I was chatting with a co-worker today, and she said she’d heard “they” were thinking about calling Pluto a “planet” again after it was demoted in 2006. Is Pluto a planet, or a dwarf planet, or a planetoid comet, or a cometoid planet, or what? It’s a wonderful debate. It’s a debate about how to fit a stranger into our categories. Does the stranger fit neatly into one of our categories? Or do we adjust our categories to fit the stranger? What’s in it for us as people to declare, “OK, it’s settled about Pluto!”
There’s nothing it it for Pluto! Pluto just is, and even that statement reflects our human yearning to “know”Pluto.
I caught myself getting a little irritated as my co-worker went on about this. False categories. Stereotyping as the motivation for scientific curiosity. Grumble.
But then I realized what a great idea it was to demote Pluto. Because of that we’re talking. About how we understand and categorize things. We’re talking about strange faraway cold objects and what it means to know something about them. We’re talking about what it means to be a planet!
For the life of our own planet, let’s keep having these conversations! May some of them lead us to self-understanding and action.