The grim group of extraterrestrial visitors convened amidst the ruins of the greatest city of the intelligent species that had now become extinct. A ceremony was held to mark the end of an unsuccessful experiment of evolution. The ceremony was held in front of the rusting ruins of a pyramid constructed by the race that had perished.
“When in the course of
cosmic events, a civilized species fails its planetary test, and
becomes completely extinct,” said the ceremony leader solemnly, “it
is fitting that we gather together to mourn this great biological
tragedy, and examine why the light of civilization was so sadly
The visitors had come from
five different planets to participate in the funeral ritual, and to
finalize their historical records on the civilized race that had
perished. The visitors were all specialists in galactic history and
the evolution of intelligent races. Some had limbs of metal and
plastic; some had huge eyes and shiny skin; others had long, curved
necks and triangular ears.
After the ceremonial ritual
was completed, the visitors gathered together for a historical
discussion of the tragedy.
“So let me ask for your
expert assessments,” said the event leader. “What was the main
reason why this civilized race finally became extinct?"
“It is puzzling,” said
one of the visitors. “Here was a race with every opportunity for
success. They had this glorious little blue-green planet with such
large, lovely oceans. Their planet was the right distance from the
sun. They had an abundance of mineral resources. How could they have
squandered such a golden chance?”
“I think the main reason
for their demise was that they never were able to rise above their
primitive jungle instincts for violence,” said another visitor.
“They always loved war, and never realized that as a race's
technology grows more and more advanced, war must be abolished if a
civilized race is to survive.”
“I think the main reason
for their ruin was environmental,” said another visitor. “They
kept burning fossil fuels without restraint. It caused their planet
to get hotter and hotter. They were so short-sighted, they couldn't
see they were burying themselves in the long run.”
“They never learned to
conserve,” said another visitor. “They had a great inheritance of
fossil fuels, but they kept using it up at ever-more profligate rates of consumption.
When their fossil fuels started to run out, they weren't prepared.
They started fighting with each other more and more over their
“Part of the problem was
political and economic,” said another visitor. “They let their
wealth get concentrated in the hands of a few. It helped to bring
about an utter collapse of their economy, which played a large part
in their downfall.”
“They put too much faith in
technology,” said another visitor. “They always thought there
would be some new invention that would save them. But they had to
save themselves, by changing their thinking and habits. They could
never do that.”
“It was partially their
religion,” said the event leader. “As their problems got worse
and worse, they always thought that the deity of their religion would
intervene and save them from doom. They failed to realize that it was
their duty and responsibility to save themselves from doom.”
The relevant facts were
gathered, and a historical report was issued that summarized the
reasons for the extinction of the once promising species. Finally
the group decided to clear away almost all the ruins of the vanished
civilization. Self-reproducing robots were brought in to do the job.
The visitors decided that the planet would be restored almost
entirely to its natural state.
It was decided there would be
two historical ruins that would be preserved. The sites that were
chosen were made of solid stone, and believed to be places that could
last for thousands of years, without being maintained. At both of the
sites, a museum was constructed, and was filled with writings,
artistic works, and historical records of the vanished civilized
species. The museums were not designed for anyone still left on the
planet, for all of the original civilized inhabitants were dead. The
museums were designed for any interplanetary visitors who might visit
the planet, or any civilized race that might evolve on the planet in
the distant future.
Finally the visitors were all
done with their work, and it was time for them all to leave, to
return to the planets they called home in other solar systems. The
visitors from one planet gathered together in their spaceship, getting
ready for blast-off. One of the visitors made a final
comment about the sad extinction of the vanished race that had lived
on the planet they were about to leave.
“Our very distant ancestors
many thousands of years ago faced problems similar to those which
this vanished race faced,” said the visitor. “But our ancestors triumphed over such challenges. If the dice of
history had rolled differently long, long ago, our ancestors might have met the
dismal fate of this extinct race. How different things would have
been then! There never would have been ten thousand far-flung
interstellar settlements on a thousand planets in a hundred solar
systems, which all were descended from that peerless source of
galactic colonization, that great beacon of cosmic culture, the great mother planet known as planet