Friday, March 11, 2011

Causality makes an ass

There is a Sufi story about a man who was so agoraphobic that he had his back yard enclosed in walls and a ceiling, and it was the only place he ever went outside of his house his entire life. Because of this, obviously, he knew little of the real world.

One day, while in his walled up yard, he noticed a small crack between two wooden planks, and when he bent over to peer at it, he could see through to the street that ran behind his house. Curious about the world outside, he began to look through the hole regularly, and discovered that around the same time every morning, someone led an animal right by the hole in the wall. From what he could see of the creature, he figured out from the few books he had that it was a donkey, and he decided to learn as much as he could about the donkey from his tiny window to the outside.

The man dutifully went to the hole in the wall every morning at the same time to wait for the donkey to walk by, and after a bit of time he would see the head of the donkey appear, followed a bit later by the rear end of the donkey. Every day it was the same. Sometimes he even caught sight of the donkey walking the other direction, first the head, then the rear. After many weeks of such study, the man came to a startling revelation of scientific insight.

"Logically," thought the shut-in, "the donkey's head causes the donkey's rear!"

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