29 Dec


qi photo: QI Crop Circle QICropCircle.png  Here’s a little thought. It might not seem very interesting to you but it fascinates me.

Facts are temporary things! They exist and then, like radioactive isotopes with half-lives, they decay to nothing. They become non-facts. Most of them, that is. Some may be absolute.

Social media is overflowing with well-meaning and, one might say, almost intelligent people who are so convinced about the absolute veracity of a “fact” that they become evangelical (almost) about it. But in years to come that fact may become lost in the absurd dustbin of history and other men and women may mock the “evangelists” for even daring to believe it. The fact will have passed its half-life and decayed. It happens all the time.

It’s not just me that might propose this. Far greater minds, amongst them the QI elves* headed by the great John Lloyd, are obsessed by this theory, which means it will probably decay and become nothing pretty soon.

In human history there have been some weird facts. The war in Heaven, the one between God and the Devil, springs to mind. It was such an incontrovertible fact in the bad old days of the Middle Ages that draconian punishments were meted out to those who appeared to be on the wrong side. Witches, for example, were clearly on the side of the devil and needed to be taken out. There was a great deal of quivering and quaking and actual, blood-curdling fear. Ecclesiastical law took the reality of this war into account when orders were issued and people were flogged.

Then, some time between then and now, the war in Heaven was no longer a fact, and the persecution of elderly ladies with warts ground to a standstill. After all, there’s no point in punishing a transgressor if there’s nothing for them to transgress.

A lot of these facts on the way to being obliterated as their half-life comes along consists of a great deal of the nonsense to do with other religions, but I’m not prepared to enter an arena that I’m ill-prepared to enter. It’s bad enough that the facts might be on the way out without me expressing an opinion on them! Just wonder where the seventy-two virgins come from when a suicide bomber succeeds, and ask yourself what they might think of the matter.

All my life I have been aware of diets. They come and go like rose petals in a summer breeze, and they all have one thing in common: follow this diet and you will gain an extraordinary amount of health and life. And some of them are quite contradictory to others, to the point that if you follow more than one set of rules in the belief that two is bigger and better than one you might find yourself starving to death. And not one of the diets considers the long evolution of the human gut; it’s proponents believe, rightly or wrongly, that they can improve on it.

At the moment there are popular movements of right thinking people who advocate a vegetarian diet and others who go further and maintain that life cannot be lived fully unless you enjoy a vegan diet. And they support their beliefs with “facts” about damage to the environment, the planet, ending with a forecast of the eventual death of Mother Earth because of human excesses etcetera etcetera. The actual truth, of course, the real fact, is that the Earth is good at recovering and if mankind disappeared tomorrow because the environment became all wrong for his continued survival, by this time next century it would be well on its way to a complete recovery from human silliness.

Facts simply decay.

Take true evangelical posturing, the religious sort.

Once upon a time it was a “fact” that a mysterious deity created the world and everything on it in six days and a bishop actually calculated that this was in 4004BC. The discovery of ancient fossils soon put an end to this “fact” and even the existence of that mysterious deity soon became widely doubted. And now the notion that religion is a last remnant of primitive thought is a fact according to a great deal of current philosophy, but facts have a half-life, facts decay…

I suppose all this is a cynic’s charter. What fun!

Now let me get back to the book of QI facts!!!

© Peter Rogerson 29.12.14

*QI elves – the team researching for the television programme QI, which is, of course, a deeply-cut abbreviation of Quite Interesting in which often almost unbelievable facts are given an airing and sometimes discussed at length. The programme’s been going for some years now (they do a letter a year and they’ve reached L) and already they’ve had to admit that some early facts are no longer facts. For example, they once stressed that there are nine planets in the Solar System and then someone decided that Pluto wasn’t one at all, and the fact was suddenly wrong.


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