Blind Men and the Elephant = University Scholarship


blind-men-and-elephant2
– A Hindu Fable: John Godfrey Saxe’s {1816-1887} version –

It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.

The First approach’d the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
“God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a wall!”

The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, -“Ho! what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me ’tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!”

The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a snake!”

The Fourth reached out his eager hand,
And felt about the knee.
“What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain,” quoth he,
“‘Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree!”

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: “E’en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!”

The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Then, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a rope!”

And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!

The typical intellectual, the university professor is an expert in some field or other. To ensure his stature (which includes his self respect, his prestige as well as his tenure) the system of mutual recognition among experts develops. If you can’t understand what I am saying that is OKAY, because I cannot understand what you are saying. Rather like a group of deaf people smiling at each other at a party.

– Thomas Dorman MD April 1993

Pseudo- scientific gobbledygook

What happens in a typical university though “to learning much inclined”? Like our Indian friends, everybody is an expert in a small area of knowledge and many, especially the more successful ones in a very tiny field of knowledge completely oblivious of anything else. Many spend their whole lives caressing the tip of an elephant’s tail.

2 thoughts on “Blind Men and the Elephant = University Scholarship

  1. Ha ha ha! Yes, indeed! “… Many spend their whole lives caressing the tip of an elephant’s tail.” Specialisation may just be the Achilles heel of modern “educated” minds. Sadly so!

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