December 1st, 2012

planet

Pluto: not a planet, not up for religious debate

Finally got around to watching “the Pluto files” on Netflix, about planetary classification and recent controversies, and I think it does a good job telling the whole story and talking to people with differing opinions. But honestly I’m still bothered that most of America really wants to dig in and live in a “solar system with NINE PLANETS” forever. They aren’t really understanding the issue.

I mean sure I thought it was a little weird when Pluto was declassified but when I learned why… the fact that we’d found all these other objects in the Kuiper belt that were the larger or at least of comparable size to Pluto, it made perfect sense. Eris certainly deserves to be a planet every but as much as Pluto does. But we want to cling to Pluto purely for sentimental value. People in the documentary said things like “aren’t some things about the world supposed to be certain? Isn’t science supposed to be certain? How could a whole PLANET change to "not a planet"? Is gravity not a force now, does an atom not have a nucleus?!”

Well actually, science isn’t supposed to be certain. It’s never been certain. That’s the POINT of science. You keep exploring and reshaping with every discovery.

If you want certainty, that’s what religion is for, and a lot of the Pluto arguments strongly resemble religious debates to me. Here’s how religion works:

1) Your personal gut feeling matters. You as an individual receive guidance from your creator that you must hold in your heart and trust, and it's every bit as important as what the "experts" tell you.

2) Certain things are not for debate. There is a God, despite the lack of evidence because “evidence” is something we see with our eyes, and God is above all that.

3) Faith is a prize, and earns rewards. One who believes without seeing has virtue above someone who insists on concrete signs.

4) We must agree to disagree, because our God is one who is above earthly things and can’t be proven, what’s true for you can just remain true for you and I will go on with my opinion without being disturbed.

Honestly, as a religious person, I’m totally cool with all this. I will totally admit that I believe in God because of my gut feeling, not because He’s spoken to me, and that although my understanding and religious feelings have evolved the core beliefs have not.

But that’s not how science works, and that’s why I think a lot of Americans have a problem with stuff like planetary definitions. Hey, we found more stuff out there. We need to rethink our universe. IT’S ALL GONNA BE OKAY.

We learned that Pluto isn’t terribly special… the big gas giant planets are special, the first four planets are special, but Pluto is just one of a lot of tiny ice balls out there in a belt of junk, just like Eris, Haumea, Makemake, Ceres, etc. These guys are smaller than our earth’s moon and clearly very different from the other eight planets. We could call them all planets, if you really like the word planet, but the more you learn about them the more you might feel like it’s just not right.

Saying “there are nine planets in the solar system” would be like saying you have 11 fingers… ten on your hand, and your second toe on your left foot counts because it’s clearly a digit with a nail at the end of it. And someone could say, “what about those other toes?” And you’d have to say “Well I didn’t notice those until a few years ago and I’m used to saying I have eleven fingers, so let’s go with it… I mean damn, asshole, what have you got against my eleventh finger? It’s awesome, I let a kid name it and there’s a whole dog cartoon and everything!”

Don’t be crazy, America.