|NOT how a Diplodocus walked|
Truth is a slippery thing, but that's no excuse for ignoring it or waving it off with a cheery smile or shrug of the shoulders rather than trying to identify and grasp it. I currently spend my days reading academic articles on paleontology and on neuroscience because I want the books I write to be as accurate as possible. It matters whether dinosaurs swallowed gastroliths (they didn't) and how the plaques that cause Alzheimer's are formed (by the build-up of amyloid proteins between synapses). It would be easier - and possibly more entertaining - to perpetuate the myth of dinosaurs swallowing stones to help break up their food. It would give us a nice lift-the-flap look inside a dinosaur's stomach. Just as it would be nice if voting for Brexit produced a massive influx of money for the NHS or if there really was no one with greater respect for women than Donald Trump. But just because these things would be nice doesn't mean they are true, and doesn't mean we should deceive people into thinking they are true, or that we shouldn't care whether they are true or not.
|Giordano Bruno: 'Truth does not change because it is, or is not,|
believed by a majority of the people.'
And finally... there is not empirical truth in all areas. There is no single right way to govern a nation (as far as we know) and no objective answer to whether, say, abortion is wrong. As a society, we arrive at the answers we will accept through debate and discussion, through examining evidence and hearing and assessing different views. The skill of listening and assessing is one our children will not learn, as they have no model for it (and even the National Curriculum does not value it). If we demonise experts - and how well did that path serve China and Cambodia? - and our political 'debates' consist only of shouting the same thing louder and louder and launching personal attacks, how will our children learn to value learning, or to discuss, debate and negotiate? When the response to an opinion you disagree with is to blank it or to meet it with a personal attack, or trolling, there is no space in which discussion can take place. When did it become OK to assume people are acting out of malice rather then ignorance if we disagree with their views or actions? If we don't treat other views with respect and dignity, and treat those who hold them with courtesy, we make it impossible to keep an open mind and then it's impossible to change anyone's mind (even our own). If I think someone is stupid and malicious I won't want to agree with them as that would obviously align me with the stupid and malicious, too. If someone thinks I'm stupid and malicious, I won't be inclined to listen to them or even try to talk to them. This, surely, is not what we want our children to see and think?
I will continue to write 'true' books - non-fiction, books that are not made up, books that are carefully researched and try to present a balanced view where there is doubt and the truth where doubt is minimal. And as it is non-fiction November, please try to reflect on the value of showing children not just the truth, but the value of truth. Before it's too late.