Monday, October 26, 2009

If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?

Here's the moment you've all been waiting for... (Shouldn't that be "the moment for which you've all been waiting?")

You may or may not remember the challenge I issued to one reader often identified as either Solid_Id or SuperEgo.

You can catch up here.

I received the following via comments Saturday afternoon:

Solid_Id said...

I have no interest in answering the question:

1) These types of questions do not interest me; never have.
2) I can answer the question either way, and you will debate me with the opposite point, no matter what position I take, and will be the victor on your blog.

The last thing I will say: of course it does. duh. why wouldn't it. does it make a sound when you are there? yes. do the laws of physics cease to exist when you're not there? no. there, does that set you up for your argument now? let me guess...blah, blah, philosophy...theory...nothing can be certain...god...blah blah. sum it up? haha just kidding. but seriously, of course it makes a noise.

End quote.

It took him a while to get there, but in the end he hit the nail on the head. The real problem with this question is that it's entirely anthropocentric.

Anthropocentrism (from Greek: άνθρωπος, anthropos, "human being"; and κέντρον, kentron, "center") or anthrocentrism is the belief that humans must be considered at the center of, and above any other aspect of, reality. ...

That's from wikipedia, and makes the point quite adequately on its own.

Just think about it for a minute. The fact that no human hears the sound doesn't mean no sound was made. If my dog hears it, does that count? Or an insect?

Think even smaller. A sound wave is produced and travels through the air. According to Newton, with every action comes a reaction. So something changes, at some level, even if no living organism is there to observe it. (Think of the soprano shattering glass on a high note!)

Consider also the plight of this poor fellow:

Did that tree make a sound? I bet it made some sound issue from that guy when he saw it for the first time.

Anyway, props to Solid_Id/SuperEgo for a solid answer to an ancient question. I congratulate you, sir, and hope that is not the last comment you leave me.

I'll hold off on answering your questions, if you don't mind. I'm not quite ready to release my final school list.



  1. 1. I am not Super Ego. I already said that.
    2. I got a 1420 on the GRE. My prep cost about $20 for the book. The rest was my stunning intellect.
    3. Didn't they teach you not to reference Wikipedia in your classes?

    Okay, okay. I guess I'll leave you some more comments. But you have to open your horizons...listen to the WHOLE thing. And then tell me what you think (P.S. the video is not graphic):

  2. 1. Um...sure.
    2. Congratulations. I hope I can do at least that well.
    3. They taught me not to reference Wikipedia as a scholarly source. But I don't really consider what I do here as scholarly work.
    4.? Glad to see you're still around.

  3. Hey, is that the Avenue Q thing? That song would be in my head all night if I listened to the whole thing. I've heard it before on XM. Was there a specific lyric you wanted me to hear, or just the song in general?

  4. It was to put the song in your head.

    I'm telling you, I am not Super Ego. I have three purposes for commenting on your blog:
    1. To make you think.
    2. To voice my opposition when I disagree with you. We are pretty much polar opposites, although I will not formally call you my nemesis.
    3. To bug you.

    I do not know what Super Ego's motives are; but we are not the same person. In fact, I joined your blog "community" after seeing the name Super Ego. I thought it would be a fun contrast.

  5. Y'know, I'm starting to believe you on that. I thought you were just drawing a hard line between the Id and the Superego, and I never understood why my Ego never had anything to say.

    But seriously, you guys showed up at the same time. It may have even been on the same day. What was I supposed to think. Anyway, sorry for any confusion.

  6. I think thee answer is no but if your up with science its yes so it all depends with whos side your on but the answer is no 1st becuase if its a 2 inch tree no human ear can hear it and 2nd your not there so u cant prove it.... but if u like science it should make a sound.... THIS WAS POSTED BY AN 11 AND 12 YEAR OLD GIRLS YA WE KO WERE SMART AND BOYS ARENT POINT PROVED HA.......