The Blind Men and the Elephant

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wek
Posts: 23
Joined: Sun Feb 10, 2019 12:29 am

The Blind Men and the Elephant

Post by wek » Mon Feb 11, 2019 6:06 am

The following is a poem by
John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887)

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 approached 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 an 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,
Than 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!

wek
Posts: 23
Joined: Sun Feb 10, 2019 12:29 am

The Blind Men and the Elephant (revisited)

Post by wek » Mon Feb 11, 2019 6:10 am

Yes, we all know the story of the Blind Men and The Elephant. Each of the men drew different conclusions about the animal based on the limited information they could gather by touching the parts nearest them. The story's point is that we are all blind men when it comes to some subjects. I'd like to expand on that a bit.

The human intellect craves facts. From birth, it collects data and constantly reviews that data to form the basis of personality. In the absence of facts, it substitutes beliefs. Beliefs are postulations that I sometimes refer to as "the missing data algorithm".

The fundamental difference between a fact and a belief is that a belief can (and must) be changed as new information becomes available. A fact can not be changed.

The accuracy of our data is directly proportional to the ratio of facts to beliefs in our "database".

In the quest for a better (more accurate) understanding of the world around us, it is imperative to know the difference between facts and beliefs. Believing something hard enough or long enough or in agreement with any number of other people cannot transmute a belief into a fact. Only incontrovertible evidence can do that. And yet, we all blur those lines to one extent or another. Only disciplined and constant reevaluation can minimize this tendency.

Religion and Politics are two subjects that none of us has 100% accurate data on. I believe that the reason these discussions become heated at times, is that we wind up debating beliefs instead of sifting statements for facts that we can substitute for our own beliefs. It is only by doing that, that we can grow in our own understanding.

If these concepts are strange to you, try to translate them into terms you are familiar with. We can learn a lot from one another if we understand what we're trying to accomplish.

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