I’ve been reading The Alchemyst, and while it’s a good read, the one thing that really caught my attention was this quote, from Nicholas Flamel: But what science cannot understand, it dismisses.
…what? What definition of ‘science’ does Nicholas Flamel use? The whole point of science is to figure out what it doesn’t understand. Science and dismissing what you can’t understand just don’t go together. To say that they do assumes that a bunch of people sat down one day and said, “Hey. We’re all tired of the old explanations for why stuff happens, yeah? How ‘bout we set down some new explanations and make a whole new dogma?” And then they all figured out some rules and shouted at anybody who disagreed with them. And then they all lived scientifically ever after.
What? Is that not how science works? This scene from history begs to differ:
Galileo sighed, banging his gavel against the table. The babble in the room began to die down, but smacking the gavel down was fun, so he did it a few more times.
“Enough already!” called da Vinci. Who had invited him, anyhow? He was an artist. Clearly not fit to come up with the new dogma of the ages.
“Fine!” shouted Galileo. He cleared his throat. “As you all know, we are gathered today because of our shared apathy toward the old creed – that Hephaestus is behind volcanoes, that Ra is behind sunshine, that Thor is behind thunder, that Ah Puch is behind death – whatever it is that people are saying these days. We want something different, some new belief system. I think we decided to call it ‘science’ didn’t we? ‘Science.’ It has a nice ring to it, some nice sibilance there…”
“Who made you leader, anyhow?” shouted Newton. “I want to be leader!”
A clamour of protests arose, all the meetings attendees vying to be leader.
Lamarck elbowed his way to the front, snatching the gavel. “I’m in charge here, all right? Me! Now, the first order of business is what should we say about the heavens?”
There was a moment’s thoughtful mumbling before the room erupted with suggestions.
“We should say that there’s a god who drags it across the sky!”
“That’s old hat, we should say it’s made of the souls of dead people!”
“We should say it’s all the goodness of the world, burning up!”
“We should say it’s where fire goes after it’s put out!”
“We should say that it’s burning sky-wood!”
“We should say that it’s atomic conversion!”
The clamor died down at this. The New Dogma Committee considered it.
“That sounds impressive,” admitted Sir Richard Owen. “But what does it mean?”
“I dunno,”Alexander Fleming, the man who suggested it, shrugged. “What should we make ‘atomic’ mean?”
“To do with atoms!” said John Dalton, leaping out of his seat. “And we should make atoms eensy weensy little things that make the whole world!”
“That’s brilliant!” said Lamarck. “Let’s make it official! All in favour, say ‘aye’!”
“Aye!” chorused most of the room.
“And we can say that these ‘atoms’ makes up … uh … molecules! Hey, that’s quite fun to say. Molecules, molecules, molecules….”
“Hold everything!” shouted Lamarck. “I’ve just been going through the suggestions box, and we’ve got a real gem here, folks: ‘I think we should make there be far more elements than four. I know that some places say there are five, so maybe we should do even more than that. Like almost a hundred, maybe! What do you think?’ I think that’s brilliant, is what I think! All in favour, say ‘aye’!”
“AYE!” chorused the attendees.
“Brilliant!” Lamarck scribbled it down. “It is law! Now, anyone who says there are only four or five elements shall be keelhauled, or at least aggressively dismissed.”
And so it went, long into the night. The dogma of the new era was being written.
As you may have noticed, I had absolutely no regard for anything even vaguely resembling realism or facts, mostly because I think that once you start working on the premise that science dismisses anything it can’t understand, you can be as ridiculous as you please, and fill your writing with gross mischaracterizations and anachronisms. Apologies if it makes for a terrible post.