Parable of the Blind Men and the Elephant

The parable of the blind men and the elephant is often used by the religious (or general mongers of woo) to argue for the validity of their beliefs. The parable is meant to show that no body knows the whole truth, therefore (apparently) no one can ever say that the teller of the parable is wrong. The problem with the parable though, is that it is only half of the story. The blind men are confused by the elephant only because all of them have different results. But, once they follow the scientific method and verify each others results, compare them, and build a model, I have a feeling they would eventually come up with a pretty good description of an elephant.

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There were three blind men that came across an elephant. They were all unfamiliar with elephants and had no idea what this creature looked like. Lining up against the elephant, they all began to feel with their hands:

Blind Man 1: (feeling it’s tail) Well, it seems to be some sort of brush.
Blind Man 2: (feeling it’s abdomen) I’m getting much different results. To me it feels like a huge wall. One, are you sure it’s a brush?
Blind Man 1: That’s what my results show.
Blind Man 2: Ok, do you mind if I verify it?
Blind Man 1: Of course, we need to be sure (the men trade places and recheck each others work). Yes, the results do seem to be the same when I run the test as well. Would you like to verify my results?
Blind Man 2: Let’s see what Three is up to. Three, what results have you got?
Blind Man 3: (feeling it’s trunk) it’s a great rope.
Blind Man 1: Are you sure?
Blind Man 3: Oh,yeah, I’ve picked up on it’s mystical energies
Blind Man 1: Well, we’ve been verifying each others results. Let’s come over there and double check yours.
Blind Man 3: No! I don’t need anyone to check my results. I have “Another Way of knowing”
Blind Man 1&2: Get out of the way, please
Blind Man 3: In order to say you know it’s an elephant, you have to think you know everything!
Blind Man 1&2: Shut up.

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One Comment on “Parable of the Blind Men and the Elephant”

  1. Serpent Says:

    “The blind men are confused by the elephant only because all of them have different results. But, once they follow the scientific method and verify each others results, compare them, and build a model, I have a feeling they would eventually come up with a pretty good description of an elephant.”

    How right you are :) The problem is that they would rather argue amongst themselves, each one determined to be right based on his own experiences (much like standard religions of today).

    If they could reasonably get together and compare notes, verifying or at least being willing to give credit to the other men’s experience, then there wouldn’t have been a problem.

    It doesn’t necessarily take a ‘scientific mind’ or the ‘scientific theory’ to do this, however. Just a bit of humility, patience, and open-mindedness.

    Great post!


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