Not by speech and not by antennae signs nor contacts, for the drunken and motionless ants were recognized and the friend discriminated from the stranger. The ants were all of the same species, therefore the friends had to be recognized by form and feature-- friends who formed part of a hive of five hundred thousand! Has any man a memory for form and feature approaching that?

Y.M. Certainly not.

O.M. Franklin's ants and Lubbuck's ants show fine capacities of putting this and that together in new and untried emergencies and deducting smart conclusions from the combinations--a man's mental process exactly. With memory to help, man preserves his observations and reasonings, reflects upon them, adds to them, recombines, and so proceeds, stage by stage, to far results--from the teakettle to the ocean greyhound's complex engine; from personal labor to slave labor; from wigwam to palace; from the capricious chase to agriculture and stored food; from nomadic life to stable government and concentrated authority; from incoherent hordes to massed armies. The ant has observation, the reasoning faculty, and the preserving adjunct of a prodigious memory; she has duplicated man's development and the essential features of his civilization, and you call it all instinct!

Y.M. Perhaps I lacked the reasoning faculty myself.

O.M. Well, don't tell anybody, and don't do it again.

Y.M. We have come a good way. As a result--as I understand it-- I am required to concede that there is absolutely no intellectual frontier separating Man and the Unrevealed Creatures?

O.M. That is what you are required to concede. There is no such frontier--there is no way to get around that. Man has a finer and more capable machine in him than those others, but it is the same machine and works in the same way. And neither he nor those others can command the machine--it is strictly automatic, independent of control, works when it pleases, and when it doesn't please, it can't be forced.

Y.M. Then man and the other animals are all alike, as to mental machinery, and there isn't any difference of any stupendous magnitude between them, except in quality, not in kind.

O.M. That is about the state of it--intellectuality. There are pronounced limitations on both sides. We can't learn to understand much of their language, but the dog, the elephant, etc., learn to understand a very great deal of ours. To that extent they are our superiors. On the other hand, they can't learn reading, writing, etc., nor any of our fine and high things, and there we have a large advantage over them.

Y.M. Very well, let them have what they've got, and welcome; there is still a wall, and a lofty one. They haven't got the Moral Sense; we have it, and it lifts us immeasurably above them.

O.M. What makes you think that?

Y.M. Now look here--let's call a halt. I have stood the other infamies and insanities and that is enough; I am not going to have man and the other animals put on the same level morally.

O.M. I wasn't going to hoist man up to that.

Y.M. This is too much! I think it is not right to jest about such things.

O.M. I am not jesting, I am merely reflecting a plain and simple truth--and without uncharitableness. The fact that man knows right from wrong proves his INTELLECTUAL superiority to the other creatures; but the fact that he can DO wrong proves his MORAL inferiority to any creature that CANNOT. It is my belief that this position is not assailable.

Free Will

Y.M. What is your opinion regarding Free Will?

O.M. That there is no such thing. Did the man possess it who gave the old woman his last shilling and trudged home in the storm?

Y.M. He had the choice between succoring the old woman and leaving her to suffer. Isn't it so?

O.M. Yes, there was a choice to be made, between bodily comfort on the one hand and the comfort of the spirit on the other. The body made a strong appeal, of course--the body would be quite sure to do that; the spirit made a counter appeal.

Mark Twain
Classic Literature Library

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