Sunday, August 10, 2008

Pluto Is Many Things To Many People, But It Aint No Planet

Looks like the old debate has returned and astronomers are once again arguing over Pluto's planet status.

I personally would like to see Pluto remain in its "NOT A PLANET" status. But for a somewhat unorthodox reason. I often use the fact that Pluto is no longer considered a planet as a way to point out one of the important differences between science and religion. It is a great example of new technology... providing new information... that causes the scientific communty to admit fault in it's existing information. No adherence to tradition, no injured pride, no accusations of heresy and no excommunication. You just inform the world that billions of books, posters, documentaries and science fair models are WRONG. And when the world replies "COME ON!" Science replies "TOUGH SH*T" this is science.

And if you are thinking "Hey man Pluto should be a Planet, It always has been, its an accepted fact." Well then you have missed your calling. You should have been a church elder in the 1600s. You could have helped to stifle the work of Galileo Galilei. Tradition has no place in science.

And with that in mind, if you can cut Pluto some slack because of 70 years of planet status then what are you gonna do for the geocentric model of the solar system which held sway for SIX THOUSAND years.

But don't take it from me. Take it from The Chairman of the Board (of The Planetary Society) Neil deGrasse Tyson


Walking Spanish said...

not to mention it's huge asymmetrical orbit...
wait'll the 10th planet (with a vastly HUGER asymmetrical orbit) finally makes its 10,500 year orbital rotation back home in the inner solar system.
THEN the fireworks begin


Dave Himself said...

Walking Spanish just got Aztec on my ass. None the less, agreeing with me in his own special special kind of way. He and I can agree to have them re-open the Pluto debate on Christmas day 2012.

Anonymous said...

Is there really any difference between science and religion? Both are belief systems that often inspire dogmatic and blind allegiance from their subscribers. Both scientific and religious theory have historically been amended and revised over time, either because past theories have proven false or simply out of the self-interest of the entities that purport such theories.

Dave Himself said...

One way to compare science and religion is by asking each what is behind a curtain.

Religion says: God is everywhere so god is behind the curtain. Or religion says: the "holy book" does not speak of what is behind the curtain so there is nothing behind the curtain. Or religion says: concern yourself not with the other side of the curtain but with... and so on.

Science plots a course to the curtain. Develops a mechanism to open the curtain. And then records data in an effort to describe and explain what it has seen behind the curtain.

So in that way Science and religion are very different.

Also if you look at the writings of each you see a huge difference. In Science the writings are each authors attempt to describe the facts they were able to measure and the conclusions they drew from that information.

In Religion the writings are "the word of god." Or in some cases his disciples.

Science says "here is my book. Here is what I have found out. Please investigate further." Religion says "here is my book now get to memorizing it."

Also, science (not necessarily all scientists, but science) invites amendments while religion abhors them.

So is there really any difference? Yes I would say so. No one fears the wrath of Clyde Tombaugh for demoting his planet. His discovery is not diminished and his status in the scientific community is unscathed. And the Astronomical Union will not be excommunicated from Astronomy for creating the cause of Pluto's demotion.

In conclusion, ask science what is right and wrong, just and unjust, moral and immoral and it will not reply. it knows that it does not know.

Anonymous said...

My comment that science and religion are similar was geared to the dogmatic perceptions of those who subscribe to either religious or scientific belief systems. For example, it is certainly true that most religious systems assert the omnipotence of "God" and attribute our origins to some design or plan of god. Science offers theories about how our world(s) came about and often, certain theories are dismissed and others gain wide popularity. Those who subscribe to either religious or scientific belief systems tend to be equally passionate about their views. Is the Atheist or Agnostic any less fervent in his beliefs than the Creationist?

Also, there are certainly amendments to both scientific theory and religious theory over time. While science systems tend to be amended as a result of new advances (often scientific theory changes as technology matures--scientists once believed that the Earth was the center of the universe, rather than the Sun), religious belief systems tend to occur in response to political and social pressures (e.g., the Pope is no longer infallible and the Roman Catholic Church no longer teaches the concept of Purgatory). Indeed, most recently we have had changes in religious theory to make religious beliefs seem "more scientific." (e.g., Intelligent Design vs. Genesis).

My comment was really directed at the notion that a person who prescribes to scientific theory can be equally as dogmatic, narrow-minded, and defensive as a religious zealot. Additionally, I was commenting on the fact that both Science and Religion have evolved over time and will continue to change. In these ways there is little difference between the two belief systems. Both systems attempt to explain our origins and address issues of function and purpose in the universe. While they certainly do so differently, they often share the common result of providing those who subscribe to the systems' theories with a sense of security and purpose. -jsgrand

Dave Himself said...

I now better understand your comparison of the two but I will still argue that science and religion should never be called "similar."

I think the key lies in your following point...

"a person who prescribes to scientific theory can be equally as dogmatic, narrow-minded, and defensive as a religious zealot"

Imagine that I (an atheist) am in a discussion with a Christian and a Sikh... No let me start again.

Imagine I (who thinks professional sports are a joke) am having a discussion with a football fan and a baseball fan. All 3 of us can argue. All 3 can be narrow-minded and defensive. That indeed makes me similar to the other two. We are all three fervent supporters of our beliefs. But they are sports fans and I am not. I don't think anyone would attempt to argue "He is a sports fan too because he argues with baseball and football fans. In essence he is a fan of the team called The Null Sets and might as well buy their hat."

I regret that atheists were ever given a name. It is an absurd thing to do. Naming something outside of a group? If everything inside of a bag of chips is chips. Then is not everything outside of a bag of chips.. athichips.

Bald is not a hair color.

So, I have actually decided to agree with you. Or at least with the following statement.

When theists and atheists defend their position on religion they exhibit many of the same attributes.