In the eighth chapter of The Science of Discworld, I an enjoy thinking that I am made of stardust. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
Wow, this was a DENSE chapter. I had one initial thing that I absolutely responded to, but this was the first Roundworld chapter that truly challenged me. I did have flashbacks to sophomore year chemistry from high school, which was a class I generally enjoyed a great deal. There was a lot of math and formulas and memorization, and I tend to do that kind of learning better than, say, the more theoretical intensity that came with AP Physics. (WHICH SHALL HAUNT ME UNTIL THE END OF MY DAYS.) There was a point in my life around the age of 15 or 16 where I could recite the entire periodic table from memory, and I was deeply pleased with this reality. In hindsight, I feel like my attachment to things like math and science came from the certainty they made me feel. Which I know is like… completely not in line with the point the writers are trying to make in this section. While there are “rules” that govern elements and the make-up of atoms, the big thing I’m taking away from The Science of Discworld is that dogma and certainty ultimately work against the pursuit of knowledge.
What I mean, though, is that it was comforting when “rules” always made sense. Formulas, at least as I learned them, never changed. The goalposts weren’t shifted constantly. And I’m still really, really good at math these days, and I wonder what it would have been like if I had stuck with that realm in terms of my education.
I’m glad I’m doing what I’m doing, don’t get me wrong. But chemistry class always made a satisfying sense to me. What little friction I felt in regards to science was due to my upbringing. There was this constant war going on in my head about the world I was learning of in school and the world that had been taught to me at home. Look, if it’s not clear yet, I grew up in a home where the notion that we are made of stardust was viciously offensive. To me, it’s beautiful. Poetic. Inspirational. It makes me feel more a part of this vast, uncaring universe. But that wasn’t necessarily something I was ready to accept at that age. I still loved science, and I still loved learning how the world worked, but until I graduated high school, I found a way to filter all of it through the lens of God.
Which is not a bad thing, for the record! I don’t think they’re incompatible, nor do I find it silly or ridiculous for someone to be invested in the pursuit of scientific knowledge while being religious. (If you haven’t figured it out yet, I find hardline atheists to be The Worst in many respects, and this is one of them. I admit that for a brief period of my life, I was a pretty obnoxious atheist. But I also read Ayn Rand and thought her stuff was cool for like a month, so???? We all have our bad periods, and I am glad to have grown from them.)
The point being: for me, God was a barrier. It is not that way for other people, but God (or my understanding of that deity, supported through my parents’s fundamentalism and my later conversion to Catholicism) prevented me from understanding large parts of the world and humanity. Ironically enough, though, I was an atheist by the time I started college, and you’d think that would have renewed my interest in the sciences and pushed me to explore it more. It did, but I had to take Marine Biology THREE TIMES in order to pass it. It remains the only class I have ever failed in my entire academic career, and I failed it twice.
I’d like to explain that, but OH WELL. It was at 8am three days a week! I kept sleeping in!!! DON’T JUDGE ME!!!!
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