Have you noticed how atheists often like to refer to theistic accounts of various aspects of reality as “magic”? It’s an irritating practice, a juvenile case of poisoning the well. And it’s even more irritating when a professional philosopher like Stephen Law engages in the practice. Here’s the summary of my recent twitter exchange on the topic. (Note, I have linked the original tweet if you want to follow up on Twitter. If there are further tweets in the conversation I won’t be including them below.)
Randal: If I had a dollar for every “skeptic” who objected to the resurrection of Jesus by saying “Dead people don’t rise”, I’d have enough money for an Alaska cruise. I mean, don’t these folks understand the concept of a miracle?
Stephen Law: You see how this can be said, with similar effect, about belief in fairies tending our gardens, Santa delivering our presents, etc.? I mean, don’t these folk understand concept of a magical being? I know you say we shouldn’t compare belief in God/fairies but seems right here.
Randal: Your comment is a classic example of the poisoning the well fallacy. Atheist apologists like yourself use the word “magic” not to appeal to a concise, clear, technical term but to play to the peanut gallery. It’s simply juvenile.
Stephen: not at all. by magic i mean powers etc trascending and free of naturalistic constraints eg natural laws.
Randal: I see, so if a type IV civilization (Kardashev scale) used their technology to create our universe and subsequently interact within it, you think they use “magic”?
Stephen: From our perspective their power would seem magic but I’d say no as their powers don’t transcend the natural laws of theirs.
Randal: But if they would transcend *our* natural laws, so it’s “magic”, right?
Stephen: I didn’t say ‘our’.
Randal: I see, so “magic” only applies to concepts that transcend all universes and laws of nature, not just that in our universe. Like I said, poisoning the well. Say, do you also call Platonic exemplification “magic”?
Stephen: depends – I think that a nec condition of ‘magic’ is that it transcends naturalistic constraints. that leaves open whether Platonic heaven is magic as I don’t consider the condition sufficient…
Randal: If the universe (or a vast multiverse) just exists as a brute fact, that transcends naturalistic constraints. Very magical!