Time Travel and free will

http://www.hawking.org.uk/index.php/lectures/63

This is an interesting article on Quantum Mechanics.  It's worth a read on it's own.  However, while reading it and it started to deal with Time Travel, this really got my attention.

One is what I shall call, the consistent histories approach. It says that one has to find a consistent solution of the equations of physics, even if space-time is so warped, that it is possible to travel into the past. On this view, you couldn't set out on the rocket ship to travel into the past, unless you had already come back, and failed to blow up the launch pad. It is a consistent picture, but it would imply that we were completely determined: we couldn't change our minds. So much for free will.
This basically says we can't really change the past via time travel.  What happened has already happened even if you came back in time.  Probably my favorite time traveling movie: 12 Monkeys takes this approach to Time Travel.

The movie stars Burce Willis and he is an interesting character.  During his childhood, he vividly remembers being at the airport and seeing a man being shot while his girl friend cries.

Anyways, a deadly virus is released on Earth wiping out most of humanity.  Bruce Willis is sent back in time to try an figure out what happened and and hopefully stop it.  During the wild adventure, he ends up at the airport with his female assistant. A man is trying to smuggle  the deadly virus on a plane.  He tries to stop the man, but airport security ends up shooting him and he dies in the arms of the woman.   A small child looks on and sees it happen.  No surprise... this was him as a child.  He saw the time-travelling version of himself beng shot.

He could not change history... everything happened exactly as it did.  The virus was released.  The man and woman were shot at the airport.

Which Hawkins described as per-determination... which in his words is a conflict with free will. 

Now, I've just never seen this great conflict with free-will and time.

For example, in the movie, Bruce Willis appears to be making his choices at each stage.  It just so happens that those choices lead him to the outcome.

What's interesting about this whole discussion is its impact on religion.  In Islam there is the notion that God knows everything that will happen.  This can lead to an acceptance of per-determination and fatalism.  Some Muslims have fallen into this trap.  I can't do anything about my future as it is already determined.

For another movie reference, watch the movie Kingdom of Heaven.  In this movie, the Christians are the people who believe in Fatalism.  They just charge into battle and think God will determine the outcome.  It is Saladin of the Muslims who believes in preparation and strategy for battle.

In any case, just because God knows the outcome doesn't mean you have no choice.  We are seeing more and more how space and time are intertwined.  Time is just another dimension.  Imagine God existing outside of time so God can see the entirety of time.  Does God being able to see the outcome change your choices in the present?  Absolutely not.  You have the entirety of choice.  No action you can take can be against God's will.

Similarly, the issue exists with respect to time travel.  At each point, the individual has complete choice as to what to do.  The fact that these choices have already been accounted for in the time doesn't change the choices that were made.  Now admittedly, there is still hard to accept.  This is especially true of hypothetical situations.  For example, if myself from the future comes back in time and kills John.  I see this happen.  Now as live my life and times passes.  Do I face the choice to go back in time and Kill John.  What would i do it?
But of course I must have had a pretty good reason to kill John in the first place.  It is also possible the future me which killed John already saw a future version of himself killing John... so he face the exact same choice and chose to kill John.  Since I'm the same person, faced with the same choice, with the same values, morals, heart, and warnings and everything...  is not likely I'd make the exact same choice as my future self... and thus there is no conflict?



Hmmm, I think I have to clear this up a bit :P


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