Have a camel!


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.”


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?