Part two is now up ( http://morris.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/08 ... ng-part-2/
). I found it even more interesting than the first.
As far as practical application to what we do, the Genesis excerpt that is the center of the Morris essay seems very helpful to magicians (Genesis 37:31-32):
31 Then they took Josephs robe, and killed a goat, and dipped the robe in the blood;
32 and they sent the long robe with sleeves and brought it to their father, and said, This we have found; see now whether it is your sons robe or not.
It is a brilliant deception on several levels. They don't say "Joseph was killed by animals and here are his bloody clothes as proof" -- which focuses Jacob on the question "was Joseph attacked by animals?" In which case he's digging for more evidence that doesn't exist.
Instead, they give him the evidence and let him make his own assumption about what happened to the person wearing the clothes.
Even better: they engage and welcome his inquisitiveness -- rather than trying to fight against him -- by asking him a specific question that guides him down a path he can explore endlessly; but which has nothing to do with the central issue.
By making the question in Jacob's mind "Are these his clothes?" rather than "are these clothes proof that the person wearing them was killed?" the energy goes into the identification of the clothing and the key issue -- what happened to Joseph -- gets zero scrutiny, even though it seems to be getting a lot of scrutiny.
I think it is worth asking ourselves, in structuring material, "how can I change the question to guide them towards something that is a.) irrefutably true and b.) irrelevant to the actual method."
You never have to run because they're giving chase in a different city.