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I remember this as the very dismal conclusion in a short story where
humans have kidnapped superior aliens to solve the mysteries about them.
I forget both title and author. Does anyone know?
I can think of two possibilities. One is Piper's "Oomphel in the
Sky," in which aliens have formed cargo cults around human tech,
and are convinced by a human that humans lack something the
aliens have, namely, souls.
And another in which the aliens have instantaneous trans-galactic
teleportation, in which they are destroyed at one end and
reconstituted at the other, and the human says, "But this is
wonderful! You're demonstrating that we have immortal souls!"
And the alien says sadly, "You don't." That was in _Analog_
sometime in the seventies, I think, can't recall title or author.
Dorothy J. Heydt
djheydt at gmail dot com