Religion and Science

Pagan views of science are quite complicated, in that scientists (or rather ‘sciencists’, those who see scientific empirical evidence as the only truth) are criticised by many Pagans for having a limited materialist, mechanistic picture of life, denying the reality of the spiritual and the magical. The sociologist Max Weber famously claimed that science and modernity ‘disenchanted’ the world as experienced in medieval times, whereas Paganism seeks to bring ‘re-enchantment’ and to put the magic and wonder back.

Science is sometimes blamed for setting up a dichotomy between humans and the rest of the natural world, and thus seeing nature as something to be used and exploited by humans rather than recognising our kinship with all living things, and indeed all matter. On the other hand, there are Pagans who are scientists. Scientific thinking shares with Paganism an emphasis on the physical world available to the senses, and valuing human experience as a source of authority. There can be a shared wonder at the amazing diversity of life on our planet, and the patterns revealed by physics and chemistry. Where scientists are not too positivist, and where Pagans interpret such things as deities and magic more metaphorically or psychologically, there can be much agreement. It is often claimed that more recent science such as quantum physics is starting to sound more like a Pagan worldview than earlier Newtonian physics, but one would probably have to have considerable in-depth knowledge of both to come to a verdict on this.

Some practitioners of magic may integrate metaphors from modern science, such as particle physics and quantum mechanics as a means to explain how magic works, and also to bridge the gap between mysticism and hard science.

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