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 +

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The morality of rumours.

Rumours are a moral dilemma. That is, to receive a rumour puts the recipient in a moral quandary. The question is: should I pass on the rumour or not?

Well, the answer to this is always no. The reason why it should always be no, is that the recipient of the rumour is unlikely to have the necessary inside information to determine whether or not the rumour is true or not. If the rumour is NOT true, then to pass it on, is to commit slander, if negative. No moral person could, therefore, pass on a rumour in all good conscience.

The funny thing is, however, that most people spread rumours reflexively, without even thinking about where the information came from, or whether it was just a malicious lie sent spinning out into the world, by some anonymous jealous or spiteful person. Often, I think, rumours are just that: created to do harm to one that the rumour-monger has taken a dislike to. Like all of us, I have heard some ridiculous rumours in my time. You may have heard the same ones, too (think hamster and film star, for instance). I am pretty certain that the majority of rumours I get to hear are just not true. A moment's thought about them makes them begin to seem very unlikely indeed. We have all, for instance, heard the rumours about happily married film stars or other famous people, who have several children and yet are rumoured to be gay. Our first response to that should be: "That's ludicrous!", but too often, perhaps, in fact, almost all of the time, people pass on such rumours without thinking about their veracity.

Rumours wouldn't spread, at all, if people were either wise, intelligent or both. If they were wise, they would realize that they don't know enough to know whether the rumour is true - and therefore shouldn't in all moral conscience, pass it on. If they were intelligent, they would be smart enough to see through it and know it to be a lie - and again, wouldn't pass it on. However, in this world, the wise and the intelligent are few and the foolish and stupid are many. Thus it is that rumours are passed on, grow and become legends known by all - and yet, unsupported by any evidence, at all.

One can only conclude that rumours thrive on the stupidity of men...or their lack of moral conscience. For it can never be right to spread a negative idea about someone, without knowing it to be true. In fact, it can never be right to spread a negative idea about someone, even if you know it is true. One shouldn't, in brief, use words against the reputations of our fellow humans. To do so, strikes me as a moral failing.

Now, what do I do when I encounter a rumour? Well, firstly I just listen. Then I watch the person who is telling me of it, to see what their attitude is towards it (too often this is a kind of malicious glee). When they have finished, I will then comment on what they have said to see if they have any support to the comment they have just made. On those occasions when I can see some flaw, contradiction or know of contrary evidence, I will let the person know that what they have just said is false. On one occasion, for instance, I was at a dinner party, at which someone said, about a famous person, that they were partial to a particular kind of illegal relationship. My first and immediate response was: "I don't believe it!". I then told them all why I didn't believe it. You see it just wasn't plausible, given the physical shortcomings of the rather old man in question, that this kind of relationship could ever have occurred at all. It was just malicious gossip designed to bring him down, which was being relayed, without any thought about whether it was true, at a rather elevated gathering, at which people should know better. After I had pointed out the absurdity of the situation in question, I saw several people begin to re-appraise their unthinking acceptance of the slur. What surprised me, however, was that they hadn't thought of it themselves.

So, my personal approach to rumours is never to pass one on, to refute those against which I can discern contradictory evidence and to remind those who spread rumours that they have absolutely no way of knowing that there is any truth to what they are saying at all.

However, I am just one voice in a rather big world. Thus, my own little stand against rumour-mongering can only have a minute effect. However, if all who read this begin to take a higher moral stand on the issue of rumours and urge others to do the same, perhaps human discourse can rise above words founded on ill-feeling and begin to speak of certain truths to each other.

That would be an immeasurable improvement over what often passes for conversation, these days. Indeed, the modern conversation is often nothing but a series of rumours stuck end to end. I rather hope to see the end of such conversations. There are more fruitful ways to speak about the world. I only hope people make the effort to adopt them.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and seven months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, five years exactly, and Tiarnan, twenty-eight months, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, wunderkind, wonderkind, genio, гений ребенок prodigy, genie, μεγαλοφυία θαύμα παιδιών, bambino, kind.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 10:14 PM 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

2:16 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Rumours are often nothing but complete lies - and scurrilous ones at that - that is, in fact, what motivates their perpetrators to create them.

Some rumours may be based on truth. However, given the nature of the medium - gossip-mongers - we cannot know that they are true.

Your stand on the issue is an amoral one that does not take into account the damage you may be doing by passing on untruths about people. If you took a moral stand you would see that the spreading of rumours is wrong, for more often than not it is the spreading of frequently malicious lies.

Yes. People find rumours exciting...but you know what, the truth is always more interesting, because it helps us understands. Rumours don't do that...they just distort the images of public figures, sometimes disastrously.

Having observed rumours in action, I would say that most of them have no basis in truth whatsoever. They are just simple lies told by a liar sometime, believed, and passed on. That is all.

4:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When in the company of other University students or even family members - sadly - I tend to be quiet a lot because most of the conversations are based on rumours or gossip. I don't care for such talk.

I can't help trying to discover the logic and sense behind any comment. When a comment is not logical I am quick to point it out, sometimes to the chagrin of my peers and family members. Rumours are often illogical.

Sadly, many people are quick to believe rumours and do not bother with discovering the facts and making up their minds. Many a war has been started because of a rumour, whether it is a small scale war within a family or one that is a little larger.

Why do gossip magazines sell so well? I think it's the malicious glee you mentioned. I have seen it in the eyes of a - former - friend and it was directed at me and it scared me.

Kind regards, Maria

6:56 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Yes, Maria, that "malicious glee" is one of the most frightening of human emotions, to witness. It can cause one to rewrite one's opinion of a person in an instant.

You are doing the right thing, though, morally, by questioning the rumours you are able to question, and pointing out their illogic.

Good for you.

7:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please can you remove the comment I made (anonymous) about the morality of rumours to which you answered it being amoral. It world be most appreciated. Thankyou.

3:01 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

I have removed the post...but you know what, I don't understand why you are so concerned. Your views are anonymous and therefore untraceable back to you. It seems to me that you must have other reasons for wishing your comment to be deleted.

The removed post was writing in support of rumour-mongering (for the understanding of the reply.)

8:17 PM  

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