The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Ainan on scientific responsibility

Ainan, 7, thinks of many things that few people do. One of these is the issue of scientific responsibility - or what scientists owe to society and how they should behave with regards to the wider world. These are considerable issues for a seven year old to be thinking about - but I find it encouraging that he is - for it promises that, one day, he will be a responsible scientist himself, ever thinking about the impact of his work, on the wider world.

Last week, he asked a question that illustrated his interest in scientific responsibility: "When ricin was discovered...and how poisonous it was, and where it came from...why did the scientists who did so, publish that?"

The intent of his question was clear: why arm people with such information which, in the wrong hands, could become a weapon? Why is the scientist not considering the impact of their work and the danger it might represent? Ricin is a good example. It is a terrible poison - and the tiniest amounts can kill - yet its source is readily available. Once the facts are known of this substance, it would not take a huge amount of skill to make. This is what Ainan was pointing out - in the modern world, with dangers all around and many people of ill-intent, why do people persist in releasing dangerous knowledge to the wider public, about whom nothing is known?

He did ask, further, why the media covered such material...why did the media write about these substances and point people's way to their sources?

In Ainan's view certain matters should be kept low-key so that their danger could be minimized. In his young eyes, the world would be a safer place, if knowledge of dangerous materials was restricted to those who would be responsible about them.

His stance is not a bad stance in most aspects - though it might cause problems for the progress of science in some areas, where the free access to information is required so that scientists can build on each other's work. Ainan, however, was looking mainly to the dangers of the situation and advising that restraint and discretion be shown in all matters that were hazardous.

On balance, Ainan's view, though formed in a seven-year old mind, would lead to a safer world than the practise of many scientists and media in this world. Some things ought to be kept a whole lot quieter.

It is good to see Ainan maturing in this fashion: for it takes maturity of mind and character to look beyond one's immediate circumstance and to see and consider the wider impact of what one does. Many scientists - and most media - don't do that - as Ainan has pointed out.

I look forward to the day when Ainan is a responsible scientist in a world that needs more examples of the kind.

(If you would like to read more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged seven years and seven months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, four years and no months and Tiarnan seventeen months, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, the creatively gifted, gifted children and gifted adults in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 1:30 PM 


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