Do you believe in dinosaurs?

On of my earliest memories is from when I was at primary school. I must have been about 5 years old at the time, and I had just heard about dinosaurs. I can’t remember how I heard about them. Perhaps my parents had given me a book about them. That’s probably the sort of thing that parents do for 5-year-olds, right?

Anyway, I was fascinated by the whole idea¬†(as I expect most kids of that age are), and at school I asked my teacher “Do you believe in dinosaurs?”

The teacher was smart enough to spot that I was asking a¬†question with some rather poor assumptions behind it, and helpfully and patiently explained to me why it’s not really a question of belief. Dinosaurs, she explained, were an established fact, as seen from abundant evidence from the fossil record. Belief didn’t come into it: dinosaurs existed.

I understood what my teacher explained to me, and learned an important lesson that day. Some things are not about belief: they are about facts. In fact looking back on this with the benefit of 40-odd years of hindsight, I think perhaps that lesson was the single most important thing I ever learned at school (yes, even more important than that thing about ox-bow lakes). It’s a shame I can’t remember the name of the teacher, because I’d really like to thank her.

But it’s even more of a shame that so many people who don’t believe in global warming or who do believe in homeopathy or similar didn’t have such a good primary school teacher as I had.

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