When children ask Patricia Polacco if her stories are true, she says, “Yes, but it might not have happened.”
As a writer, I appreciate the importance of truth in expressing emotion, rendering dialog and detailing description – whether the story is fiction or nonfiction.
As a former scientist, I think of truth in a different way. Textbooks relate facts, but working scientists rarely speak of truth. We talk about replicating controlled experiments and data that are consistent with a larger hypothesis because often it takes a long time to figure out how nature actually works.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about truth in a political sense. In America, we expect truth, and find fraud, cover-ups and misappropriation of funds scandalous. But this isn’t true of every country. My friend, Fang Shimin (net name Fang Zhouzi), has devoted his career to exposing scientific corruption in China. Last weekend Shimin was attacked by two thugs, apparently in retribution for his role as a whistleblower. Fortunately, he escaped with only minor injuries.
Today, I’m thinking of freedom of speech, the privilege of living in a place where truth is expected, and the great gift of a legal system equipped to fight dishonesty.
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