Big Questions From Little People And Simple Answers From Great Minds, compiled by Gemma Elwin Harris
This book is an interesting one in that it demonstrates the way that children are flattered in the questions that they ask and that it matters a great deal who is asked to answer the questions. The questions asked here are not bad ones, and indeed are certainly well worth asking even if they cannot be answered as much as one would want. What is more curious about this book is the indifferent and mixed quality of the answers given. Indeed, the answers to these questions are not so much unexpected as they are related to the ignorance that comes from mistaken religious and political worldviews. There is a lot of fretting about (somewhat imaginary) global warming, speculations about evolution and the idea that the Big Bang is something other than the result of a Creator God bringing the universe into existence, and the result is a book that seeks to gratify the vanity of children into being thought of as good askers of questions as long as those questions are convenient to the people who make the book, and for the people who answer them who want to be considered as great minds even though that is frequently not the case here.
If one had to think of the sort of questions that this particular book viewed as being big questions, most of those questions would end up being scientific curiosities about the body and life and the universe. These are by no means bad questions, but they are questions which count more as trivial matters than essential ones, looking at where oceans come from, why the moon shines, the difference between snails and slugs, cow farts, the salty sea, the purpose of the internet, personal identity, and so on. Other questions relate to the existence of many nations and the resulting disunity of mankind as well as the disunity that exists within families and why is it that people fall in love. Some questions are historical in nature, such as the Guy Fawkes matter, or Alexander the Great’s feelings about frogs or the biggest battle the Romans fought in. By and large it is easy to appreciate the questions asked by the children, which are the high point of this book. It is easy to flatter the curiosity of those who ask questions and quite alright to encourage such curiosity even if sometimes the questions are a bit wacky, such as how far is space, which is not as far as one might think, twelve miles straight up, or a bit less than twice the height of most plane flights.
There is, to be sure, genuine humor to be found in this book. Some of the outtakes are mildly amusing, at least, and at least some of the answers are well-done. It is not as if all of the people answering the questions are rather poor at what they do. Rather, what is mistaken is the worldview that the people compiling this book approach it with. Those who think that they have the answers in our society do not, in fact, have a lot of the answers because they have closed off their mind to reflecting upon the superiority of God and His ways to the subject of their own musing and speculation, as a result the supposed wisdom that they have to offer is often some sort of folly that is guaranteed to be obsolete before too long as new equally fallacious ideas become popular. Still, though, if anything about this book should be celebrated, the publisher does a good job in encouraging children to question, which ought to be encouraged more and made more fundamental.