One question I’m positive the majority of you are familiar with and have been asked, I will visit now in a somewhat contrarian way, which I hope someday soon will be a view shared by the majority. In one way or another the question which begs for the suspension in belief about time travel, “If you could travel back in time knowing what you know now, to the summer of 1939 and to be fortunate enough to be alone in a room armed with Adolf Hitler, would you kill him?” I will make an approximate guess that roughly nine out of ten people would answer yes, with very little hesitation. I will now alter the nature of that question with another similar one. If you could travel back in time to around May of 1889 and found yourself alone with the infant one month old Adolf Hitler, would you kill him? I imagine the answer the majority would respond to this alteration of the original question, after a pause for contemplation, with the answer no. No one of sound mind would want to be a baby killer regardless of the baby (short of Rosemary’s).
In reference to my stating how I will visit this question in a contrarian way, I mean this by stating that I wouldn’t kill Adolf Hitler in either scenario and wish to explain my reasoning. Coming from angles of economic theory, political science, philosophy and neurobiology I can explain my contrarian position. In recent studies mostly put forth by acclaimed neuroscientist and philosopher Sam Harris, free will has proven to be impossible. Every decision we make as human beings comes from neurological processes that deal both with physiology and psychology. Our brains operate uniquely from person to person. Someone with the genes and brain patterns of a serial killer (i.e. the serotonin needed for rational behavior of response isn’t produced enough in the frontal cortex) can turn out not to be a serial killer and instead a rather pleasant human being. This being due to their past experiences and environment that they were raised in. If for example a person with this disease* is raised in a loving family with good relations with both their parents and their siblings this can possibly, and has been proven to in some cases, alter their genetic programming ( not necessarily altering exactly but rather countering) and train their behavior to be responsive in a similar way as the average person who does not suffer from this deficiency.
I must digress to explain that lack of activity shown in the frontal cortex of the brain under scans means that rational thinking and subsequently rational behavior is lacking in the person being scanned. This is common among serial killers. Serotonin has been shown that when entered into the frontal cortex through serotonin pathways it affects mood, compulsion, motivation and euphoria. This is the reason behind my belief that lack of serotonin in the frontal cortex through serotonin and dopamine pathways is behind the reason for the lack of activity in serial killers’ frontal cortexes. If anyone harbors any opposition to this point I do invite them to debate it openly with me with any research or evidence that supports their opposition.
On to another neurobiological point to support my reasoning, returns us back to Sam Harris’ studies on free will. Due to our unique physiology of our brain we don’t actually make choices, instead our brains make the choice shortly before we are conscious of the choice due to the neurological processes dealing with our natural brain patterns through genetics and our past experiences. With this fact in mind no one can truly be guilty for their actions but still must be held accountable because there is no other choice in a society where we wish to protect one another from danger. The enlightening factor that comes from this realization is the possible and recommended reconditioning of how we as people view criminals behind violent and disgusting crimes. If we can recondition ourselves to view them as victims of natural science and psychology instead of as “evil” we will seek to sentence them to imprisonment not for retribution and revenge but instead solely for them being a danger to others in society.
In correlation with the neuroscience evidence the philosophy of libertarianism i.e. each persons natural rights of life, liberty and property also factors in to my reasoning. Libertarian philosophy correlates with deontological and categorical imperative philosophy. Basically the act of murder even if the outcome serves the common good of the majority is still immoral because it infringes on the rights of the person involved. The only moral solution would be to arrest the person in question and tried in court and if judged to be guilty they must be sentenced fairly in a way that either rehabilitates or at least removes them from society so they are no longer a danger. Now one may say this contradicts the libertarian philosophy rights to life, liberty and property. Liberty being the one in question. This is where libertarians find themselves forced to make an exception because the rights of other’s lives, liberties and property are threatened by the person in question. The right to life being most important of the three to uphold. This goes hand in hand with the exception made when a person’s life is threatened by another and the only solutions are to lose their life or take the life of the assailant and the choice of taking the assailant’s life to save their own is protected by both the law and philosophy.
Most profoundly (at least in my personal opinion) the reason for my choosing not to kill Adolf Hitler deals a lot with economic theory and political science. The great Lew Rockwell among others expressed the strongly backed by evidence belief that without centralized banking in Europe and in the United States the century of war, i.e. the twentieth century, would be considerably, or rather tremendously different. Having elastic money printed funded infinite resources for war efforts. After WWI the imperialist European continent changed dramatically. The world went to war shortly after the United States started The Federal Reserve allowing the United States to enter into the war and defeat Germany sending them into a depression (along with the support of their own centralized banking system), thus giving rise to Adolf Hitler.
In reasoning for my answers to the questions I started this article with, I will answer for it now. If I were to have no option but to time travel to the summer of 1939 and found myself alone with Adolf Hitler, which would be the option I would rather not have between the two, I would not kill him unless he was attacking me. In the scenario it is assumed he is unarmed while I am. I would have a short time frame to take neurological or psychological approach as an attempt to deter him from his near future invasion of Poland. I would however not choose to murder him for that is immoral and goes against my philosophy I subscribe to and believe in. If the option be to arrest him I would take it, if it were to kill him in self defense I too would take it, if it were to attempt to befriend him and also attempt to change his views I would too choose that approach even if to no avail (which would be most likely the result).
If the option of traveling through time back to May of 1889 and confronted the infant Adolf Hitler I could do many things to deter his future horrendous actions. I could involve myself with politics and economics in attempt to stop the practice of centralized banking in either Europe or the United States. I could involve myself with the Edwardian family or journalism to prevent the retaliation of Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s assassination in Sarajevo which would prevent WWI (look into the history of WWI for an explanation for this. For me to cover it would be a whole other article dedicated to the explanation). Or I could involve myself in young Adolf Hitler’s life providing friendship that would be strong and influential enough to alter his history. There are a myriad of possible actions I could take in this hypothetical scenario.
This all may sound silly at this point but the reason for that is that it’s impossible to time travel in this universe and my reasoning for not murdering Adolf Hitler reflects this reality. In conclusion, the silliness of the time traveling questions of murdering a historical tyrant aside, my reasoning for not murdering someone is due to my moral philosophy I subscribe to, neurobiology, economics and political science.
*It’s not labelled officially as a disease. There is dispute whether to refer to it as disease or not. It is however genetic in nature.