Magic Versus Science
aka: Science Vs Magic
Officer: This station is the ultimate power in the universe! I suggest we use it.
: Don't try to frighten us with your sorcerer's ways, Lord Vader. Your sad devotion to that ancient religion has not helped you conjure up the stolen data tapes, or given you clairvoyance enough to find the rebel's hidden fort- [the officer begins gasping for air and tugging at his collar]
: I find your lack of faith disturbing.
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(though it is often an art instead).
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.
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 either the Dimension's Natural Law or Not: 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
, 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
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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.
- 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.
- The 1980s toy tie in comic Rom Space Knight 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.
- The end of that story arc has Peter discussing this issue with a South American shaman, who answers that none of these possibilities are mutually exclusive. He says that a scientist would say that the sun rises in the morning because the Earth spins, while a mystic would say the sun rises because it is meant to, and they're both right.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. Another one is a mechanic in Knights of the Old Republic, who managed to construct a lightsaber even without the force. Also, at least one person managed to deflect blaster bolts even without the force.
- 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
- 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. Later on, they were given enough Character Development to make them much more reasonable, and even included rules for playing sympathetic "new blood" Technocrats hoping to reform the organization rather than break its control.
- 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".
- Incidentally, this history may be the cause of some interesting relationships with the fan expansion, Genius The Transgression. Geniuses generally have strained relationships with Mages, due to fundamentally different approaches and the mysterious nature of Inspiration, but the Free Council get along with the Scholastics, a genius Foundation. They often have to work together because occasionally a newly catalysed Genius is mistaken for a Mage, and vice-versa, and they have to perform swaps before bad things happen. Inversely, the abovementioned Seers of the Throne and the Genius' resident Ancient Conspiracy (or what's left of it), Lemuria, seem to be incapable of noticing each other. Nobody knows why.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Reinforced by Word of God. Ralph Bakshi mentions that the movie spoke against propaganda, fitting since the technology was old Nazi technology and the discovery of Nazi propaganda motivated the monsters into war.
- 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.
- Before defeating Crocker in the first special, Jimmy admits to not knowing if he believes in magic.
- 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.
- 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, contrary to arguments you might witness online.
- 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.