Imagine you are the chief of a small, relatively peaceful, ancient tribe. You have not yet discovered many things that a modern child would know (for instance, that the earth is round and rotates on its axis and around the sun), but you are highly inquisitive and intend to figure out the world around you as best you can. Not out of idle curiosity so much as out of necessity for the survival of your tribe. The more you learn, the safer you and your tribe will be.
You are particularly interested in the sky, for several reasons. One is that your tribe, and it appears, all life, is dependent on the sun. When the sun is visible in the sky, the whole world is illuminated and is considerably warmer than when it is not. It is true that at night there is some comfort from the moon and stars, but in general you are much more interested in the sun. You know that the sun is made of fire, because when you build a fire, it too provides light and warmth, although not nearly as much as the sun.
Your tribe also depends on rain, water from the sky. For whatever reason, there is a quality to the sky water that the sea water does not have – unfortunately, the water of the sea, although vast in quantity, is not life-sustaining. You also notice that water in large quantities (that is, the sea) is blue, and so is the sky. You surmise from this that the sky is actually made of water.
Two things puzzle you, however. Water tends to fall to the ground. How is it that the sky is made of water, but the water is not continuously falling to the ground? What is holding all that water up? The other puzzle is that everyone knows that fire and water cannot coexist together. But the sun, which is made is of fire, is in the sky, which is made of water. Again, how is this possible?
You come to a brilliant conclusion that answers both puzzles. There must be an invisible barrier separating the water above and the earth below. The sun, moon, and stars are all moving around, nice and dry, inside that barrier. Occasionally, small holes (you think of them as windows) appear in that barrier, and water falls through them, resulting in rain on the earth. At times, they open wider than others, resulting in harder, possibly dangerous, rain.
But what is keeping the barrier up? You decide that the barrier is actually a giant dome that covers the whole earth. Floating within the ethereal material of the dome are the celestial bodies. Above the dome is immeasurable amounts of water, as big as the sea. It is frightening to imagine that there is this massive amount of water above the whole world, and the only thing keeping it from crashing down on us is the barrier! If the windows in the barrier were to open up completely, there could be a massive flood. On the other hand, the sky is also the source of all life, since it is the source of all potable water.
You continue to ponder the structure of the world. Maybe at one point there was no barrier, and the entire world was filled with water. It’s amazing to think about, but it’s possible. Maybe something built the barrier, drained most of the water off of the earth, revealing dry land below (but leaving some of the water there, which became the sea). The sun, being made of fire, could not have existed yet if the world was filled with water – it would only make sense for the sun to have been put in place after the barrier was created.
You are getting excited. You are slowly but surely figuring out the steps involved in the formation of the world! You have more details to figure out, such as when in this process plants, animals, trees, and most importantly, man came into the picture. Perhaps one day your tribe can explore the edges of the earth and actually find where the dome of the barrier meets the earth. Or even more ambitiously, to build a tower and actually touch the sky! But even without those accomplishments, you’re pretty sure you’re on to something. You are advancing the knowledge of your tribe, and are coming closer to a more accurate explanation of the world and its origins. You had better write this down, for posterity and the sake of the tribe…
Slashdot reports that scientists use performance-enhancing drugs, too. Instead of extra brawn, they’re going for extra brains.
I can see where this is going – incredibly smart super-nerds, getting massive amounts of sand kicked at them on the beach by steroid-enhanced bullies four times their size. Better start working on that personal robot bodyguard!