A major flaw in the world of science was unexpectedly but blatantly uncovered yesterday. For apparently astronomers have decided that Pluto is no longer a planet.
Are they incorrect? Perhaps, perhaps not; frankly I have no idea. But the flaw involved has nothing to do with Pluto's actual classification. Rather, the error is in the height of the pedestal on which so many people place scientific judgement. The Pluto decision demonstrates that accepted scientific conventions are not always set in stone and can even be flat-out wrong.
For the past 76 years, leading astronomers have proclaimed Pluto a planet. Now they don't. Clearly both views cannot be correct. How different is this from debates in the 1600s over the shape of the earth? At one point scientists thought the earth was flat. Then they realized it's round.
The point is, even the most brilliant groups of scientists can make mistakes. They can also, as we see, quickly change their minds. We should hence recognize that many standard scientific views are not necessarily correct merely because intelligent scientists say so.
So when groups of scientists declare, purely on speculation, that global warming is the world's greatest threat, that intelligent design is bunk, and that DDT is dangerous, we should resist the impulse to believe them simply because they are scientists. Scientific conclusions need true evidence, not majority opinions.
Thanks to a 76-year old scientific misjudgement (if, at least, you believe in the new solar system categorization), our former ninth planet may have lost its hierarchy in the cosmos. But it has actually done the world a great favor, by providing a promiment demonstration that scientific paradigms are not automatically sacred and that scientists do commit mistakes and disagree.
Regardless of how the debate over Pluto concludes, the process involved appears to be the most revealing portion. Science is a powerful tool, but like all fields, it relies heavily on a human element which we must consider when examining its findings.