Dr. Free-Ride: Wakey wakey!
Younger offspring: (groggily) I don’t want to get out of bed yet.
Dr. Free-Ride: That’s fine. Can I ask you some questions?
Younger offspring: (simultaneously nodding and burrowing further under the covers) Mmm hmm.
Dr. Free-Ride: If I ask you some questions, do you think you can tell me your answers?
Younger offspring: If I know what the answers are I will.
Dr. Free-Ride: Can you tell me what truth means?
Younger offspring: Not imaginary. Real.
Dr. Free-Ride: Interesting. So, how can you tell when what someone is telling you is true.
Younger offspring: When they say something and they really mean it. Or when, if you say they’re not telling the truth, they say it again and they start to cry if you won’t believe them.
Dr. Free-Ride: OK, so you’re saying that how someone acts when they’re telling you something can be a clue to whether they really believe it’s true. (You’re giving me a theory about testimony!) But are there any other ways to tell if what someone is telling you is true?
Younger offspring: Huh?
Dr. Free-Ride: What if someone shows you a bike and tells you it’s red.
Younger offspring: I can look to see if it’s really red.
Dr. Free-Ride: Exactly. And if I tell you the hot and sour soup is kind of peppery but still yummy?
Younger offspring: I can taste it myself to see if that’s true.
Dr. Free-Ride: Or if I tell you three plus two is five?
Younger offspring: I can think about my math facts. Or check on my fingers.
Dr. Free-Ride: So there are some claims where you can figure out whether they’re true or not just by using your senses or thinking about them. Are there other claims where you can’t tell what’s true and what’s not?
Younger offspring: No, I can tell. Even when you say, “I’m going to run away,” or [Dr. Free-Ride's better half] says, “I will crush you!” I know that it’s not the truth.
Dr. Free-Ride: How can you tell?
Younger offspring: Because you two love us very much.
Dr. Free-Ride: Well, that’s true.
* * * * *
Dr. Free-Ride: How can you tell what’s true?
Elder offspring: Huh?
Dr. Free-Ride: Let’s say I told you there was a purple sloth in the back yard.
Elder offspring: There wasn’t.
Dr. Free-Ride: How do you know that?
Elder offspring: I’ve read about sloths. Sloths aren’t purple.
Dr. Free-Ride: So the books say sloths aren’t purple. But what if I insisted that there was a purple sloth in the back yard?
Elder offspring: (looking out the window) I’d look in the back yard and see that there’s no purple sloth and I’d know that you were lying.
Dr. Free-Ride: What if I told you it was there a moment ago but now it’s run off?
Elder offspring: I wouldn’t believe you. Not only would a sloth not be purple, it’s not likely to run off so quickly.
(The younger Free-Ride offspring wanders by singing Fibber Island.)
Dr. Free-Ride: Perhaps on Fibber Island the sloths are purple and move quickly.
Elder offspring: There’s no such place as Fibber Island.
Dr. Free-Ride: How do you know there’s no such place?
Elder offspring: My teachers have never told me about it.
Dr. Free-Ride: So?
Elder offspring: It’s not in my book about different countries.
Dr. Free-Ride: That’s a big book, but it doesn’t talk about every country there is.
Elder offspring: It’s not on our globe.
Dr. Free-Ride: That globe shows the whole world, but it’s a lot smaller than the whole world. A really tiny island might not be easy to represent on that globe.
Elder offspring: I’m pretty sure there’s no such place as Fibber Island.
Dr. Free-Ride: I agree with you. The hard thing is how you can know for sure.
Elder offspring: But unless it’s on a map or in a book or someone’s been there, it’s just as hard to prove that there really is a Fibber Island.
Dr. Free-Ride: That’s also true.
Younger offspring: Besides, They Might Be Giants sometimes lie in their songs.
Elder offspring: They’re still good songs, though.