A Fable for Ferment
This is the story of a civilization known as the Raisin Bread Culture. Its world was loaves of Raisin Bread.
Through the centuries scholars devoted their lives to the study of Raisin Bread. They invented dissecting instruments. They separated the raisins, the nuts, the cinnamon, and the baked dough. They brought these separate elements of the world into their laboratories where each would be studied analytically and with extreme precision. Cape Town
Great institutions were established to teach what the scholars had learned. These institutions of learning came to be known as polyversities. Four discrete and highly respected disciplines arose: Raisinology, Nut Science, Cinnamonics, and Pastronomy. The disciplines came to be housed and nurtured in separate departments of the Great Polyversities. These departments, named after the disciplines, produced experts of world renown. In academic circles, the raisinologist was most revered -- the reason: the raisin could not be reduced. But in spite of the Raisinologist's high status, specialists from other disciplines did not often talk to him. They didn’t understand his language.
By and by, all the bread began to get mouldy and sour and bad to eat. The people looked to their Great Polyversities for answers as to why this was happening. But the scholars from the high-ranked disciplines were not concerned. The people went to certain of the very best Polyversities and asked, "Why don't you study the whole loaf of bread so that the relations among the nuts, raisins, spices, and dough remain intact?"
"Oh no," said the scholarly experts. "The loaf is much too large and too complex. For us to know the loaf would be like knowing the universe. That's all right for God and philosophers but not for us Nobel-bound scientists."
"Then, at least," argued some of the people, "why don't you cut the loaf into vertical slices? That way, the elements could still be studied together?"
The learned scholars of those very best Polyversities did not listen to that argument. After all, had not their departments just been toasted as the top, scholastically, in the world?
Outside the Polyversities many things were tried. The bakers changed their technology. The government suggested getting used to mouldy bread. Some groups suggested switching to cake. But in spite of everything, the civilization eventually fell -- because the Polyversities would not change. Their scholars felt that, after all, what other culture did they know that in five hundred years had added so much knowledge as had theirs!