compatible."

Once upon a time in Real Life, the distinction between the ideas of Magic and Science was not made, and both were very closely attributed to religion. As time progressed (especially in the western world), the idea of magic, the will of a person influencing the universe, waned, while science, the facts and observable evidence in the universe influencing humankind's interpretation, became more prevalent. Alchemy, steeped as it was in astrology and the occult, evolved into chemistry. Scientific theory slowly became independent of the magical and the supernatural. This process was known as the Enlightenment, and shaped science as we know it today.

The modern scientific community is highly skeptical toward claims of the paranormal, and largely disbelieves in the existence of magic; any effective practices such as the drinking of willow bark tea for headaches that were previously attributed to magic have since been scientifically explained. While, for the scientists, this is just a question of evidence (and science has no problem over time accepting counter-intuitive phenomena like radioactivity, quantum physics, hypnosis and superconductivity, so long as the evidence for their existence is compelling), some people interpret it to mean that science and magic are fundamentally opposed. Some authors will then transplant this opposition into a Speculative Fiction setting: Magic really does exist, but for whatever reason, it's not on speaking terms with Science or Technology. However, what many Anti-Magic Scientists and Anti-Science Magicians seem to forget is that since most magic systems follow a set of rules, magic itself can be seen as a form of science. Nonetheless, one should not expect different types of magic systems to be reconcilable, except when they are. Interestingly enough, in pre-scientific times, all of the modern sciences, all forms of industry, and the very laws of nature itself were considered to be magic.

Psychic powers generally blurs the line between the two.

There are several different ways this conflict can play out:

  • Magic is an EMP: Magic and its users cause machines beyond a given technological threshold to malfunction. But why exactly does magic disrupt, say, the electrical impulses in your CD player, but not the electrical impulses in an antique radio? And what did it do before electrical devices were used, like when steam was modern technology? Because it's magic, that's why!. Alternately...
  • Magic Is Cheating: Magic is the practice of altering natural laws to produce a desired effect. Science is the practice of utilizing natural laws to produce a desired effect. Thus, your computer won't work too well if you're altering electrical resistance to produce lightning bolts, your car won't work too well if you're altering the combustion point of atmosphere to produce fireballs, and you won't find sharpening a piece of metal to work too well if you're altering its density to make it stronger. Magic is dependent on the skill of the user, and can lead to the creation of demigods, but can't be mass produced. Technology takes centuries to get its footing, and scientists are thus always squishy, but can inherently change their world. This often leads to cycles where one trumps the other, only to break and give way to the other.
  • Magic is Mysterious: Alternately, magic follows no rules at all, therefore science will never be able to explain it. This scenario tends to work best with Wild Magic and possibly Theurgy — most other flavors of magic, both for believable consistency and for dramatic potential, tend to follow some sort of operating rules, and figuring out operating rules is what science is all about. This is often an Informed Trait, with the Scientist shrieking that magic isn't scientific because they can't tell how it does what it does — a clear case of research failure or strawman, as science is cataloging effects and then theorizing on causes; with better theories to replace previous ones not only expected, but encouraged. This last point leads into...
  • Magic is an Ideology: Magic and science get along just fine, but the magicians and scientists can't stand each other. Petty rivalry or hubris leads everyone on both sides to specialize in their field and completely ignore the other. This conflict can sometimes take a subtler form, where the magicians want to keep knowledge secret and the scientists want it shared with everyone; which side is more sympathetic tends to depend on whether the author (or readers/viewers) think there really are Things Man Was Not Meant to Know....
  • Magic is the Dimension's Natural Law: Depending on which dimension of The Multiverse you are in. In World A, you can shoot lightning from your fingertips if you know how and gunpowder does not explode; and in World 1, the reverse happens. It becomes a lot harder to industrialize if the oil and coal you're intending to use simply don't work the way they do in the real world.

In some of these settings, if one does successfully mix Magic and Technology, the result is (rightly or wrongly) decried as an abomination in the sight of Nature and the Powers That Be.

Can result in (or is deliberately designed to justify) Medieval Stasis; no technological advances are made, either because beyond a certain point mages accomplish what is needed, or simply because science doesn't work the way it does in the real world. If only a few people are mages, then there's a clear caste system. The Magocracy clearly wouldn't want competition. This doesn't mean no science goes on in these settings though; the scientific method may be applied not to creating technology, but to study a Fantastic Science.

Compare Magitek, and Postmodern Magik. Contrast Magic from Technology and Un Equal Rites. See Doing in the Wizard for when seemingly magical manifestations are explained as science, and Doing in the Scientist for when scientific anomalies are later explained as magic. See also Science Fantasy, Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane, and Clarke's Third Law.

If you were looking for a trope where scientists and wizards actually get into a brawl, see The Magic Versus Technology War.


Examples

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     Anime and Manga 
  • In Teeny Witches magic is represented by the female witches and science by the male "warlocks", who hardly use magic at all (there's one real warlock, and he's very old). The two communities became divided and now witches only go to the warlocks' fortress if they're seeking children or if they've been cast out of Witchhaven. It seems that this split has stagnated both groups: the witches technology hasn't really advanced past the dirigible, and while it appears that the warlocks live in a man-made underground cavern of plenty all their technology mainly used for amusement or oppression. The two groups get back together in the end.
  • This is the premise of the setting of A Certain Magical Index and its Spin-Off A Certain Scientific Railgun, with a secret Cold War going on between the two factions. Magic is secret and controlled by religion while science is public. Psychic Powers are classified as scientific even though they share the category "supernatural" with magic in this setting and tend to break all known laws of physics, due to being widely accepted and studied (most espers know exactly what laws their power breaks and how to make the most of that). The really odd thing is that when it comes right down to it, the only difference between the two sides is methods. Espers are magicians—that's not a snarky reference to Magic by Any Other Name, they are literally highly specialized magic users who are unable to use any other form of magic. The science side as a whole makes a lot more sense when you remember that modern espers were invented by an evil wizard.
  • This is an explicit divide in the Nasuverse, as true Magic is literally "what science and technology cannot accomplish" (ie. a miracle) and its actual power is proportional to how mysterious and obscure it is. Magecraft sits in the middle as the "artificial reenactment of miracles"; the science or methodology of magic.
    • In Fate/Zero, it is shown that elder magi don't like to rely on technology (despite a character from the Fate/stay night stating that it is more efficient than magecraft). One of the protagonists uses this for maximum effect, complementing his comparatively poor magecraft with sniper rifles and landmines.
      • In Kara no Kyoukai, Touko states that mages believe that even explaining how their own particular brand of magic works weakens it. ("Mystery" and "Weird" used to be far stronger words than they are now.) Whether this is true or not isn't shown.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!, Yami Yugi is the Magic to Seto Kaiba's Science. Yami Yugi uses a deck of Warrior, Spellcaster and Fiend type monsters, is the spirit of an ancient Egyptian king inside a magical necklace, and believes in destiny. Kaiba by contrast uses a deck of Dragons and Machines, is the designer of the holographic technology that most duelists rely on, and says Screw Destiny. Kaiba also has absolutely no interest in the magic of the series, though it gets exaggerated in the dub into outright denial that magic exists.
  • In Neon Genesis Evangelion, the primary conflict is between the Angels (Supernatural, eldritch beings from beyond mortal ken) and NERV (Who take supernatural eldritch beings from beyond mortal ken and do SCIENCE to them). The winner is...well...
    • That's because the "winner" is the emotional turmoil of the real Creator of the Universe, who suffers one of the most infamous Creator Breakdowns in all of anime history.
  • Magic Users Club has ultra-tech aliens versus high-tech humanity; even with KillSats, the obvious happens. They even get bonus points for not having sound in space. Then a Japanese high school club uses magic against them and they run away.
  • Substituting magic for ki, Dragon Ball Z has a moment of this in the Saiyan arc. The Saiyans rely on the scouters to locate and quantify power levels, whereas the Earthlings train themselves to sense them. So, due to the Raditz's overreliance on his scouter, he underestimates Goku, Gohan and Piccolo, and dies for it. When Vegeta and Nappa touch down, Vegeta orders Nappa to discard the scouters, having worked out that the scouters are misleading; the Earthlings can modulate and mask their power levels.

     Comic Books 
  • The 1980s toy tie in comic ROM: Spaceknight plays with the standard moral and power positions with the magic based aliens being brain eating borderline demons, while the hero is an alien cyborg who fights them with technology. There's even a "Hall of Science" on his homeworld.
  • Spider-Man versus Morlun. While Spidey's powers are based on "totemic spirits" (read: magic), they weren't helping that much against Morlun. So he beats Morlun with radiation. After checking some of Morlun's blood under a microscope.
    • It's ironic that some fans disliked JMS introducing magic into Spidey's origin, overlooking this important part in the storyline where Spidey uses science to beat magic. As Spidey told Morlun, it did not matter whether or not the spider was a mystic spider fated to bite him: the radiation made all the difference. The conclusion to the Ezekial arc, "The Book of Ezekial", suggests that the basis of his powers is scientific, but he was "destined" to have them.
  • As for Iron Man, he treats magic as a form of science he admits that he does not understand. Furthermore, if you try attacking him with magic spells, don't get your hopes up since this Gadgeteer Genius is often able to counter anything you throw at him with his technology.
  • Magic in the Marvel Universe unsurprisingly tends to be a combination of all the conflicts listed above. It usually plays havoc with any technology it is used against and attempts to analyze it scientifically tend to fail like getting different results from each test. A lot of magic involves invoking entities or physics from another universe making it incompatiable with devices or scientific laws from the main universe. It also had an ideology element as attempts to understand it rationally tend to blow up in one's face as Reed Richards found out in one storyline.
  • When Black Adam (about as powerful as Superman, but with no Kryptonite Factor) goes on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge in 52 he goes after the Mad Scientists on Oolong Island after he killed the Four Horsemen. Most of the Mad Scientists are understandably freaking out. Then Black Adam easily plows through their defenses. Then one of the Mad Scientists gives the others a pep talk. And then the Mad Scientists kick Black Adam's ass. They blind him, time freeze him, give him a tesseract concussion, beat and pour acid on him, and give him artificial spacticity in less than a minute. Science won hands down this time.
    • It really shouldn't have but it did.
    • One of the scientists had stolen a machine from the future that, in his words, tries to open up an empty space the size of a football stadium inside Black Adam's skull. Thank Ra it only has one charge.
  • Batman acknowledges the existence of things such as demons or ghosts, but does not view it as anything supernatural, as even magic has its own natural laws and limits. As a matter of fact, during his time training to be Batman, he learnt sleight of hand from Zatanna as an assistant in her Vegas magician's act.
  • The relationship between magic and technology in Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog series has changed over time; before, it was Magic is an Ideology, with the conflict being over the destructive nature of technology over the possible abuse of magic. Once Ian Flynn took over, though, the comic fell squarely into Magic is an EMP, able to trump any form of technology, no matter how advanced. It should be noted though that Chaos Energy, typically in the form of Gold Rings, provides protection from magic as well as a power boost, and that generally, if you can circumvent magic powers, you may just be dealing with a Squishy Wizard.
    • Oddly enough though, having magic powers is something that's more associated with the book's villains, or characters who are morally good, but usually tend to their own matters instead of helping out. When magic is used as a means for good, it's via magic artifacts or for short times. In fact, the magic created by Mammoth Mogul led to the creation of Ixis Naugus, who started the Great War, a conflict that caused nearly every villain in the book: magic is literally the cause of the world's problems.
  • In Saga, the Wreathens, who use magic, are at war with the Landfallians, who use extensive technology.

    Fan Works 
  • In CSI Death By Chocolate, the Las Vegas CSI team's investigation into the murder of Charlie Bucket is hindered by the fact that their technology interacts in weird ways with Wonka's creations. The results of putting a piece of Wonka candy in the mass spectrometer is... spectacular.
  • Crowns Of The Kingdom uses the "Magic is an Ideology" version with the conflict between Merlin and Ludwig von Drake.

    Film 
  • The line in Star Wars about "Your sad devotion to that ancient religion", as well as other evidence of characters skeptical about the Force, despite its clear ability to do otherwise unexplainable things.
    • In the Expanded Universe, its mentioned pretty specifically that Palpatine went to a great deal of effort to eliminate all traces of the Force from the galaxy, painting the Jedi as deluded Knights Templar. The fact that there were only a few thousand of them for an entire galaxy probably helped. It doesn't explain Motti's disbelief, but there you go.
      • Motti is quoting propaganda, like any good Governor who has Darth freaking Vader breathing down his neck would.
      • Motti didn't express disbelief in Vader's power. Merely disbelief that there could be any surviving Jedi; he mistakenly believed that Vader was the Last of His Kind (although to be fair, Vader and Palpatine did everything possible to insure he was the last). Admiral Motti was the one who blatantly insulted Vader and his beliefs, and got a Force Choke for it.
      • Ironically, the whole incident occurred because Motti was boasting about the Death Star being "the ultimate power in the universe...", and Vader taking exception to that claim that this "technological terror" was superior to the Force. The irony being that the Death Star was built on the orders of the most powerful Force-user in the galaxy (Emperor Palpatine) in order to provide a level of firepower and military might he apparently could not achieve using the Force.
    • Generally, much of the ordinary populace's skepticism of the Jedi comes from the fact that they exercise their powers more or less unchecked, which is also why they became wildly popular as heroes during the Clone Wars - because then they were undoubtedly fighting for the Republic. There is a passage saying that Jedi action figures were popular toys during the Clone Wars.
    • Even at the height of their order, the ratio of non-Force-sensitives to Jedi was literally billions to one! Thus a majority of people were unlikely to ever meet a Jedi in person or witness the use of Force powers directly. While there was a general understanding that the Force was real, it was not applicable, or even detectable, to most beings. Because it essentially relied on an Inherent Gift and could not be taught to those lacking the potential, many beings would see it as less relevant than technology (which even the Jedi themselves relied upon extensively).
  • In Ghostbusters, Fantastic Science trumps magic; so much so that four mortal men can defeat a god and all her cronies. Humans that once cowered before deities can use the tools of their genius to overpower them. Yay us!
  • This is the prevailing theme of Hellraiser: Bloodline. The space station is really a gigantic array of solar mirrors designed to obliterate Pinhead with light. It is also the ultimate form of the Lament Configuration. It is revealed that to close the gateway so that it can never again be opened requires power that could also open the gateway so that it can never again be closed.

    Literature 
  • A Song of Ice and Fire
    • The was between The Children of the Forest and The First Men.
    • Its revealed The Order of Maesters is trying to destroy magic in favor of science.
  • The Harold Shea series of books, beginning with The Incomplete Enchanter in 1941 by L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt, uses the Magic-as-EMP variant (even a match will not work).
  • In the Old Kingdom books, the Old Kingdom shares a border with Ancelstierre, a country with approximately 1920s era technology. Charter mages from the Old Kingdom find it increasingly difficult to use magic the further they travel into Ancelstierre, and apart from those who live near the border, most of the population don't believe in magic at all. Just about anything machine-made from Ancelstierre will fall apart not too long after being taken into the Old Kingdom. In this case, it isn't actually the technology and the magic that are opposed, per se; it's that Ancelstierre and the Old Kingdom are literally two different worlds, with different rules: in the Old Kingdom, anything not made by human hands (such as machined paper) begins to degrade, possibly due to the presence of Free Magic, which seems particularly corrosive to such artifacts.
  • Harry Potter: It is mentioned several times that anything running off electricity won't work on Hogwarts grounds, and this sporadically applies/doesn't apply to things powered by batteries (e.g. Hermione insists a microphone/recording bug won't work, but Colin's camera does, though it could be an old-fashioned kind). Also, due to the Masquerade thing, the Ministry doesn't want Muggle technology enchanted, but doesn't do a terribly good job of preventing it.
    • The Ministry doesn't do a good job preventing Technology-enchanting because the guy in charge of the enforcement department (Arthur Weasley) loves it so much. That and the Ministry is heavily implied throughout the series to be much better at the PR end of things than the enforcement end except in the most egregious cases when it doesn't deal with keeping magic hidden from Muggles.
  • In Lawrence Watt-Evans' Worlds of Shadow trilogy, magic, science, and telepathy only work in the universes they come from.
  • Harry Dresden of The Dresden Files can kill a computer by standing within twenty feet of it. The books explain this tendency by saying that magic involves the manipulation of energy and matter, which creates a "Murphyonic field" around wizards makes so that near them complicated devices tend to fail more. When trying to wizards are able to purposely break any sufficiently advanced technology in the area (unless it has enough back ups). It's also implied that older wizards have even more trouble with technology: Whereas Dresden can usually keep his Beetle going, his mentor Ebenezer drives a truck from the 30s.
    • This was also once mentioned as a reason for Harry's usage of revolvers rather then semi-automatic pistols, as the more complex firearms tend to jam, backfire, and otherwise fail to function properly in his hands. This effect even extends to guns near him, especially when he is really angry. One time a vampire's servitor was badly injured by a backfire from a Kalashnikov.
    • In later books it's revealed that magic is an ever changing force and now it interferes with technology but some hundred years ago for example it made milk sour. Also this all only applies to human wizards other supernatural beings don't cause such interferences at all so vampires' use the internet, fae can fight with automatic weapons etc..
  • An interesting variant is seen in the Magic: The Gathering novel The Gathering Dark, which features religion vs magic in a dark-ages setting, with magic sort-of being equated with science. The difference between the two is that while a priest believes just because he/she has blind faith, a mage believes because he/she understands. It eventually turns out that the Corrupt Church has actually been using magic all along, the users just thought they were miracles. But a real mage beats a priest easily, because the mage is better at it.
    • The entire conflict is averted in the Ravnica block of the game, which includes two groups of Scientist-Wizards.
    • It's mostly averted throughout Magic: The Gathering. Since magic is such a fundamental part of the world, technology will generally be integrated with it or seen as another form of magic.
  • Tales of MU has science treated in a similar way to wiccanism in our universe. The author has specifically stated in the FAQs that the scientific method simply doesn't work if you try and apply it to magic. Oftentimes this is because the magic actively refuses to be analyzed in such a way - it'll work reliably until you try and prove that it works reliably. Anyway, Magic exists in this world just as much as science does in theirs.
  • The Star Wars Expanded Universe book Jedi vs. Sith: The Essential Guide to the Force presents the history of the two Force-wielding factions as a protracted conflict between two philosophies of magic use in what is otherwise an essentially technological universe. Whenever the Force is used to empower or manipulate objects, it is hand-waved as a magical property imposed on an otherwise fundamentally technological device. Interestingly enough, lightsabers are NOT inherently Force-imbued, although they do require a Force-wielder to use them to deflect laser bolts, and Force abilities are required for and, in some ineffable way, personalize the saber-construction process.
    • Not entirely true that only a Force user can make a lightsaber. A Star Wars d20 sourcebook mentions a "fake lightsaber" that was constructed by a technician (presumably no Jedi, based on context) as an experiment. It was stolen and used by a villain to portray himself as a Jedi, but it doesn't work as well as a real lightsaber.
  • In The Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelazny, technology in Amber is under a different set of rules than the "normal" universe. At first it is implied that gunpowder will not work there, but in later stories, a substance from a magic-based universe is discovered to combust well enough to act as gunpowder. Likewise, the Magitek Ghostwheel can only function in the one particular universe it was built in, where magic and science balance equally.
  • In Brian Daley's novel A Tapestry of Magics, it is mentioned that technology tends to be unreliable the closer one gets to the "Singularity" (the center of the multiverse).
  • The Apprentice Adept series by Piers Anthony is based around this concept — each "world" has its own laws of physics and either only magic or only technology can function in each.
    • Notable in that the main power source for the science frame, "protonite", becomes the magic-producing metal "phazite" when taken across worlds. Regular tech works, but the super sci-fi tech's overreliance on protonite makes it fail horribly.
    • In his Virtual Mode series, a sci-fi galaxy-owning dictator decides to begin conquering realities, because technology works everywhere, whereas magic doesn't naturally flow into many realities.
  • Fred Saberhagen's Empire of the East. Most high technology ceased functioning because the very laws of physics had been changed by a powerful supercomputer in order to prevent a nuclear war from destroying humanity, which in turn made magic possible, and indeed prevalent. By the end of the trilogy, some balance had been restored, and magic and technology could more easily function side-by-side.
  • In the sequel to John Dies at the End, the man in black implies there is a perfectly logical scientific explanation for him seeming to appear out of thin air. "It's not magic." However, when they ask about the invisible chair he is sitting on, he says that that actually is magic.
  • Gregory Maguire's Wicked has the following explanation:
    Miss Greyling: Science, my dears, is the systematic dissection of nature, to reduce it to working parts that more or less obey universal laws. Sorcery moves in the opposite direction. It doesn't rend, it repairs. It is synthesis rather than analysis. It builds anew rather than revealing the old. In the hands of someone truly skilled, it is Art. One might in fact call it the Superior, or the Finest, Art. It bypasses the Fine Arts of painting and drama and recitation. It doesn't pose or represent the world. It becomes. A very noble calling.
  • In the Hell's Gate series by David Weber and Linda Evans, this is taken to a more literal extreme than most - it's about a war between two rival civilizations, one of which has a 19th century tech base and a bit of psionics, the other of which is at largely the same functional level, but whose "technology" is entirely magic-based.
  • In the MYTH Inc. series by Robert Lynn Asprin, Perv, homeworld of the Pervects (Perverts, to people who don't like them), is influenced by both Magic AND Science.
  • The inverse holds in many of Poul Anderson's stories. It is technology, (specifically magnetic fields) that makes magic stop working.
  • In the Kate Daniels novels, magic and technology go up and down like two ends of a see-saw. When the technology is up, spells won't cast, and when the magic is up, guns won't fire.
  • Open Sesame, by Tom Holt, has some bizarre hybrid of several versions in the main plot and/or backstory. Magic and science exist in two different worlds—Real Life and Fantasyland—but that's mainly because science and reason have apparently been rooting out the fantasy problems for two millennia of brutal struggles, and using a wish from the Fairy Godfather functions much like smuggling a rabid dog across the English Channel.
  • The Bordertown Shared World (started by Terri Windling) runs entirely on this trope. Bordertown is the town where Faerie landed when it returned to earth, and magic and science both work more or less half the time there. This is assumed to be a product of the laws of nature in each world - Faerie is a place where magic works, earth is a place where Science! works and Bordertown is half-and-half each way.
  • In the Coldfire Trilogy of C.S. Friedman, magic and technology exist side-by-side. The catch: the setting contains a form of Wild Magic that turns everyone into a Reality Warper. If a single person near a combustion engine has the slightest bit of subconscious fear that it will explode, it will explode — probably in the most disastrous way possible. As a result, most people can't use even the most minor technology unless they methodically work through a checklist to verify its trustworthiness ahead of time (and even then it's a risk to be avoided if possible). When the characters meet someone wearing a prominently displayed handgun, they know they are either (a) bluffing, (b) a fool, or (c) a seriously powerful wizard.
  • In The Edge, magic works in the Weird, technology works in the Broken (our world), and they both have limited efficiency in the Edge, where the Weird and the Broken overlap.
  • The Lord Darcy novels have an interesting variation. Firstly, magic is science; it's firmly understood and grounded in the laws of the universe (well, the laws of that universe). More subtle, though, is that science is magic, or at least is seen by magic users the same way as our scientists see magic - for example a Healer derides a "wise woman" prescribing foxglove tea (i.e. digitalis) for heart problems, because it doesn't fit the Laws of Similarity and Contagion.
  • In the Discworld, technology and science usually is based on magic. The Discworld version of a camera or a digital organiser is just a specific kind of Imp living in a little box. The Unseen University has a whole group of the magical equivalent of 80s computer nerds, inventing Artificial Intelligence using a collection of enchanted stuff, like a sheep skull and a teddy bear that mysteriously appeared one Hogswatch-night.
    • On the other hand, Mad Science also works, even though normal science wouldn't. The Discworld itself runs on plot and cliche, you see, so electricity usually doesn't do anything useful unless you get it from a lightning storm.
  • The Sword of Shannara revolves around this trope. Various groups of people see either science or magic as the cause of the downfall of society. They then fight and destroy each other.
  • In The Night's Dawn Trilogy, the possessors have reality warping abilities summarily called the 'reality dysfunction', which form a de facto magic, if only because human scientists have not the slightest hint of how it works. Coming near to a possessor, or a possessor deliberately extending the reach of his or her powers causes electronics to fail. This is actually very inconvenient for them, as it makes travel in spaceships very difficult, and because it can be used to systematically detect them on planets with sufficient infrastructure.
  • Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London series takes the Magic is EMP route burning out anything electronic. Notably this does include human brains, just electronic devices are more sensitive and burn out before your brain does. DC Grant goes through several cell phones before learning to take the battery out before performing magic to prevent them blowing up. He even deduces why: the fields produce a rudimentary form of life force, but unlike living things, where you need to sacrifice the creature to get at it, the rudimentary form means they can't hang onto it.
  • In Adrian Tchaikovsky's Shadows of the Apt series the magically focused Inapt races can't even use a key in a lock or fire a crossbow while the technologically adept Apt races are incapable of perceiving magic. They can perceive it's effects but insist that it's all just trickery. Also some of the Apt races, particularly the Beetle and Ant-kinden were enslaved by some of the Inapt, namely the Moths who now hate the races who overthrew them.
  • Artemis Fowl looks like a regular case of Magical Fairies vs. Technological Humans; it turns out, though, that the fairies also have technology, and it's far more advanced than ours. They have magic, but it's mainly used for things that are too hard to engineer or improve on, like healing. Magic interacts with technology sometimes, but no explanation of why magic works is ever given or asked for, possibly because of its religion-like source.
  • Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregillis features an alternate World War II where the Nazis have science-made psychics while the British have demon-summoning warlocks.
  • Kim Newman's short story "Swellhead'' features Richard Jeperson, a psychic investigator (magic), and Adam Onions, a government think-tank scientist who investigates the paranormal (science), who have a long-standing enmity and a history of quarrelling about this very subject. The story presents Jeperson as more in the right, although crucially, he's not anti-science; he just opposes Onions' blinkered, self-serving and close-minded form of science.
  • Mike Resnicks's "Buntline Special" has Ned Buntline and Thomas Edison hired by the US government to circumvent the Native American magic that has prevented them from expanding west.
  • In Smoke and Shadows, Arra comes from an Alternate Universe where magic has been developed further than technology, and science is treated as an extension of magic. Magic is likewise studied and applied in a rationalist manner. Interestingly, based on the spell book she stored on her Magical Computer, her people did not know very much about demonology or necromancy, the two most widely-used forms of magic on the Earth in which the Blood Books and Smoke and Shadows take place, a world where most people do not believe in the supernatural.
  • In The Amtrack Wars series it's actually Mutant Psychic Powers vs Science but since it's called magic by both sides, close enough.
  • While not technically magic, Faster-Than-Light Travel in The Road Not Taken basically smashes all known laws of nature. Species that stumble upon it just give up and and cease all scientific progress.
  • The science fiction novel The Gray and the Green, centres around the survivors of two enemy alien races (actually from the distant past), called the Grays and the Greens, who fled the destruction of their homeworld and ended up in New York in the Nineteen-Twenties, each assuming that the others had been killed in the apocalypse only to learn in the present day that their enemies had survived. The Grays are mater engineers with high-tech gadgets, whereas the Greens have incredible superpowers, such as the ability to summon huge earthquakes.
  • In The Mortal Instruments , the extensive wards that conceal and protect Idris also appear to interfere with technology. Hence the Shadowhunters do not use things like automobiles to get around within the country, even though those that live elsewhere are quite familiar with them. Witchlight is used to provide things like illumination that would normally be powered by electricity in other countries. Elaborate mechanical devices, possibly related to phonographs, are used to play music. There is no cellular coverage or internet access naturally. It is also noted that Runes interfere with the proper ignition of gunpowder, which is why Shadowhunters do not make use of firearms.
  • In H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos, "magic" and the supernatural are usually considered to be a form of hyperdimensional science that human minds are incapable of truly comprehending (and tends to make said minds go utterly bonkers if they practice it anyways). Of course, it can be considered something of a moot point considering that humans are as insignificant bugs (at best) to the more capable users of said sciences, who tend to be equally brain-breaking sufficiently advanced starfish aliens or eldritch abominations (or both). It's that kind of setting.

    Live Action TV 
  • In Star Trek most of the characters are generally adamant that everything is scientifically explainable, even when it's not. Which is interesting mostly because innumerable species in the Star Trek universe exhibit abilities that would be considered "paranormal" in the real world. Even the telepathic powers of Federation species such as Betazoids and Vulcans would fall under that category in real life, much less the often godlike powers possessed by very advanced races. Interestingly, there is little evidence on the show that humans at least are inclined to conduct serious scientific investigation of any such powers that are not obviously derived from a technological source, and they are simply dismissed as inexplicable, but not "magical".
    • Picard firmly rejects the notion that Q is a "god", even though Q is capable of literally any feat traditionally performed by gods (including raising the dead and creating entire worlds) and despite the fact that his powers are wholly inexplicable to human science.
    • In the TNG episode "Who Watches the Watchers" Picard also cites abandonment of belief in the supernatural as a critical milestone in any race's evolution.
      • Yet, his Klingon security officer believes in the Klingon religion. (There were Gods but the first two Klingons killed them and now they rule the afterlife.) Picard himself is made a major figure in the heavily ritualised Klingon Government with the right to choose the successor to the Emperor, a position which is clearly stated to be a stand-in for the soon-to-return Klingon Messiah, Kahless!
      • Vulcans also appear to have a religion rather similar to Buddhism and/or Taoism, complete with temples where they go to pray. In the VOY episode "Hunters" Tuvok receives a communication from his wife that their family has been to the Temple of Amonak to ask the priests to pray for his safe return.
      • Lwaxana Troi, speaking from the Betazoid point of view, has a semi-spiritualist philosophy that all thought in the universe is interconnected (a not unreasonable viewpoint for a powerful telepath), and that two soulmates could potentially connect psychically without ever having met, being from the same species or even being telepathic themselves.
    • This is from Gene Roddenberry's insistence. He was firmly atheistic, and hamfisted this view into characters from time to time. When it became clear that the view of everything being scientifically explainable and understandable by humans, despite the limits of human understanding being clearly shown (super beings like Q are as mentally advanced above humans as humans are above amoeba), it unintentionally deconstructed the trope, even parodied it. It was obvious there were things beyond human scientific knowledge, and perhaps the knowledge of any physical being, so the refusal to accept the supernatural as even possible wasn't out of enlightenment, but stubbornness, ego, and ignorance. Fortunately, this improved later on in the franchise's life, where people do express faith in what they cannot scientifically explain, or be skeptical without being dickish about it.
      • It improves so much that one of the main plotlines of Deep Space Nine was that the highest-ranking Starfleet Officer (of the regular cast) was The Chosen One of a prophesy. He must become deeply involved in the local religion, especially since he actually does talk to their Gods and literally fights a number of times against people possessed by that religion's equivalent of the devil. He does all this while remaining a science-loving Starfleet Officer. Right up until he discovers that he is a Demi-God and asks if he can take a Sabbatical to teach his people, who are Gods, what linear time is like!
      • Although in this case, unlike with Q, the "Gods" are just unusual beings that are beyond humanity, rather than all-powerful.
    • The Star Trek universe has an extraordinarily large population of Sufficiently Advanced Aliens, many of which are entirely non-biological Energy Beings. Powers range from ridiculously advanced technology, off-the-charts Psychic Powers, control over matter and energy or full-on omnipotence. While some of this skirts the edge of human comprehension, much of it is simply too far beyond anything humans recognize as "science" or "technology". The only rationale for not calling it "magic" is that in traditional mythology humans could wield magic, whereas here it seems to be the province of highly advanced beings. Just don't call them "gods" in polite company.
    • The issue is called out rather explicitly in the TNG episode "Where No One Has Gone Before". Due to the abilities of an alien ("The Traveler") the Enterprise has been transported to a place where thoughts become reality.
      The Traveler: You do understand, don't you that thought is the basis of all reality? The energy of thought, to put it in your terms, is very powerful.
      Kosinski: That's not an explanation.
      The Traveler: I have the ability to act like a lens which focuses thought.
      Kosinski: That's just so much nonsense. You're asking us to believe in magic.
      The Traveler: Well yes, this could seem like magic to you.
      • Kosinski's relationship with the Traveler is particularly interesting, because in many real world magical traditions people supposedly worked magic by calling upon the assistance of supernatural beings (angels, demons, familiars, spirits, gods, etc.) who in turn provided the means to achieve greater feats of magic. Kosinski, a warp drive engineer, has been performing seemingly inexplicable improvements to starships with his "assistant" the Traveler by essentially having his thoughts and desire to improve the engines amplified by the alien. In this regard, he is not so very different from a magician working with a supernatural entity to perform "magic", whether he consciously accepts that fact or not.
    • The general underlying attitude in Star Trek does still seem to be "it's scientifically explainable, even if we can't explain it yet". Which actually is a reasonable stance for, well, scientists (including most Starfleet personnel, whose job tends to involve seeking out new worlds and figuring out what makes them tick after all) to take.
      • Except that the closest thing to a specialist in paranormal phenomena shown among any of the crews on any of the series is Deanna Troi, and mostly because she possesses psychic abilities rather than being a scientific specialist in the study of them.
  • In the Buffyverse, magic and the paranormal are a carefully-guarded secret. When the US government discovers the existence of demons and other monsters, they assume they're simply rare animals, mutants, or products of The Virus, and so start experimenting with them in order to turn them into weapons. In the fourth season, they soon learn they can't control it, when their prototype human/undead/demon/cyborg manipulates them into doing as he wants. This comes to a head when Buffy, herself temporarily fused with Willow's magic prowess, Giles's knowledge, and Xander's spirit, beat the ever-living shit out of the combo-demon after a season of it handing her ass to her. In his commentaries, Joss Whedon notes that it came down to magic versus science, and in a situation like that, "magic would kick science's ass". This idea did get a bit broken by the Word of God that people who do impossible things with science on the Hellmouth (such as create a demonic Frankensteinian nuclear powered cyborg) are actually using magic without knowing it.
    • Cue season 8 , where The US Government has a plan to ELIMINATE magic for good..., but it seems they overlooked something.
    • Another point in science's favor is that modern weaponry is pretty useful against most demons. Buffy once took out a demon that was immune to any weapon forged by man with a rocket launcher (Turns out that "forged by man" only applied to medieval times. Obviously, humanity's advanced a bit since the last time that particular demon was around).
  • Used frequently in Power Rangers, with the twist that neither side is pure "good" or "evil", as there have been villains on both sides of the equation. Usually the villains are pure technology or pure magic, whereas the Rangers are more of a mix, albeit usually a mix leaning to the side the villains aren't on.
    • For a more in-depth look into this theme, The "History of Power Rangers" video series by Linkara explores magic vs. science in every Power Rangers series.
  • Done a bit in the Doctor Who episode "The Shakespeare Code". The Doctor explains that while humans took to numbers and science, the Carrionites took to words and magic. Interestingly, it seems as though this is not a phenomenon unique to the Carrionites, as it seems that nearly anyone can use the system.
  • The Made-for-TV Movie Paradox (based on a comic of the same name) was set in a parallel universe where magic was the basis of technology, and science was seen as superstition. The main character, a Cowboy Cop who distrusted magical evidence, was derided by other cops with lines like "What do you want to do, dust for fingerprints?" His Love Interest was a Granola Girl who advertised herself as a "Professional Pragmatist", and was able to identify a nonmagical explosive (gunpowder) and a nonmagical narcotic (cocaine) as being based on the ancient scientific beliefs of the Chinese and Incas. They also visited the science-based world, and Winston Churchill (who's a powerful wizard in this world) speculated that the reason it never developed magic was that it contained more iron.
    "Magic has limits. Science has limits. But when magic couldn't cure cancer or get us further than the Moon, we gave up. Science never gives up."
  • In Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World, Professor George Edward Challenger is constantly skeptical of any supernatural activity and insists that everything can be explained with science. While he's right sometimes, The Lost World has several genuine sorcerers, cursed items, etc. Later in the series, he believes magic is real, but is still displeased whenever it shows up.
  • Lampshaded in Once Upon a Time, when Mad Scientist Dr. Frankenstein is brought to the world of Fairy Tales. Victor is less than impressed when Rumplestiltskin challenges him to a bet over whether magic is more powerful than science.
    • Gets bumped up a notch in the latter half of the second season when two outsiders arrive in Storybrooke with the explicit plan to destroy magic, using science.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons
    • Eberron is a magic meets industrial revolution setting, with standard heroes and monsters in a world with magic trains and hover-ships. However it points out that since magic needs wizards and the like and can't be mass produced, a lot of magic items are quite expensive. There are "working class" spellcasters such as Magewrights who apply magic to everyday trades, and even a spell called "Magecraft" whose sole purpose is to improve the quality of mundane goods during their manufacture. House Cannith has also managed to develop magic-powered mass-production of many products. Hence the standardized price for something like a sword anywhere in Khorvaire, since most of them came out of a Cannith factory.
    • In module EX2 The Land Beyond The Magic Mirror the PC's could find a "den of technology" filled with scientific items. If a PC took any of them, each one would eventually destroy a magic item the PC was carrying.
    • In the world of Greyhawk, black powder simply doesn't work, meaning that firearms literally can't be invented. There is a minor demigod named Murlynd who visited The Wild West and later became the patron deity of technology; he owns the only working gun in the world. Later on, his followers gain the ability to build and use guns as well, likely thanks to their faith in their divine patron.
    • In the Ravenloft, the Technology Levels of the various domains tends to shape attitudes about magic. As a rule, the more technologically advanced a given domain is, the less seriously people take magic. Even though they live in a blatantly supernatural Pocket Dimension and magic is for the most part consistently powerful regardless of which domain you are in.
  • In the Old World of Darkness, magic is ubiquitous, however it is only when the rigors of science are applied that it produces truly amazing results. Naturally, the clan of vampires who do this (Tremere) are feared and hated by all other clans for their sciencey-magic. Well, that and the fact that they're jerks.
    • The best application was using the Human Genome Project as a True Name of humanity. You might think that something as reckless as that would turn out to be a terrible mistake and cause them a whole lot of trouble in the future. It eventually did...the same year as the whole world ended anyway.
  • In Mage: The Ascension, the Technocracy (representing science and technology) was in a war with the Traditions (representing standard magic) over the nature of reality. It also subverts the trope somewhat, seeing as scientific laws only work because the Technocracy long ago convinced the majority of people to believe in them, due to the consensual nature of reality in the WOD (i.e. reality is what the majority of people believe it is).
    • So science is just another form of magic, with a vast, well-armed conspiracy to ensure that people disbelieve in anything else. That disbelief makes it difficult and dangerous to use magic, especially in public. Based on Post Modernist ideas, the writers had intended players to believe that it wasn't just the Technocracy that was wrong, it was the scientific method itself.
    • The Technocracy originally formed when a group of wizards decided to create a form of magic that was egalitarian and available to all, reduced the power of evil monsters, and was safer for ordinary people. Some players think they eventually lost track of this fact somewhere along the way, and others consider them to be an Anti-Villain. Written as sympathetic villains, even the writers have struggled with this one, and had to resort to Kick the Dog policies to dodge the argument.
    • Other Old World of Darkness games picked up the same themes. Werewolf: The Apocalypse had the Weaver, a cosmic force representing technological process and scientific reasoning... as well as stasis, which was a problem, because she'd gone bitch crazy several millennia ago and was trying to wrap the entire world up in her webs, killing stray thought in the process (the Glass Walkers were the only ones who gave her the time of day any more). Changeling: the Dreaming, like with several of its themes, was split on this one: science was taken as a means of "trying to wrap everything up in safe terms" in some cases, which could made it a force of Banality... but the nockers were quick to remind everyone that the greatest flow of Glamour in recent history was triggered by the moon landing.
  • The New World of Darkness has an interesting variation in the backstory to Mage: The Awakening, with the so-called "Nameless War". The war was fought between the Diamond Orders (who believed in a system whereby all magical knowledge should be based on ancient Atlantean traditions) and the loosely organised and nameless (names having power and all) revolutionaries who believed that the greatest source of magical knowledge was through any system which had strong meaning to the majority of humanity, which was primarily science. When the Seers of the Throne offered to join forces with the Nameless and create a system of oppressive technocracy, the Nameless rejected violently (since their beliefs champion freedom of thought), became the Free Council, and joined the Diamond Orders. While there is tension between the traditional Orders and the Free Council, they stay together out of a belief that "Magic Vs Science" is trumped by "Liberty Vs Control".
  • In Shadowrun, Cyberware / Bioware / Genetech damage the body's 'wholesomeness' (called essence) and therefore its ability to use magic. Too much of it and a person will die, unless magic is used to turn him/her into a Cyber Zombie (read: Cyborg). Technology and magic are however mostly separate, and except for the intrusive implants, do not impede one another. A mage can still use computers and guns fine. At the same time, more technologically complex objects are harder to cast magic upon.
    • The latest edition of the Star Wars RPG imposes a similar penalty: every time a PC installs a cybernetic component onto his/her body, the character takes a penalty to Using the Force — although dismemberment does nothing.
  • Rifts both plays this straight and subverts it, you will be killed on sight if you use magic in many areas, but some of the mages create "Techno-Wizard" items where a semi-technological device is imbued with magic. In fact, several of the setting's more advanced/powerful societies (the Splugorth, most of the power-players of the Three Galaxies, and interestingly enough most advanced primarily magic-using nations) use a combination of magic, Magitek and tech with little to no apprehension; it seems that in the Palladium Megaverse, extremism one way or the other is the wrong answer - pro-tech, anti-magic nations tend to be speciesist, militant totalitarian regimes, while pro-magic, anti-tech nations tend to be literal demonic hell-holes.
  • The Warhammer 40,000 Universe is very dependent on this one. The battle against the Warp and Chaos (which is for all intents and purposes the "magic" of the setting) is one of the most central plot points. Faith is also used, but ridiculously large caliber guns and energy weapons also help.
    • Of course Chaos can and does corrupt technology by stuffing demons into it. There's all sorts of scientists fallen to Chaos too, since new ideas generally open someone up to the influence of the Warp - and who wouldn't be slightly curious to see how it all works? The most known faction of those is the Dark Mechanicus, who use forbidden technologies like AIs and bio-tech to make very powerful weapons.
    • The idea also comes to light when one considers the Tau, who stick entirely to technology and do their best to ignore the presence of sorcery and faith as active forces in the galaxy. The result, among other things, is that their ships move at a snail's pace compared to everyone else's, since powerful sorcery is necessary to travel the Warp.
      • On the other hand, the Necrons also eschew the Warp, and in fact have troops specifically to shut down psykers, but their technology is ridiculously advanced to match - they're the only faction in the setting with reliable FTL travel that doesn't involve the Warp or the Webway...
      • Retconned in the most recent Necron Codex, the Necrons no longer have FTL. They get around this by owning the Dolmen Gates, webway gates that were opened by a fire-using C'Tan god named Nyadra'Zatha during the War against the Old Ones. This lets them transport in slower than light ships to many points in the galaxy. Without these Dolmen Gates (page 8), they'd be stuck even harder than the Tau.
  • Delightfully twisted in Genius The Transgression: the Peerage treat Inspiration almost like a form of magic. Lemuria is utterly convinced it's a rational science. It's not. Accepting that Inspiration isn't a science and that a Genius doesn't know great scientific truths the unwashed masses are too stupid to see is the first step to preventing yourself from performing horrific experiments so the Peerage comes off ahead here. Despite all this the Peers would love to turn Inspiration into a science but that project is going nowhere (which might be because mad scientists are useless at actual research). The actual Magic vs Science: Sane science vs mad science puts sane science ahead on just about everything except raw power and ease of invention.
  • DC Heroes RPG. There is a strange conflict between magic and science that goes back thousands of years.
    • In places where science is strong (e.g. a scientific laboratory), magic is slightly weaker, and vice versa.
    • Anyone trying to construct a technological Gadget in an Occult Workshop (or an Occult Artifact in Gadget laboratory) took a large penalty to their chance of success.

    Videogames 
  • In The Longest Journey adventure game series, magic and science are actually complimentary forces of the universe, but because the humanity couldn't handle them both at once, Earth was divided into two parallel worlds to keep magic and science separated. Mixing them usually brings about some weird results, suggesting that they were separated for a reason...
  • Arcanum is an exceptionally well thought-out example: "Magick" is actually Reality Warping, and the more complex a given device is, the more likely having the laws of physics bent in its presence will break it. Result: most mages can only ride trains if they stay in the caboose for the safety of both mage and machine, and powerful mages have to learn to teleport or get used to walking. Likewise, attempting to use magic around a complex machine is a bit like sticking your hand in said machine; you'll break it if you're lucky, if not it'll shred you without missing a beat. Result; complex technology generates its own anti-magic field. Thus, spells are less effective against someone with a lot of high-tech gear, and becoming a technologist weakens your ability to use magic.
    • Because of this it turns out the plan of the Big Bad, an immensely powerful Mage, is to build a massively complicated machine that doesn't actually do anything but which will generate a strong enough field simply by operating that it will punch a hole in his extradimensional magic prison.
  • Silverfall has a rather annoying variant of the Karma Meter which unlocks abilities the farther out you are toward the extreme ends of the nature vs. technology scale. As a result, anything approaching rational behavior is punished, as you're given more options as a nature-lover by performing acts of terrorism on technologists, and as a technology-lover, by committing ultimately pointless acts of ecosystem devastation.
  • Mild example in Kingdom Hearts II. In one visit to Hollow Bastion Cid and Merlin are shown to be at odds, with their use of technology and magic (respectively) grating on each other's nerves, (their personalities also factor in quite a bit). Subverted in that while they annoy the crap out of each other, they end up successfully making a computer disc that combines Cid's programming and Merlin's magic into a powerful deletion program and power booster for TRON.
  • In Metroid Prime 3: Corruption the natives of Bryyo had an entire war over this. The war caused 96% of the planet to become uninhabitable and the survivors became barbarians.
    • Notably, the Chozo (who first introduced them to technology, and who themselves fell victim to similar problems in the past) warned them to seek a balance between the two, but they didn't listen.
  • Averted in World of Warcraft. An engineer who builds jet-propelled helicopters can just as easily be a mage who conjures fireballs out of the twisting nether. Steampunk siege engines and warlocks' curses co-exist and support each other on the battlefield. In a few snippets of NPC conversation, such as the wandering mage women in Stormwind trying to concoct a love potion, magic is a science.
  • Thoroughly averted in the later Wizardry games. Magic, psychic powers, and sci-fi technology all get along just fine, a dragon owns a starship, the final trilogy of the series takes place on three different planets, and several races are shown to wield magic, psionics, and advanced technology simultaneously with no problems. Oh, and there are robots (not Magitek) that can cast spells.
  • Both averted and played straight in Albion. Albionian Magic and Terran science are merely two aspects of the greater whole, that are in continuous conflict with each other. The only differences are that Terran technology uses energy from matter and is based on well definable principles, while magic energy from one's spirit, and is governed by more abstract and undefinable laws. That said, It's actually possible for someone to cast a spell using nuclear energy, and incidentally, the player's ultimate goal involves just this.
  • Total Annihilation: Kingdoms. The original game has as its backstory the fact that magic-using Precursors wrecked the world in a magical war, so magic is forbidden. Eventually a Mage Emperor arises, has four children and later disappears: two of his children heavily restrict magic in their kingdoms, the other two embrace it. The trope is played more straight in the sequel The Iron Plague, when a fifth kingdom—founded by the Emperor after he vanished—invades, rejecting magic utterly and using Steam Punk technology.
  • Mixing spells and technology in Magical Diary is hugely taboo. Doing it after being warned or even asking too many questions will get you expelled... and brainwiped to boot. We don't yet know what the reason is behind this.
    • Also, it's pointed out that studying how magic works and experimenting to improve your spells is science, and also perfectly acceptable. Just don't use the word science or the wizards get nervous.
  • Final Fantasy games sometimes invoke this trope. Villains often see themselves as championing one side or the other (or the combination in Magitek), but the good guys are usually willing to use both science and magic, with a healthy respect for both.
    • The one that likely embodies this most is Final Fantasy VII. The villians are the corporation Shinra, the Eldritch Abomination from the stars Jenovah and the Humanoid Abomination created by Shinra from Jenova's cells Sephiroth. Shinra embodies science and Jenova/Sephiroth are the magic and both abuse the lifestream in their quest for power. The heroes have the respect for both using both technology and materia to stop both sides.
    • The backstory of Final Fantasy X includes a massive war between a science and technology based super-power and one based on magic and summoning. The magic users "won" by turning their entire population into a power source for a weapon of mass destruction which wiped out 90% of the rest of the world and then stuck around to keep the world stagnant, undeveloped, and dependent on magic-users for hundreds if not thousands of years.
    • Final Fantasy X-2 takes this a step further by showing the "losing" side's own trump card, Vegnagun, a machina whose destructive power was never used because it could not distinguish friend from foe. One can only imagine would have happened if the two had ever met on the field of battle.
  • In the PC-98 era of Touhou, Gensokyo was firmly on the magic side of things, with occasional Mad Scientist / Gadgeteer Genius characters decried as heretics for their focus on science over magic. However, in the more recent Windows games, science seems to be more widely accepted in Gensokyo, primarily by virtue of the Gadgeteer Genius kappa like Nitori, and the efforts of Physical Goddess Kanako Yasaka to bring about an Industrial Revolution. The games are still primarily Magical Girl Shoot Em Ups in fantasy Japan, but there's now some Schizo Tech thrown in. There's also Patchouli, a magician who considers magic and science to be the same.
  • The Red Law vs White Law boils down to this in Duel Savior Destiny. Red is magic and emotions and White is science and causality. It's extremely difficult to reconcile the two or really grasp both at the same time due to the fundamentally different rules between them and this tends to lead to conflict. While the story follows the perspective of people firmly in the Red camp and White heads the army of monsters, they're actually both equally important to the way the world functions.
  • In Mortal Kombat this is the story arc of the Lin Kuei in a nutshell. The assassins battle between the cyborg ninjas newly created, and the old kind who do battle with their old supernatural abilities.
    • Strangely absent elsewhere though. Thunder god Raiden allies with both martial artists, shamans, police and cyborgs to defend Earthrealm. And while the major villians are ignorant of technology they don't pass down a hand in battle, even a cybernetic one.
  • In Marvel vs. Capcom 3, M.O.D.O.K. is adamant that his scientific devices will prevail over the magic powers of some of his adversaries.
    (To Iron Fist) Your chi can never compare to the powers of science!

    Visual Novels 
  • This Trope is the entire premise of Umineko no Naku Koro ni. It's less actual science and more of logic, though, since both the protagonist and the reader are expected to solve the crimes from a logical perspective instead of the fantasy scenes presented. As it goes on, however, the story becomes very meta and postmodern in its approach to what is reality.

    Web Comics 
  • In Gunnerkrigg Court, the conflict of worldviews is the reason for friction between the Court and the Wood. Etheric Science (that is, the science of magic) is one of the Court's major fields of research from the founding on, and the Court makes prominent use of Etheric technology: Robots that function with no visible drive systems, and magic spells by the elder Donlans which turn out to be computer programs. But some members of the Court are distrustful and disparaging of magic-users, while magical denizens of Gillitie Wood espouse the Ethereal Tenet (which, in the words of the author, boils down to "It just does, okay?") and take umbrage at man's attempt to learn more about the world.
  • In The Dreamland Chronicles, this is personified in the arguments between Daniel, the protagonist's optimistic and open-minded brother, and Nicole, a "by-the-books" scientist. While she's not nearly as bad a strawman as she could have been, her approach to SCIENCE! (including a rather un-scientific tendency to reject new ideas out of hand and reliance on machinery) mixed with her attitude towards anyone who might disagree with her on it makes it pretty clear whose side we're supposed to be on.
    • Although Daniel and Alex were doing a pretty good job for a while of sounding quite stupid whenever they tried to explain Daniel's theories.
  • In the Unicorn Jelly universe, it's a clear case of the "opposing ideologies" version; the Alchemist and Wiccan factions each have their own delineated areas of influence and (supposedly) agendas, and each is forbidden to dabble in the other's bailiwick. This state of affairs is the result of a Government Conspiracy involving the leaders of both groups to keep the rank and file of the nominally "scientific" Alchemists ignorant that their "research" is mostly pointless busywork and the nominally "mystical" Wiccans from realizing that their "magic" is really just varied applications of physics and chemistry.
  • Girl Genius subverted this in their version of Cinderella. The Fairy Godmother launches into a speech expecting the titular Mad Scientist to go along with the trope, but "Cinderella" simply upgrades her magic wand and announces:
    Cinderella: "Any sufficiently analyzed magic is indistinguishable from science!"
    Fairy Godmother: What's with the quotation marks? Who said that?
    Cinderella: ME!
    • There's also alot of hints of magic, or at the least, very advanced science behind things such as the supposedly 'magic fountain' that powers castle Heterodyne and of course, the nature of the spark itself and how it apparently 'warps' the laws of physics long enough for sparks to get away with whatever it is they are building and whatever the Other actually is. After the Heterodyne castle arc it is possible Girl Genius could go in this direction. Or not.
    • There are also occasional hints of other types of magic that were superceded by the more scientifically oriented Sparks.
  • In Adventurers!, Ardam reminds that, at least in an RPG Mechanics Verse, "Technology and magic do not mix. Remember? Someone goes crazy or things explode."
  • Averted in El Goonish Shive. Magic uses a specific type of energy, and science has ways to make use of it like any other forms of energy. Tedd's TF Gun works like this. And now there's a Mad Scientist interested in other possibilities.
    • That said, there is a running gag of science teachers disapproving or even crying when something sufficiently magical happens, even when they can't see it. Never Tedd or anyone else in on the Masquerade, though.
  • In The Specialists, Ghostapo vs Stupid Jetpack Hitler as rival producers of ubermenschen.
  • A Doctor Strange parody in PvP claimed magic and science were opposing forces. Scratch Fury disagreed.

    Web Original 
  • The rarest truth about the Global Guardians PBEM Universe is that magic exists, and can be used for specific purposes by those capable of doing so. Its described as "the rarest truth" because most people, when they personally experience magic, will go to nearly any length to explain what just happened to them away in mundane, non-magical terms. Most human beings, especially those living in the so-called "First World" (the United States, England, France, Japan, and so on), simply aren't ready to accept the fact that magic is real.
    • There does exist a small percentage of people who have no sensitivity to magic and no ability to tap into its potential, but who nevertheless do not immediately try to willingly ignore the nature of what they are seeing. Interestingly, most of these people also belong to the metahuman community. An even smaller percentage of people are sensitive to the presence of magic, but unable to tap into it.
    • There are also those people who are not only sensitive to the presence of magic but are capable of tapping into it to create various and sundry effects at will. These people are called mystics, wizards, spell-casters, shaman, and the like. Most mystics derive their magical powers from three separate sources: the force of their own soul and personality, tapping the universe's ambient magical energy, and invoking entities or objects of power dwelling in mystical dimensions tangential to our own. While it is possible to accomplish a particular magical effect using any of the three sources of power, a skilled mystic will use the source of magic that least diminishes his overall energy level.
    • Practitioners of magic have existed on Earth for as long as there have been people, and as a result, a sort of "hidden culture" has sprung up among mystics. The culture isn't so formal as to have laws, but most mystics observe certain customs of courtesy when dealing with each other and with the general public.
  • In the Randomverse, Batman puts this trope to use in the second season of After Hours. He deduces that something magical is blocking Spider-Man's memories of his marriage and tells Joker to have Lance read his mind. Lance explodes from his systems overloading, as, according to Batman, "Science and magic usually don't mix."
  • In the Whateley Universe, there are mages who believe that deviser-level science is really a form of magic, and there are scientists who believe that magic is just unexplained but really scientific under the hood. There are badguys who use both, like Korrupt and the Necromancer.
    • Furthermore, it is implied that modern magic is treated very much like science in certain cases, in that there are well known laws (similarity being the one most cited) and spells can be built in a consistent manner.
    • Mages don't really seem to have gotten the hang of scientific collaboration, it seems each one is writing their own personalised spellbook; Even with a major bonus to the spell's effectiveness from synchronising with a mage's style that is still a seriously inefficient way to do things. Its also worth noting that for a mage with such a low reputation Korrupt's Magitek was shockingly powerful summoning squads of effective Elite Mooks in seconds repeatedly.
    • At the end of the day, the Whateleyverse may well be one of the "Magic is an ideology" cases. You have scientists who claim that magic is just 'psychic phenomena' (yeah, that explains everything right there in a proper scientific fashion, of course) and mages who in turn don't seem to be all that interested in working together with more open-minded scientists to figure out just what makes their spells tick...but in the end, canonical evidence seems to point towards the two being just two sides of the same coin.
  • In Atop the Fourth Wall, magic is preventing robots in another universe from total domination. Mechakara crossed over to Linkara's universe to get the power to finally win.
  • Parodied in Kickassia, with The Nostalgia Critic using electromagnetism on Dr. Insano. Insano says that's no match for science, and Critic reminds him electromagnetism is still science.
    Dr. Insano: Well I'm sciencier!
  • This becomes a major plot point for That Guy with the Glasses third anniversary special, Suburban Knights. In a kingdom long ago, the king was torn between who to grant his favor towards, the sorcerer Malachite or the alchemist Aeon. Aeon and Malachite dueled and when Aeon won, the king approved of his alchemy and related research, causing science to become the dominant force over the world while magic faded into obscurity. Malachite now sees his gauntlet and the enchanted gemstone on it to regain his full powers and bring down the world of technology.
  • In Death Battle, three fights were like this.
    • Ryu Hayabusa the magic ninja vs. Strider Hiryu the sci-fi ninja. Technology wins, partially because most of Ryu's weapons weren't plasma-proof.
    • Also Luke Skywalker vs. Harry Potter; the former fights with plasma blades and aural energy, the latter with wand blasts and magic curses. Because said plasma blades can deflect Harry's curses, technology wins this round as well. Subverted, however, in that Luke is a user of the force (which was also the main reason of his victory).
    • Downplayed in Link vs. Cloud Strife. While both combatants have magic in their arsenals, Link's also has several magic-enchanted objects and augments to boost his attacks, while Cloud relies more on technological feats such as genetic engineering and advanced swords. Thanks in part to the enchanted Golden Gauntlets and Hylian Shield being able to withstand anything Cloud can throw at him, magic wins in this battle.

    Western Animation 
  • In The Flight of Dragons, the hero discovers that he can negate magic by pointing out scientific flaws in it. The film is set in "the time between the waning age of enchantment and the dawning age of logic" and its major theme is whether magic and science can co-exist. The green wizard, Carolinus, says that a choice will be made between "a world of magic or a world of science". After being summoned across time and space by the good wizards, a board game designer from our own era confronts the evil wizard Ommadon and defeats him by chanting the names of various modern sciences. His success is bittersweet, as it resolves the choice in favour of science. The good wizards and their dragons and all other magical beings leave our world forever and withdraw into a separate "last Realm of Magic", marking the transition from one age to the next.
  • In The Venture Bros., Dr. Orpheus and Dr. Venture have arguments about this. Although, in a slight subversion, while Orpheus takes the usual "magic is a divine force of nature" stance, Venture actually argues that magic and science are the same damn thing (at least in the end).
    • Dr. Venture appears to be correct by Word of God. Interestingly, Dr. Venture has utilized at least two technologies that approximate necromancy, which Dr. Orpheus (himself a necromancer) is quick to dismiss as abominations. Granted, Dr. Orpheus' resurrections probably aren't as messy...
    • Rather cleverly, Dr. Orpheus magically senses a computer backup of Hank and Dean's brains as their VERY SOULS!!
  • In Justice League, Lex Luthor is highly prejudiced against the magic performed by characters such as Tala. When he decides to give it a chance in the episode "Alive!", he brings back Darkseid. Word of God states this is because he was sacrificing Tala's life to do it, and she made sure it was Darkseid who returned in revenge.
  • In "Johnny Storm And The Potion Of Fire," Reed Richards refuses to believe Diablo's magic is anything more that sufficiently advanced technology until he defeats Diablo and yells "HA! TAKE THAT MAGIC!" in Fantastic Four: World's Greatest Heroes.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender episode "The Fortuneteller", the group goes to see a fortune teller, and while Katara is a believer, Sokka spends much of the episode trying to convince people that magic is not real by using science and reason. One of the skeptics points to simple rain. "Can your science explain THAT?" "Yes, yes it CAN!"
    • In a wider perspective, magic versus science is also what determines how likely benders are to be born. The heavily spiritual Air Nomads were all benders, while the industrialized Fire Nation has the lowest ratio of any nation.
    • This is a major theme in the sequel The Legend of Korra with the Equalizers using Diesel Punk tech against Benders.
  • Ralph Bakshi's Wizards tells of a war between magic-armed Good fantasy races and tech-armed Evil mutants. It appears to be a straight rendition of this trope, together with a hefty dose of Science Is Bad, until the chief Good wizard shoots the Evil leader with a gun at the end: a subversion that lampshades the notion that only the morality of the people wielding them makes either science or magic Good or Evil.
  • This is a recurring theme in the trilogy of crossovers between The Fairly OddParents and The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron. Jimmy, despite seeing Cosmo, Wanda, Fairy World as a whole, and several magical feats preformed, still flat out refuses to believe magic has anything to do with it. In the comics published in Nickelodeon Magazine, he accepts magic, but argues with Timmy over which is the best.
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas has this, sort of. Note that Santa can (presumably) do magic, while Jack's way of going at Christmas is more scientific.
  • Kowalski of The Penguins of Madagascar struggles with this trope a lot. Although he generally does treat "science" as a religion, going so far as to frequently discuss his faith in it and becoming distraught if/when he feels that science has let him down. He openly scoffs at Private's imagination and belief in magic, Skipper's lack of faith in Science, and Julien's belief in "Sky Spirits." For an example of Kowalski's treatment of "science" as a religion, see "Otter Things Have Happened". For examples of Kowalski scoffing at other beliefs, see "Misfortune Cookie" and "Out Of The Groove".
  • Appears to be one of the ongoing themes of Thundercats 2011, particularly in regards to Mumm-Ra.
  • In Kim Possible, Wade pulls a Reverse Polarity on an out of control magical effect through good old science and technology.
  • Jackie Chan Adventures is filled with demons, Evil Sorcerers and all kinds of magic artifacts, but it also has Section 13 running around trying to fight them with advanced technology. Unfortunately for their leader Captain Augustus Black, the crotchety old man known only as Uncle is quite right in his insistence that "magic must defeat magic" throughout the series. Then again, as a powerful practitioner of the righteous counterpart to these dark arts, he aught to know. Plus it is always hilarious.
    • Plus most of the Bad Guys in Jackie Chan Adventures are IMMORTAL or are capable of just re-spawning. It's possible that say if you launch a nuclear bomb at the demon you will knock them down only for them to get back up, so it's more of a case of "magic beats magic FOR GOOD".
  • Crops up time to time in Gargoyles, considering it's a double-whammy of Fish Out of Temporal Water and a slow breaking of The Masquerade. It turns out, science and magic are actually quite effective against one another, leading to such things as robots, cyborgs, aliens and mutants duking it out with ghosts, monsters, and GODS. When not denying the obvious existence of magic in the face of things like humanoid monsters that turn to stone during the day, city-spanning mystical effects and the king of The Fair Folk walking through Manhattan while the size of a skyscraper, the people that actually stop and study magic find it to be rather scientific in its rules and regulations, if not in effects.
  • There are elements of this in The Dreamstone, given the Noops tend to rely on mystical spells and items for defense, whereas the Urpneys rely on gadgetry cooked up by their Mad Scientist Urpgor, but it's not really emphasized. Especially since Zordrak, ruler of the Urpneys, is a Sorcerous Overlord.
  • An Adventure Time episode centers around this. Scientist princess Bonnibel Bubblegum has to cure a cold for one of her citizens. Luckily, she has the antidote and just has to give it to him (the show takes place in The Future); unfortunutely, the citizen only takes "magic". Princess Bubblegum thinks the idea of magic is ridiculous (mainly because of its association with A Wizard Did It logic). When she makes fun of it, the citizen says she's not being respectful of his beliefs. Her disdain for magic is the basis for the episode. It should be noted her attitude is similar to Doctor Venture's, in that she doesn't think Magic has any supernatural connotation and goes so far as to call out the scientific principles being used by the wizards.
  • This appeared once in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, of all places. "Feeling Pinkie Keen" reveals the "Pinkie Sense", an ability Pinkie Pie has to predict impending events. Twilight Sparkle (The element of magic, go figure) refuses to believe this and even drags Pinkie to her Schizo Tech filled Mad Scientist Laboratory to try and disprove it.

    Real Life 
  • Science vs Pseudoscience. With there only being sufficient tools, evidence, and methodology to distinguish one from the other starting (in earnest) in the 19th century, the victory of the former is still appearing rather far off two centuries later (as every horoscope and an even cursory browsing of the very large number of pseudoscience websites show).
  • Science vs Post-Modernism
  • Science vs Philosophy
    • Which is ironic as the historical figures associated with founding the sciences were all philosophers.
  • Science vs Religion
    • Again, particularly ironic, since religion and science historically, and largely still do, had a positive relationship.
      • Although the distinction is obvious: one is based entirely on empirical evidence, the other demands the need of unproven dogma. Of course, several religions do promote an empirical worldview: you have to experience the divine before you can call yourself spiritual.
  • Science vs Science (in cases where a new theory is highly unpopular but can't be dismissed such as String Theory, and, humorously, the caustic friendship between physicists and mathematicians).
  • Averted very frequently historically. In fact, more often than not magic and science were "allies", since both were on the side of progress. Alchemy is the most obvious expression of this.
  • In Frazer's The Golden Bough the author claims that magic is more like science than religion because both assume a universe based on workable universal laws(in a magical universe the gods would effectively be unusually powerful fair folk, not deities as moderns would understand the concept and in some cosmologies, like the Egyptian, could actually be enslaved by a clever enough magician because they were bound to nature too). Under this idea, magic was just another kind of technology which did seem to work reasonably well; after all every spell designed to bring the death of one's enemy worked did it not? Religion on the other hand was the supplication of beings above nature. Though of course there was confusion. The difference was that a wizard would conduct a ceremony and assume that the spirit whose help he wanted must come to his aid. Whereas a priest would conduct a ceremony on the assumption that a given diety had demanded it.
    • Fraser also points out that magical traditions are usually perfectly logical-once their premise is accepted.


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alternative title(s): Science Vs Magic; Science Versus Science; Science Versus Magic; Magic Versus Technology
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