How does the short story "The Man Who Could Work Miracles" demonstrate the theme of religion vs. science?

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belarafon | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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"The Man Who Could Work Miracles" is a comedic short story by H.G. Wells about a man who can literally work miracles.

The theme of religion versus science is present in the protagonist, Fotheringay, who is not by nature a religious man. However, when he discovers that he can change things simply by speaking, he finds that no explanation is possible except that of a supernatural sort. Fotheringay finds himself unable to explain his power, and so he appeals to a local priest, Maydig. After demonstration, Maydig gives his opinion:

"The power to work miracles is a gift — a peculiar quality like genius or second sight [...] Here we plumb some profounder law — deeper than the ordinary laws of nature."
(Wells, "The Man Who Could Work Miracles")

Maydig is a religious man, and yet he acknowledges the "laws of nature," indicating that while he believes in the supernatural, he also knows that it rarely extends into what humans perceive as "the real world." Fotheringay's power is a "rare gift," and so allows the man to actually straddle the line between physical reality and supernatural reality. Thus, the story reconciles science and religion as being compatible when acted upon by certain people; religion can easily be as "real" as science if the power exists within Man. However, the story ends on the idea that Man is not intended to wield this power, and therefore while religion allows for miracles, most people should not be allowed the ability to act on that allowance.


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