When we are young, we imagine dragons and elves, magic and wizards, heroes swooping down on flying carpets to save the day. As we grow, we long to see these things. We long to catch a glimpse of a dragon soaring over the mountains at sunset, to see with our own eyes the magic of the elves.
We are told that there is this thing called “science,” and science takes away magic. Science says there are no wizards, no elves, no magic carpet rides, no dragons spreading their wings in the last rays of the sun. And it hurts.
For many, the impulse is to reject this thing called “science,” this destroyer of dreams, so that we can live, if even only a little bit, in the world of magic and make-believe.
But for those who do not do this, for those who want to see the world for what it is, science offers us more than our imaginations. Instead of dragons and elves, instead of wizards and magic, we are offered a universe that is ancient and huge and strange beyond our dreams. We are offered a place where galaxies gigantic beyond our comprehension collide in ferocious cataclysms of creation and destruction, where strange objects that can never be seen tear holes through the fabric of space and time, where tiny things flit around and appear in two places at once. We are offered magnificent weirdness far stranger than the paltry ordinariness of wizards and dragons–for what are wizards but men with a litany of parlor tricks, and what are dragons but flying dinosaurs with matches?
Some who reject science still see, however vaguely, the faint glimmers of the wonder that it offers, and so they seek to appropriate its fancy words to fuel their imaginings of dragons and elves. “Quantum!” they cry. “Quantum thus-and-such, which means magic is real! We make the world just by looking at it; we are rightfully the kings of creation!”
And when told that their crude and fuzzy grasp of this hateful thing called “science,” this shatterer of dreams that comes in the light of day to steal their dragons away, says no such things, but actually something else, they react with derision, and scorn, and contempt. “Science,” they say, “is just opinion. It is religion, full of popes and magistrates who declare reality to be what they want, and not what I want.”
For them, I feel sad. In their desire to wrap themselves up in the imaginations of youth, they turn their backs on things far more fantastic than they can dream.
I love science. It does not steal magic away from us; it shows us magic far more awesome than we could ever otherwise know.