One of the things I discovered when I started to write non-fiction books was the huge difficulty there is in finding the truth about anything.
For example, I'm old enough to remember a time when full-fat milk was not only good for you, but actually compulsory. They supplied it free in my school and made all the pupils drink it. Just a few years later, somebody decided it wasn't good for you at all. Whole milk, along with other delicious dairy things like butter, cream and cheese, helped make you fat, gave you cholesterol and raised your risk of a heart attack. Later still, a medical practitioner told me the amount of cholesterol attributed to diet was tiny compared to the cholesterol manufactured by your liver and high cholesterol was generally caused by worry rather than foodstuffs. When I eventually discovered my own cholesterol was raised (possibly caused by worrying about my fondness for whole milk, butter and cream) the technician who took the blood sample mentioned that according to latest research, high cholesterol wasn't always bad for you. When I did some research myself, I found there were two different types of cholesterol and one of them was positively good for you. (The other, unfortunately, was still considered lethal.) Then a friend of mine told me on her ninetieth birthday that she'd lived to her disgustingly healthy old age by drinking milk and eating lots of butter and cream. The day after, my wife, who's training to be a Master Herbalist, told me milk products are mucus-forming (which sounds revolting) and thus to be avoided.
I can also remember a time when flouride added to drinking water was wholly beneficial, when Saddam Hussein hid weapons of mass destruction, when the CIA did not have secret prisons scattered throughout the world. Now I'm reliably told it wasn't, he didn't and they have.
Once I clung to the idea that if truth was sometimes buried or distorted by the popular media, you could at least trust the scientific community. That was before I discovered scientists sometimes falsify their experiments, misinterpret their data, follow career paths dictated by current fashions and fear to rock the boat with new ideas because that might cost them their grants. Not all scientists: some. But some is enough. In fact, some is too much.
Once I listened to the experts, who interpret difficult scientific findings and political events for the rest of us. I especially listened to the experts who confirmed my own prejudices. Now it seems to me that the vast majority of experts consider it their duty to convert raw data into fear. So on top of my concerns about whole milk, I've been variously told I should worry about the Communist Menace, nuclear warfare, the exhaustion of fossil fuels, Satanic child abuse, the resurgence of Fascism, the Millennium Bug, anthrax, the Terrorist Threat, the abuse of our civil liberties, bird flu, global warming, young people in hoods and Armageddon.
I sometimes yearn for simpler days.