Higgins Versus Klosterman III: The Rudimentary Magician

Let us assume you met a rudimentary magician. Let us also assume that he can do five simple tricks: He can pull a rabbit out of his hate, he can make a coin disappear, he can turn the Ace of Spades into the Joker card, and he can do two others in a similar vein. These are his only tricks and he can’t learn any more; he can only do these five. However, it turns out that he’s doing these five tricks with real magic. It’s not an illusion, he can actually conjure the bunny out of the ether and he can move the coin through space. He’s legitimately magical, but extremely limited in scope and influence. 

Would this person be more impressive than Albert Einstein?

Not quite Harry Potter, our rudimentary magician, is he? Still — real magic. What would ‘real’ magic be? If it were real — and explainable in ‘real’ terms — would it really be magic, or would it be science? I think that it may matter how the magician came to possess his powers. If he had been able to deduce from, say, the laws of physics, some new branch of knowledge (magic) that humanity had heretofore been ignorant of, I would have to say that his intellectual powers must still rival Einstein’s. Perhaps in this sense we would be giving credit for the magician “showing his work.” However, what if the magician’s powers were inborn, and he did not know anything of their workings?

It has to be said that his powers would still be more unique than Einstein’s. There have been many great physicists, Einstein one of the greatest. But there has never been anyone who could make the laws of physics Einstein worked hard to discover entirely irrelevant, as must be said of a world where rabbits can appear and coins can disappear.

It all comes down to your definition of “impressive.” If you take it to include some notion of merit, then Einstein’s work — which has had practical implications, definitely resulted from hard work, and is enormously difficult to understand — might come out on top. However, if you take “impressive” as meaning “leaving an impression” you would have to answer that the magician is the more impressive: would it be possible to do something more unforgettable than this?

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