If I could turn back time – for peace, for love, …, for dinosaurs?

At the beginning of this year I accepted a challenge from fellow blogger John Persico, who writes the thought-provoking blog, Aging Capriciously.  I committed to writing on 3 topics of John’s choosing, and in return he’d write on 3 that I chose for him.

His first topic for me I didn’t find too difficult: What is the difference between wisdom and knowledge.  However, I have been struggling with his second topic for some time now. It’s time to at least make a start. I’m going to go through all the options I’ve thought about as possible choices so far and you can think about how you might answer this question yourself.

Challenge question #2: If you could go back in time and change 1 thing in the world, what would it be? Why would you change it? What difference would it make?

Maybe you can already see why one answer – and only one answer – to this question has continued to elude me.

You won’t be surprised to learn that the first thing I thought about was something significant that would make the world a more peaceful place for humans … and for animals, too, of course. What I really wanted to do was to think of one change that would make human beings more peaceful in nature. The only way I could think to do that would be if evolutionary forces could have been altered to make us less territorial, less suspicious and self-interested, and less violent. But I have to admit that those traits initially evolved to protect us, and I didn’t think that idea was going to fly. That is a very bitter pill for me to have had to swallow, but there you go.


If changing the evolutionary process wasn’t going to work, how about choosing one particular war that changed the course of history that I could “redirect”. Well, after reading Margaret MacMillan’s excellent book from 2020, War: How Conflict Shaped Us, I’d have to say that it would be extremely difficult to choose just one war. Her book is a reminder than mankind has been at war continuously for thousands of years; the only thing that’s changed is the use of technology: from spears to long bows to muskets … and on to long-range missiles and nuclear weapons; from warships powered by oarsmen to warships under sail to sailing ships with rudders (!) … and on to steam- and nuclear-powered warships; from riding horses to riding horses wearing armour to riding horses with stirrups (a huge advantage) … and on to tanks; from balloons to airplanes, and then add stealth bombers, drones and satellites.  If I chose one war to skip, another just would have popped up in its stead.  Read MacMillan’s book and weep for mankind.

It wasn’t long in thinking about this topic that Cher’s hit of old, If I could turn back time, started to play in my head.  She was singing about wishing she could take back words that had hurt someone she’d cared about (although, talk about provocatively violent video images). Many, if not most, of us can think of situations in which we wish we has had held back words or actions that damaged a personal relationship, or that we had said the important things we wanted to say to someone dear to us before it was too late. It would be nice to be able to undo one of those times of missed or misused opportunities.  For sure.  But it seems like something as powerful as changing ANYTHING that happened in the world should go beyond the personal.  We should be able to take care of those omissions ourselves.

One wish I’ve thought about long and hard was to change a personal loss.  For me that would be having my parents live to be in their 80s – or at least 70s – instead of in their 50s. I can’t say exactly how our families’ lives would have been changed, but I know it would have been for the better.

One change that might have helped the world, or at least some part of it, would be to replace an evil leader (one of so many throughout history) with someone who leads with natural authority and competence but with compassion and inclusiveness.  Someone like Nelson Mandela, for example. Just consider if someone of such character were currently leading Syria or Afghanistan or Myanmar, Yemen, Eritrea, or Russia. As most of you will know, the list is far longer than that, but any of these would be a good start. Think of the changes for the good to any of those citizens.

Another thought that crossed my mind that might have significantly changed the course of history would be if the Emperor of the Ming Dynasty didn’t make the astounding decision by the 1500s to stop interacting with the outside world and cease their exploration and exporting of goods and ideas. Prior to this decision the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) had built up an enormous fleet of sailing ships. There is some evidence that Chinese ships reached the Caribbean before Columbus. Way back in the Ming Dynasty they had a large standing navy and an army of approximately 1,000,000 soldiers.  What would the world order look like now if the last Ming Emperor had not closed the Chinese borders? That would be an intriguing choice to ponder.


Of course, there are also possible changes in nature and medicine. One change I thought of was to have somehow ensured that indigenous populations in the Americas had the natural immunity to protect them from the viruses that the conquerors brought with them.  Those diseases, like smallpox and measles, are thought to have killed off up to 80-90% of the population. How different would all of the Americas be if that had not happened? We’re talking about millions of people – civilizations – lost to new viruses brought by invaders. It certainly would have changed the balance of power.

Tikal ruins, GuatemalaChallenge-Tikal

Then I got another idea for an intriguing change.  What if the dinosaurs hadn’t been wiped out???! What if that massive asteroid or comet hadn’t hit Earth all those millions of years ago? What would our world look like now? Which species might or might not have evolved? What about Homo Sapiens???  Maybe this is the change I should explore most fully for my formal response to John’s challenge!


What do you think? What would you choose?

P.S. John’s response to my second challenge to him can be found at Persico Challenge Issue 2: How can we save the environment.

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57 Responses to If I could turn back time – for peace, for love, …, for dinosaurs?

  1. OmniRunner says:

    If we went back and changed anything, there is the possibility that some or all of us would not be here. How many people got together after a war?
    My parents met when my Dad was in the Airforce and stationed in the city my Mom grew up in. It was during the Korean War which probably was partially a result of WWII.
    As my mother used to point out, wars drive inventions like antibiotics and other medical break throughs. How many of us or our parents may have died from an infection?
    I can think of times with my children where a different word, attitude or action would have been the better choice. I think we all have moments like that that we wish we could go back and change.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks for these reflections, OmniRunner. You are totally correct. If any given events had been different or had not happened, some very positive/important advances and relationships might not have come about. In particular, if the comet had not hit the earth and wiped out the dinosaurs, the planet may have developed differently enough that homo sapiens might not have emerged at all. Now THAT would have been different! Basically, the question is too complex to be any more than idealistically positive but unlikely/impossible, like human beings not seeing or judging differences. But the question does to make us all think. That at least is a good thing.

  2. Pingback: If I could turn back time – for peace, for love, …, for dinosaurs? – amazing world

  3. GoodLuckNow says:

    I enjoyed this. Thank you for your thoughts.

  4. Pingback: If I could turn back time – for peace, for love, …, for dinosaurs? – Nelsapy

  5. Roy McCarthy says:

    Hmm. Can I have two goes? First, there is a story of how a British serviceman had an injured German soldier in his rifle sights towards the end of the First World War. Out of pity he let the German scramble to safety. The German’s name? Adolf Hitler.

    Second, how could it have been arranged that we, the world’s people, had evolved as plant eaters, therefore not torturing and slaughtering trillions of sentient beings every year for our consumption? Maybe conditions in the earliest times would have been more favourable for the growth of fruit, vegetables, grains and the hunting and killing of animals and fish wouldn’t have been necessary. What a healthier and more environmentally friendlier world we’d live in.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Roy, these are two suggestions with significant implications. If the first story is true, just one moment’s lack of hesitation on the part of a young soldier would almost certainly have changed the course of history. Others have suggested targeting Hitler, but nobody has suggested your notion that we might have evolved as herbivores. That’s brilliant; it has to go on my short list!

  6. tanssityttö says:

    It is but unfortunately losses is part of life. You just have to live with these. Thank you!

  7. One heck of a thought-provoking post, Jane. If I could change just one thing, Hitler would never have been born. It still amazes me how one individual can cause so much harm. And now history is starting to repeat itself again. That’s the thing about human beings. Many of us haven’t evolved enough to move beyond tribalism and fear. Humans are an evolutionary hodgepodge of growth that encompasses an immensely wide spectrum.

  8. debscarey says:

    Pondering on this subject is fascinating, but I suspect the problem with changing history, is that “it” has a way to right itself and to re-balance any correction you manage to make with one of its own. There’s been so many books written on this premise and I find each and every one of them fascinating.

    Oh & I’d vote for your first thought – that of changing the nature of human beings to be less confrontational and territorial – if I had to pick one course of action.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      That’s the course, all right, but what one change could have made the significant difference and not just been upended by an outlier who took control and demonstrated the advantage of ruthlessness is another question. Still intriguing to ponder.

  9. Bernie says:

    It’s an amazing question and the responses to your post show a diversity of answers. I’m with LA — no to bringing back dinosaurs. Indeed which war would one stop? There have been a lot of wars that have had huge impacts. Religion is certainly a huge factor in wars. I’d vote Hitler if it’s a single person as his actions certainly had a world wide effect. But perhaps it’s bigger than one person. Good luck with the challenge. Bernie

  10. I know I replied already but one can change their mind and opinion right? I have thought about this throughout the day and now have a different change.
    When my kids were 4 and 1 their Mother and I decided to go our different ways, not my choice. During the kids growing up years I attempted to participate in their lives as much as possible including having them with me for their summer, Christmas and Spring breaks. However, every time I spend time with my son and his kids I realize how much we all missed through those years.
    So if I had an opportunity to change one thing it would be to negate that period of time and be able to provide a stable home 2 parent home for my kids. It would not have any huge impacts on world history but I think it would on a personal level.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Oh, Wayne, what an understandable and heartfelt wish for going back in time. Of course we can’t go back in time, but we can learn. Knowing you as much as I do, I’m very sure that your grown kids know and appreciate what a warm and caring person you are and that you did your best, as you continue to do. 💕

  11. margiran says:

    You’ve done it again Jane! Instigated another conversation between me and him as a result of your interesting, thought provoking post. 🙂
    Joint response is that Pontius Pilate said, “off you go Jesus you’re free”! Therefore no crucifixion, no rising from the dead, so no Christianity.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      LOL. No doubt about it, your household wins the prize for most creative suggestion (and undoubtedly controversial in some camps!). This possibility works well with Bob Lorentson’s comment reminding us that monotheism introduces more intolerance than polytheism. The irony of that reality and all the wars between different factions of Christianity, (not to mention wars and conquests brought by Christianity against others) is pretty supportive of your response!!!

  12. I love where you took this, Jane. I’m shaking my head in affirmation all the way through it and also thinking about a desire to make sure Hitler is never born (okay, I also thought about Trump). And then come your thought about dinosaurs, which is certainly intriguing. But I’m with LA on that one — I”ll pass also. 🙂 Great post. – Marty

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks, Marty. Yes, the world certainly would have been hugely getter off without Hitler (and although not in the same category by any stretch of the imagination, having Trump lose the 2016 election as well as the 2020 election would have been a significant improvement). Re dinosaurs, the thing about the comet (or asteroid) not hitting the Earth 65,000,000 years ago, would Homo Sapiens still have emerged ~350,000 years ago??! 😏

  13. Wynne Leon says:

    I love all your thought-provoking considerations for this question. All your considerations were an education in and of themselves. What about changing whether Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge?

    • Jane Fritz says:

      I’m fascinated that more than one fellow blogger has suggested this option. Maybe. Personally, I’d rather see human beings accept responsibility for their actions towards other human beings and their planet. But I certainly admit to not being able to figure out how this might happen!

  14. Dr. John Persico Jr. says:

    Hi Jane, fantastic answer or set of answers. I love how you theorized different possibilities and different outcomes. So hard to know. I think even Solomon would be perplexed. I read each of the above comments or responses to your blog and you have really made people think. I believe the best we can do is make people think. I remember Maria Montessori once wrote that most people would rather lie down in the street and die than think. So many thoughtful replies. If only we were like Merlin and could see or live life backwards. John

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks, John. I’ve never come across that quote from Maria Montessori before. LOL. Me, on the other hand, I spend far too much time thinking! But I agree, our fellow bloggers are enjoying giving lots of thought to this challenge of yours. It’s kind of like getting a wish from a genie; you don’t want to waste an opportunity to go back in time and make a meaningful change! 😏

      • Dr. John Persico Jr. says:

        Socrates and the power of questions come to my mind. Real learning is getting people to question and think and come up with possibilities. Your reply was magnificent in this respect. Kudos to you Jane.

  15. Rose says:

    Wow Jane, this was wonderfully interesting to read! I love how well you thought through this question.
    To answer the “Challenge question #2: If you could go back in time and change 1 thing in the world, what would it be? Why would you change it? What difference would it make?” My mind goes immediately to the atomic bombs and nuclear weapons, because of their massive destruction of life. But I can’t answer what difference it would make, I don’t know what life would look like – if we didn’t use them to win a war. Or what if instead of oil, gas, and coal as energy sources, what if we immediately used wind, solar, and water? What would our world look like now?
    Like you have done, I go through long lists of world events and personal events and wondered what would be different if 1 thing were changed? This is a interestingly puzzling question. What if we removed one aspect from people, like greed? Maybe we wouldn’t fight for more than we need? Perhaps a religious answer would be to go back to Adam and Eve and have them not disobey, so we could all be living without negative and destructive concepts, in the Garden of Eden?
    I’ll be pondering this question for a while.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks so much for sharing your pondering, Rose. I especially like your thought of immediately replacing all uses of fossil fuel products with renewables. That would HAVE to ensure positive changes to our suffering planet. Re greed, I couldn’t agree more. My third and final challenge from John Persico is about how we could get rid of greed. Another toughie, to say the least!

  16. tanssityttö says:

    Good reflection! It would be a really fascinating idea to make loved ones live longer. My brother died last year at the age of 47. I wish his life could have been extended!!!

    • Jane Fritz says:

      I’m so, so sorry for your loss. That’s exactly the age my younger son was last year. Life can be cruel. Some comforting news is that he will always be with you. You’ll see. Take care.

      • tanssityttö says:

        Thank you so much! Yes, I also believe that he’s with me! At least I’m really happy that my father left here a couple of years before my brother and my mother have alzheimer so she doesn’t remember my brother passed away. Better this way. Otherwise, they would not have endured this.

  17. boblorentson says:

    Such an interesting question, and your response shows so well how there is no good answer. Having read Harari’s “21 Lessons for the 21st Century” not too long ago, I’ll throw the introduction of monotheism in the mix. As I recall, Harari shows us how this led to much greater intolerance in the world than polytheism ever had. Who knows if it would have continued that way, human nature being what it is.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      What a fascinating thought, Bob. I need to go back and reread that excellent book. The notion that the introduction of monotheism resulted in increased intolerance is staggeringly ironic, but entirely believable when you do a quick mental scan of wars, discrimination, and oppression based on religion (including right now). Too bad we couldn’t undertake a simulation to see if a world of polytheistic populations would indeed be more tolerant of each other, or if the familiar power struggle would erupt as populations grew and competed for resources – and prestige/superiority.

  18. dfolstad58 says:

    You think Jane on a larger scale probably than most and have an understanding of history or at least an appreciation. I thought this was going to simpler but the more thought I put into it, the more I want to think about it. I can’t decide and have had to rewrite this twice already. LOL I would love to go back in time though but more to meet people and observe things like the pyramids when they were new. Perhaps to buy google stock when it was 40 cents would be a good idea also.

  19. Fascinating food for thought, Jane. I don’t have an answer — can’t choose just one event — but am enjoying the momentary fantasy of a peaceful world free of racism.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Oh my gosh, Natalie, if we could have that one change it may be all we need. Mind you, people seem to be able to find invisible differences to fight over if there are no visible ones, like Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland. But to do away with racism, wow! That suggestion goes to the top of my list.

  20. Inkplume says:

    I can see that you put a lot of thought into this challenge question! With respect to war, much as I hate to admit it and as you also point out, I think it’s part of our DNA. I’m always saddened when I hear about bullying, intolerance and shootings in schools because it points out just how young this starts. It also makes me think that if people can’t embrace differences in others in their own community, it doesn’t bode well for the bigger picture. But, on the positive side, people can change!

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks for this, Linda. I agree, people have to make the changes, through trust, acceptance, understanding, and kindness. It’s discouraging that it seem to be so difficult.

  21. LA says:

    I just saw the trailer for the new Jurassic world movie….I’ll pass on dinosaurs

  22. I can’t stop reading this and am so thankful for the peaceful little bit of my world!!! We’ve stopped watching the news and reading the area newspapers because there’s rarely any GOOD news. We thought this would keep it out of our world. It doesn’t! We do somehow go on and know that God will take care of us and wish everyday for a world that you speak of Jane!!! In the meantime, the farm is our peace and serenity!!! You keep me thinking positive with every blog you write!!!

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks so much for this comment, Rita. I feel the same way about our out-of-the-way town and province. A little bit of heaven compared to so much of the world these days. I’ll try to stay positive (or at least semi-positive) for you! I’ll consider it my responsibility! 😏

  23. heimdalco says:

    What a fascinating group of choices. My personal perspective is a very narrow one & maybe a selfish one but my first thought while reading this was immediately … & as an American … that trump NOT have been elected president. He, of course, was not the cause of the problems we face in this country but was only a symptom of serious situations smoldering just beneath the surface. But he gave the unhinged & the nasties & the selfish/corrupt politicians & the conspiracy theorists & the horrible a license to be recognized & move forward with their ability to compromise democracy, our standing in the world, truth & decency, to name a few. A more intelligent, less mentally compromised, less self absorbed leader could have made such a difference … from the handling of COVID to the acceptance of that which is different & to world peace on a larger scale. No matter how I look at this (& I’ve only been thinking about it a few minutes) trump is still what I would change. I get brain freeze trying to hunt down all the things that brought us to the land of trump (CAUSE) that need changing so it’s easy to zero in on trump (EFFECT). Maybe we were never intended to stay in Eden after all.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      As a non-American I stayed clear of that possibility (except perhaps through my wise and compassion leader scenario), but, boy, that change would have been significant, including far beyond the US borders. Sigh.

  24. Reblogged this on Musings and Wonderings and commented:
    A little something to while away a few hours thinking how different the world might be if a particular event hadn’t happened.

  25. So many intriguing ideas and possible futures and pasts that may have been, it gets me thinking of alternate universes where every possible scenario that could happen does indeed happen. Funnily enough we don’t seem to envision any of them without us! Difficult to imagine a universe where my ancestors didn’t meet and I wouldn’t be here? When I think these thoughts I get pulled down the rabbit hole because I find it impossible to imagine without me being part of the imagination.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Great comment, Wayne. I especially love your very insightful observation that we can’t envision any alternative without us. That includes my dinosaur scenario! Not necessarily the case!!

  26. Wow! What a wonderful plethora of possibility! Your answer made me think about how wonderful the world would be without egos. Without evil, desire for power, greed. What a world it would be if we focused on unity, cooperation, harmony. There would be no spears or muskets warships. The rain forest would be alive and well, supporting the earth. As a believer in creating our own reality, I’m busy building the world of my dreams—the one that will evolve once we’ve managed to destroy the one we’re living in now. Thank you for a thought provoking post. Looking forward to what’s next!

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks, Julie. You have described the very world I seek! You’d think with the opportunity to make one big change alone the timeline could at least get us partway there, but I have yet to come up with an inspired choice to give us a guaranteed result for the better!

  27. Thought provoking and so hard to choose! We cannot know all of the ramifications of turning back time. But perhaps if Archduke Ferdinand had never been shot, Europe—and the world—might have taken a different path. Or not. Maybe the conditions were brewing for war and revolution, and without the assassination, there would have been another trigger. Interesting to think about, though.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks, Laurie. That’s a perfect example of something that on the face of it couldn’t have helped but make an enormous difference in securing a peaceful world. And preventing all those deaths. But as you suggest, perhaps there would have been another trigger anyway. I couldn’t convince myself of the “foolproofness” of any of that type of example I could come up with.

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