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  • Science vs. the World

    There was a fascinating discussion in the Crashing World Views thread which I think deserves its own thread - how Science and the World interact.

    Since I have some scientific training myself (PhD in Computational Materials Engineering), this topic is one of my pet peeves: The scientific method is a process of attaining knowledge that, in my view, is in no way incompatible with worlds where magic (or Fate) exists. Popular media frequently portrays some sort of opposition between "Science" and "Magic", but that is solely because magic has not been scientifically proven to exist in our world. In worlds and settings where magic obviously does exist - and the World is among those - science can be used to study them like any other topic.

    The trick, however, is to figure out how to do so safely. In the World, the supernatural tends to be strongly connected to Fate - and if you get too closely, you will become emeshed by Fate yourself. Thus, if you want to study a certain supernatural phenomenon, you can easily become part of the phenomenon. Hence all the old folk tale admonishments not to meddle in the affairs of wizards et. al.. And once you do become involved in matters of Fate, you will likely no longer be the neutral observer that science usually demands.

    Thus, mythologists and folklorists will likely study supernatural phenomena through second hand reports, with all the resultant problems such as dealing with the cognitive biases of the observers. In the modern age, such studies will likely use powerful statistical tools that analyze the massive amounts of data generated by human behavior. Fate manifests itself as strange apparent "coincidences", and such coincidences will stand out as massive anomalous spikes in the data.

    Plausibly speaking, I'd say that science in the World have figured out that something like Fate exists and that its associated powers can have a drastic influence on the physical universe - quite possibly on a level comparable to that of the four fundamental forces of physics. However, unlike those four fundamental forces you cannot study Fate safely in a physics lab - instead, you have to infer in ways similar to how the social sciences or economics operate. For the sake of comparison, everyone has a rough idea what the "Free Market" looks like, but you can't really set one up in a lab environment for scientific study.

    Beyond cataloguing its many observed effects - which will probably be at least as complex as determining and analyzing socio-economic demographics (or, more to the point, dividing phenomena into the equivalent of the ATU index, folkloric and mythological science will also have the following policy advice for anyone who bothers to ask:

    "If you want to keep control of your own destiny, don't get involved in affairs of the supernatural."

    and have ample studies to prove it. How well that advice is heeded, varies - there have always been people or organizations greedy or desperate enough for power that they were willing to try anything to achive their goals. Sometimes this has resulted in new Scions or even new Gods. But often this has ended up with, as they say, hilarious results - and more fodder for a folklore PhD student's thesis somewhere...


    Well, these are my thoughts on the subject. What are yours?


    Sunken Castles, Evil Poodles is creating Public Domain translations of German folklore!

    A German Geek - my gaming blog!

  • #2
    You pointed a great subject that is vastly misunderstood in books and RPGs. As you said, Science is about studying to understand and predict the behaviour of the universe around you.

    Magic (or Fate, to be more closely related to Scion) is as difficult to deal as regular science on some areas of science. A few examples are in Quantum Mechanics, the act of measuring the particle/wave change the particle/wave, giving you a "wrong" result, a result that don't properly show the reality.

    On a more daily activities subject, imagine a manager that want to discover which of the employees is the most productive, but its impossible to evaluate without go there and see with your own eyes. Once the manager step in the office the employees actions change, and the results change as well.

    For magic it's a lot like that, whatever your definition of magic is.

    Let's use a more "scientific" magic system, like Ars Magica, the Magus move his arms this or that way, say this or that word and the effect is the spell. Behind that precise set of words and movements, there is a mindset that can only be achieved by understanding the methods and processes of magic (lets ignore the Gift to make it easier). If you are capable of isolate the mindset and replicate it you can use the scientific method on magic. We can't do that on our reality, first because no Magus want to cast spells while on a EMR, and second because... well... magic... how can I say... magic don't work like that...

    In Trinity Continuum the "magic" is studied by scientists, they could just name it magic, but as scientists they would not, so they call Quantum and Noetic forces, and say the Novas and Psiads can manipulate it to do their powers. They use the scientific method to understand the powers, and its science, but they required the collaboration of the Novas and Psions to do that.

    In Scion the scientists would have a big issue to measure the powers of the gods, fist because of how different they can be (same issue as scientists and Nova powers) and second because the act of measuring changes the result (fatebound at least the result, in the case).

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    • #3
      My feeling is that, by and large, people in the World won't attempt to study the affairs of the gods scientifically. Science gives us a model of how the universe works unless the gods are involved. At which point the gods are changing the proper functioning of how the world works, and attempting to figure out by what laws, if any, the gods function is an extremely dangerous exercise in futility.

      I can definitely see some Creator Scions taking an interest in using the scientific method to understand how their world works, but I think that mortal scientists who want to study the rules of the divine are incredibly rare and probably regarded as crackpots, both because "how do you study that?" and "why bother? We can't influence it anyway".

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      • #4
        There is no reason that the scientific method would not work on supernatural events - but the fact that such study can have a fate binding effect makes the gods look askance at it and such forces tend to actively resist empirical analysis in controlled experiments.

        Which is to say it’s something a PC can pursue but it’s not going to be easy, and it makes sense studies in-setting have been limited so far.
        Last edited by glamourweaver; 08-08-2019, 01:24 PM.


        Check out my expansion to the Realm of Brass and Shadow

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Mike McCall View Post
          My feeling is that, by and large, people in the World won't attempt to study the affairs of the gods scientifically. Science gives us a model of how the universe works unless the gods are involved. At which point the gods are changing the proper functioning of how the world works, and attempting to figure out by what laws, if any, the gods function is an extremely dangerous exercise in futility.

          I can definitely see some Creator Scions taking an interest in using the scientific method to understand how their world works, but I think that mortal scientists who want to study the rules of the divine are incredibly rare and probably regarded as crackpots, both because "how do you study that?" and "why bother? We can't influence it anyway".
          I am not sure that follows.

          I mean, let's take gravity. You can study it by letting a ball drop and describe it scientifically.

          Then you repeat that experiment in a public place - and sometimes a passersby catches the ball before it drops the ground.

          This does not mean you can no longer describe the event scientifically. It just means that now, instead of being primarily about gravity, it becomes a scientific study about how often and why people catch the ball. It is no longer a question of simple physics - instead it involves statistics (measuring how often this happens), psychology (what compels some people to catch the ball), human biology (eye-hand coordination that makes them capable of catching the ball), and so forth.

          It doesn't stop being science just because people are getting involved. And Gods are people, even if they are no longer really human.


          Sunken Castles, Evil Poodles is creating Public Domain translations of German folklore!

          A German Geek - my gaming blog!

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Jürgen Hubert View Post

            I am not sure that follows.

            I mean, let's take gravity. You can study it by letting a ball drop and describe it scientifically.

            Then you repeat that experiment in a public place - and sometimes a passersby catches the ball before it drops the ground.

            This does not mean you can no longer describe the event scientifically. It just means that now, instead of being primarily about gravity, it becomes a scientific study about how often and why people catch the ball. It is no longer a question of simple physics - instead it involves statistics (measuring how often this happens), psychology (what compels some people to catch the ball), human biology (eye-hand coordination that makes them capable of catching the ball), and so forth.

            It doesn't stop being science just because people are getting involved. And Gods are people, even if they are no longer really human.
            I'm not saying that it stops being science because people are involved. I'm saying that studying the sociology of North Korea is either frustratingly difficult (because how do you set up research in a totalitarian country you don't live in), stupefyingly dangerous (because either you find conclusions acceptable to the State or you get shot), or both.

            Looking back on my original post, I see the problem. I was making two points at once. 1) it's perfectly possible to exclude "act of God" from one's research and still study the world effectively, so studying the divine is not inherently necessary, and 2) see above.
            Last edited by Mike McCall; 08-08-2019, 01:46 PM.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by glamourweaver View Post
              There is no reason that the scientific method would not work on supernatural events - but the fact that such study can have a fate binding effect makes the gods look askance at it and such forces tend to actively resist empirical analysis in controlled experiments.
              That’s what I meant, you can deal scientifically with the gods, but as you depend strictly on their will, it turns a bit more complicated. Like the manager in the office, you must try to develop a way to get the result without affecting the experiment or accept your participation in it and try to reduce it to minimum.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Mike McCall View Post

                I'm not saying that it stops being science because people are involved. I'm saying that studying the sociology of North Korea is either frustratingly difficult (because how do you set up research in a totalitarian country you don't live in), stupefyingly dangerous (because either you find conclusions acceptable to the State or you get shot), or both.

                Looking back on my original post, I see the problem. I was making two points at once. 1) it's perfectly possible to exclude "act of God" from one's research and still study the world effectively, so studying the divine is not inherently necessary, and 2) see above.
                Actually you can study Sociology in North Korea, it’s just a different environment than you would have in US, and that what I believe is possible in the study of the Gods.

                The gods in the World are different from the god people believe here in our world, they are not in the hide, doing things indirectly, and all, they are literally launching lightning bolt and illuminating the sky, like people used to believe here. The gods will is everywhere, and so science is already prepared for the will of the gods, they just need to understand when the experiments are dealing or not with it, the same way scientists deal with air pressure, temperature variance or different cultural basis, you take a step back and find a way to keep the eyes of the gods away from your experiment.

                Another point you made, science is not known for setting bondaries to what can or cannot be studied, it’s more about ethics than other scientific knowledge, so the scientists for sure would try to study the gods workings.
                Last edited by Mateus Luz; 08-08-2019, 02:03 PM.

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                • #9
                  I mean, the Origin book says under the Science skill that "This is a means of gathering information through repeatable tests, thus can be applied to mystical stuff".

                  Like, there's probably studies in the World about what kinds of salts will form a barrier against evil spirits. Is it just sodium chloride? What about magnesium sulfate?


                  Disclaimer: I'll huff, grump, and defend my position, but if you're having fun I'll never say you're doing it wrong.

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                  • #10
                    I mean, it's not there are _rules_ or anything on how this stuff wor....

                    Well, not in the game world, at least.

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                    • #11
                      The study of gods and how to appease them or gain their favor has historically been a major occupation of several priesthoods. In the World, their work is likely more verifiable and useful.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by MorsRattus View Post
                        The study of gods and how to appease them or gain their favor has historically been a major occupation of several priesthoods. In the World, their work is likely more verifiable and useful.
                        Technically, theology is not a Science, because it don't use the scientific method, so the study of gods the way it is done in our world is covered by Occult or Academics. Science to study the gods would require experimenting.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Mateus Luz View Post

                          Technically, theology is not a Science, because it don't use the scientific method, so the study of gods the way it is done in our world is covered by Occult or Academics. Science to study the gods would require experimenting.
                          "Hi we're here on Mythbusters, and we're going to see what kind of alcoholic offerings Dionysus likes by performing the same ritual offering with different kind of alcohol of different years and brewing methods, see which one gets the best results!"


                          Disclaimer: I'll huff, grump, and defend my position, but if you're having fun I'll never say you're doing it wrong.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Kyman201 View Post

                            "Hi we're here on Mythbusters, and we're going to see what kind of alcoholic offerings Dionysus likes by performing the same ritual offering with different kind of alcohol of different years and brewing methods, see which one gets the best results!"
                            I hope you don't mind but now i'll definitely be using Mythbusters in a game someday.


                            Completed campaign: Scion 2nd Edition. Les Légendes Currently playing: Being a dad for a 2year old daughter anf a 1 year old son.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Maitrecorbo View Post

                              I hope you don't mind but now i'll definitely be using Mythbusters in a game someday.
                              The original Duo, not the younger trio. Adan and Jamie would make the Dionysus research explode somehow and would be behind a blaster wall...

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