by Chinedu Rylan
The title may be a little bit misleading, because this problem is not only limited to Nigerian schools. It’s a worldwide phenomenon occasioned by teachers, lecturers and instructors who make no effort to update themselves and add to what they already know. These lies – at least some of them – were facts at some point in time, but things have since moved on. Truths become lies as new discoveries are being made.
Here are 16 lies that are still dished out the world over even as you read this:
There are six classes of food: I was taught – and I know most of you were taught – that there are 6 classes of food, namely, proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, fats and oil, minerals and water. It is no longer the case. Officially, there are now SEVEN classes of food: proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins (or vegetables), fibres, fats and oil, minerals and water. Fibre is derived from plants and it was initially left out by nutritionists because it seemingly does not add any nutrient to the body. What fibre does that it alters the way our gastrointestinal tract absorbs food. Fibre itself is indigestible; it is broken down in the large intestine not by the body’s digestive system, but by the trillions of bacteria that live there.
There are nine planets in the solar system: Astronomers are regularly discovering new planets all over the universe. However, the number of planets in our own solar system has been reduced from nine to eight. This is due to the declassification of Pluto as a planet. Pluto was officially downgraded by astronomers at the 26th General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union which was held in Prague, Czech Republic, in 2006. It is now a dwarf planet. Astronomers found out that it is merely a huge ball of ice and rock orbiting the Sun in an area known as the Kuiper Belt. The Kuiper Belt is located beyond the planet Neptune (which is now the farthest planet in the solar system) and it contains over 70,000 icy objects similar to Pluto. Pluto happens to be one of the biggest of these icy objects, but it’s not the biggest. The biggest is Eris. Eris, a dwarf planet, is the largest object in the Kuiper Belt. It’s about 25% larger than Pluto.
There are four oceans: That was until the year 2000 when the International Hydrographic Organization concluded that a distinct body of sea that completely surrounds the continent Antarctica will be the Earth’s fifth ocean. The exact geographic coordinates of the salty water are yet to be agreed upon, but most sources will tell you that it lies to the south of Australia, New Zealand and the tip of the South American continent.
There are three states of matter: There are several states of matter, in fact. According to physicists, in addition to solid, liquid and gaseous, plasma can be observed in everyday life. Actually, scientists claim that plasma is the most abundant form of matter in the universe, because most of the stars, including our own Sun, are in a plasma state. Other states of matter include the neutron-degenerate matter, Bose-Einstein condensates, liquid crystals, superfluids, quark-gluon plasmas, quantum hall state, supersolid, string-net liquid, superglass and dark matter. But these forms of matter are very rare and some of them have not been observed, but are believed to exist.
Humans have only five senses: It turns out that sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste are not the only sensory responses human beings exhibit. Human sensory receptors can also respond to pain (nociception), changes in temperature (thermoception), changes in balance (equilibrioception), position (proprioception), magnetic direction (magnetoception) and the passage of time (chronoception).
Humans evolved from apes: This is a great lie and misconception that has been here with us since the day Charles Darwin published his controversial “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.” According to this well-known biological framework, human beings and the modern-day apes evolved from a single, now-extinct ancestor. As time passed by, these ancestors of ours began to evolve differently based on climatic, nutritional, geographical and social changes.
Mount Everest is the highest place on earth: Mount Everest is the highest mountain in the world quite alright, but it’s not the part of the world that is closest to outer space. Here how it works: the Earth does not have a perfectly round structure like the world globes you’ll find in most schools. Geographers call this anomaly an oblate spheroid, which means that the earth has a bulge towards the equator. As a result of this bulge, places close to the equator are “further out” from the centre of the Earth than places that are far away from it. Ethiopia, Kenya, Gabon, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and other countries that straddle the equator are “further out” from the centre of the Earth and are closer to outer space than countries that lie towards the north and south poles, such as the Scandinavian countries, Russia, Canada, the United States and Greenland. Going by this phenomenon, the title of the highest spot on Earth belongs to a mountain in Ecuador that you may not have heard of. The rather unspectacular Mount Chimborazo in the Andes of South America has been identified as the highest point on earth and its closest part to outer space. The peak is in reality 1.5 miles “higher up” than Mount Everest because it sits atop the Earth’s bulge, though it only measures 20,564 ft from sea level, while Everest measures 29,029 ft. But for the sake of clarity, Everest is still the highest mountain in the world from sea level, but if two objects are descending from outer space from the same distance and at the same pace to the two mountains, the one coming down to Chimborazo will land before the one descending to Everest. Everest is actually the fifth furthest place from the centre of the Earth; Huascaran in Peru, Cotopaxi in Ecuador, Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and Chimborazo are all further.
Babies are born tabula rasa: For ages, arguments and counterarguments have been made by psychologists and philosophers over whether human beings are born with the so-called blank slate. But thanks to advancements in genetic studies, most of us are now in the know that humans transfer some of their characteristics (known as traits) to their offspring. These traits go a long way in determining how the offspring will react when put in certain situations and subjected to certain conditions.
Different parts of the tongue detect different flavours: Even in my university days, I was taught by professors that different parts of the human tongue are specialized for detecting different tastes. The so-called tongue map balkanized our taste organ into areas responsible for detecting sweetness, bitterness, saltiness, sourness and unami. Per contra, it turns out that most taste buds on the tongue and in other areas of the mouth can detect any taste irrespective of their position.
Europeans brought Christianity to Africa and Christianity is a Western Religion: Christianity is the world’s largest religion and it originated from Asia in the geographical East. The movement that gave rise to Christianity was begun by Jesus Christ who was born over 2000 years ago in Bethlehem in present-day Palestine. The followers of the teachings of Christ were first called “Christians” in the town of Antioch which is now a historical site in present-day Turkey. Antioch lies on the eastern part of Turkey which is in Asia. It is not clear when Christianity was brought to either Europe or Africa. It is recorded in the Bible that Christ was taken to Egypt as an infant by Mary and Joseph who were fleeing from Herod the Great during the Massacre of the Innocents. However, Christ’s ministry began few years before he was crucified. It is not recorded if he went to Africa or Europe during his ministry. What is clear, though, is that one of his apostles, Mark, established the first church in Africa twelve years after the crucifixion, known as the Church of Alexandria.
Some years before that, another apostle, Philip, was recorded in the Acts of the Apostles to have baptised an Ethiopian eunuch on the road leading to Gaza from Jerusalem. The Acts, however, did not tell us where the eunuch went afterwards or if he spread the message in Ethiopia. A church was established in Ethiopia some years after the Church of Alexandria in Egypt and it is still in existence today. Most present-day Ethiopians are Christians and their own form of Christianity is not linked to the ones spread by the Europeans.
The Bible, the Church and People in the Middle Ages believed that the Earth was flat: According to the notion – which has been erroneously published in some textbooks – Christians in the Middle Ages believed that the Earth was flat. The notion has it that it was not until Portuguese explorer, Ferdinand Magellan, had “sailed round the world” without falling off the Earth’s presumed edge (and “discovered” what turned out to be North America) that the Church leaders came to the realization that the Earth is indeed spherical and not flat. Contrary to this view, Greek astronomers and pretty much everyone else then knew long before the advent of Christianity that the Earth was spherical. The early Greeks were renowned astronomers who made predictions that are still correct today. The Bible also alluded to a spherical Earth. Isaiah 40:22 says that “He (God) sits enthroned above the circle of the earth.” It was only a handful of scholars in the Middle Ages who claimed to be representing the whole Church that believed in a flat Earth.
Michael Faraday invented electricity: No-one actually invented electricity. The form of energy now known as electricity has been there since the beginning of the world. Electricity occurs in nature. A lightning bolt, for example, releases electricity.
Thomas Edison invented the light bulb: While it is not clear who invented light bulbs, they were being used as electric lights more than 50 years before Thomas Edison patented his famous invention in 1879. What Edison invented was the world’s first commercially viable incandescent light bulb.
Diabetes is caused by sugar: Sugar doesn’t directly cause diabetes, but if you consume too much sugar, you are likely going to get diabetes. What sugar does is that it increases the quantity of calories in the body. Too many calories in the body lead to weight gain which significantly increases a person’s likelihood to develop type 2 diabetes.
The Whites kidnapped Africans and sold them into slavery: This is not entirely true. Most slaves that were shipped into the Americas to work in plantations were actually captured by their own kinsmen and sold to the Europeans. When it all began, the Europeans were the ones doing the kidnapping. They organized abduction raids to capture slaves from different communities. But in no time, they realized that it was too dangerous a venture for them since they were not familiar with the inland terrains. What did they do? They subsequently found people that will do their dirty jobs. Then came the local chiefs and the greedy merchants. They were given this responsibility in exchange for money and other privileges. At the height of the slave trade, this practice became a lucrative business along Nigeria’s Atlantic coast.
The United States of America is the world’s largest economy: That was until 2014; October to be precise. The US is still the richest country when measured by reserves and collective national wealth, but it no longer has the world’s largest economy, according to the International Monetary Fund’s Gross Domestic Product Purchasing Power Parity (GDP PPP) estimates. China is now the world’s largest economy. In the IMF’s indices, China’s GDP is now worth $17.63 trillion compared with the US’ $17.55 trillion. The IMF makes its calculations based on purchasing power parity, a measure which is preferred by most economists. Purchasing power parity adjusts a country’s GDP for inflation based on the fact that the prices of goods and services as well as cost of living vary from country to country. When not measured based on purchasing power parity, the United States is still the world’s number one economy with a GDP of $16.8 trillion compared to China’s $10.3 trillion.