I saw this image on Facebook, and it reminded me of a point I have made several times before. Some people are adamant about the difference between science fiction and fantasy. But the truth is that the dividing line is at best blurry, and perhaps non-existent.
If Doctor Who featured a wizard with a magical box and wand, rather than an alien with a TARDIS and sonic screwdriver, would the stories have to change much? If the Daleks were conjured by an evil warlock named Davros rather than being genetically engineered?
The science in science fiction does not need to be plausible. And so very often, the stories which are told are the same ones told in the genre of fantasy – and in earlier times in mythology – with merely the merest superficial nod to science as allegedly providing an explanation.
And so the popularity of science fiction, far from indicating that we have left behind notions of magic, indicates that we human beings still long for elements of traditional imaginative storytelling, even if we also feel the need to frame the stories in somewhat different ways.
Only a few centuries ago, there was no real distinction made between the things we would call science and the things we would classify as magic. Science fiction actually expresses the same hope that drove alchemists and others like them, namely that a greater knowledge of how the world works will unlock its secrets and enable us to harness great power and use it to our advantage.
And science sometimes fulfills such expectations, while others it does not. And, with respect to some questions, the answers lie somewhere in the future, if they exist at all.