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The Unthinking Destroyer by Rog Phillips



Gordon and Harold both admitted the possibility of thinking entities other than human. But would they ever recognize the physical form of some of these beings?

"Hey, Gordon!"

Gordon Marlow, Ph.D., straightened up and turned in the direction of the voice, the garden trowel dangling in his dirt-stained white canvas glove. His wide mouth broke into a smile that revealed even white teeth. It was Harold Harper, an undergraduate student, who had called.

"Hop over the fence and come in," Gordon invited.

He dropped the trowel and, taking off his work gloves, reached into his pocket and extracted an old pipe. He filled it, the welcoming smile remaining on his lips, while Harold Harper approached, stepping carefully between the rows of carrots, cabbages, and cauliflower.

Harold held a newspaper in his hand. When he reached Gordon Marlow he held it open and pointed to the headline. ROBOT ROCKET SHIP TO MARS.

Gordon took the paper and read the item, puffing slowly and contentedly on his old pipe. His eyes took on an interested look when he came to the reporter's speculations on the possibility of intelligent life on Mars.

Finally he handed the newspaper back to Harold.

"You know, Harold," he said, "I wonder if they would recognize intelligent life if they saw it on other planets."

"Of course they would," Harold replied. "Regardless of its form there would be artifacts that only intelligent life could create."

"Would there?" Gordon snorted. "I wonder."

He squatted down, picking up the trowel and lazily poking it into the rich soil at his feet.

"That's why I wonder," he continued. "We are so prone to set up tests on what intelligent life is that we are likely to miss it entirely if it doesn't conform exactly to our preconceived notions. We assume that if a being is intelligent it must get the urge to build artifacts of some kind--pots and vases, houses, idols, machinery, metal objects. But MUST it? In order to do so it must have hands and perhaps legs. Suppose it doesn't have such things? Suppose that no matter how intelligent it might be, it could not do those things!"

"Then it wouldn't be intelligent, would it?" Harold asked, puzzled.

"We are assuming it is," Gordon said patiently. "There are other outlets for intelligence than making clay pots. As a last resort for an intelligent being there is always--thinking."

He chuckled at his joke.

[Illustration: Harold held a newspaper in his hands.]

"I've often wondered what it would be like to be a thinking, reasoning being with no powers of movement whatsoever. With bodily energy provided automatically by environment, say, and all the days of life with nothing to do but think. What a chance for a philosopher! What depths of thought he might explore. What heights of intellectual perception he might attain. And if there were some means of contact with others of his kind, so that all could pool their thoughts and guide the younger generation, what progress such a race might make!"

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