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Basically, my world includes both magical and scientific elements, but it leans more towards being scientifically explainable (even if it usually ends up being more pseudoscience). As such, I want to know how to explain the magic system I’ve developed under a pseudoscientific lens.

Currently, the magic system is explained as the following:

Magic originates from the Inner Magic, a form of individual-specific energy reserve that is bound to the mind of all intelligent, sentient life in the universe. The Inner Magic functions via a variety of exotic types of energy, which are called Magical Energies. About 10 percent of the universe’s intelligent lifeforms possess the means to utilize their Inner Magic, and of that 10 percent some species are more capable of learning to use their Inner Magic efficiently. Additionally, some species and individuals possess greater mystical power than others, allowing them to use their magic to affect greater regions and produce more powerful spells. While it can be generated via immense willpower, the Magical Energy that the Inner Magic requires to function is typically gathered from the world around the individual. It can be found in special substances that typically appear as mist, crystal, powder, or smoke.

That’s the basics of how magic works in my world. However, here are more notes:

The Inner Magic is almost unlimited in capabilities: with enough mystical power and/or Magical Energy, virtually nothing is truly impossible, as even death can be undone. However, resurrection takes a lot of magical energy and mystical power, almost always more than a singular individual would possess. Additionally, it is possible for mystical power to be transferred, allowing an individual to become more powerful, and for the Inner Magic to be ‘expanded’, allowing an individual to store more magical energy. Lastly, devices utilizing magical energy are possible via the transference of magical energy from an individual who has learned to utilize their Inner Magic. These devices can make advanced spells easier to cast and control.

—-—-—-

Edit: Seeing as I’ve been told that I need to add an example of what casting a spell looks like, I’ve gathered two excerpts from my story. Unfortunately, I don’t really have more right now. However, both of them are edited from the original text to give a better visual.

First one is an example of building something, in this case a small survival shelter.

“Well, here goes,” Blake said, starting to concentrate on the shelter. Soon after, he felt what felt like steam flow out through his hands, and the shelter built itself next to them against a tree, each of its components appearing out of thin air. The result was a makeshift shelter with a sheet of leaves and other foliage to cover it, and a log cabin-like wall to its back, front, and left side.

Second example is an example of dispelling an illusion spell, in this case a teenage girl who’d disguised herself as a raven.

”Hello, Malandra. Off my shoulder, please. The illusion is broken by your raven form’s abnormal weight,” Kairo said, giving the raven an instruction. Upon hearing the instruction, the raven hopped off Kairo’s shoulder and fluttered down to the ground next to Kairo. Shortly after, a faint light engulfed the raven. The silhouette of the raven’s wings morphed into that of human arms, the feathers merged together to form fingers, the talons expanded into a pair of human feet, and the rest of the body re-proportioned itself before the raven grew in size to about 65 inches in height. In seconds, the raven had fully morphed into its true form; a young girl of about 16 years of age.

—-—-—-

Edit: I’ve just seen that I was also told that it would be of aid to say what stage science is in. Unfortunately, as of the time of my story… that highly depends on the group of characters we’re looking at. However, the ones who use magic in this story are closer to renaissance-era in terms of where their science is at. Otherwise, you’ve got humans who’ve had lightning-shooting guns, which are only the size of a small pistol yet are still capable of producing twice as much an explosion as a railroad oil tank being shot, since the mid-1990s.

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    $\begingroup$ Comments have been moved to chat; please do not continue the discussion here. Before posting a comment below this one, please review the purposes of comments. Comments that do not request clarification or suggest improvements usually belong as an answer, on Worldbuilding Meta, or in Worldbuilding Chat. Comments continuing discussion may be removed. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Jun 23, 2023 at 6:58

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Science is only an explanation of nature, it does not tell nature what it can or can not do.

The thing about science is that it does not limit what can or can not happen, it only explains what is observed to happen or not happen. Science does not make gravity hold the planets in orbit, or make microwaves boil water, it only observes that Premise A correlates to Outcome B. Nothing more and nothing less.

So, if you live in a setting where Thinking A leads to Spell B, then science won't even try to refute that fact the spell is real, natural, and scientific any more than it tries to refute the existence of other strange forces like magnetism. Instead it will just try to explain that there is a correlation between the Thought, the Caster, and the Spell that results.

If this relationship can not be explained through the 4 fundamental forces of nature, it simply means that nature, in your setting, has more than 4 fundamental forces. Think of magic as being a lot like electromagnetism. We don't notice it in our day to day lives as a force, but it is the color we see, the heat we feel from the sun, the binding forces that hold our atoms together, so on and so forth... but when you levitate an object with magnets, it looks an awful lot like magic.

Likewise, in your setting, "Inner Magic" is a force of nature that normally just exists in its equilibrium, defining our laws of nature in ways that we are just so used to they are taken for granted... but then your thoughts have the ability to disrupt this flow of magic, the same way that a magnet disrupts the flow of electrons allowing for some very strange outcomes.

Explaining EXACTLY how spells work will likely be outside of the ability of your scientists the same way the explaining how thoughts and feelings work is slightly outside of the ability of our scientists... but they will understand it well enough to be able to statistically model magic and come up with a bunch of "theories" and "effects" to describe repeatable patterns.

So, the Witherspoon principle might be a scientific theory that states that magic of a destructive nature is easier to caste when angry, and the magic or a restorative nature is easier to caste when sad. And then there should be competing theories to explain magic like how modern science supports the Scalar Theory of Magic that says that magic is a continuous field like the Higgs Boson field, and you can explain how it supplanted the older Psychic Projection Theory that explained magic as particles emitted from your brain. Then you can have scientists arguing about how to fit the Inner Magic Force into a unified field theory. Oh, and no system of magic is complete without a few good paradoxes like the Grandfather Paradox that says that causality violating magic can violate its own causality, even if that prevent the spell from ever being caused: and you though that the Barber Paradox was maddening.

In short, as long as magic follows actual rules, and the people in your setting have names and descriptions of these rules, then magic will be indistinguishable from science.

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  • $\begingroup$ yeah I feel that explaining magic as a force like you said is far better than, say, assigning it to an element. Otherwise you have the same problem that midichlorians caused, in that it's too clean and understandable. Physical forces on the other hand are far less tangible and hold mysteries that spur inquiry and wonder to a far greater degree. The human brain is also still weakly understood, so there's a lot of room to connect the two concepts without ruining suspension of disbelief. $\endgroup$
    – Jarrad
    Jun 23, 2023 at 3:24
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A frame challenge: the point of science is not to be the stupid smart guy in the white coat who insists that the magic has an explanation in terms of things that he understands (and gets eaten by vampires in the second act). Science is to go out, measure, make hypotheses, measure again, revise, measure again, establish principles, form new hypotheses on the basis of the principles, measure, and repeat. Principles that hold in other circumstances provide useful guides to hypotheses, but the scientific description of magic is a list of successfully tested magic related hypotheses.

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I don't think you can except by saying that the Inner Magic doesn't obey to any laws, they can create matter to form what you want, they can take matter away , they can do anything from what you have wrote, a character has created a shelter from thin air, leaving me with 2 option (that i see).

InnerMagic is Transdimensional, with your will your able to reach into other dimensions and pull objects/matter from anywhere on other universes to right where you want them,the raven for example can be explained as you being in the middle of 2 dimensions (yours and the bird you take the form as) and use the crow like a puppet, hence why it seems like they are transforming when the little girl morphs, its the bird going into his original reality while she is manifesting herself into ours (i doubt that would be a beginner spell).Just like the shelter could be re arranged particles from said dimension or ones home dimension.

Other wise you would need the science in your world to not have Physics rules that say that matter cant be created or destroyed only transformed, to explain it because without any Extra Dimension or Plane of existance (lmao), its impossible for her to keep her weight while being a crow, she would be too dense and die of lack of oxygen in minutes, about the shelter its where i come to a stop because nothing even pseudo Scientific can explain matter appearing from "thin air", but you can always just rearrange molecules structures to form wood leafs etc.

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  • $\begingroup$ Shelter from thin air could be explained in the same way as the raven. OP's magic allows the mage to 'borrow' matter from other dimensions/universes/planes of existence, move it into our dimension/plane etc and shape it into anything they want. So they take a bunch of particles from the Other Dimension, and shape them into a form of a shelter. $\endgroup$ Jun 22, 2023 at 11:36
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the input, but i though that was implicit, but that would mean that in some other universe there would disappear a someones shelter, or even worse, they are transported along with it here. i wanted to say that either everything came from other dimensions or it would violate basic Physics rules that science as built onto. The part about taking just the molecules and assembling them here is interesting but why just use particles on our side ? $\endgroup$
    – Or4ng3h4t
    Jun 22, 2023 at 13:26
  • $\begingroup$ Oh, you meant that in the raven transformation there is an already existing raven in the parallel universe and the girl swaps places with it? Sorry, I misunderstood what you were saying. For construction from particles, I suppose you don't have to use particles from the parallel universe, you could just take a bunch of particles from the nearest star (in our universe) and make shelter or a raven or whatever from them. $\endgroup$ Jun 22, 2023 at 13:45
  • $\begingroup$ You caught me by surprise but i have added your input to it $\endgroup$
    – Or4ng3h4t
    Jun 22, 2023 at 15:39
  • $\begingroup$ This is almost a frame challenge - except that I think you're being short-sighted. Your basic argument is "you would need the science in your world to not have Physics rules" and therefore the OP's question can't be answered. The magic obviously has rules and its existence means it obeys the physics of the OPs universe. But just as the naturalists of the 1600-1800 period didn't understand much about physics, chemistry, and biology - neither do the "scientists" of the OP's world. Surely such people must exist on the OP's world just as they did on ours? Think "Phrenology." $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jun 22, 2023 at 16:27
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When the laws of physics aren't enough

Before we describe a world with more "I think therefore I spell-cast" than our own, lets posit a world with less.

Let's postulate a universe where self-awareness is impossible, but the laws of physics are no different. There is no obvious contradiction in doing is, all particle physics would still be unchanged. No one can rule-out the existence of that p-zombie realm. Interestingly, the same idea applies for quantum collapse.

But a p-zombie universe may still be different: Suppose you write I am self-aware, I feel my own existence. Are you a Python program written to print this? No difference between IRL and p-zombie. But were you inspired by actually feeling your own existence and such inspiration made you write this? That would not happen in the p-zombie dimension. (An ideal p-zombie is indistinguishable from a person, but here I argue that they would actually act different in subtle ways).

It's likely that the p-zombie universe would have much slower technical advancements than our own. There would be a language, but words such as "meta-cognition" "consciousness" "self-awareness" would lose most of their meaning. Technology would develop (even more so) akin to the (mindless) process of natural selection and evolution. Art and music would be far less prevalent (both in production and appreciation). P-zombieland would also lack the kind of genius and deep understanding of people such as Richard Feynman.

More of what we have

Our own self-awareness, even though it is unfalsifiable did help us make "magic". As the user MS pointed out, electromagnetism is the ur-example of a magic becoming science. Our drive to understand it, boosted by not being p-zombies, led us to make ever more powerful and dangerous "enchantments".

In our universe there is a circuitous path from self-awareness to advancing science/magic/tech/whatever-you-call-it. However, in your universe there would be a shortcut: Where the same fundamental laws of reality not only allow conscious self-awareness but also let it impose itself onto the world more directly.

The details of the magic are up to you! There could be a cost for complexity and size: limiting both the detail and the scale that the magic can work on. There could be "lei lines" where you get more bang for your buck. Large populations could drain the aura in that area, temporary or permanently. You have a lot of flexibility in your rules.

Different species may have different levels of "consciousness mind" (i.e. Orca>Human>Monkey>>Insect). Or there is only one level of "mind" but more intelligent animals are more likely to activate their spark. Or there is an "apple to orange" situation where i.e. humans are better at magicking machines with gears and metal arms but octopi excel at soft-body robots and formations of coral rock.

There may also be limitations in terms of conservation of energy and nuclear transmutation. No "lead to gold"!

Because your magical system is bound to consciousness, magic and tech are partitioned more cleanly. In our universe AI is threatening several creative fields. However, in your universe the "self-aware" barrier (likely to need quantum computing) will keep magic "safe" for a long time. Tech retains most of it's use-cases: large earth-moving equipment and mass-production would out man-hour your wizard miners. Automation can work 24/7 and handle way more at once than a human mind. Magic may help in the process of (dis)assembling machinery. However, a complexity-limited magic would never replace photo-lithography.

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This magic can be explained in exactly the same way as our own magic. It goes roughly like this:

-- there are planes of existence outside of the material one on which humans live, and those other planes are inhabited by various beings who may be able to interact with the material plane;

-- with some training, you can learn to contact these beings;

-- once you learn to contact them, you can try to talk them into doing things for you on the material plane;

-- if you manage to convince them, they will.

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    $\begingroup$ Except that the explanation you just gave is a mystical explanation and the OP is looking for a pseudo-scientific explanation. The idea of parallel universes wasn't proposed on Earth until the 1950s. By that time we were deep into the Scientific Method. Think from the perspective of one of the scientists from the late 1600s. Back in the 1600s scientists would believe in God but explain nothing by Him. You'd get a naturalist's perspective. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jun 22, 2023 at 16:22
  • $\begingroup$ @JBH, thank you. Of course "parallel universes" is just how they used to spell "planes of existence" in the 1950s. Since they both describe the same phenomenon, one cannot be more (or less) scientific than the other. $\endgroup$
    – ihaveideas
    Jun 22, 2023 at 16:59
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Perhaps there is a side effect of the magic, which means technology cannot directly record what is happening - so the burden of proof in a scientific world is not met.

Also, you might consider that those not attuned to magic are somehow veiled with forgetfulness, or somehow feint in the presence.

there could also be those who are magically inclined, but not able to use it who become voyeurs of what is going on, but whose memory is affected leaving them sceptical of themselves.

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If your magic is a kind of Inner Magic, why not associate it with the very genetic structure of an individual (like in Harry Potter in which magic is somehow in blood)? I don't know much of the biology but I know that there are 46 chromosomes (23 pairs) in human body. Also in hundreds of thousands of years of evolution, parts and excerpts of those chromosomes have rearranged among themselves to bring out new characteristics.

If your world is set in a sufficiently distant future, there would be enough time for humanity to have evolved on a genetic level to bring up a tiny amount of Magic Genes inside chromosomes spontaneously. If 10% of the species of the universe could perform magic, I reckon they be closely related to humans. But currently the number of species closely related to Homo sapiens is very less than 10%. But you also see that if there has been enough time for evolution, as I already said, there are possibilities that more human-like species would arise.

The ability to perform magic depends on the genetic makeup of the concerned genes. An entire generation could be good magicians given their previous generation was too. Magic would be an inherited trait. Since you said an immense willpower can alter your magical abilities, it will sometimes become an acquired trait which may or may not be passed down the next generation depending on how the next generation babies are raised.

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