Imagine sometime in the future someone manages to invent a time-machine, and then uses it to take herself, and a few modern, everyday devices back 2000 years or so. What would be the reaction of the local humans to such things as a gas-lighter, a motorbike, a walkie-talkie, or even a gun?
With these devices our intrepid time-traveller would seemingly be able to do the impossible. Hold fire in her hands, travel great distances at high speed, communicate over vast distances with ease, and mortally wound others without so much as touching them (apparently). With just a few demonstrations of her bag of 20th century toys our hero would certainly be revered as a great magician, but could also conceivably portray herself as a god, and would surely be worshipped as such, and stories told of her great powers long after she departed.
Now, let us head the other direction. Imagine it is 2000 years into the future, and the year 4009 is just beginning. Scientists have finally dotted every ‘i’, and crossed every ‘t’ on the Grand Unified Theory of Everything. They now now how the universe came into being, but more than that, they know how to do it themselves. They take a few precautions and create a new Big Bang and spawn off a new universe parallel to their own. The new universe matures and develops much as ours did, and is basically left to its own devices for a few billion years. In a few places life develops, and a some of that life develops intelligence – and thus begins to question the origins of the universe.
The point I’m trying to make is how would we be able to tell the difference between a being who was vastly more advanced than us, and a ‘God’? Clearly an advanced being probably wouldn’t be a god,but they would certainly appear god-like to us. Arthur C Clarkes famous quote:
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
can easily be re-written as:
Any sufficiently advanced being is indistinguishable from god.
So, if we did physically find God, how would he/she/it be able to prove they were god, and not just a highly advanced lifeform? Would it make a difference if we could or couldn’t?
Two of my favourite authors have dealt with similar topics to the second part of my story. The first was by Isaac Asimov in The Last Question, which deals with a vast universe encompassing computer which is asked if entropy be reversed. The second is by Terry Pratchett and is called The Science of Discworld, and centres around some wizards who live on the Discworld who manage to create a ‘Universe in a Bottle’ that just happens to contain a world that looks startlingly like our own. This book by the way is an excellent foundation for many of the fundamentals of modern science form the Big Bang to Evolution.
*Just to clarify, by ‘we’ I mean any intelligent and advanced lifeform (and possibly artificial life too).