One of the more fascinating magic blogs on the Net, the Law and Magic Blog, breaks down a New York Times column on how Patrick Jane, the hero in “The Mentalist,” is threatening to replace CSI’s Gil Grissom in the minds of those looking for an intellectual hero. According to Alessandra Stanley, Jane’s magical intuition is squashing Grissom’s nerdy, scientific rigor:
Nowadays it’s the evidence that fibs. It takes a facile, fake mind reader like Jane, who once made his living pretending to be a psychic, to arrive at the truth. “Lie to Me” a new Fox procedural drama that begins later this month, stars the British actor Tim Roth as Cal Lightman, a sleuth who finds his clues in body language. Lightman is a valued consultant to the F.B.I. because he can read twitches, eye movements and shrugs; he is described on the show as the “foremost deception expert in the country.” Polygraphs can be wrong, but psychics and behavioralists are infallible.
The author of the Law and Magic Blog disagrees, noting that Jane’s character uses the very same techniques as those crusty, old lab rats:
Mentalists don’t make these claims–usually. Jayne is as good an observer as Sherlock Holmes and Adrian Monk. He always gives reasons for his deductions. He once allowed people to think he was a psychic; he no longer does so. And I’ve seen no evidence on the show that Jane expects that his colleagues won’t seek out forensic evidence to confirm what he tells them. Shawn Spencer (Psych) who allows those around him (except his partner and his father) to think he is a psychic also uses good old fashioned observation to solve crimes. In fact, we know that his father, a retired police officer, spent years training him in the art of observation and deduction.
The debate is interesting from a scientific point of view, and also from a magical point of view: It is a stark reminder that magic is the presentation of one thing as another. Arthur C. Clarke famously said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Driving that point home is Ellusionist forum user TerryN, who found this article about levitation, and asked the obvious-to-magicians question: “How long until someone comes up with a $29 download for a good effect utilizing these ideas?”
Training for magic can be as simple as studying the world around you. The more you know, the better magician you can be.
Thoughts? Discuss it here.