Thursday, 23 June 2011

Father Paradox


One can’t go back in time and kill one’s own grandfather as, in doing so, one would never be born – if one was never born one couldn’t go back and kill one’s own grandfather, thus the grandfather survives and the would be time-traveller is born.

This, to me, is an elegant reason why time travel, which is to say travelling backwards in time to a past earth, is not possible. Imagine the changes to human history if one landed on a butterfly… Chaos!


An analogue to the Grandfather Paradox, to my mind, is what I will call, for the moment at least, the God/Father Paradox (eventually the joy of the pun will wear off and I’ll think of something a little more prosaic).

The God/Father paradox runs like this:

An omniscient creator cannot bestow its creation with an intellect and provide it with knowledge from which to base its exploration, then allow that knowledge to be overturned by subsequent learning and thus be proved wrong and, by extension, to not exist.

So the parallel runs like this:
  1. There is time travel
  2. A man travels back in time
  3. He kills his own Grandfather
  4. Without a grandfather he would not be born and would not travel back in time to kill his grandfather
  5. Time travel can not happen

  1. There is a God
  2. God gives man an intellect
  3. Human knowledge disagrees with the knowledge handed down by God.
  4. If the knowledge of the world handed down by God is disproved then God’s omniscience is void.
  5. God does not exist

I agree it’s not perfect, if only in the words used to express it, but just as the Grandfather Paradox and the philosophical auto-infanticide memes are useful thought experiments I think this one bears further examination.

So please, comment, discuss – what are the ramifications on the existence of God that the creator’s creation has debunked the scriptural version of events?

Omnipresent? Where were you?
Omniscient? I don’t think so.


Julianna said...

Love this entry. 2 observations to help us try and make sense of things:

1. Time travel to the past is still possible. If the man who shoots his grandfather is not the inventor of the time machine, and he brings his friend, his friend can then go back to the present with her friend removed from time, without grief or memory. Read this brilliant guy for more on such ideas....

2. This concept only works if one believes God was the one who gave us all knowledge. If one believes we have been created by God but have found knowledge ourselves, one could gather we've found God through observation of what we see. Or, we could say we've created God because we observe that death seems like the end, and we've created the concept of God to reassure ourselves. So Occam's Razor hasn't been used to the most definite degree, but the logic is consistent if God has given us our current knowledge.

Thanks for blogging about 2 of my favourite subjects. :)
Julianna xoxo

Alan Duval said...

Julianna, further issues postulated with Time travel being that one can't travel further back in time than the point at which the time machine was created and that, if Time travel involves superluminal travel, the traveler's mass will surpass infinity. Both are by-the-by to my way of thinking as, even if one doesn't directly alter the path of one's own lineage one will still alter the past, whether (as per my nod to chaos theory) you land on a butterfly or delay a person by one step.

The supposition that God gave us knowledge is consistent with Christian rhetoric and certainly with all of the apologists' attempts to prove current scientific knowledge as being forecast in the Bible. Moreover, if the Bible is the infallible/inerrant word of God and it is demonstrably wrong on matters such as helio-centricity and the global nature of the earth then, as mentioned, God is not omniscient - His omniscience is his very definition, so if you strip that away you lose God.

On a side note I don't think Occam's Razor applies as these aren't competing hypotheses they're thought exercises and the outcome of one has no bearing on the other. I was drawing a parallel between the two from the point of general structure rather than using the disproof of time travel to disprove God.

Thanks for your comments :D

Julianna said...

Ah, it was a comparison. Sorry for the loose use of language, I'm still learning where all these terms apply. Thank you for all the clarifications. :)

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