In the second and third chapters of Judgment Day, we learn of malleability and Marjorie Daw. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Science of Discworld IV.
I know I’ve said this before in previous reviews of the three Science books that came before this, but seriously: I love things that explain complicated ideas in easy-to-understand ways! I don’t believe this is the first time the point of science has been discussed, nor is it the first time that the authors have gone into detail how science is designed to be something to be questioned constantly. It’s just that this section helps break down the notion of scientific theory in a way that I could have used when I was younger and didn’t grasp the difference quite as well. Someone would try to dunk on me by saying that a scientific theory was unproven and based entirely on conjecture, and I just didn’t have the words to refute that and explain the actual definition:
The other meaning is ‘an extensive, interconnected body of ideas that have survived countless independent attempts at disproof.’ IT’S SO SUCCINCT! And so well-laid out! It can’t become a scientific theory until that body of ideas survives rigorous testing!
And it wasn’t just that. I have very distinct memories of trying to argue (but failing to be successful) with the nuns who taught my catechism, who gleefully told us that science must be fake because so many scientific “ideas” of the past were proven wrong. Thus, how can anything scientists tell us these days be held in high esteem? Their track record was terrible! Seventeen-year-old me knew there was something deeply wrong with this, but there are few things more frustrating than not being able to communicate a thing you feel. And I felt like this was wrong! But it’s spelled here so well: just because we improve our scientific theories with new information does not mean that science itself is thereby wrong and flawed.
At the same time, at least in the context of the various faiths I was raised in or had contact with, I definitely was told not to question knowledge or to change my opinions or beliefs when presented with new information. The authors spend a lot of time giving us specific examples of scientists believing patently false things, but doing so with the limited information at the time. The phlogiston example fits this perfectly! I do think that there’s a bit too much equivalency between Christian religions and all religions, especially since some of my Buddhist friends and some of my Jewish friends would like to have a word about their faith not encouraging them to challenge what is known. Still, I related to the sentiment as it applied to the specific conditions of my life; it just doesn’t work quite the same on a more general level.
So, it’s entirely possible at this point that Marjorie Daw is a real historical figure that I just don’t understand. I think the nursery rhyme suggests that she actually isn’t a historical figure, since she has that as a reference point? Perhaps there’s a famous librarian in Britain and that’s who this is! But… why a Librarian? Why did pressing that button bring Marjorie to the Discworld? I don’t see a reason for that at all. I did enjoy that while Marjorie was confused and disoriented, she mostly was like, “Well, I’m here for the ride. I shall nap, and then LET US CONTINUE.” She wasn’t begging to be taken home or demanding all too much of the Archchancellor. So, that’s interesting to me! Why is she so comfortable here? (I’ll accept that it’s because she’s a librarian, honestly.)
Ponder Stibbons’s suggestion, though, worries me. If there is going to be seepage between the worlds, are matters going to be further upset by sending the Dean and Rincewind over to the Roundworld experiment? Look, I just can’t believe that they’ll be able to easily pop over and not accidentally derail all of history in the span of five minutes. It’s just not how these things work! But I also wonder if this is an issue of balance. Did something from the Disc end up in Roundworld? Did Marjorie trade places with someone or something? UGH I NEED TO KNOW.
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