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Science Destroys Magic

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So, we have a world. The world has magic in it. However, this world isn't a normal fantasy setting and is instead more or less the real world. Well, then what happens to magic or magical creatures? It turns out that they disappear, for better or worse.

It seems that magic and science simply don't go well together, so that as one grows stronger, the other fades. Thus, the further humanity progresses in either science or civilization, the weaker magic becomes. In some cases, magic may even die outright.

See Magic Versus Science for reasons for conflict between the two systems. May occur because magic draws its power from "belief", and belief is antithetical to knowledge note . Or it could be because scienfic dogma prevents you from recognising there are things science cannot explainnote .

This may be a factor in The Magic Goes Away. Compare Death of the Old Gods. Compare and contrast The Magic Versus Technology War, which involves more direct conflict. If magic appears to disappear, but is merely explained by advances in science, then it's Doing In the Wizard or Magic from Technology.

Contrast Magic Harms Technology, where magic interferes with technology, and Magic Must Defeat Magic, where magic trumps science and you need more magic to fight it.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Side material for Negima! Magister Negi Magi reveals that magic may be doomed. Magic is largely dependent upon a theory of the way the world works based on such things as the classic elements or fantasy creatures. However, as science progresses, it becomes more difficult to hold the proper mindset. It is implied that eventually magic will have been replaced completely by science. In the distant sequel UQ Holder!, magical apps have been developed to give most people the ability to use magic, albeit artificially. There are very few true magic users in this series compared to its predecessor.
  • In A Certain Magical Index, the power of magic and the various churches built around them have largely declined, leading to a balance of power that is roughly even between that of the Science and Magic sides. While science continues to grow, magic largely stays the same. Quite interesting when one considers magic came into existence as an attempt to replicate rare but naturally-occuring Psychic Powers in ordinary people, an alternative everyone could use. The balance started unraveling when science discovered how to create espers through artificial means (the Power Development Program shown in the series).
  • In Black Clover, this is discussed to describe the difference between the Heart Kingdom and Clover Kingdom's magics. The Heart Kingdom is a country rich in nature, using natural mana as runes to empower their spells of natural attributes, like flame, lightning, and plant. The Clover Kingdom, on the other hand, became more technological, developing eccentric magic attributes like chain, steel, and space in exchange for abandoning the protection of natural mana. In essence, science led to the creation of new magics at the cost of losing natural magic techniques.

    Comic Books 
  • In DC Comics, Doctor Thirteen is a paranormal investigator who goes around debunking magical phenomena as mundane activity. Since he's in the same verse as The Spectre and The Phantom Stranger, it didn't really make sense and was retconned into being that Doctor Thirteen's very presence makes magic stop working.
  • In her 2019 solo series, the Black Cat discovers that her scientifically granted probability alteration powers has Anti-Magic properties. This allows her to defeat Xander the Merciless, a villain who was specifically empowered to kill Doctor Strange.
  • In Sandman: The Dreaming Dream's latest absence is caused by a tech billionaire attempting to destroy all supernatural creatures born from the Dreaming by replacing him with an AI that causes people to stop believing.


    Films — Animated 
  • The central conflict in The Flight of Dragons is that science is displacing magic, since the former is based upon logic and reason whereas the latter comes from superstition and illusion; magic still works, but as long as someone can logically explain why it shouldn't, it becomes powerless. The villain Ommadon plans to embrace this by steering mankind's scientific curiosity towards destructive ends, while Carolinus, Solarius and Lo Tae Zhao would instead consolidate the remaining magic in the world into a sealed-away realm where its influence can still inspire mankind.
  • A downplayed version occurs in Onward. Science and Magic appear to happily co-exist in this world, it's just that due to the difficulty learning it, people stopped using magic as more convenient technology was invented to do the same things.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • This is more or less the premise of Ghostbusters. Ghosts are real, and so are evil gods from other dimensions, but the heroes save the day with the advanced technology they designed to detect and hunt the supernatural after years of scientific research. In later installments in the series, it's stated that the Ghostbusters' technology was so effective against the supernatural that their exploits are now regarded as a hoax, since nobody can remember a time when ghosts were real.

  • In Stardust, all the fantasy elements of our world largely left for another world. There are points of contact between the two worlds, but even those are both becoming rarer and the times when people cross between become rarer as well.
  • A lot of Victorian literature is constructed around this idea. Dracula stands out as a great example as the mysticism of Eastern Europe is trumped by the science and innovation of an industrialized England.
  • In Conan the Barbarian, according to the good sorcerer Pelias Conan's kingdom brought forth an age of logic and science which is slowly destroying the magic.
  • In Voyage of the Basset, the motto of the Basset is "Credendo vides", translated in-universe as "By believing, one sees." In other words, you have to ignore science and believe in the fantastic without evidence before you can see behind The Masquerade.
  • In Magic Kingdom of Landover, not believing in magic and believing in science kills off magic in The Verse; the "real" world has nearly no magic as a result.
  • This is implied to be the end goal of the maesters in A Song of Ice and Fire. There seems to be a conspiracy in the upper ranks that wants to destroy magic in favor of science. This is hardly a universal consensus, however, and officially they still have a field of study dedicated to "the higher mysteries." It seems to exist as much to discourage potential initiates by teaching them spells that don't work as any other reason, however.
  • The War of the Flowers invokes this. The Evil Overlord of the Faeries says that this is why life sucks in their world, but he may be lying.
  • Seems to work both ways in the Kate Daniels books: Technology destroys magic and magic causes technology to fail.
  • Ray Bradbury's short story On The Orient, North featured a ghost fleeing continental Europe to save himself from the scientific intellectuals that were "killing" him, aided by an English nurse.
    "Yes," said the ghastly passenger. "You are English and the English believe!"
    "True. Better than Americans, who doubt. French? Cynics! English is best. There is hardly an old London house that does not have its sad lady of mists crying before dawn."
  • Played with a bit in the Shannara series. In the back-story this trope was played very straight, with the rise of science and industry virtually eliminating magic and most fantasy races. However, after humanity nuked itself back to the stone age, magic rose to much greater prominence again.
  • In the first Artemis Fowl book, Julius Root complains how fairies are using less magic and relying more on technology instead. After the fifth book, Demon warlock N°1 is rediscovering old magical methods and developing new ones.
  • In the Land of Oz setting, the mundane world Dorothy hails from is occasionally called the "civilized" world, and it's stated that some enchanted items from Oz would cease to function there.
  • In The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O., magic works by manipulating quantum events, and suddenly stops working in 1851 because ubiquitous photography causes "wave function collapse".

    Tabletop Games 
  • Mage: The Ascension. This is what happened to Earth in the campaign setting. The Technocracy managed to impose its scientific, rational world view and thereby suppress the fantasy elements (e.g., magic and magical monsters) that were common before. But the truth is, Magic and Science are the same, laws of the universe brought to reality because the consensus believes so. Back then you may mix this and that into a cauldron and say the incantations to create a Healing Potion. Now you grow fungi and extract penicillin out of it.
    • Furthermore, the brute force done by the Technocracy means that the laws of reality are calcifying and they've basically caused people to grow numb on imagining, thus making their exotic super-science just as hard to believe as magic so Science is destroying Magic while destroying itself in the process.
      • Later sourcebooks changed this a bit, in an effort to not look anti-science. It isn't Science that destroys magic (or itself), but the dogmatism of the Technocracy. Magic, Faith, and Science are all perfectly capable of living together in harmony. So it's less Science Destroying Magic (and itself) and more Zealots Destroying Everything. The zealots in question just happen to be scientists.
  • Changeling: The Dreaming tends to assume science is Fae-smothering Banality, though the Nockers might disagree (indeed, the largest infusion of Glamour in recent history was the moon landing).
    • The 20th Anniversary edition gleefully abandons the concept. Discovering new aspects of the mundane world through science and marveling at new discoveries is considered a perfectly valid source of Glamour. Banality is described as a hampering force on science, since it stifles all creativity, including scientific curiosity and technological innovation. The Technocracy is still a Banality-spewing wasteland, but that stems from their obsessive need to categorize and quantify, and destroy or ignore anything that doesn't fit in their pre-conceived categories, rather than their link to science.
  • Genius: The Transgression: Exposing a Genius's Wonders to actual science (trying to find repeatable principles or general physical laws behind its functioning) will trigger Havoc, causing the Wonder to either break down or develop deleterious side effects.
  • In Magic: The Gathering, this was basically what Yawgmoth hoped. Phyrexian 'technology' seems to be Magitek, Mechanical Lifeforms or a combination of both, however, so this may not be a full example. Also, during The Thran, Yawgmoth "deconstructed" magic by diffracting light into its five mana components. It's quite complicated.
  • Warhammer 40,000: Variously used in the setting (while magic comes from the Warp, it's an observable scientific phenomenon), with an unintentional example in the form of the Tau, who have near-zero Warp presence and thus are not subject to psykers or being possessed by Chaos. They have a very scientific-based society, fielding highly advanced battlesuits and vehicles, but they have so little knowledge of the Warp they tend to dismiss stories of Chaos daemons as just another unpleasant alien to be exterminated for the Greater Good. It's widely believed that they sterilize at least part of the humans who join them, which would reduce the chances of psykers showing up (who are born maybe one in a million) to near-zero.
  • Ars Magica 3rd Edition introduces Reason as a rival metaphysical force to the Divine, Infernal, Magic, and Faerie Realms, so the concentrated Reason of a laboratory or dedicated scientist can weaken or outright negate spells. The illogic of such a phenomenon in a world where magic is demonstrably real, Religion Is Right, and many of the greatest scholarly traditions are run by magi caused this angle to be dropped in later editions.

    Video Games 
  • One late conversation in Arcanum mentions that the world goes through cycles of magic, uneasy balance, tech, uneasy balance, and so on, with the game taking place during the uneasy balance leading into an era of technology. There is a bit of Unreliable Narrator going on, as it turns out that what was thought to be the last time of magic was actually a time of uneasy balance, but there still appears to be some truth in it.
    • In a more literal sense, advanced technology weakens magic and vice-versa, because tech uses natural laws to do things, while magic breaks the laws of nature to do things.
  • Touhou Project. The main setting, Gensoukyou, has actually been set up to absorb things that would be destroyed from lack of belief. Curiously, this also works for science to an extent as well: forgotten machinery and devices, frequently long obsolete technology that is no longer of interest to the public ends up in Gensoukyou as debris. This may hold more for certain beings than for others. Deities are confirmed to be reliant on human worship and new characters appear due to outsiders' disbelief but Youkai are still able to cross the Border for a snack with the right preparations. Then there are the issues of the entire Lunar civilization (which admittedly could be in the same situation as Gensoukyou) and at least one character who can come and go at will.
  • The Extended Universe for King's Quest has this as part of the games' backstory. The magical creatures and beings that once lived on our world knew about the matter, so when we started becoming more scientific they voluntarily left to a new world before any weakening could occur.

    Visual Novels 
  • The explanation the fantasy side gives in Umineko: When They Cry for why they don't use magic openly is that humans have become resistant to it as they acquired an 'anti-magic toxin'. Thus, in large groups it becomes impossible to use magic on them. The mystery side argues, of course, that magic doesn't exist in the first place. It is largely ambiguous as to who is correct.
  • In Shikkoku no Sharnoth, as the light of civilization grew, the dark kingdom of the fantasy realm willingly left to make room for them, as they could not exist in it. The only one who stayed was the land's powerful king, who stayed inside his dark castle alone. By the end, Mary has dragged the king out and told him he can't stay trapped in the past, always fearing the future.
  • Nasuverse: In Fate/stay night, there is an expression: As technology moves towards the future, magecraft moves towards the past. As technology has advanced, the ability of magic users has only declined. Tsukihime originally introduced this idea with the fact that where magic was once powerful, it now has to hide from society at large or risk destruction. The reason behind this is that magic was prevalent during the Age of Gods, but as the gods decline, Humanity grows more powerful. In the same way that Humanity is replacing the gods as the dominant force on Earth, so too is Humanity's power (science) replacing the gods' power (magic). It's implied that, eventually, science may completely replace magic, at which point everything it was possible to do through magic will be possible through science. However, that point will probably be a very long time coming.

    Web Original 
  • The Administrator's note for the SCP Foundation has this as explaining why we don't have all these weird cults dedicated to SCP-level objects. Not that it seems to have worked...
  • In Suburban Knights, the premise is about the magical villain's intent to seek revenge on the science of the world bought about by the king who bested him in battle for the throne long ago, and destroy technology everywhere. The Channel Awesome crew can only look on in shocked disbelief when the villain takes a call on his smartphone, proving that he's a total hypocrite.

    Western Animation 
  • In The Flight of Dragons, the central premise is a sort of Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors in which magical creatures can't exist in a world where science dominates, and civilizations based on science are destroyed by fear and superstition. The hero kills a dragon by scientifically proving it can't exist.
  • In Love, Death & Robots, the episode "Good Hunting" starts out as a fantasy story about spirit-hunters and shapeshifting Fantastic Foxes. But then technology comes to the region, the son of the hunter goes to work for the railroad barons, and the last cub of the foxes becomes stuck in her human form and then a steampunk cyborg sex-slave as the magic fades.

    Real Life 
  • In Computer Science, a value that's used literally inside of a block of code instead of assigned to a variable first is referred to as a "Magic Number". These are considered harmful as it makes it very difficult to determine what the number represents, or if it's supposed to be used elsewhere in the program. Therefore, good programs should have as little "magic" as possible.