Friday, August 25, 2006

Plutonic Relationships

The issue around fair marriage is basically, as I understand it, that states feel that since the federal government gets to slaughter millions of Iraqi citizens, they should get to discriminate against homosexuals. In the US, gays were unable to marry in the eyes of the law thoughout the 20th Century. While that doesn't actually benefit anyone, it's a cruel and inconsistent thing we've been doing entirely out of inertia. People who are struggling to make the law consistent upset people who like things compartmentalized in the arbitrary ways they've always been.

I had an unexpected moment of fellow feeling with the repugnant supporters of oppression today when Pluto lost its status as a planet in the eyes of the International Astronomical Union. I'm a post-Enlightment guy -- I was a deist in college -- and I have an affection for consistency and order for its own sake. So, I get that it would have taken a lot of semantic acrobatics to make Pluto a planet and exclude Ceres, Charon and Xena. But, still, I say, 'why not leave well enough alone?'

In stark contrast to Fair Marriage, nobody benefits from this new consistency in celestial taxonomy. And 'planet' to my mind didn't really need a consistent definition -- the dynamical properties of bodies aren't going to change with their labels, and they're not going to play a different role in our lives. Planetary status didn't get Pluto a tax break. So, I would let custom rule over consistency in this instance.

All of which leaves me eager, as I always am when I see a chance for me and the biodiesel president to agree on something. Because the IAU is an international decision making body, and which rocks you refer to as planets is really up to you, I expect President Bush to publicly and boldy refer to Pluto's continuing status as a planet in the weeks upcoming.

Stay tuned....

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