Have a camel!

by Mary Chernyshenko 1 min read28th Feb 20193 comments

12


1.

The East is rich and her tales abundant, and here is but one of them.*


Once upon a time, a man lost his camel and went about looking for it. He met three boys whom he asked if they had seen the animal.

"Is your camel pregnant?" asked the first boy.

"Why, so she is!" said the owner, surprised.

"Does she have only one eye?" asked the second boy then.

"Indeed she does!" said the owner, now hopeful.

"And does she have a sore on her back?" asked the third boy at last.

"A big one!" cried the owner happily. "Where has she gone?"

"Sorry," said the children. "But we haven't seen her."

To make an Eastern story short... er, let us turn to the end where the man demanded from a third party to make the boys tell him where to find the camel.

This is how it went:

Boy 1: "[O ... emir,] I saw the camel's tracks and where it urinated, and so knew it was pregnant."

Boy 2: "[O ... emir,] I saw that the camel only ate grass from one side of the road, and so knew it was one-eyed."

Boy 3: "[O ... emir,] I saw some of the grass that the camel had rubbed against and knew there was a sore on its back."

Emir: "Thanks everybody, you may go. And you may keep looking for your animal."


2.

Compare this to the infamous tale of blind men groping an elephant.

The observers had a single common object to describe. They did not exactly see it. Every one of them had a single piece of intelligence to add to the pile, inferred from a single kind of study apiece. Their answers did not depend on the order or completeness of other reports, even when it could be done.

Yet in case of the elephant, which was known to be the one and only thing to study from the outset till the end, there was much dissent and no synthesis.

In case of the camel, which was only confirmed to be the same animal by the outsider who had lost it, the researchers never argued.

So why do some people lose elephants when other people only lose camels?

12