The Devolutionist and the Emancipatrix
Chapter VI: Impossible, But--
The four looked at each other blankly. Not that either was at a loss for words; each was ready to burst. But the thing was so utterly beyond their wildest conceptions, so tremendously different in every way, it left them all a little unwilling to commit themselves.
“Well,” said Smith finally, “as I said in the first place, I can’t see how any other than the human form became supreme. As I understand biology--”
“What gets me,” interrupted Van Emmon; “what gets me is, WHY the humans have allowed such an infernal thing to happen!”
Billie smiled somewhat sardonically. “I thought,” she remarked, cuttingly, “that you were always in sympathy with the upper dog, Mr. Van Emmon!”
“I am!” hotly. Then, with the memory of what he had just seen rushing back upon him: “I mean, I was until I saw--saw that--” He stopped, flushing deeply; and before he could collect himself Smith had broken in again:
“I just happened to remember, doc; didn’t you say that the Venusians, in those books of yours, say that Sanus is ruled by the workers?”
“Just what I was wondering about,” from Van Emmon. “The humans seem to do all the work, and the bees the bossing!”
The doctor expected this. “The Venusians had our viewpoint--the viewpoint of people on the earth, when they said that the workers rule. We consider the bee as a great worker, don’t we? ‘As busy as a bee,’ you know. None of the so-called lower animals show greater industry.”
“You don’t mean to say,” demanded Smith, “that these Sanusian bees owe their position to the fact that they are, or were, such great workers?”
Before the doctor could reply, Van Emmon broke in. It seemed as though his mind refused to get past this particular point. “Now, why the dickens have the humans allowed the bees to dominate them? Why?”
“We’ll have to go at this a little more systematically,” remarked Kinney, “if we want to understand the situation.”
“In the first place, suppose we note a thing or two about conditions as we find them here on the earth. We, the humans, are accustomed to rank ourselves far above the rest. It is taken for granted.
“Now, note this: the human supremacy was not always taken for granted.” He paused to let it sink in. “Not always. There was a time in prehistoric days when man ranked no higher than others. I feel sure of this,” he insisted, seeing that Smith was opposed to the idea; “and I think I know just what occurred to make man supreme.”
“What?” from Billie.
“Never mind now. I rather imagine we shall learn more on this score as we go on with our work.
“At any rate, we may be sure of this: whatever it was that caused man to become supreme on the earth, that condition is lacking on Sanus!”
Van Emmon did not agree to this. “The condition may be there, doc, but there is some other factor which overbalances it; a factor such as is--well, more favorable to the bees.”
The doctor looked around the circle. “What do you think? ‘A factor more favorable to the bees.’ Shall we let it go at that?” There was no remark, even from Smith; and the doctor went an:
“Coming back to the bees, then, we note that they are remarkable for several points of great value. First, as we have seen, they are very industrious by nature. Second, all bees possess wings and on that count alone they are far superior to humans.
“Third--and to me, the most important--the bees possess a remarkable combination of community life and specialization. Of course, when you come to analyze these two points, you see that they really belong to one another. The bees we know, for instance, are either queens, whose only function is to fertilize the eggs; or workers, who are unsexed females, and whose sole occupations are the collecting of honey, the building of hives, and the care of the young.
“Now,” speaking carefully, “apparently these Sanusian bees have developed something that is not unknown to certain forms of earth’s insect life. I mean, a soldier type. A kind of bee which specializes on fighting!”
Van Emmon was listening closely, yet he had got another idea: “Perhaps this soldier type is simply the plain worker bee, all gone to sting! It may be that these bees have given up labor altogether!”
“Still,” muttered Smith, under his breath, “all this doesn’t solve the real problem. Why aren’t the HUMANS supreme?” For once he became emphatic. “That’s what gets me! Why aren’t the humans the rulers, doc?” Kinney waited until he felt sure the others were depending upon him. “Smith, the humans on Sanus are not supreme now because they were NEVER supreme.”
Smith looked blank. “I don’t get that.”
“Don’t you? Look here: you’ll admit that success begets success, won’t you?”
“Success begets success? Sure! ‘Nothing succeeds like success.’”
“Well, isn’t that merely another way of saying that the consciousness of superiority will lead to further conquests? We humans are thoroughly conscious of our supremacy; if we weren’t we’d never attempt the things we do!”
Van Emmon saw the point. “In other words, the humans on the earth never began to show their superiority until something--something big, happened to demonstrate their ability!”
“Exactly!” cried Kinney. “Our prehistoric ancestors would never have handed down such a tremendous ambition to you and me if they, at that time, had not been able to point to some definite feat and say, ‘That proves I’m a bigger man than a horse,’ for example.”
“Of course,” reflected Billie, aloud; “of course, there were other factors.”
“Yes; but they don’t alter the case. Originally the human was only slightly different from the apes he associated with. There was perhaps only one slight point of superiority; today there are millions of such points. Man is infinitely superior, now, and it’s all because he was slightly superior, then.”
“Suppose we grant that,” remarked the geologist. “What then? Does that explain why the bees have made good on Sanus?”