The Complete Stories (Page 177)
"Yes, I’m talking to Ralson."
"Has he got a guilt complex?"
"Not particularly. He has a background out of which it would not surprise
me if he obtained a morbid concern with death. When he was twelve he saw his mother die under the wheels of an automobile. His father died slowly of cancer. Yet the effect of those experiences on his present troubles is not clear."
Darrity picked up his hat. "Well, I wish you’d get a move on, Doc. There’s something big on, bigger than the H-Bomb. I don’t know how anything can be bigger than that, but it is."
Ralson insisted on standing. "I had a bad night last night, Doctor."
"I hope," said Blaustein, "these conferences are not disturbing you."
"Well, maybe they are. They have me thinking on the subject again. It makes things bad, when I do that. How do you imagine it feels being part of a bacterial culture, Doctor?"
"I had never thought of that. To a bacterium, it probably feels quite normal."
Ralson did not hear. He said, slowly, "A culture in which intelligence is being studied. We study all sorts of things as far as their genetic relationships are concerned. We take fruit flies and cross red eyes and white eyes to see what happens. We don’t care anything about red eyes and white eyes, but we try to gather from them certain basic genetic principles. You see what I mean?"
"Even in humans, we can follow various physical characteristics. There are the Hapsburg lips, and the haemophilia that started with Queen Victoria and cropped up in her descendants among the Spanish and Russian royal families. We can even follow feeble-mindedness in the Jukeses and Kal-likakas. You learn about it in high-school biology. But you can’t breed human beings the way you do fruit flies. Humans live too long. It would take centuries to draw conclusions. It’s a pity we don’t have a special race of men that reproduce at weekly intervals, eh?"
He waited for an answer, but Blaustein only smiled.
Ralson said, "Only that’s exactly what we would be for another group of beings whose life span might be thousands of years. To them, we would reproduce rapidly enough. We would be short-lived creatures and they could study the genetics of such things as musical aptitude, scientific intelligence, and so on. Not that those things would interest them as such, any more than the white eyes of the fruit fly interest us as white eyes."
"This is a very interesting notion," said Blaustein.
"It is not simply a notion. It is true. To me, it is obvious, and I don’t care how it seems to you. Look around you. Look at the planet, Earth. What kind of a ridiculous animal are we to be lords of the world after the dinosaurs had failed? Sure, we’re intelligent, but what’s intelligence? We think it is important because we have it. If the Tyrannosaurus could have picked out the one quality that he thought would ensure species domination, it would
be size and strength. And he would make a better case for it. He lasted longer than we’re likely to.
"Intelligence in itself isn’t much as far as survival values are concerned. The elephant makes out very poorly indeed when compared to the sparrow even though he is much more intelligent. The dog does well, under man’s protection, but not as well as the house-fly against whom every human hand is raised. Or take the primates as a group. The small ones cower before their enemies; the large ones have always been remarkably unsuccessful in doing more than barely holding their own. The baboons do the best and that is because of their canines, not their brains."
A light film of perspiration covered Ralson’s forehead. "And one can see that man has been tailored, made to careful specifications for those things that study us. Generally, the primate is short-lived. Naturally, the larger ones live longer, which is a fairly general rule in animal life. Yet the human being has a life span twice as long as any of the other great apes; considerably longer even than the gorilla that outweighs him. We mature later. It’s as though we’ve been carefully bred to live a little longer so that our life cycle might be of a more convenient length."
He jumped to his feet, shaking his fists above his head. "A thousand years are but as yesterday-"
Blaustein punched a button hastily.
For a moment, Ralson struggled against the white-coated orderly who entered, and then he allowed himself to be led away.
Blaustein looked after him, shook his head, and picked up the telephone.
He got Darrity. "Inspector, you may as well know that this may take a long time."
He listened and shook his head. "I know. I don’t minimize the urgency."
The voice in the receiver was tinny and harsh. "Doctor, you are minimizing it. I’ll send Dr. Grant to you. He’ll explain the situation to you."
Dr. Grant asked how Ralson was, then asked somewhat wistfully if he could see him. Blaustein shook his head gently.
Grant said, "I’ve been directed to explain the current situation in atomic research to you."
"So that I will understand, no?"
"I hope so. It’s a measure of desperation. I’ll have to remind you-"
"Not to breathe a word of it. Yes, I know. This insecurity on the part of you people is a very bad symptom. You must know these things cannot be hidden."
"You live with secrecy. It’s contagious."
"Exactly. What is the current secret?"
"There is … or, at least, there might be a defense against the atomic bomb."
"And that is a secret? It would be better if it were shouted to all the people of the world instantly."
"For heaven’s sake, no. Listen to me, Dr. Blaustein. It’s only on paper so far. It’s at the E equal me square stage, almost. It may not be practical. It would be bad to raise hopes we would have to disappoint. On the other hand, if it were known that we almost had a defense, there might be a desire to start and win a war before the defense were completely developed."