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, July 04, 2012

Shocking news: Mermaids don’t exist...zombies neither.

Mermaids don’t exist, says the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). If that news disappoints you, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), announced, last month, that zombies don’t exist, either.

Now, for me, these news items were a little surprising – not, you understand for their content, but for the fact that they were thought necessary.

NOAA released their denial of the existence of mermaids to counter an upwelling of belief in them, after a recent Animal Planet TV show: “Mermaids: the body found”. Apparently, the computerized imagery showing mermaids, in this show, had convinced some viewers that mermaids were real.  In response, NOAA said: “No evidence of aquatic humanoids has ever been found”.

So, too, the CDC denial of the existence of zombies presumably comes in the wake of a case in which a man, apparently high on some sort of drug, ate the face of a homeless man, in rather zombie like behaviour. The CDC declared: “CDC does not know of a virus or condition that would reanimate the dead (or one that would present zombie-like symptoms).”

Both of these announcements gave me great pause. It is true to say that they are enough, in themselves, to turn one’s world upside down. Of course, that is not because one might be disappointed to learn that mermaids don’t exist and that zombies are entirely fictional. It is quite simply because of the sheer implicit dumbness of the American people that would require these scientific bodies to make such announcements. How dumb must the population be, to be convinced of the existence of mermaids, or the truth of zombies? How dumb must these people be, to live in fear of a “zombie apocalypse” some apparently do?

We live in paradoxical times. Whilst educational opportunities, in general, may be better than at any other time in history, for the average person, we are also confronted with the sheer stupidity of many modern people. Somehow, despite the opportunity to learn and a considerable apparatus to do so, in almost all the world’s countries, people still insist on being dumber than your average brick.

Particularly worrisome about this is the fact that both these announcements came from American scientific bodies. This is very much suggestive that America, in particular, may be suffering from a surfeit of dumb people in its population. Could this be because American education has declined in recent decades? Is the average person leaving High School unable to distinguish reality and fiction to the extent that they need to be told, via official announcements that the stuff of mere stories – mermaids and zombies – do not exist in real life?

Modern civilization is upheld, not by the average person, nor by the believers in zombies, or mermaids, but by the intellectually gifted. Relatively few people know how the apparatus of science, technology, engineering, architecture and medicine work. It is on such people that the structure of society rests. Without them, society would be on the level of the zombie believers. That would be the true “zombie apocalypse”.
The situation led me to wonder why our scientific bodies don’t devote more energies to educating the public. What if, instead of having to deny the existence of fairy tales, they could use the mass media to educate the general public about science, technology and the world? The only problem with this, of course, is whether the mass media would even carry such stories.

Sometimes I do find myself agreeing with Ainan’s sombre view of the future of Humanity. He thinks we are in for a general decline in civilization, in the coming century. He sees signs of it in the general decay of public consciousness and in the disregard for the future, shown by our “leaders” (think, for instance, of the general inaction on global warming). He doesn’t yet know about the zombie/mermaid believers. I don’t expect it will fill him with any more hope to hear it.

I do hope Ainan is wrong on this point. I would like civilization to climb to ever higher levels. Yet, then I hear stories like this one. It is a worry.

Clearly, what is needed to address this is for education standards to be raised to the level at which, at least, people are able to distinguish reality and fiction. Is that too much to ask?

Posted by Valentine Cawley

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 6:30 PM 


Blogger Webby said...

I saw this news report this week on a show that comes out of New York City, "Good Morning America". The newscasters were talking about the fact that mermaids don't exist. One of the female newscasters said "Mermaids DO NOT exist!". Then one of the male anchors said "Hey, we are affililated with the Walt Disney company!" The woman then started to say some more positive things about believing in mermaids. I guess that was in case Walt Disney would get angry at them, and if any little children were watching it. Well, any child little enough to still believe in mermaids won't be paying much attention to the news.

People often like to escape into fantasy, but some people take it to the extreme. Some big fans of myths sometimes live much of their lives in the fantasy worlds. Some escape is fun, but there needs to be limits.

8:35 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

The real danger comes when someone doesn't know their beliefs are fantasy...then all sorts of crazy things can happen. It seems that there are enough such people in the USA, for these bodies to have to issue press release denials of the fantastic. It is astonishing, really.

Some newscasters might not be too bright...after all, all they have to do is read. That is not too demanding a job. So, it might not be because she was beholden to Disney...

Thanks for your comment.

8:49 AM  

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