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            Since the era of Renaissance and the dawn of modern science, religion as cognitive, intellectual, doctrinal and dogmatic phenomenon gained prominence and many intellectualists have engaged in the debate that whether science, that accumulates knowledge based on empirical evidence and observation, or religion and magic, that holds strong belief in the supernatural powers or powers that control human destiny, is the superior source of knowledge. The science versus religion debate reached at its peak during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century when anthropology and sociology emerged as new disciplines which provided an alternative views on this debate. Moreover, many anthropologists have concerned themselves with the demarcation between science, religion and magic. For example Bronislaw Malinowski and Emile Durkheim explained religion and magic from a functionalist perspective and explicated that they both play an important role in a society; Evans Pritchard, a structural- functionalist, based on his field work in South Sudan among the Nuer people came up with his theories on religion and witchcraft; similarly Levi Strauss, Mary Douglas are among other anthropologists who engaged themselves on this subject matter. But in this paper I will thoroughly examine and critically analyze the workings of Edward Tylor and James Frazer, two Victorian anthropologists, in the light of science versus religion debate. To fully understand and grasp the relationship between the two phenomena, magic will be discussed in contrast to science and religion. The paper will look at the three evolutionary stages of human beings divided up by James Frazer that roughly correspond to the ages of magic, religion and science. The hypothesis and theories of other theorists will be brought under discussion in contrast to the theories of Tylor and Frazer.    
                Edward Tylor and James Frazer were two eminent Victorian, evolutionist and armchair anthropologists. Their main contribution to the field of anthropology was that they demarcated the boundaries between religion, science and magic and believed that there were three basic ways of looking at the world: that of science, that of magic and that of religion. Tylor regarded science as a dominant source of knowledge and deemed religion and magic as inferior to science. He defined religion as belief in the ‘spiritual beings’ (Tambiah, 1990). He held that the essence of primitive religion and the true natural religion was animism, a belief that every object including non human entities in this world has a soul (Strenski 2006). Animism is the foundation of all religions. Tylor held that this belief has been originated from the rational but consistent interpretations of dreams, visions, hallucinations, cataleptic states and similar phenomena which human observe and experience. As an intellectualist, he viewed that the institution of religion has been developed from the very rational thoughts and observations of the individuals when they attempted to interpret their dreams. Edward Tylor also developed the theory of ‘survival’. He asserted that when a society evolves, certain customs, processes, opinions, and rituals are retained that are unnecessary in the new society (ibid). He posited that religion is a survival, the fact that the modern religions still believe in the spiritual beings so they have been evolved from the early form of religion that is animism.   
             Based on the works of Edward Tylor, James Frazer made an effort to arrange the categories of science, religion and magic in developmental schemes. Frazer argued that the inception of magic precedes religion in the history of human kind and that science will inevitably dissolve its two predecessors in our time. He said that an age of magic started when the primitive people, having less knowledge of science and technologically backward, desired to control the nature by using magical spells and rites. But then the more intelligent people realized the falsity of some of the theories of magic and that most of the times their magical spells and rites did not work. They came to know there is something else, the superior beings, that is controlling the nature of universe and they need to get the attention and help of these superior beings to get their businesses functioning. The age of religion began at this time. Frazer defined religion as “propitiation and conciliation of powers superior to man which are believed to direct and control the course of nature and human life” (Tambiah 1990). The move from magic to religion involved an assumption that nature is to some extent elastic or variable, subject to deflection by a mightier power. Frazer argued that when the advancements in technology were made and with the age of Enlightenment that advocated the use of reason and individualism instead of tradition and established doctrine, the scientific knowledge became dominant and prevailed magic and religion. Science provides answers to all the events that the primitive people thought were supernatural. Thus human beings have been evolved from the age of magic to religion and at the end moved to the third stage that is the age of science, which rejects both the previous modes of thoughts.   
            Both Edward Tylor and James Frazer have discussed the phenomenon of magic in detail. Tylor asserted that magic was based on a general human propensity, namely the principle of “association of ideas” (Tambiah 1990). According to him, the procedures of magic were purely rational and the way magicians carried out their activities resemble to that of scientists. They knew that certain effects will be produced if particular magical spells and rites are performed. The only error, he said, the magicians made was that he or she postulated a causal connection between the things classified by resemblance and contiguity and thus he referred to magic as a ‘harmful delusion’. For example, the primitive people thought that the sun will only rise if a cock is crowed before the sun rise. So they would do magical spells and rites to make the cock crow. Through false and mistaken association, the primitive people tried to control the nature. Later, Frazer took forward Tylor’s views on the relation between magic and science and maintained that the fundamental conception of magic is identical with modern science, namely the ‘uniformity of nature’. As in nature, every event is proceeded by another in a veracious and accurate manner which shows that the nature is always uniform whatsoever happens. Similarly, the magicians believe that the same cause will always provide the same results and as long as he performs the ceremony in accordance with the rules laid down, the desired results will inevitably follow. Due to these explanations, Frazer and Tylor fused science and magic in one sphere which is profane in contrast to religion which was placed in sacred sphere. They asserted that magic is a phenomenon that is always aimed at specifics that is rainfall for crops, betterment of health; carried out by individuals and it compels the Gods or any supernatural agents to get things done. While religion is a communal phenomenon carried out a collective group of body and beseeches the Gods. Magic is a means to an end while religion ends in itself.
              Though Edward Tylor and James Frazer ideas and theories were highly respected and their contributions to the field of anthropology are recognized with gratitude to this day, yet some criticisms were raised against the works of these two anthropologists. Tylor and Frazer were armchair anthropologists which mean that they gathered their data through secondary sources and relied on the information and accounts of other anthropologists, missionaries and on the tales of colonialist soldiers. They had never been to the field and never had a firsthand experience of a specific culture. Moreover, Tylor’s non conformist Quaker parentage and his educational, intellectual and religious background gave him a strong aversion towards religion and his biasness is reflected in his workings. He referred to magic and other occult sciences as ‘bastard science’ and asserted that there was no truth value at all in the ‘whole monstrous farrago’ (Tambiah 1990). He linked science with reform and asserted that science is the only way to human progress.  He had a profound commitment to the science of social development. He concluded his second volume of Primitive Culture, his famous book about the minds and culture of primitive people which was published in 1871, with these words: “To the promoters of what is sound and reformers of what is faulty in modern culture, ethnography has double help to give. To impress men’s minds with a doctrine of development, will lead them….to continue the progressive work of the past ages” (ibid).
           James Frazer evolutionary theory that divides the human history into the age of magic, religion and science was disapproved by Bronislaw Malinowski. He argued that human history has not evolved through time but all the three phenomena coexist and are present in a society at all times. Malinowski did an extensive fieldwork among the Trobriand Islanders during the First World War. He explained that though the Trobriand society is technologically backward and science has not developed and flourished much yet science exists in its rudimentary shape here (Tambiah 1990). He backs up his argument by pointing out to the canoes built by Islanders for the purpose of fishing and other activities. He argues that the buildings of canoes mean that the people have some sort of skills and craftiness which indicates that science is not at all nonexistent in this society. Malinowski said, “If by science be understood a body of rules and conceptions, based on experiences and derived from it by logical inference, embodied in material achievements and in a fixed form tradition and carried on by some sort of social organization” then even the lowest savage has science however rudimentary (ibid). Moreover, Malinowski while rejecting the evolutionary theory argues that the primitive people did not rely merely on magic for their activities. They believed that empirical and scientific knowledge is also necessary to get things done. For example, at the time of wars other than magical spells and rituals physical strength and fighting skills were also necessary to win the wars. Furthermore, to get better crops the Trobriand Islanders made use of both their scientific knowledge and magic. Moreover, Malinowski negates the fusing of magic and science in one sphere and religion in another. He argues that magic and religion should be put together in one sphere i.e. sacred because these phenomena involve traditional acts and observances that are regarded by natives as sacred while science belongs to the profane sphere which he related to arts and crafts which were carried out on the basis of careful empirical observation of natural processes and a firm belief in nature’s regularity (ibid).  
             Malinowski defined religion and magic from a functionalist perspective and argued that it plays an important psychological and social function in a society while linking science to purely empirical or practical functions. He explained that every religion has two entities that is a firm belief in ‘Providence’ and ‘Immortality’. Providence means that every individual who believes in the existence of God communicates and make connection with Him for his troubles and problems because the supernatural agent is in sympathy towards man’s destiny (Tambiah 1990). Immortality deals with the question of death and the life after death whether it is reincarnation or some other form of afterlife. Malinowski argues that the belief of individuals in these aspects of religion help them to cope with their psychological stress and uncertainty. In contrast, science does not answer these essential questions and someone who only lives his life on the principles of science would find himself in complete hopelessness. Religion is a social and moral phenomenon that keeps a society cohesive and provides a light of hope to the people. Max Weber in one of his writings dispels the idea that science is the way to true being, the way to true art, the way to true nature, the way to true God, and the way to true happiness (Weber 1918). Tolstoi has quoted the value of science in these words, “Science is meaningless because it gives no answer to the only question important for us: what shall we do and how shall we live?” (ibid).
       The evolutionary theory put forward by James Frazer says that human history started with the age of magic followed by the age of religion and in the end that is in our time science arrived and rejected its predecessors because science gives answers for the events that people before explained with the principles of magic and religion. But if we look at the most technologically advanced and so called civilized societies like that of the United States of America, we find out that religion or the belief that some supernatural agent exists still persists in this highly secularized society. For example, with regard to the origin of human beings Americans and Europeans are exposed to a creationist account on the one hand that is God placed humans on earth and an evolutionary account on the other that is humans evolved from different kinds of living things (). Even in the primitive societies like that of Azande in South Sudan people do not only believe in the naturalistic explanation when a granary collapses on a group of men (Evans-Prichard 1937). They ask that why did the structure of granary collapse at this particular time on these particular men. They turn to supernatural phenomenon that is witchcraft for the explanations. So whether it’s primitive society or an advanced, people use both the natural and supernatural explanations to interpret the very same events.
            Edward Tylor and James Frazer in their comfortable armchairs collected the ethnographic material and based on those materials formulated the theories and demarcated the boundaries between magic, religion and science. They referred to science as a savior of human kind while looked down on the institutions of religion and magic and argued that they are the ‘survivals’ of our barbaric past. Throughout the history of mankind we come across that when one institution becomes powerful it marginalizes and relegates its predecessor institutions to the lower edge. During the medieval times, when the Church got powerful it marginalized magic by labeling it as a leftover from a barbaric past. Due to which the history saw a brutal massacre of about 50,000 people over the period of two centuries mostly by the religious figures in the name of witch hunts. Similarly, Islam, Judaism and other major religions of the world reject magic with contempt. With the decline in the power of Church and the rise of science as a dominant source of knowledge, the latter marginalized religion and also magic by arguing that science now explains all those events that the primitive and less technologically advanced people explained through religion and magic. In this context, we cannot blame Frazer and Tylor for their biasness towards magic and religion in their writings; they were just a part of the whole historical scenario. Moreover, it is assumed that science and religion are on the two extreme ends and those who believe in the principles of science like natural and social scientists do not usually believe in religion and vice versa. Nietzsche, an influential German philosopher remembered for his rejection of Christian values, admitted the fact that science cannot exist without the presence of some faith in the hearts of scientists. As he said,” But you will have gathered what I am driving at, namely, that it is still metaphysical faith upon which our science rests-that even we seekers after knowledge today, we godless anti metaphysicians still take our fire, too, from the flame lit by a faith that is thousands of years old, that Christian faith which was also the faith of Plato, that God is the truth, that truth is divine” (The Gay Science).   

Written By: Jawad Karim

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