At some point during childhood, most people learn time itself is linear. Think of the idea of a timeline; its very name references to time as being linear. However, what if instead of being genuinely linear time was circular? Chances are, I lost most of my readers right there. The idea of time as being anything other than linear is a bit hard to swallow for most, but I implore you to at least hear me out. Let’s pretend, for a moment, that time is circular; no actual beginning or end, just a closed loop which has always existed as it does today. However, without a beginning, how can one explain creation? Two words: time travel. Just like that, I have got your attention again.
Is Time Travel Possible?
I know this is starting to sound like something you would find on Syfy, but I promise there is a method to my madness if you will give me a moment to elaborate. As with other theories, my theory makes an assumption. It assumes that, in some way, time travel is feasible. As fantastic as this sounds, is it really so far outside the realm of sanity as to be impossible? I challenge you to define time travel. At its simplest, one can define time travel as the concept of movement between defined points in time. Technically, by this simplistic definition, every single person on Earth is a time traveler. Granted, we are traveling at a fixed rate and in a constant direction, but it is technically time travel nonetheless.
Let’s try a bit more drastic of an example. Let’s find a way to explain travel to a time outside the span of a typical human lifetime. Wouldn’t the concept of cryonics make this a possibility? Today, cryonics is far from a proven science. Humans cannot be legally frozen before they are legally declared dead, though proponents say that this is not necessary due to cell death occurring well after the heart stops beating.
Further, there is currently little evidence to support the theory that revival is even possible, though the idea behind cryonics is a proven one. Sperm and eggs are routinely frozen only to be thawed and used at a later date, food is commonly frozen to extend its life expectancy, and the list goes on. It is entirely reasonable to anticipate that one of the people who was frozen upon death will, eventually, be thawed out and resume a normal life. We just aren’t there yet.
Still, while this is a better example of time travel than the simple passage of time, it is still deeply flawed; it only accounts for a linear progression through time. Changing direction and traveling to the past is still well outside the realm of possibility, but it is closer than one might think. In recent years, there have been numerous articles indicating that time travel just might be possible. Better yet, research is ongoing and shows no sign of being abandoned any time soon.
Given the ongoing research, let us assume that, at some point, someone will find a feasible way to travel through time in the traditional sense. If I walked up to you on the street and told you that I had a time machine, where would you want to go?
Go on, think about it. I will wait.
If your answer to that question was anywhere in the past, congratulations; you are perfectly normal. Greater than 99% of the people I have asked this question responded with somewhere in the past, and over 50% indicated somewhere in the distant past. While statistics might predict a more even spread, the reason for this is quite simple. Humanity has an innate need to understand himself (or herself). Nobody cares about the future; we’re going to get there eventually! The past is where it’s at; whether you want to go back to the Elizabethan era, or find a pet dodo bird, everyone wants to understand their origins.
Assuming that, at some point, time travel will be a feasible option, it is most likely that such a breakthrough would be made either by a government or a scientific think tank akin to the Institute for Quantum Computing. In either case, the first significant expedition will not be a haphazard jaunt into the past; it will be a well thought-out, well-funded expedition. In such an expedition, we would likely see various sciences represented; after all, the purpose of such an expedition would demand academia. Assuming that we would want to send back a group comprising several of the sciences, perhaps a geologist, botanist, sociologist, physicist and who knows what other ‘ists, the Law of Probabilities dictates that, given a known pool of candidates, both dominant genders would have representation in such a group.
Man Is Inherently Flawed
So, a team comprised of various experts is sent back to record the dawn of time… or, at least, the birth of civilization. Humanity is, if nothing else, flawed. The sad fact is that we make mistakes — lots of them. So, for whatever reason, upon arrival in prehistory, the team finds themselves trapped in the past. Time machine ran out of batteries. Or plutonium. Or whatever it runs on. There would not be an electronics store on every street corner or, for that matter, street corners upon which one might find such a storefront.
After having exhausted every possible means of returning to the present, what might that team do? Beyond being flawed, humanity is undeniably driven by the instinct to survive. This survival instinct is not exclusive to humans; it is a universal constant that exists in all life; sentient or otherwise. So, once return to the present has been ruled out, those scientists will likely do what nature insists they must; adapt and overcome.
Over time, technology fails and man reverts to a more primitive state. Without the ability to replace broken equipment, the need to rely on nature becomes crucial. Nature insists upon survival and, as previously supposed, probability dictates the presence of both male and female team members. Given enough time, those team members will almost certainly reproduce.
Now, pretend that you are part of the fiftieth generation of offspring from those original scientists. Any trace of technology is gone, and a much more primitive civilization has emerged. Pretend that you have a daughter who, while playing in a field near your home, falls and skins her knee. As any child is wont to do, she comes running home to mommy or daddy in tears and, the good parent that you are, you treat her to the best of your ability — no Band-Aids® or sutures; just whatever nature provides you. Stories of such wonders may have trickled down the generations, so you might tell your daughter about her great-grandparents, fifty times removed, who could treat such a minor injury in mere seconds. To the eyes of a child, how might such technology appear? Perhaps as magic? Perhaps, even, deity?
The concepts of both “magic” and “deity” exist for a shockingly simple reason: understanding. At our core, humanity needs to understand. That which we cannot explain, we find an explanation for, regardless of the feasibility or actuality of that explanation. Simply put, we create deity out of a need to explain the unexplained. Given the eyes of a child, as previously discussed, let’s examine a few classical deities. For the sake of simplicity, I am going to use the Greek pantheon, but the same basic principles can be applied to Roman, Celtic, Norse and many other pantheons just as quickly.
Aphrodite was known as the goddess of love and beauty. Beyond that, she was said to possess attributes of sexuality and desire. Such a being would be virtually irresistible to man, and yet could also be explained merely through the use of some form of pheromone. Pheromones abound in the animal kingdom and are have found everyday use in modern perfumes. This example is not very dramatic, but it is an obvious one.
Going to the opposite extreme, we find Zeus; undisputed king of the gods, the ruler of Mount Olympus, and the god of thunder and lightning. Zeus is commonly depicted holding or throwing a lightning bolt. Certainly, such control over the elements must be magic, right? Or is it? Simple control over electricity would seem magical to someone who knows nothing of technology. Imagine seeing a light switch turned on for the first time or a simple flashlight; or, better yet, how about seeing an arc welder when the very concept of electricity is foreign?
Poseidon is the Greek god of the sea, rivers, and floods. There is nothing scientific which could explain away control over the mighty seas, right? In classic literature, Poseidon was frequently depicted riding a seahorse or dolphin and residing beneath the waves. In modern times, the idea of living beneath the waves is not commonplace, but it is not impossible either. There are hundreds of brave men and women in armed forces the world over who spend upwards of a year at a time below the surface aboard submarines. Might the idea of a submarine, so foreign to a child of a hunter-gatherer society, not appear to be mystical? Might that child not misinterpret a massive, cylindrical metal vessel that cuts through the deep as a man riding a dolphin?
The List Goes On
I challenge you, dear reader, to take a few moments more out from what I am sure must be a busy schedule, and go look up a few more classical deities. What other deities can you find explanations for in modern science, once viewed through the eyes of a child? What other technologies that seem commonplace to us today would seem impossible or magical to someone with no frame of reference?
The Butterfly Effect
In Jurassic Park, Michael Crichton penned a quote to explain the effect of chaos on the island and its inhabitants:
God created dinosaurs. God destroyed dinosaurs. God created Man. Man destroyed God. Man created dinosaurs.
While this is a very simplistic explanation of chaos theory, it could be extended to explain creation:
God created Man. Man destroyed God. Man destroyed Man. Man became God. Repeat.
While this is undoubtedly circular reasoning, it is a definite pattern which one cannot quickly dismiss. Whether or not you believe in a particular deity, man has created numerous deities throughout time for a reason. Those deities appear, at the very least, humanoid for a reason. Might those deities not then be human?
Over time, man destroyed deity. This destruction can be seen in the decline in religious piety so common in the world today. In a study conducted by the Pew Research Center, it was determined that the Christian share of the population dropped from 78.4% to 70.6% between 2007 and 2014. Conversely, those who claimed Atheism and Agnosticism increased in number from a measly 16.1% to an astounding 22.8%, and this trend shows no signs of changing in the years since the initial survey.
Humanity destroying itself needs no evidence. If you absolutely must have it, pick up the latest edition of your local newspaper, or turn on your television to the local news channel. War and crime are virtual mainstays in the news today and have been for much of human history. Similarly, man has been playing god throughout much of recorded history, though never more so than today. Experimentation with genetics, cloning, and even man-made black holes are all undeniable evidence that man is trying to bridge the gap to the divine. Given the reckless abandon with which we continue to tinker with nature, is it such a stretch to believe that, in our attempts to play god, eventually we will end up creating ourselves? So the cycle begins anew.