Schrödinger's Goat

A few weeks ago, Nigel Savage started blogging (and talking) about shechting a goat at the Hazon Food Conference in December, as I previously reported. This created a series of conversations inside Hazon's offices, within the Hazon community, and way beyond.

The seed of this came from last year's food conference, as reported by Nigel:

On the Friday night of last year’s Hazon Food Conference I said, “put your hands up if you eat meat - but would not do so if you had to kill it yourself.” And a good number of hands went up.

Then I said: “put your hands up if you’re vegetarian - but you would eat meat if you killed it yourself.” And a different group of hands went up. And after a brief pause, everyone laughed.

As Nigel and I talked about this we both were very clear that, although it matters to the goat (or goats), the outcome of this discussion was less important than the conversation itself. Nigel put it wonderfully to me by saying, in so many words: "It has taken us several years to get the Jewish community to focus any degree of thought on how green vegetables arrive on our plates; no wonder it is another major effort to get us all thinking about the same process for meat."

I was reminded then, and Nigel since quoted me, of Schrödinger's Cat. This cat is the subject of a famous thought experiment about the interplay between our own view of the world and the probabilistic nature of the quantum-scale world (atoms and smaller). For some period the cat is itself both alive and dead, because its fate is interlinked with an atom that both has and has not undergone radioactive decay (which, believe it or not, makes sense in the quantum world).

As the conversation continues within and without the Hazon world, this goat's fate hangs in the balance (in this case between dying sooner or waiting for the food conference and dying later). It is probably more both alive and dead than most cats will ever be.

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