Put another way, this could have been titled "Should any thing be allowed to determine the level of importance attached to itself without regard to what other things may think about it?" I suspect many of you would agree with me that the answer to such a question would be "no, of course not." We don't want cockroaches, for instance, being able to decide that the world is all about them and the rest of us have to change our lives, habits, homes and sanitary preferences to accommodate this creepy new ruling class, do we? Obviously not. Cockroaches may well be set to inherit the earth when we're gone but in the meantime they can all fuck off and die. I have no time for cockroaches.
People, however, have pretty much all decided that we are the most important things in the world, probably the universe, possibly even the galaxy, and this is despite the fact that we are actually even worse than cockroaches. Do cockroaches destroy their environment? No, they clean it up by eating whatever shit is left scattered about. Usually by us. Do they wage wars? Kill each other? Wipe out every living thing that gets between them and their dream of ever larger insect transportation device parking facilities? Do they even have insect transportation devices? Do they go about finding other insects that don't believe in their Mighty Cockroach Deity and bore them at their doorsteps with fairytales of Godroach and his magical Son, Cockus? No. They just eat shit and smell strangely of cucumbers.
Would a cockroach ask "If a tree falls in a forest and no cockroaches are present to hear it, does it make a sound?" No, because it's a stupid question. The people-centric version is one of the most stupid questions that has ever been asked.
It would be pleasing to say it was THE most stupid question but unfortunately it's merely one of many variations on the "everything is all about us" premise, culminating in the Mother Of All Stupid Ideas, Quantum Physics.
I do not claim to understand Quantum Physics. Nobody does. I have, however, read several books on the subject (hasn't everyone?). I read a huge book on String Theory and all I came away with is that String Theory is a perfect example of how many times you will have have to change an idea which makes no sense if you insist on being able to prove it with actual facts and evidence. Just give up and do something useful instead. It doesn't matter. It will make no difference to the lives of anyone, whatever the truth is, and you'll save us all trillions of wasted dollars if you simply go on the dole and stop wasting our time.
Modern science has, it seems, run out of ideas of how to do clever, useful things like provide us with light at night time or let us look at the world through a box in our living room without ever having to leave the house again (let's face it, there's cockroaches out there!), and moved into territory that was once the province of religion. In other words, science now specialises in stuff that is clearly wrong.
If you put a cat in a box and don't feed it, it will die. It will not stay even theoretically alive just because you haven't opened the box to find out. All possibilities do not remain simultaneously suspended simply because you haven't witnessed the results of your asinine cruelty. Frankly I'm glad you're dead Mr. Schrödinger.
Anyway, back to the tree in the forest thing. I am aware, as most people tend not to be, (as it is always being misquoted and, in fact, was never even said by Bishop George Berkeley, to whom it is attributed - so perhaps misquoted is the wrong word), that the tree is supposed to be on an island with no animal life whatsoever to hear its fall. This does not make it any less stupid a question. It does, however, change the reason for the stupidity from being that other things, other than mere people (who don't, it must be said, have the best hearing in the animal kingdom), would still hear it even if a person didn't (though this reason still applies every time some twat brings it up as something that makes sense even with the presence of other living beings on the island or forest). No, the reason it is still stupid is that it could never happen and it doesn't matter anyway. There is no such thing as a tree without so much as an aphid on it. Anywhere. Even if there could be, the ocean is full of stuff with the ability to hear a tree falling. Whales can hear shit from hundreds of kilometres away.
It's no use spending your lives arguing the implications of an action occurring within a set of parameters that cannot possibly exist. Please stop it.