TL;DR: Is there any objective benefit in explaining supernatural phenomena using a single, well-defined and universally applicable system resembling a set of laws of physics?
A friend of mine is building a world for his fantasy fiction. He spends much time developing a magic system that is he said will be explained by exotic particles, which in itself will be science-based (conservation of energy, momenta etc).
When I asked him why he spends so much time shoehorning explanation of the particle system in the writing, he said that he prefers a world in which all "abnormal" or "supernatural" phenomena (which include giant spiders, flying people, iridescent fireballs and the like) with just one system of explanation. (So he would explain that giant spiders have altered physiology that uses the equivalent of magic to supplement its giant body, that people fly by shooting momentum-carrying particles and so on)
When I asked he what about this system of explanation is better than hand-waving each individual phenomenon or not explaining them at all, he said that there are three reasons:
- In his particular work, he wants to explore what exactly will happen when rational, scientifically-minded people confront seemingly magical occurrences. (The magic stuff is supposed to one day appear in our modern, non-magical world)
- A system of explanation that requires readers to suspend the disbelief of only one thing is generally better than a collection of things that must be individually taken on faith.
- His particular magic system explains supernatural phenomenon on the basis of physics, or science in general, which means there is no room for dispute because occurrences are supposedly deducible based on constant laws.
The first point is fair enough, it's his personal take on fantasy fiction and not a bad one at that.
The third point is I think quite easily demolished because while he suppose that there is a definite system of "physics" that governs the magic, he has not outlined every detail of that physics system yet, because unsurprisingly, inventing extensions to existing laws of physics is not that easy. That being so, magical phenomena in his writing must precede their explanations, and when they are explained, he has to either bend the system just right to explain everything, or that he must introduce some intermediate factors that justify the coexistence of otherwise contradictory things. Imagine the following conversation between us:
Me: So, you have this giant spiders, right?
Him: Yes, what about them?
Me: You said that they use exotic particles to transport energy in their bodies to be both so huge and so mobile, and this process generates enough heat for them to be warm-blooded, right?
Me: Then why is it that the magical butterflies, which is powerful enough to fire energetic projectiles at people, freeze to death in winter?
Him: It's because the spiders and the butterflies have different adaptations to the exotic particles, for the spiders, the particle circulation is integrated on a cellular level, which allows endothermic bodies, while the butterflies control the particles without using the latter for biological processes, hence they are not endothermic.
Me: So you are saying that although both are arthropods using exotic particles, they exhibit different responses to ambient temperature because of their difference in physiology, which you honestly just invented to justify this difference, isn't that right?
Him: Well, yes, but why is this a problem?
Me: Because if you are going to invent explanations for every specific phenomena, why bother having a supposedly universally applicable system of explanation?
The second point, the most debatable of all, seems to be somewhat subjective, but perhaps there is a benefit to it that more experienced world-builder are acquainted with, hence this question.