How do you define the world?

Science reminds us over and over again not to take the world as we know it too seriously. Sure this seems like an oxymoron because science is so methodical, so skeptical, so...serious. But no matter how far we think we’ve come in uncovering the truth, there’s always a bigger picture (or a smaller microscopic detail) waiting to be revealed that will prove there’s more to the universe than we previously realized. It’s this process of continued discovery that makes life fun. The trick is not to get so attached to our old ideas that we can’t move on to the new ones.

Recently, three scientists discovered what they believe to be a new planet. It’s larger and farther away than Pluto (the current planet that is farthest from the sun). Affectionately called UB313, this orbiting body is currently under review by the International Astronomical Union who will determine if it meets the criteria to be called a planet.

The discovery of a potential new neighbor in the solar system is awesome and exciting, but here’s the real kicker, the IAU is having trouble defining what a planet is because, according to more recent scientific understanding, Pluto shouldn’t be one. So these astronomers are charged with the difficult task of deciding between scientific accuracy (at least to the best of today’s knowledge) and centuries of cultural history. In other words, there’s a chance that Pluto will remain a planet simply because we’ve always assumed that it is one.

This is how we create our world.

We’re not saying that it is "wrong" to keep the existing planets in tact, but the Pluto dilemma is a really good example of how important it is to understand when something is done out of convention rather than out of true knowing or understanding. It’s one thing to keep Pluto on the placemats sold in the Air and Space Museum’s gift shop, but it would be quite another to call other objects "planets" based on Pluto’s mistaken example.

The same is true for us on our own path of discovery. Most of our personal beliefs and concepts come from convention--and we mean all sorts of ideas from how we evaluate our self-worth to thinking we will get sick during "cold and flu season." Convention is a powerful tool and it is well used by many in authority to keep order and control. Certainly, there are times when this is necessary for our own harmony and safety, but convention should be followed knowingly and never blindly or out of fear.

True evaluations of right and wrong, come from the great within by honoring the One Life that connects us all, scientifically and spiritually. With our hearts and minds open to this singular purpose, we are able to bridge the gap between the many lives who are governed by culture and tradition and the One who is governed by knowledge. Then with a knowing wink, we can continue to name Pluto as we count the ten, eleven, twelve, and so on, planets in our solar system.

Copyright © 2004, 2016 K. Weissman & T. Coyne