Ethics of Time Travel

So I’ve been watching a lot of Doctor Who lately - which is an awesome show - and it’s made me think about what would actually happen if humans figured out honest-to-goodness-works-like-in-sci-fi time travel.

Because really, the ability to time travel would call up an insane amount of moral questions, many of which have already been touched on by various science fiction stories. Take Doctor Who, for example. I mean, what WOULD be the right thing to do if you found yourself in Pompeii the day before the volcano erupted? A few thousand people alive instead of dead could drastically alter history. This is assuming, of course, that the course of time could be changed at all. Perhaps it would work on the Time-Turner model of time travel, in which there is one unchanging timeline and anything you would have changed going back into the past already happened before you went back.

But if you could indeed “change the timeline,” what sort of religious implications would that have? Does that mean you made a change in God’s master plan? Would it be hubris, saying to God that you know better than He does what should have happened in the grand scheme of things?

Let the thread begin!

If God has a plan, and if, presumably, you could “change the timeline” then that would mean that you changing the timeline would be part of that plan, wouldn’t it? So, no, I don’t think it would be hubris (at the very least, not in the eyes of God.)

It’s not as if God would be up there going, “Darn it, I didn’t know time travel was possible. Now skwrl has gone and messed everything up!”

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Gotta love the Doctor!
Personally, I am a fan of the whatever happens, happens theory on time travel(yes I’m a lost fan, too). You can’t change the past because the past has already incorporated you going back in time and changing things. So, there can’t be a paradox because you had changed the past before and all your actions are simply ensuring that the future happens the way it does. (Hope I explained that well)

You know what’s scary? I understand that perfectly! :eek:

I have nothing to add at the moment. I’m just going to sit back and enjoy this thread.

I have been a “Whovian” for 30 years. My first Doctor was Pertwee. I’m pleased to say we have a house full of Whovians and my father-in-law is a fan. Looking forward to the Christmas special!!!

If we had two-way time travel, then we could go back and meet Jesus. We could go back to Creation Week and watch God make the universe, and then meet Adam and Eve. Faith wouldn’t be faith anymore. This is why I don’t think God will ever allow time travel to be invented (except possibly one-way time travel to the future).


I always wondered what would happen if I woke up, and somehow knew I time traveled 2000 years in the past. the obvious answer upon realizing this would be to Walk all the way around the world, in search of Jesus. Then by the time you finally get to Jerusalem, your old and weary from your journey around the world, and after seeing Jesus with your very eyes, you die. That would be amazing!

I don’t know, but I would go back and change some things I have done.

I do think a lot of time travel stories have to do with greedy people wanting more money.

I would find it funny if a scientist decided to use his time machine to go back one billion years to see the dinosaurs and fused into nothing instead.

And the really wierd thing is that, as God, He would know we were coming and be ready for us…

I think that was the point of the Time Agents, or at least that was pretty much Jack Harkness’s reasons for time traveling, at least until he met the Ninth Doctor, after that, he becomes a much more noble (if still naughty) man.

I’m a believer in what I call the “Hitler paradox.” Let’s say you decide to go back in time to 1911 Vienna (or the Western Front in 1914, or even as late as Munich in 1923 – sometime before Herr Schickelgrueber became a world-threatening menace). You go up to him and say “Herr Hitler. My name is (insert name here). You killed 12 million people, and were responsible for the deaths of millions more. Prepare to die.” and proceeded to shoot him. The next morning, you wake up thinking “Who is this Adolf Hitler person, and WHY do I want to kill him?” Meaning you did not go into your TARDIS (or DeLorean), say “Herr Hitler. My name is (insert name here). You killed 12 million people, and were responsible for the deaths of millions more. Prepare to die.” and proceeded to shoot him. As you would have had no reason to do any of that, because your whole reason for wanting to go back in time no longer exists.

See Alfred Bester’s story The Men Who murdered Mohammed. The idea is that if you go back trying to alter history to wind up erasing your own reality.

I’d find that quite amusing to as the dinosaurs do not date back to one billion years ago. There is of course the famous Ray Bradbury story where someone alters the timeline in the dinosaur’s era by an (apparently) inconsequential action.

There is a very famous Michael Moorcock story called, ‘Behold the Man’ on this theme where the protagonist who is devoutly Catholic goes back to meet Christ only to find he is forced to become Christ himself. It’s very well known although I doubt it would meet with much approval here as the ‘real’ Christ of the story is portrayed as a retarded individual whose mother is something of a slut.

I have this book. It’s well-written. Of course I would understand how offensive the material would be for many.

Time travel: II wouldn’t worry too much. Not going to happen, but it makes a good story.

I read quite a bit of Moorcock years ago, but seem to have missed this. That certainly does sound like him.

Yes it’s a very well written book but unfortunately it’s hard to sum up that when you describe the plot as described in such a basic manner it sounds far more offensive than it is.

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