Hitler used to tell a tale about sitting at a table some time in the First World War when he heard a voice telling him to move, so he obeyed it as if it was a military order, and a moment later the table was bombed and everyone sitting at it was killed. I don’t know whether this anecdote has been checked. On another occasion, which is well-known and can be verified, a British soldier called Henry Tandey, VC, DCM, MM, from Leamington Spa, is chiefly remembered for being the man who spared Hitler’s life. The story goes that on 28th September 1918 in the French village of Marcoing, a weary, wounded German soldier wandered into his gun sights and he chose not to shoot him. Hitler saw this and nodded his thanks. This may, however, be an urban legend and it may also be the second encounter between the two. Because it isn’t particularly wonderful to be remembered for that alone, although it shows he had a sense of decency and mercy, I should mention that Tandey was also given the Victoria Cross for restoring a plank bridge under fire on the same day, and was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for, well, I’ll just quote the citation:
He was in charge of a reserve bombing party in action, and finding the advance temporarily held up, he called on two other men of his party, and working across the open in rear of the enemy, he rushed a post, returning with twenty prisoners, having killed several of the enemy. He was an example of daring courage throughout the whole of the operations.
Hence there seem to have been at least two occasions on which Hitler could’ve been killed before rising to power, and therefore it seems to be entirely plausible for him to have become yet another unknown casualty of the Great War, but of course this didn’t happen. I have to say that this suggests that he was in some sinister way protected from death during this period, and since I believe in the power of Satan as an personal evil force, I can easily accept that. However, how many other stories ended in potential future dictators of Germany being killed in WWI? I’m also unsure either anecdote is actually true?
But is Hitler really necessary? By which I mean, is a world without Hitler also a world where the Third Reich and Second World War didn’t happen? How much difference would it really have made to history if Hitler hadn’t existed or had died in the First World War? Might things actually have been worse?
Hitler was alleged to be a very poor strategist, basing most of his orders on never retreating, even tactically, and one result of that was that he lost a lot of battles which could potentially have been won otherwise. Consequently, in a Second World War where all other things were the same except that the Führer was a better military strategist, it might either have lasted longer or less long, and in a Nazi victory, and if it had dragged on, maybe the Nazis would have ended up acquiring and using the Bomb and winning that way, rather decisively and terrifyingly, going on to dominate the world. In the light of that, maybe it wasn’t Satan at all who protected Hitler those times. Maybe the protection was to ensure that an incompetent leader would lose the War. Of course, many anti-theists would say at this point that this is a funny kind of loving Deity because the Holocaust still happened, but perhaps we can leave the religious angle aside and just state the possibilities as they stand. Hitler surviving the First World War might have been a relatively good thing because it meant the Third Reich would lose the Second.
However, another question arises. The Holocaust and other atrocities are, morally speaking, central to the need to defeat the Nazis, even though they were apparently not the motivation for declaring war on Germany. Is it possible that a timeline where Hitler never rose to power would also not have had the Holocaust? A couple of scenarios have been popularly explored.
In one of them, Hitler died in the First World War at the Battle of the Somme and had no significant effect on the course of the War. The Treaty of Versailles is imposed in 1918 but instead of the Nazis coming to power, there is a Communist revolution in Germany and the Spanish civil war proceeds as it would’ve done anyway. Germany and the Soviet Union both invade Czechoslovakia and the USSR is thrown out of the League Of Nations. World War II happens anyway. After two years, there is a German-Soviet victory but then Pearl Harbor happens and Germany and Russia ally themselves with the US against Japan, and Canada and the US enter the war on opposite sides. There’s plenty more of this here, and it comes across as quite far-fetched. For instance, there’s no explanation as to the inconsistency of Germany going Communist while other countries become Fascist, and this is the crucial point.
My view is that if you look at the various European nations, many of them had successful Fascist movements, and only one of them had Hitler. Nazism is generally seen as a variety of fascism which emphasises the idea that there is a supreme Aryan race and a Jewish conspiracy. Other fascisms were not like this. For instance, Mussolini, the original founder of a Fascist party, focussed on the Roman Empire to encourage Italian nationalism and the Southern European fascisms generally stressed the centrality of the Roman Catholic Church. The Nazi version of Christianity, Positive Christianity, attempted to remove all Jewish elements from the faith, rejecting the Tanakh entirely, claiming Jesus was Aryan, supported the idea of an Aryan homeland and was hostile to Roman Catholicism. Mussolini had come to power in 1922 and therefore had longer to develop and enact his policies than Hitler.
It may also be instructive to look at the history of the Nazi Party. The Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (German Workers’ Party) became the Nazi Party as a result of Hitler joining it as a spy for the police in 1920, but that party was already anti-semitic and anti-Marxist. I don’t know much about the history but it seems to me that Drexler, the leader at the time, could have done the same thing, in which case the main difference would simply be that his name would have become symbolic of the most evil man in history instead of Hitler’s. Or maybe it wouldn’t. Maybe there were factors which would’ve led to his failure as a leader of the party, but this simply means either that someone else would’ve taken over and succeeded or another movement with similar aims would have arisen instead.
In a way, Hitler’s reputation is highly conditional and to some extent it plays into the cult of personality characteristic of totalitarian régimes. It may be that his life and interactions are important, but only because it helps one identify how precisely history took such a negative turn at that point. Specifically reviling him is to give him too much attention. It’s like constructing an elaborate cult around a serial killer or someone similar. It kind of feeds the myth and the kind of thing which makes politics seem to be about personalities. On the other hand, it is easy to take his actions personally when you’ve been directly affected by them, which applies by now probably to hundreds of millions of people if not more. The fact remains that there were any number of pathetic petty infantile moral vacua who could’ve taken his place if he had been killed in the First World War, and as usual it’s about the broad forces of history happening to converge on one person. Likewise, none of our leaders are that important today either. They’ve just been put there by the vagaries of economic and social forces and their lives are of no consequence.
There more or less have to be parallel universes because this Universe is “fine-tuned”. The alternative would seem to be to require a Creator, and although there is a Creator, or rather a Sustainer because God is not within time, nothing in the Universe should be allowed to imply or suggest that there is one as that would be a “God Of The Gaps”.
I should probably explain fine tuning. There are certain constants governing the relative strengths of the four known forces in the Universe which, if they varied even slightly, would make rocky planets and life as we know it impossible. Examples are as follows:
Electromagnetism is a sextillion (long scale) times stronger than gravity. If it were much smaller, the Universe would have collapsed in on itself before the stars could have formed.
When deuterium nuclei fuse to form stable helium-4, the nucleus loses 7% of its mass. If it lost 6%, only hydrogen would exist, and if it lost 8%, all the nuclei in the Universe would’ve fused together within a fraction of a second of the Big Bang and there would be no atomic matter at all. That said, that is quite a large range, determined by the strong nuclear force.
If dark energy was slightly stronger compared to gravity, stars would not be able to form because they’d be ripped apart by the expansion of space. If it was slightly weaker, the Universe would’ve collapsed by now.
If other than three spatial dimensions were extensive (there are others, which are however very small and so don’t influence this), there would be problems with the weakening of gravity at a given distance which would again either cause collapse or make it impossible for stars to form.
There are several other examples, but taking these together is enough to illustrate the issue, because the improbabilities multiply, and some of them even seem to be part of an infinite range of possibilities, usually very boring ones because they either involve the Universe collapsing in on itself almost immediately after the Big Bang or merely consisting of hydrogen atoms thinly spread throughout space. The situation we actually find is fantastically improbable because of this. It’s also been suggested that the specific existence of the element carbon is suspiciously unlikely, and water is also such an unusual compound that it too is unlikely, but the details of these involve once again the strengths of the strong nuclear force in the case of carbon and that of electromagnetism in the case of water. There is presumably a version of water in a parallel universe which is still H2O but is a gas at well below its current freezing point and contracts when it freezes, is not a good solvent and so forth. In fact probably most versions of water are like that. Likewise, and this is I admit a very sloppy calculation because several different forces are involved in holding atomic nuclei together and they don’t obey the inverse square law, the last element to have stable isotopes is bismuth, and if the strong nuclear force was forty percent weaker, stable carbon atoms could not exist and carbon-based life would be impossible.
Because of all this stuff, some theistic religious people believe that there must be a God. However, there’s a problem, or rather several problems, with that argument. Firstly, even if it does entail a creator, it fails to entail a God like the one in the Bible, Qur’an or whatever. Secondly, the Universe which actually exists is almost completely empty and life seems to be a mere detail, possibly on only one planet and even if widespread it would still only have come into existence on the tiny grains in a vast void. In fact, this almost completely empty void may be a clue to the nature of reality. What we’re confronted with when we look into the night sky is unimaginably enormous distances between stars, whose visible examples are unsuitable for life as we know it, organised into galaxies which are also separated by relatively much smaller distances and organised into clusters forming a kind of “foamy” arrangement around enormous voids like bubbles. Only occasionally are the conditions suitable for the concentration of nuclear matter, and even more seldom do rocky globes form. When we consider Earth, we realise how special she is, but that exceptional nature is contingent on the fact that we are here in the first place to do the considering. The anthropic principle says the same is true of the Universe: there are plenty of other universes but they don’t have any life or observers in them. Ergo, there are parallel universes. The alternatives seem to be enforced belief in a Creator with a capital C or a multiverse, and that multiverse would likewise consist almost entirely of empty universes which have either already ceased to exist or contain only widely space hydrogen atoms and perhaps molecules floating in otherwise empty space. Although I’m theist, I choose the latter.
The question then arises of how inevitable anything is. Alternate history usually depends on PODs, Points of Divergence, such as Hitler dying before coming to power or JFK not being assassinated, and from a macroscopic level it seems entirely plausible that Henry Tandey could have decided to shoot Hitler on 28th September 1918 or that Lee Harvey Oswald missed his target on 22nd November 1963. But in fact these PODs are only apparent. Free will is probably illusory, there’s a whole chain of unknown events influencing those moments and for all we know that chain of cause and effect stretches all the way back to the beginning of the Universe. It will undoubtedly be the case that slight variations in physical constants do indeed lead to differences in the universe, but what we imagine is easily possible could turn out to be completely impossible. The question of whether this is true depends on chaos theory and quantum physics.
I’ll take chaos theory first. This is the whole butterfly effect thing. It was found at some point that computer programs written to forecast the weather gave completely different results depending on how many decimal places the data input to them were calculated to. Given the very many decimal places involved before one hits the Planck length, Planck time and so forth, which amounts to the fixed “resolution” of the Universe, which can’t be calculated anyway because so many perfect instruments would be involved that they’d nudge the weather in a particular direction, there seems to be only a weak connection between cause and effect, and for all we know, as David Hume asserted, none at all. If science is supposed to be based only on what can be observed, cause and effect can’t be and therefore it’s problematic including it in science at all, which rather undermines the whole of science. That said, it does still seem that in principle cause and effect often operate deterministically. You can’t usually expect to jump off the roof of a skyscraper and not fall to your very probable death. Maybe the improbabilities are smoothed out by the arbitrary nature of the universe on a small scale. I don’t think chaos theory is a very promising reason to posit that things could have been different.
Quantum mechanics is another matter entirely. There are no hidden variables. That is, if a radioactive atom is observed, there is no way to predict when it will decay into an atom of another element and that isn’t just because we’re unable to observe processes going on at a sufficiently small scale, but because there simply is no causal chain involved at all. All that can be done is to predict that half of a sample of carbon-14, for example, will have decayed in 5 730 years, give or take forty years, and that prediction only approaches fifty percent with the increase of the size of the sample. However, these are acausal processes. There is absolutely no chain of events other than the formation of the atom leading up to its destruction. It just happens.
Hence there are two contrary factors involved in the nature of parallel universes. On the one hand, there is the causal chain stretching back to the Big Bang, and on the other there are acausal events associated with quantum events. The question then arises of whether the Big Bang itself, or its immediate aftermath, was strongly associated with such events. It could be that things have always been different or that all significant events in our own history can be traced back to quantum events after the beginning of the Universe. All that can be said confidently is that if a known chain of events can be traced back to a quantum event, there are parallel universes where this turned out differently.
A fairly trivial example is the issue of the discoveries of technetium/masurium and astatine/alabamine. The actual names of these elements are technetium and astatine. Neither have stable isotopes. The reason their names could have been different is that they weren’t discovered for sure when they were first apparently identified. In 1925, German chemists bombarded a mineral called columbite with an electron beam and appeared to detect a faint X-ray signature of what would be element 43. Later researchers, however, could not replicate this experiment and consequently, although it was named masurium, it was still considered undiscovered. If a greater number of atoms in the sample of this element had not decayed in the attempt to reproduce the result, element 43 would have been confirmed and would have been named masurium. Likewise, with alabamine, scientists at Alabama Polytechnic believed they had discovered the missing halogen which belonged under iodine in the periodic table in 1931, but their method was found to be invalid. The case of alabamine is slightly different, which I’ll go into in a moment. But because of the method of its discovery, there undoubtedly is a parallel universe in which technetium is called “masurium”. That’s a real place.
The case of astatine is slightly different. Astatine is only a couple of nucleons too heavy to be a stable element. Using the same rough and ready calculations as I did with carbon, for there to be a stable isotope of astatine the strong nuclear force would only have to be 0.08% stronger than it is. This may be the wrong figure but the principle is the same: it would only have to be a hairsbreadth stronger than it is “here” in our timeline for stable astatine to exist. In such a situation, polonium would also have a stable isotope and therefore would be less dangerous and would not have been used to poison Aleksandr Litvinenko. This, however, is a minor detail because probably it would just mean francium would’ve been used instead.
The two scenarios are therefore two different ways alternate histories could happen. In one, the Universe has been different since the Big Bang, astatine is a stable element and Litvinenko was poisoned using francium instead of polonium. In the other, its timeline and ours forked in 1925 and is probably practically identical to our own with the exception that technetium is called masurium.
This brings me to the Mandela Effect. Nowadays, most people seem to have reached the conclusion that the Mandela Effect is only accepted by cranks, and I would agree that there’s a lot of noise in the signal, but in the masurium/technetium example we have a real live Mandela Effect which is present in the scientific community that pivots on an acausal principle. This is inside the establishment, although it looks very different to a typical ME. For this reason, I will continue to maintain that parallel timelines are a valid explanation for some MEs. That’s it: that’s all I’m going to say about this for now because I know it’s generally considered crazy and you’re going to think I’ve gone to Nubicuculia if I go on.
There have been attempts to set up quantum lotteries. Although these are successful, as far as I know there are no serious lotteries using this principle. This is a pity, because if there were they’d amount to real forks in history set off by quantum events. As it stands, the only examples I can think of which involve genuine quantum forks other than masurium/technetium are very improbable, although there are guaranteed to be timelines where this happened. For instance, radioactivity was first discovered when Ernest Rutherford left a piece of the mineral pitchblende next to a photographic plate in a drawer and discovered it was blackened. If this hadn’t happened, radioactivity would have taken longer to be discovered. However, the only way in which that could have happened is if the number of atoms decaying was so small that it wasn’t enough to influence the emulsion on the plate, and considering the amount of substance involved, it’s very improbable. That said, somewhere out there such a timeline does exist. There’s presumably a timeline where radioactivity has yet to be discovered, which would leave a lot of mysteries about the Universe, such as how stars work or how old this planet is. There would be no radiotherapy, the Second World War would not have ended in the way it did, there would be no atomic batteries or nuclear power stations, no Cold War and so on. It is a fantastically improbable universe. But it does exist out there somewhere, and is a very different world. Even the people who live in it don’t understand it, because a big piece of the puzzle is missing. However, radioactivity can be discovered at any time. History is teetering on a knife edge in this world.
The question now arises of who we are. If a POD has occurred after our conception in any parallel universe, are we the same people? My ME explanation requires transworld identity, because I believe memories are transferred between universes when the brain is in an unusual state such as a stroke, seizure or coma. Transworld identity is the belief that an object can exist in more than one possible world, including the actual world (and here the world “actual” really just means “this” and “actual world” means “here”). The alternative theory is that counterparts exist in other possible worlds but that they’re not the same thing. David Lewis holds this, for example. It’s feasible that most people would hold that one is the same person if a POD takes place after conception, or perhaps birth, rather than before it. If they believe in the transmigration of souls, they would almost certainly hold that it doesn’t require a POD to take place that late because they would already claim that someone is the same person living a life in another time and place. If they also accepted that karma existed, different circumstances regarding conception might lead to that soul entering a different body and this could mean that the “same” person could be different in many ways in another possible world, being born in the Congo rather than Canada, in the rainforest rather than Vancouver, and so forth. This is someone else’s belief system rather than mine.
Even so, I do have something in common with people who believe in reincarnation: I don’t actually believe personal identity depends on karyotype. Here’s why. If it turns out that someone has a genetic disorder, they and the people close to them would tend to wish that they had never acquired that disorder rather than wishing they were someone else. These are two different things. Therefore, we don’t identify with our genes and our identity doesn’t depend on having been conceived in a particular way. Nor does it depend on the specific substance of our bodies, because if our parents, particularly our pregnant mothers, had eaten a different diet (such as the potatoes on one side of the field rather than the other, not miso instead of yeast extract or something), it wouldn’t make us different people unless it had a major influence on our development, and possibly not even then. What does that leave? There is no soul, so it isn’t that. Nor is it our genes. Nor is it the substance of our bodies. The answer, I think, is that we are socially defined, both passively and actively. In one sense we are the “software” running on the “hardware” of our bodies, although the metaphor of the brain as computer shouldn’t be pushed too far and it’s important to be aware that other parts of our bodies, such as the endocrine system and the nerves in our digestive system, also form a supervenience base for our psyches. It’s difficult to know how close our brains are to computers and how relevant this is to our identities. In another sense, we are externally defined. For instance, we have the legal concept of “next of kin”, which formalises a custom which already exists in social life: we are siblings, offspring, parents and so forth. Therefore, in a parallel universe where a child whose genetic makeup is rather different from this one, has a different temperament and so on, could still be the eldest daughter, have the same name, same birthdate and so forth, and is arguably the same person. In particular, she might not have the leukæmia which killed her in another universe, because at no point was that leukæmia something anyone in the family owned psychologically: it was a disease attacking her, an outsider enemy. I presume this is how many people with cancer approach their illness, but maybe I’m wrong. But that disease could be in her genome.
I don’t know enough detail about how ionising radiation interacts with DNA to be sure about this, and I should probably know more, but I would expect cosmic rays, which are nuclei and protons raining down onto Earth’s surface at near-light speed, to be to some extent the product of nuclear decay and to some degree interact with the molecules in question in such a way as to change the isotope of specific atoms. The existence of radiation in the environment on this planet, whether or not it results from human activity, would certainly be non-deterministic in nature, although the actual presence of that radiation is only technically not so. That is, it’s possible for a scenario as described above with Rutherford’s pitchblende failing to be sufficiently radioactive to influence his photographic plate to occur, but its probability is infinitesimal. Hence there is an element of pure luck involved in mutation which means that it is possible for minor phenotypical differences between members of the same species in parallel worlds to occur, though only to the extent that this doesn’t influence their fitness to survive, although this does also mean there are extinctions which occurred in one world but not another. However, there is another aspect to identity which suggests the “shadow people” I referred to in the title.
It’s widely known that ordinary human body cells each have two pairs of chromosomes which are reduced to one pair in gametes via meiosis:
It should be noted that the four daughter nuclei in this process are complementary to each other. The one at the top is a perfect counterpart to the one at the bottom and the two in the middle are counterparts of each other. Therefore, for either of the gametes which led to the cell line associated with who we are, there is a complementary alternative. This means there are at least four possible versions of each of us, even assuming the copying process goes without a hitch, which incidentally it never does. For instance, for a White blue-eyed fair-haired child whose mother is White with brown eyes and dark hair and whose father is White with blue eyes and fair hair, there is another potential version who is perfectly complementary, and two more versions who are partly complementary, because different gametes united. These gametes will have existed at some point, and they might even produce a viable child in the case of fraternal twins. These complementary people probably do occasionally exist in the same world. I would estimate that this occurs in one pair of about 500 million fraternal twins. Since in a population of eight thousand million there are around 350 million twins, there’s an even chance that somewhere out there today, this situation exists, and there have probably been about six or seven such pairs in the whole of human history, which by the way emphasises the fact that there are a lot of people around today. But in any case, we all have these shadow people, which brings me to the illustration at the top of the post.
This is a fairly famous gender-swapped version of post-war Prime MInisters of the United Kingdom, which notably has only two men because there have only been two female PMs. The counterparts in question here would usually have different karyotypes. That is, if you are yourself XX, your shadow twin would be XY and therefore usually male. The main situation where they wouldn’t be, incidentally, is complete androgen insensitivity – this is not about trans issues at all right now. However, although we do tend to focus quite strongly on gender as part of identity, there would also be lots of other traits which would differ. We have two children, one of whom resembles one parent quite closely and the other of whom resembles the other. I presume this is because dominant traits from one gamete are more strongly expressed in one than the other. Their shadow twins would be the other way round, which means that they would look very like their siblings, just in a different birth order. Their eyes would also be a different colour. My own shadow twin would still have blue eyes, but also straighter hair. I say that, but the popularly understood traits said to be inherited by single alleles are often not, such as eye colour. There’s also another sex-related issue. Two of the intersex conditions are referred to as Klinefelter’s and Turner Syndrome. The former is XXY and the later just one X chromosome with no counterpart. These two conditions are therefore complementary and a Turner person’s shadow twin would be XXY and vice versa. There’s also chimerism. Some people would be reverse chimeras of their twins, for instance they would be largely cell line A with some of cell line B, but their shadow twin would be largely cell line B with some of cell line A.
It’s also true that every generation of a lineage produces only a quarter of these potential individuals. This means that there are also sixteen possible parents involved, and the number rapidly becomes extremely large. This brings home how unlikely it is that any of us were ever born. Just focussing on the perfect complements, the probability that every person in the world today was their shadow twin is of the order of four to the power of eight thousand million to one. Although this is very improbable, it’s far more likely than the situation I described with the discovery or otherwise of radioactivity.
At this point it becomes clear that there is an issue with the nature of probability. Rutherford’s discovery is genuinely probabilistic and acausal. It could “just happen”, and there’s no need for an explanation. It isn’t so clear that the shadow twin situation could simply happen because there definitely seems to be a deterministic thread running through the whole of meiosis and fertilisation. This raises the question of the nature of probability. Probability is sometimes seen as simply a measure of the frequency of occurrences, so for example half the time a coin comes up heads and half tails, so it has a 50/50 probability of coming up either way. This is an empirical approach, as it’s simply based on observation. The other approach is based on rational degree of belief. For all we know, a coin tossed on a particular occasion might come down heads or it might come down tails, and there is no known reason to prefer one outcome over the other. However, there is in fact a cause, each time, for it landing the way it does, presumably to do with how forcefully it was flipped, the angle, air currents and tiny differences between individual coins which make them slightly unfair. For instance, I believe it’s slightly more likely that a coin will land heads up because I think the tails side is slightly heavier and will tend to weigh the coin down, and I tested this once and found the coin I was tossing was heads up sixty-four times out of a hundred. This helps confirm the hypothesis but doesn’t prove it. Ultimately, there may be two kinds of probability, one deterministic and one not, but the deterministic version of probability could stem from the initial conditions of the Big Bang and therefore not be ultimately so. Incidentally, using possible worlds semantics makes it difficult to use certain terminology. For instance, the world “probably” then comes to mean “in most possible worlds”, in other words something like “usually”. This gets confusing when referring to the theory itself. For instance, I can’t say “most parallel universes have always been separate” because I would then be effectively saying “in most possible worlds, most possible worlds have always been separate”. It could even be that this leads to a contradiction which refutes the theory of parallel universes, and that’s pretty serious because it starts to look like proof for the existence of some kind of First Cause and supports theism or deism to a limited extent.
I am now going to make one of these odd-sounding statements. Namely, “it’s possible that shadow twins exist in other universes”. This could be expanded as saying “there are some possible worlds in which there are some possible worlds where there are shadow twins.” This sounds peculiar, and makes it sound like there are two levels of possible worlds, on whose higher level lies the idea that there are a vast number of arrays of further vast numbers of parallel universes. Using the “rational degree of belief” view of probability, this can be restated as “for all I know, there exist possible worlds where shadow twins exist”. If this is so, it’s possible to imagine the following situation. There is a parallel universe where every representative of a final generation of humans is their shadow twin. In fact there would be several. This uses the criterion of childlessness to select the set of people involved. There’s also the question of whichever cohort includes you. You have a shadow twin, and depending on whether you have descendants you are either in the final generation or one of its recent predecessors.
Getting back to the prime minister picture, these are not photographs of a common type of parallel universe. Not only would the individuals concerned look different besides their gender, and also probably have different personalities, but also these are photographs from a matriarchal society, and quite an odd one at that because the political system of the United Kingdom is otherwise very similar, with Eton, Oxbridge and so forth putting these people in the same positions. In reality, most of the people depicted in the picture would not have become Prime Minister at all because they would have different histories based on their gender. This picture asks us to believe that a woman, Winston Churchill’s shadow twin, would have become PM in 1940, only twenty-two years after Constance Markievicz, which is hard to imagine. Their lives would probably have been much more like those of their sisters, assuming they had any, than their lives in this world. The idea of shadow twins constitutes an interesting thought experiment regarding the nature of gender roles and the patriarchy.
Finally, I’m going to revisit the fringe theory of the Mandela Effect. If there really are shadow twins who are to some extent a sex- or gender-swapped version of oneself in parallel universes, this could sometimes have an interesting consequence which is similar to the idea of a soul of one gender in the body of another as an explanation for gender identity issues. My explanation for hardcore MEs is that individual experiences and memories occasionally get transferred into brains in parallel universes when the brain enters an unusual state. If this happened often enough with a shadow twin, the person concerned could conceivably end up with a different gender identity. However, this suggests that we all go around constantly thinking to ourselves something like “I am a man opening this door” or “I am a woman picking this apple”, when of course we do nothing of the sort. Also, it’s quite an outlandish explanation compared to something much simpler and more easily testable such as chimerism or CAG repeat sequences on the AR gene. Hence I’m going to put that out there, note its similarity to the dubious idea that there are not only souls but also that those souls are gendered, and acknowledge that believing in non-psychological explanations of MEs at all is widely considered dubious. But I do wonder sometimes.