The Time Traveling Contrarian

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. (more…)