July 10th, 2008

runestone

Childishness

In last week's New Scientist magazine, Lawrence Krauss quoted from a letter by Einstein:
"The Bible [is] a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish."
Krauss, not surprisingly, agrees and says that "the Bible results from a childish phase of human development". (Both quotes from New Scientist, 5 July 2008.)

Now, I'm not interested in getting into a debate about whether Einstein and Krauss are right or wrong in their opinions of the Bible and other religious texts. What I'm interested in is this idea of 'childishness'.

You see, I seem to come across this type of 'childishness' comment rather a lot.

The implication is that if something is 'childish', it is without value. At best, it should be looked down upon with paternal condescension and a wry chuckle by the person observing it.

Fantasy fiction is often described as 'childish' by people who don't read it. Again, with the implication that it is therefore valueless.

The suggestion appears to be that anything 'childish' is somehow lesser than anything adult. That it is simplistic, naive, wrong. Laughable, even. It's something that, when proper maturity is reached, should be dispensed of and looked back upon only with a 'how could I ever have believed/enjoyed that?' mindset

I don't buy it.

Children are not the same as adults, it's true. Generally, children are more open to new ideas, honest, creative, imaginative, thoughtful and, let's be honest, intelligent than adults. Adults, by contrast, are rarely open to new ideas. Their imaginations have been squashed, their brains fossilized, their opinions set and unwaverable. Adults rarely understand anything, particularly anything new and different. They have their opinions, and nothing will change that.

Yes, children may know fewer 'facts' than adults, but give them a new idea or concept and they will react with excitement, enthusiasm and a hunger for understanding that most adults never could.

So why is that being 'childish' is so widely used to dismiss things? I wonder if it is fear on the part of the adult, of something they don't know or understand or which goes against their beliefs.

I think we should strive for childishness. It should inform everything we do and think, otherwise we've essentially just stopped.

Childishness is not something pointless and wrong. It is an ideal to aim for.

Even science could benefit from a little more childishness. Think of the ideas it might come up with then