The Instigator
Con (against)
5 Points
The Contender
Pro (for)
9 Points

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

Do you like this debate?NoYes+1
Add this debate to Google Add this debate to Delicious Add this debate to FaceBook Add this debate to Digg  
Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 2 votes the winner is...
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 6/9/2009 Category: Miscellaneous
Updated: 8 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,903 times Debate No: 8576
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (1)
Votes (2)




Okay, let's get started. I will be making my arguments.

1) A tree falling in the forest without any one around doesn't produce a sound. It produces sound waves, without the presence of an ear, these sound waves cannot be turned into "sound".

That is all for now.


Alright, I'm going to start off by building my case, and then covering my opponents.

First off, we need to know what sound is.

What is sound? Sound is a form of energy, just like electricity and light. Sound is made when air molecules vibrate and move in a pattern called waves, or sound waves. Think of when you clap your hands, or when you slam the car door shut. That action produces soundwaves, which travel to your ears and then to your brain, which says, "I recognize that sound." [1]

Okay, so from this definition we can garner that when two solid objects collide, a soundwave is produced, which can then travel to the brain. Simple enough to understand.

Now lets apply this to a tree in a forest. Suppose it's going to fall. Who knows why, termites ate it, gravity pulled it, it doesn't matter. It's given in the resolution that a tree is going to fall. On it's path down, it is going to hit solid objects, the last of which being the ground. It's impossible for the tree NOT to hit something. Whenever it hits said solid object, it's going to produce soundwaves, just like the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders tells us it will. These waves are a form of energy called sound. Thus sound is produced.

But what if no one is around to hear these sounds? We can assume only two answers here: yes or no. Assuming yes, then everything would happen just as I described above, whereby a tree would fall, hit something solid, and produce waves. Why wouldn't things happen this way? Trees, while living, have no brain. They can't detect our presence. They don't have the ability to decide whether they make sounds or not. If a tree falls, it will make a sound because it will collide with a solid object.

Now as for my opponent's point.

My opponent claims that because no ear is present to recognize the presence of soundwaves, that sound simply isn't produced. However this is flawed logic. Looking at the definition, sound is an energy source. It's expressed in waves, appropriately called soundwaves. Whether these vibrations are detected or not is irrelevant. We know that when to objects collide, soundwaves will be produced. The presence of soundwaves, the energy source, proves that sound is present.

Take electricity as an example. Look at the lightbulb in the room you're sitting in (if you're not sitting in a room, then pretend). You aren't actually seeing electricity, you're seeing the light given off by it. The same concept applies to sound.

I think that's a good spot to end the first round; I'll turn things back over to my opponent now. I look forward to a good rebuttal and wish my opponent luck.

Debate Round No. 1


The flaw in my opponent's case lies in the very nature of sound itself.

If a tree was to fall in the forest, regardless of however was around, it would, no doubt, produce sound waves. However, would these sound waves be able to be transmitted into sound? In scientific fact, it requires an ear to transmit these sound waves into sound. Think about it, if sound waves produced sound, then deaf people would be able to hear. The reason deaf people cannot hear is because their ears cannot interpret sound waves and make them into sound.

Another interesting point I'd like to throw in there:
The tree that falls in the forest will not make any sound if there is no one around to hear it. In fact that tree might as well not exist. Existence is only a result of human awareness, we are the cause of everything we see, hear, feel, or smell. If we had a nuclear holocaust that killed every human in the universe then the universe would cease to exist. Awareness is a requirement for existence. So the tree never even fell, it was simply discovered as having fallen. Without awareness travel through the fourth dimension is impossible. So while the tree is laying on the ground when you find it there was never a fall and so no sound.


My opponent has conceded that a tree, if it fell in a forest, would produce soundwaves. However, my opponent believes that soundwaves are not sound. He uses a deaf person as an example. However, there is a flaw in this logic. The way he argues, is as if we were debating the perception of sound. If were were debating the perception of sound, that is, how humans hear sound, then the resolution would be affirmed. But we're not. We're debating whether a sound is made or not. Deafness is caused by a human defect.

A normal ear works like this [1] Deafness is the inability to detect sounds. [2] This is easily attributed something in the ear not vibrating the way it's supposed to. Usually, something is blocking the eardrum. It's like this...

You're at an Independence Day celebration with a deaf friend (If you don't have a deaf friend, pretend you do). Now, you decide to light off a firecracker. Did it make a sound? Unless it was a dud, yeah, it sure did. Did your deaf friend hear it? Nope... they sure didn't. So, the waves are simply the expression of the energy. Sound is the energy.

If you don't like that analogy, here's another. Gas is necessary to run a car. Now you're driving on the highway, and you see cars moving all around you. In order for those cars to move, they have to have gas. But you don't see the gas. Does that mean it's not there? No! Of course not! We know that the gas is in the car because we can see it moving. The same thing applies to the tree. Though we may not be able to hear the sound, detect the soundwaves, we know they exist, and thus we can conclude a sound was made.

The mosquito repellants that function on a very high frequency make a sound, it's just inaudible to humans.

Dogs have the ability to detect much higher frequencies that humans [3] Simply because humans do not have the ability to hear the sound, does not mean that no sound was made, it simply means we didn't hear it.

Then my opponent goes into a rant about human perception and how if everyone died, the universe wouldn't exist. This is false. The universe would exist, there just wouldn't be humans around to perceive it. Perception is different from reality. It's almost an existentialistic view of the resolution, where one is the only being and one reflects everything they experience upon themselves, as if one is living literally in their own little world. Where everything is imagined.

Reject this view because we know that a tree just didn't happen to appear lying on it's side. We know that in a forest, a tree was standing up before it fell. It wasn't just standing, then vanished, then reappeared lying on it's side. We know that gravity pulled it down and we know it made a sound because any two solid colliding objects produce soundwaves which I've proven to qualify as sound.

And with that I'll turn it back over to my opponent.

*NOTE: I apologize in advance if I forfeit the next round. I forgot that I was going to be attending a conference for the next four days. I am bringing my laptop with me, and provided I have internet access and a free half hour, I'll type up a response. I'd be willing to bet that I'll have free time in the evening, and as I'll be on a college campus, I'd bet I have internet, but I'm not sure that I'll be allowed to use my computer.

Anyway, with all that, I turn the debate back over to my opponent.

I wish my opponent luck and (seeing as I may not have another opportunity to say it...) please vote PRO.

Thank you. Resolution Affirmed!

Debate Round No. 2


My Opponent: "My opponent has conceded that a tree, if it fell in a forest, would produce soundwaves. However, my opponent believes that sound waves are not sound. He uses a deaf person as an example. However, there is a flaw in this logic. The way he argues, is as if we were debating the perception of sound. If were were debating the perception of sound, that is, how humans hear sound, then the resolution would be affirmed. But we're not. We're debating whether a sound is made or not. Deafness is caused by a human defect."

My opponent misses the point entirely. My opponent seems to believe that sound waves and sound are very similar things, they are in reality not. Take for example a radio wave, which is very similar to a sound wave. As I am typing tens or maybe even hundreds of radio waves are being transmitted through the room I am sitting in. Am I hearing them? No. In order for a radio wave to be transmitted into actual radio, it must first come into contact with a receiver (a radio). The same is true of sound waves. Sound waves POTENTIALLY have sound, sound is the ACTUALITY of sound. Sound waves only make sound if they come into contact with an ear. This is widley scientifically documented, run a Google search, they'll confirm what I'm saying.

My opponent's Fourth of July analogy is also flawed. What if you both were deaf? Would they're be a sound? No. They're would be a sound wave. A sound wave is POTENTIAL sound, it only is transmitted into sound when it comes into contact with a human ear.

The analogy about the car and gas isn't much better. Gas doesn't produce any type of "wave" or anything like that. Therefore, you can't compare it to sound.

Everything that vibrates the air creates the potential for sound, regardless of what conscious being is there to perceive it in the first place. If there is nobody is there to perceive it occurring, then it could not exist as sound, only vibration. The following sources confirm it:



It looks as though I'll be able to finish the debate tonight, instead of having to worry about it. I would, therefore, like to thank my opponent for a speedy reply :)

Alright, after my opponent made a claim that sound and soundwaves were not the same, and claiming that running a Google search would confirm his claim (note that my opponent didn't actually find one of these 'abundant' sites...), I decided to run a search of my own.

Searching the query 'sound waves relation to sound' in Google brought me a very interesting result. The first one (at least for me...) leads you to this page. [1] Taking a direct quote from the very first paragraph that appears...

"Sound is a series of compression waves that moves through air or other materials. These sound waves are created by the vibration of some object, like a radio loudspeaker. The waves are detected when they cause a detector to vibrate. Your eardrum vibrates from sound waves to allow you to sense them. Sound has the standard characteristics of any waveform."

... we can clearly see that sound IS a series of compression waves, just as the passage states. These waves are known as soundwaves, thus proving that sound and soundwaves are the same thing. We can trust this website because, copy and pasted off the homepage... [2]

"This site is a great vehicle to achieve your goals. People access lessons almost 1,000,000 times each month. Students and teachers from many colleges, high schools, and middle schools use the site. Also, 51 published books refer to the site as a reference."

Using my opponent's radio waves as an example, radio waves vibrate way to quickly for humans to gather. We use radio waves because they travel further, faster. We need a receiver (radio) in order to make these waves audible. The waves make a sound in and of themselves, and if humans could hear them, they would sound extremely high pitched.

As for Independence Day, imagine the ear as a radio, taking waves and allowing them to be processed.) In essence, that's all that happens. Using my sources from earlier this debate, we know that the ear takes soundwaves and processes them into something our brain can understand.) Now, just because our radio isn't able to pick up a station, does that mean no radio is? No! Just because someone can't hear the firecracker go off, doesn't mean that it doesn't make a sound. It makes a sound, just some people's receivers (ears) can't pick up the vibrations.

Using the car and gas analogy, I was simply pointing out that though we may not be able to hear the sounds (not being able to see the gas) we know they exist because we can see the tree lying on its side (see the car moving). has proven that soundwaves are sound, and as long as soundwaves exist, sound exists, regardless of whether its detected or not. As my opponent conceded that soundwaves would be made by a falling tree (my opponent's first sentence in the second paragraph of round 2), he simultaneously conceded that if a tree falls in the forest, and no one is around to hear it, it still makes a sound.

Resolution Affirmed.

I'd like to thank my opponent for challenging me to this debate, I had a lot of fun with it. May the best debater win!

Debate Round No. 3
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by Scyrone 8 years ago
Ok, so this is what I based my voting on. Honestly, I have been asked this question before, and since it was a few years ago, I don't remember my response, so I've had little experience with the subject.

"If a tree falls and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?"

Both arguments were good (with the exception of both sides to constant referral to "flawed logic" [which doesn't make sense when you don't point it out]).

But I think CON won this one. Mostly because of a few mistakes in the wording. One, the topic itself is self-winning. "If two objects collide against each other and form energy, is it necessarily a sound when nobody is around to hear it," is basically what's going on. To understand why this is flawed you must understand the second point. Two, Pro made the point that sound and soundwaves are the same thing. BUT, that doesn't mean that CON was wrong, it just means he was wrong in his wording of the definitions of sound and soundwaves. Sound has waves, but in order for it to be HEARD (big key word here), it has to vibrate the membrane inside the ear (with PRO basically proved for CON with that paragraph). Now back to the first statement. The key word is "hear" in the debate topic. It implies that if a sound is made, but nobody can hear it, does it MAKE sound." Does it make sound by someone hearing it? No. Is it a sound? Yes. Even though it IS sound, nobody heard it, thus it is not heard. CON wins.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by Scyrone 8 years ago
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:Vote Checkmark--0 points
Who had better conduct:Vote Checkmark--1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:Vote Checkmark--1 point
Made more convincing arguments:Vote Checkmark--3 points
Used the most reliable sources:-Vote Checkmark-2 points
Total points awarded:52 
Vote Placed by dvhoose 8 years ago
Agreed with before the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Agreed with after the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Who had better conduct:-Vote Checkmark-1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:-Vote Checkmark-1 point
Made more convincing arguments:-Vote Checkmark-3 points
Used the most reliable sources:-Vote Checkmark-2 points
Total points awarded:07