Why work with us‎ > ‎

A fitting parable.

John Godfrey Saxe's poem "The Blind Men and the Elephant" provides an analogy for what scientists struggle with when presented with large amounts of information, or incomplete information. It can be a challenge for even the most talented specialists to step back and see the big picture and from this perspective, determine how to best tackle the problem.

Reproduced from Wikisource.




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 't is 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;
"'T is 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!


So, oft in theologic wars
 The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance
 Of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant
 Not one of them has seen!