This is my first entry of a week long project. For some, it wouldn’t be much of a challenge. Simply, I’m going to update my web log each night.
I always loved the idea of a journal, or diary, but have a problem with consistency (a little ironic, considering my profession is software development and I’m typically complimented on that very trait). Flattland.com is my browser home page (not for my ego, but to be sure the server is running!), and frankly I’ve been getting annoyed seeing the same entry in front of my face for a month.
So, whether I have anything to say or not, I’m bringing it on.
In my browser bookmarks, I have a folder of pages I thought I might write about. Looking at those entries, I found this little gem from the World Wide School. It is The Feats of the Magnetic Girl Explained, an article from 1895, debunking some fakery that would no doubt be just as mystifying now as it was then.
The article confirmed my beliefs that a) people want to believe in the supernatural, and b) people are frequently not critical thinkers.
Oh, and c) people who do stage magic and pretend otherwise are slimy.
Magicians–legitimate ones–tell the audience up front “this isn’t supernatural, it’s natural, and was accomplished through hard work. It’s an illusion.” I find this wonderous, because we’re being shown how easy it is to be fooled, and we love it! Without delving too much into the depths of the subject, it’s the difference between viewing the world through science and religion. The scientist sees an unexplained phenomena and says “how was that done?” The mystic says “I can’t explain it, therefore it must be beyond natural explanation and is the result of a divine force.”
This isn’t to say that religious people are irrational, or have no grasp of, and respect for, science. Or vice versa. The great religious figures and the great scientists share a trait: they understand that science and religion are different fields. One is concerned with the nature of existence, the other with the mechanism of nature.
Yet for centuries, fakers have profited by turning sleight of hand into divine example. Rather than appealing to human integrity, as the magician does (“You’re paying me to fool you, and to tell you it’s not real.”), they take disadvantage of human trust (“I’ll show you something you can’t explain, and tell you it’s not a trick. So give me money.”).
The moral, if I can be so arrogant, is that there are enough unexplained things to ponder on and feel wonder at. Don’t be fooled by magicians posing as angels.