I agreed and quoted what turned out to be one of Arthur C. Clarke's Laws:
Howard went on: "... this feeling of mystery (or ignorance) may account for the rise the distrust of science in general and the increase in accepting occult and supernatural beliefs. In other words, if technical devices appear to have an unknown cause, then any event can have an unknown cause."
I agree with Howard that technology is a mystery to most people using it, but I am not sure if he is right about a rise in the distrust of science or an increase in occult and supernatural beliefs. In fact, I am concerned the common folks place too much trust in science and, as a result, are losing their faith in the supernatural.
My reading of history is that irrational beliefs are central to the success of any society. If they get out of hand -OR- if they are extinguished by pure reason, disaster follows. As always, the "happy medium" is the path to success.
The scientific method is a totally rational ideal that is largely responsible for modern civilization. However necessary, it is by no means sufficient. We still need belief in supernatural magic and other things not literally true to make progress work.
Another of Clarke's laws states:
Indeed, we must creatively imagine we believe in the impossible to assure progress in extending the limits of science and technology. Howard agrees to a point: "An essential part of the scientific method is entirely rational, but another essential part is creative imagination often using irrational analogies and metaphors. Also, for physicists the natural world is super enough so that the religious supernatural appears quite dull."
We need to appreciate another of Clarke's laws:
When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
I, and most of the other active members of this Blog may be characterized, in the words of this law, as "distinguished but elderly scientists". We need to be wary of declaring anything impossible!
On the other hand, according to Isaac Asimov's corollary to Clarke's law:
"When, however, the lay public rallies round an idea that is denounced by distinguished but elderly scientists and supports that idea with great fervor and emotion -- the distinguished but elderly scientists are then, after all, probably right."
PS: The photograph is of The_Turk, a 1770's chess playing machine. It turned out to be a hoax - a skilled human chess player was hidden inside the device. Today, however, you can buy a chess program that will run on your PC and beat everyone but a chess master. Larger computers are well-matched with human chess masters and, in the forseeable future, the world chess champion will be a computer.