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Open Access Open Badges Research

The removal of pluto from the class of planets and homosexuality from the class of psychiatric disorders: a comparison

Peter Zachar1 and Kenneth S Kendler2*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Psychology, Auburn University Montgomery, 7061 Senators Drive, Montgomery, AL, 36117, USA

2 Virginia Institute for Psychiatry and Behavioral Genetics and Departments of Psychiatry and Human Genetics, Medical College of Virginia of Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia Commonwealth University Medical School, Box 980126, 800 E. Leigh Street, Room 1-123, Richmond, VA, USA 23298-0126

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Philosophy, Ethics, and Humanities in Medicine 2012, 7:4  doi:10.1186/1747-5341-7-4

Published: 13 January 2012


We compare astronomers' removal of Pluto from the listing of planets and psychiatrists' removal of homosexuality from the listing of mental disorders. Although the political maneuverings that emerged in both controversies are less than scientifically ideal, we argue that competition for "scientific authority" among competing groups is a normal part of scientific progress. In both cases, a complicated relationship between abstract constructs and evidence made the classification problem thorny.

classification; authority; objectivity; DSM