Smoke & Mirrors
With a new year comes a new look. I felt it was high time that my illiterate ramblings were given a title, rather than just a name. When I first started blogging, it was with the intention of continuing the personal journal I had maintained in my final years at university. But over time, this blog became less about me and more about the things that I thought worth writing about. As part of that gradual evolution (or, one may suggest, intelligent design) I have decided to nail down this blog’s theme.
Smoke and Mirrors: an expression alluding to the Victorian era conjurers, who used smoke and mirrors to fool the eye and perform strange and wonderous sleights of mind. The figurative use refers to the obscuring or embellishing of the truth that is employed by spin doctors and the like in order to deceive the general public. I couldn’t think of a more fitting way to describe the subjects that attract my attention, and in a way this is what defines the skeptic in me. In the illusionary realms of pseudoscience, religion, alternative medicine and the paranormal, you can be sure that where there’s smoke, there’s mirrors. Skeptics are the people who see the smoke, and ask where the mirror is. We’re the ones who appreciate a good trick, but can’t abide the trickster denying it was a trick at all.
As Neil Gaiman writes in the introduction to his short story collection of the same title:
Mirrors are wonderful things. They appear to tell the truth, to reflect life back out at us; but set a mirror correctly and it will lie so convincingly you’ll believe that something has vanished into thin air, that a box filled with doves and flags and spiders is actually empty, that people hidden in the wings or the pit are floating ghosts upon the stage. Angle it right and a mirror becomes a magic casement; it can show you anything you can imagine and maybe a few things you can’t.
(The smoke blurs the edges of things.)
Maybe that’s why magicians make some of the best skeptics.