Magic is supposed to be a primitive belief, and in modern society it has largely disappeared. Science and technology are not only triumphs of rationality; they represent victories over magic, which is irrational. It is magical to explain thunder as the anger of the gods. It is magical to believe in the story of Creation taking place in seven days as related in the Book of Genesis.
But magic clings stubbornly to a foothold in our lives. Children are delighted by it, and not just children. Einstein said that he was the most unlikely person to discover relativity, but the theory came to him due to a streak of wonder that he had retained from childhood. Wonder is the wide-eyed reaction a child has on seeing a magician pull a rabbit out of a hat, and Einstein claimed that no great discoveries could be made in science without a sense of wonder at Nature’s mysteries.
All of this sounds old-fashioned and quaint now that science has come to dominate our lives much more—inconceivably more—than in Einstein’s lifetime, and if we go back to the life of Newton, we discover that besides being the greatest scientist before Einstein, Newton was a devout Christian with fundamentalist views of creation—he spent years trying to assign specific dates to Genesis and all the events in the Old Testament.