Magic vs facts

Ritual, magic, mystical powers–these things seem to comfort and guide people much easier than facts or science.

One of the short stories at the end of the glass bead game features a ‘rain maker’, a sort of shaman type figure who is in charge of when to plant crops, and is supposed to warn of impending storms and droughts, etc. One night, there is a meteor shower, and the village is freaking out, thinking that the world is at an end. The shaman notices that all the stars he’s familiar with are not moving, and determines that this must be something going on in the air between the earth and the stars, not something happening to the stars themselves. He tries at first to tell people this, to explain to them with facts and logic why they should not be afraid, but he can reach no one. When he starts chanting a ritual song, however, the village joins in with him, and unites as one in their chanting at the fiery sky.

This made me think. There is value in religion and ritual in uniting people to a cause. Facts and logic may work on certain types of people, but they often do not. People are not often calmed or spurred to action by statistics or data or proofs.

Perhaps scientists and economists and other figures working in logical and fact based professions should learn the language of ritual, magic, and religion. Maybe with this knowledge, they could find a way to state their warnings and advice in words that will actually sink in.


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