Mark Reads ‘The Science of Discworld IV’: Chapter 8, Part II / Chapter 9

In the eighth and ninth chapters of Judgment Day, it’s time to talk about flat-earthers! Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Science of Discworld IV.

One great and unexpected thing about this book—and really, each of the Science of Discworld books have covered this—is how it allows the reader to see how thoughts have changed over time. The remainder of chapter eight deals heavily in historical perspectives on the nature of Earth: is it really a round planet, or is it flat? And it’s not all surprising that hundreds upon hundreds of years ago, people were still incredibly loud and incredibly wrong. Like, look no further than Samuel Birley Rowbotham (what a name!), who REPEATEDLY held a belief that was REPEATEDLY proven wrong. To his face! And yet, he just kept going. (I’m curious what the allegations “of sexual peccadillos” were, for the record.) And kept being wrong! And it makes me wonder: what are things we’re asserting right now as correct that basically amount to us being very loud and very wrong? Who is the Rowbotham of our time? (Actually, there are probably like a thousand of them, unfortunately.) Hello, who is the Hampden? (Jailed! For libel!) Actually, you know what would be interesting? Finding a modern analogue to Lady Anne Blount, someone who either faked evidence for their belief or, through a stroke of luck, had it accidentally confirmed due to other circumstances. 

But that whole bit about “the attitudes of the religious right and other pressure groups in America”? Hi, hello, WOW, the authors really fucking hit the nail on the head with that one. Here we are, in the year 2020, and that exact issue is still coming up. Flat-earthers are rampant again, as are Young Earth Creationists. School curriculums are highly, highly politicized, and there are absolutely school boards in my country making the decision to change what is taught on a systemic level to match with their beliefs. It’s something I had hoped would have faded away; having to fight against this sort of institutionalized power was bad enough in the late 90s and early 00s. It was exhausting! But now, there’s a whole new generation of kids who are up against the same machine: bigotry, bias, prejudice, and flat-out mistruths being peddled as the outright truth. 

I think we’ll get past it, for the most part. At least I hope so.

Anyway, let’s also talk about the Discworld chapter! It looks like the Omnians—or at least the most recent iteration of them—have decided to declare that Roundworld is theirs. It’s special. And holy! There are a number of fantastic references to Small Gods in the text, but we also get an update: they’re now called “The Church of the Latter-Day Omnians.” Not sure if this is meant as a direct metaphorical representation of Mormonism, but I found the naming very, very interesting. So, I wonder, then: Is the fiction part of this book going to be about the battle over Roundworld with this “newer” Omnian church? Marjorie tells an anecdote about flat-earthers in order to extend empathy to Ridcully, and I’m curious if this specific dynamic will play a bigger part in the story. I feel like it will! But what exactly do the Omnians want to do with Roundworld if they gain possession of it? Just let it sit there? Or something more controversial?

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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