Spherical Cows Explained

No, I am not crazy, but, yes, I do believe spherical cows exist. There is a joke that puts it this way:

An team of dairy farmers tried dramatically increase the milk production of their cows, but after many attempts and much money spent they were only able to produce a small increase. So, they hired a few scientists to help them out. After conducting studies and pondering theories, the scientists returned with a report which proved that it is impossible for cows to produce milk. The report began, “Consider a spherical cow…”

The idea is that some things are too complicated to understand if you try to get it all at once. We need to study a simple model to understand the basics before we can comprehend the real version. Of course, absurd simplifications can lead to absurd results. You must still check your results against reality, but us finite beings have to begin somewhere. If we wait to act until we comprehend everything perfectly, we will wait forever. “Progress not perfection,” as FLYLady says.

It seems to me that spherical cows are used in many areas other than science, take morality. How can anyone understand the complete moral implication of their every action? They can’t. Is it better to brush your teeth or not? If you don’t, your teeth will rot. But if you do, you might be using water that could have been put to a better purpose. We simply do not have the time or capability to analyze every step of our lives like that. So, we have world views, religions, and political parties to help us figure out what we should be doing.

Yet too often, we forget that our cow is not actually spherical. Someone else yells, “You idiot, that cow is a cube.” Next thing we know, we’re fighting a sphere vs cube war when we should be investigating the true cow-nature. How can we make this world a better place for people and cows? Obviously, I don’t have all the answers, but especially in this election season, let’s skip the name calling and go for a deeper discussion. Who knows, maybe us Sphereists can learn a thing or two from the Cubeites’ point of view.


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