An uplifting fable about the humility of ants and the hubris of bees: Also a well-known error in logic

Thursday, 28 May 2009 08:10

This is an uplifting fable about the humility of ants and the hubris of bees; one, furthermore, in which the bee reaches a sad but necessary end. Everybody knows that in fables two animals engage in a discussion which otherwise would be impossible for them, during which discussion universal and profoundly troubling truths emerge in a way which is palatable to, though not necessarily readily understood by, even children.

The bumble bee said: There is no god, but how I feel is, if you want to believe in one that’s cool.

The ant said: Suppose I proved the existence of a god conclusively to you? Are you or are you not open to empirical evidence?

I’m only open to empirical evidence.

Right, well the first thing is you yourself are living proof of the existence of God, because it’s a well-known fact that your aerodynamics are such that you shouldn’t be able to fly, your body is too fat, your wing area is too small to generate enough lift to even get you off the ground, face it, you can’t fly, and the only reason you’re in the air at all is because God keeps you there.

That is so completely racist, the bee said, that I’m not even going to dignify it with a comment.

Which means you have no answer.

Which means it is based on so many presumptions about bumble bees, presumptions that are like, totally inaccurate, that it’s not even a consideration in this discussion. Plus, you know nothing at all about aerodynamics, not being a flier, and are merely repeating prejudices picked up from ant-jokes about bees.

There are flying ants…

Of which you are not one.

They say we will all fly one day.

A myth. Flying ants will fly, ants like you will continue to wander the surface of the earth following bizarre and pretty random pathways, doing whatever it is that you do when you’re wandering. The all ants will fly business is a theological joke, or at best a fairy story.

That’s one of the things that keeps me going. Life is hard at my level you know. I don’t get a chance to drift around smelling the flowers.

I do not smell flowers.

But you admit you have a sense of smell?

I’m just checking to make sure none of my fellow bees have been there before me.

Who gave you this highly developed sense of smell?

It’s part of my genetic programming.

Who created genes? You have to admit it’s a fairly complicated process. Inventing genes, I mean. You would need to be infinitely intelligent to invent genes.

Actually, you would only need to be intelligent enough to invent genes. We can assume that that’s well short of infinity. It would take an extremely intelligent ant to invent genes, so therefore, if an inventor of genes exists, and he is an ant or ant-like species, we can safely say that he is very intelligent. However, there is no necessity for such an inventor to exist. Genes may always have existed, or developed out of something no more complicated than a couple of stray molecules.

Hah! Who invented the molecules?

This is becoming tedious.

Because you’re losing.

Because we’re involved in an infinite regression.

It is not infinite.

It is.

The ant (looking cunning) said: If there is such a thing as an infinite regression, then the being who invented it must be infinitely intelligent. This being could only be God.

Who says there has to be an inventor of infinite regressions?

You don’t mean to say you think they developed of their own accord.

They just exist. Or, put another way, they exist because we see them. If anybody invented them it was us. Are you saying I, who first perceived this particular infinite regression, am, in fact, God?

No ant could be expected to believe that bumble-bees are God. The ant felt completely out-manoeuvred, but also even more convinced of the truth of his position. It seemed to him now that the existence of God was actually an absolute truth, and as such, beyond question. He sneered at the bee, who in his opinion was arrogant, conceited and good at sophistic argument, but bad at faith. He decided there and then that ants are, by nature, humble and open to the numinous, while bees were flighty and shallow. When, a few days later, he heard that the bumble bee was dead, he revealed his inspiration to his co-workers who all agreed that humility was a better way to behave in the presence of the numinous, and much less likely to lead to an early death, as opposed to the hubris of bees, which always seemed to involve a negative outcome. They also aired the hilarious story, a kind of anthill legend, about the bumble bee who got so drunk on nectar that he fell over on his back and was unable to right himself because of the size of his belly, and who subsequently died gazing at a sky he completely failed to understand.

But what is really interesting about the bumble bee, is how he did die. He died because he crashed at high speed into a recently cleaned pane of glass. He had no idea the glass was there. This is proof positive of the existence of God, since the glass was there despite the bee’s ignorance of its existence. Therefore, it follows logically, that God must be there too.