Thursday, April 14, 2011

The God of Pluto

People are weird and illogical. For instance, take the uproar caused when the planet Pluto was demoted from being a planet at all.

Now, no one’s family lives on Pluto. In fact, no one has ever been there. There are no fond memories of Pluto in a tangible sense. And yet, people feel an attachment to Pluto. Even though our understanding of what a planet is has changed, even though science knows more about Pluto’s history, composition, mass, and orbit… no one likes the idea of Pluto no longer being a planet.

In some ways, this is very symbolic of a particular problem with people: the inability to abandon the familiar for something new. Even though we know adaption is important, even though we acknowledge we are not perfect, even though it makes no difference one iota one way or the other whether Pluto is classified as a planet or not… going against tradition just rubs people the wrong way.

I don’t know what to chalk it up to. I am tempted to say intellectual laziness. After all, it’s not a major inconvenience to learn one simple new fact and replace the error with a correction based on new data. But there is also some irrational attachment, not just a reluctance to relearn something.

Others have no problem. Some of us understand that science “knows” nothing, and science is limited by the finite information available. Unless we decide to stop discovering, to stop analyzing, to stop thinking, there are bound to be things that we were taught as children that turn out to be wrong. Sometimes a Brontosaurus turns out to be an Apatosaurus, just as sometimes we find out we evolved from monkeys rather than being made from dirt and a rib in a garden with a talking serpent that had legs… for a little while.

See, even in the Bible, things change. So why are we so afraid to admit to ourselves that sometimes an idea we thought we knew turns out to be incorrect?

Besides, you may have been wrong, but Pluto used to be a god, then he was a planet, now… he’s just Mickey’s dog.

I am proud to live in a time when we are getting smarter at such a rate that information I learned as a kid will be obsolete within my lifetime.


  1. Unlearning is devastating because it causes cognitive dissonance, and Science is the God that replaced Pluto and His gang. Science is now the God in whom we place our faith.

    Humans are riddled with psychological problems, and those are the healthy ones.

    Most of what we thing is formed by the united forces of cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias.

    In short, Pluto is a planet.

  2. on a completely unrelated topic as arbitrary as naming Pluto a Planet or a Planet Pluto, what is behind the button "do not click here"?

  3. Trust me, you don't want to click it. There's so many buttons in the world, you can click all of them, except that one. If you click it, you will surely die.


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