I am trying to find a short sci-fi story I read 30 plus years ago, but cannot recall the title or author. Near the conclusion of the story a scientist arranges for wealthy business men (or a man) to view what is apparently the autopsy of an alien that has been living among humans. The alien is actually a fake, but he is told it made up of organs which prepare him for the atmosphere/climate that humans are turning the earth into... one that is more and more polluted as a result of our greed and misuse. He convinces this business person that he must change the way things are done so that these aliens cannot take over the earth. It is all an elaborate hoax to convince humankind to take better care of the earth. Does this plot ring any bells?

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1 Answer 1


This is Occam's Scalpel, by Theodore Sturgeon, first published in if magazine in 1971 and collected in various years best anthologies.

Two brothers, one a maker of medical dummies and the other the personal physician to the aging boss of a multinational company, stage a fake autopsy to convince the boss's anointed successor that he was actually a sulphur-breathing alien who wanted to pollute the atmosphere to make it more suitable for the rest of his species.

The title is a play on the philosophical principle of Occam's Razor, often badly simplified to mean that the "simplest solution is the correct one", because at the end the brothers realise:

their complicated scenario whereby aliens are purposefully polluting the earth actually makes more sense than to assume that humans are doing it accidentally, so therefore is likely to be true. It ends with then wondering when the aliens are going to arrive.

The August 1971 issue of Worlds of IF is freely available on the Internet Archive; Occam's Scalpel starts at page 4.

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