Wednesday, February 04, 2009
If Your Dog Poops In The Dark....
Do you have to clean it up?
While walking my dogs early one morning—way before the sun came up and certainly way before I really wanted to don clothes and grab leashes and poop bags—I thought: “Do I really have to pick this up? No one has seen it.”
Such existential thoughts as this have plagued minds since the first cavemen wondered: “Do I have to adhere to the practice of ‘Leave No Trace’ since future archaeologists will be dependent upon my making a mess?”
Perhaps the most famous question along this line is: “If a tree falls…?” This philosophical question quickly leads to many other paths, such as “If something is not observed, did it really happen?” Certainly, our recent political leaders have given us their variations of this theme, while, of course, providing their own answers: “If no weapons of mass destruction were found, the world is still a safer place.”, and, “It depends on what your definition of ‘is’ is.”
My favorite theorem on observation and existence is the “observer effect” (often conflated with the “uncertainty principle” in quantum physics) which states that the act of observation affects the position/existence of the thing observed. A good example of this would be the person who cheats on his or her spouse, and says, “This didn’t happen”…presumably because the infidelity act was unknown (unobserved) by said person’s spouse.
I, though, prefer to conclude that the observer effect means that if it was dark enough for no one to see me when my dog poops, then that pile of poo simply does not exist.
However, try as I might to rationalize, using Presidential examples and up-to-date physics theorems, Descartes pulls me back to reality and I think, “It smells therefore it exists.”
And if I/we make a mess, we must clean it up.