Q. Difference between Science and Magic.

(CSE 2018)

Answer: Explaining the relationship of science and magic some anthropologists have presented functional theories. Of these the theories of Malinowski and Radcliffe Brown are worth mentioning.

Magic and Science: Relation between these phenomena is shown by Malinowski in terms of both the similarity and difference.


Science, as reflected in the primitive knowledge of tribals is related with the general experience of everyday life.  It is based on observation and reason over their interaction with nature.  Magic is, on the other hand, founded in particular experience of tense emotional states.  In these states not the observation of nature but of one’s own self is crucial. It is the drama of emotions upon the human organism.

The basis of science is the conviction in validity of experience, effort and reason.  But magic is based on the belief that one can still hope, one can still desire.  The corpus of rational knowledge is incorporated in a social setting and certain type of activities, which are clearly separable from the social setting, and activities related with the body of magical knowledge. On the basis of these differences, Malinowski concludes that science belongs to the domain of the profane while magic comprises half of the domain of the sacred.

In contrast to a number of previous ideas holding that magic is an undeveloped and primitive form of thought, Tylor found that magic required a rational process of analogy based on understanding the links between cause and effect.  He was also interested in its symbolic properties.  He did, however, emphasize the differences between thought in magic and thought in science, for he called magic a “pseudoscience” that was incorrect and deluded.  His point was that people involved in magic could not differentiate between causal relationships achieved through magic, and causal relationships that occur in nature.  Although he thought that both magic and religion could exist together in any given society, he proposed that magic diminished as human institutions advanced and therefore associated scientific thought with more noteworthy human achievements.

Magic and science are the means of adjustment of man with his environment.  The primitive man took recourse to magic to use supernatural powers and used religion for precisely this purpose.

In civilized societies such functions are done by science.  In primitive societies many activities connected with agriculture, animal husbandry and fishing require the help of science, religion and even magic.

On which occasion, which of these is used, depends upon the beliefs of the individual.  Both magic and science depend upon mechanical activities.  But while science is concerned with the natural world, magic is concerned with the supernatural.

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