A term invented by Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen, co-authors of
The Collapse of Chaos, Figments of Reality and, with Terry
Pratchett, The Science of Discworld. Lies-to-children
are the necessary half-truths told to children, students and
non-specialists when the real explanations are too difficult to
For example, most people picture an atom as a clump of nucleons
with electrons orbiting like planets around the sun. This is
completely out of line with modern knowledge, but few would contemplate
introducing quantum mechanics into a high school science class.
The main problem with lies-to-children comes about when the
inquisitive student attempts to apply the lies as if they were exactly
correct. This often leads to wildly inaccurate assertions from the
student or else disillusionment that their independent thinking lead
them to the wrong answer.
I believe that lies-to-children
are at least partly responsible for teenagers-who-know-everything...