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Musing About Changing the Past

Rhea

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I read somewhere recently, "If I saw a man raping a young child I would try to stop him; that's the difference between me and your god."


My first emotional response is, "damn right I would!" Weeks later, I was pondering this again, in teh context of the novel 11-22-63 by Stephen King, in which our hero is presented with a time portal that allows him to right past wrongs. He starts by stopping a murder that resulted in an orphaning and a terrible injury to a man. He stops the murder and goes back forward only to find that the injury he prevented now resulted in the man being sent to Vietnam and killed. It goes on from there...

During down moments I thought about this again and played scenarios. I have always thought it would be incredible cool-awesome to be able to see/know "what if" historical changes. WHAT IF religions had lost their appeal early in the evolutionary process of humans. What would the world be like? WHAT IF a Monroe Doctrine-like solution had taken place after WWI; WHAT IF Colonists to various parts of the world arrived with more compassion and appreciation for the people already there.

But those ponderings are always in the context of just wanting to know, because I think about the unknown unknowns of what the change would create.

So, then, am I really different than the notion of an omni-god who does not interfere? I suppose if I'm omni then I can make constant subtle changes to eliminate much without allowing the bad side-effects to carry out.


So... morally, should the crimes be prevented? Can a moral being accept a future that somehow "depends" on the cruelty to small children? It might make a good novel... (oh, wait).
 

Keith&Co.

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So... morally, should the crimes be prevented?
Of course. Everything we do has consequences, that may run to unimaginable extents. Like Ray Bradbury's story, stepping on a bug may turn the future into an intolerable Hell.
But ultimately, i cannot see myself as a man who does not prevent a child rape if it's within my power to do so.
My answer to the time travel conundrum about if you'd kill Hitler in his crib has always been, i can't see myself killing an infant. Even knowing the consequences, i can't make that choice.
 

Rhea

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Yeah, I can't see myself killing the infant, either. If I were an omni-god, I could take care of the perp at the moment of the impending execution of his/her crime, feeling certain that it was going to happen without my interference. Plus I'd be able to do it without cruelty, just ~poof~ end of existence (or problem, depending on the severity). But to kill the infant years before - I agree, I can't picture myself able to do that.
 

Playball40

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But the first sentence is not talking about "going back" and changing things. Only stopping something he's witnesses in the present. I would not be so worried about that.
 

Rhea

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What made it tie in within my musings was that stopping something from happening isn't functionally different whether you are doing it in real time or "going back" to do the exact same thing. The actions have consequences either way. Only difference is when you know the two paths the two different consequences could take from the vantage point of the future. So I was putting together the assumed knowledge of what that action changes with the action itself, based on the properties (future knowledge) of the Omni-actor doing the action.
 

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There are three different points of view to consider here.
Time perception can get badly tangled in a linear mind. Humans can only live forward, but can imagine in all directions. When we think about alternate time-lines, we become paralysed by a surfeit of possibilities. In real life, we can't know the long-term consequences of any event: we simply choose the best course available to us in the moment. There is nothing gained by making ourselves crazy with unpredictable outcomes.

Something similar happens when we imagine going back in time to change the negative outcome of some particular even of which we are aware. Obviously, there are billions of other events and sequelae of which we are not aware. Our limited knowledge makes any interference with the past potentially disastrous and potentially messianic, in equal measure. Which is why most such speculations end with: better leave it alone.

But the God question is qualitatively different from either of those. We are inside the chronological narrative: our pov is necessarily from a center in our own minds, looking outward into a world and time that recedes in all directions, with distance transmitting less and less information. This makes our range of both judgment and effectiveness very small, while our concern with the nearest subject matter is very great. We have no sense of universal proportion.
God, on the other hand, is supposed to be everywhere and know everything at the same time, all the time - that is, his pov is from outside, unlimited, unimpeded and perfectly proportionate. Which means He must be either equally concerned with all events and players, from the earthworm being gummed to death by a robin to that explosion over Hiroshima, or equally unconcerned.
Why should such a being - and why would such a being want to - influence the events in what can be no more to him than an n-dimensional movie... especially if He produced, wrote and directed the whole thing?
Which, of course, is the absurdity theists try so very hard to avoid noticing.
 

Rhea

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Interesting ideas - if I understadn you right, the Omni experiences ALL possible outcomes as equally real so what's the point of guiding any one?
 

Zeluvia

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Our present has developed based on a metric fuckton of cruelty to all kinds of sentient beings. Can we even imagine a cruelty free future?

However, in my analysis of the past, I have decided the ONE single event I would change would be stopping the early death of Alexander the Great, having him live to actually have to rule what he conquered, and create heirs for a succession....

Yes he was a tyrant and a total asshole, but his crazy ideas about mixing the populations of east and west, and creating libraries of ALL the knowledge of the world would have probably changed the world in completely different and I think positive ways, as I see it. I don't think we would have 2 of the 3 current "Abrahamic" religions, I think Buddahism would have met Greek thought and thrived in a new and interesting way, and Rome would have never risen to empire, and the world just might have skipped the dark ages.
 

dockeen

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I read somewhere recently, "If I saw a man raping a young child I would try to stop him; that's the difference between me and your god."


My first emotional response is, "damn right I would!" Weeks later, I was pondering this again, in teh context of the novel 11-22-63 by Stephen King, in which our hero is presented with a time portal that allows him to right past wrongs. He starts by stopping a murder that resulted in an orphaning and a terrible injury to a man. He stops the murder and goes back forward only to find that the injury he prevented now resulted in the man being sent to Vietnam and killed. It goes on from there...

During down moments I thought about this again and played scenarios. I have always thought it would be incredible cool-awesome to be able to see/know "what if" historical changes. WHAT IF religions had lost their appeal early in the evolutionary process of humans. What would the world be like? WHAT IF a Monroe Doctrine-like solution had taken place after WWI; WHAT IF Colonists to various parts of the world arrived with more compassion and appreciation for the people already there.

But those ponderings are always in the context of just wanting to know, because I think about the unknown unknowns of what the change would create.

So, then, am I really different than the notion of an omni-god who does not interfere? I suppose if I'm omni then I can make constant subtle changes to eliminate much without allowing the bad side-effects to carry out.


So... morally, should the crimes be prevented? Can a moral being accept a future that somehow "depends" on the cruelty to small children? It might make a good novel... (oh, wait).

Of course, in the case of the King book, you could reset the changes.

Spoiler Alert - Saving JFK turns out not to be a good idea. The dinner guy should have stuck with buying ground beef in the past.
 

Petrel

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Interesting ideas - if I understadn you right, the Omni experiences ALL possible outcomes as equally real so what's the point of guiding any one?
That's how I read Big Omni's position.
They've given God so much power and pushed him so far outside ordinary mortal experience that he can't possibly care about discrete mortal events, or individual mortals.
 

dockeen

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That's how I read Big Omni's position.
They've given God so much power and pushed him so far outside ordinary mortal experience that he can't possibly care about discrete mortal events, or individual mortals.

On the flip side, the idea that everything is "part of the plan" suggests that this particular universe was "selected" because it is fully optimized, down to every little decision.
 

Nexus

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The problem with the Tri-Omni God is I can conceive of a way to make a better universe despite my finite imagination. Set the universe(s) up like a MMORPG. Give every consciousness its own universe with God like powers. Allow sharing/copying/merging of universes. If another entity harms you put them on the ignore feature and deny them access to your reality. Give people tools to create AIs that don't suffer so you can populate the universe with "life" to do anything you want.

While this won't completely eliminate suffering but it would be a drastic improvement and wouldn't deny anyone freewill. God could still create heaven whatever that entails and people could view the design but not enter without following God terms of use. There would be no need for hell unless someone wanted to create one for themselves and others. God could be a universe reviewer/critic and warn people about possible hells that might sucker people into them. So no Hansel&Greytl type candylands with a witch that tortures you at the end. You would have disclosure and a warning from God before entering. It could even be a spoiler free warning if you prefer to go in anyway.
 

dockeen

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As I have pointed out before, I have an issue with a god who would perform a creation, knowing in advance that the design required an eternal torture chamber that would have to be occupied by almost all his "children". It certainly falls far short of benevolent.
 

Petrel

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On the flip side, the idea that everything is "part of the plan" suggests that this particular universe was "selected" because it is fully optimized, down to every little decision.
Sure, it's the best of all possible worlds....
...except that, even the simplest among us can imagine a better one.
Being stuck with another's idea of perfection (even if that other is Mr. Deity) may be inevitable, but promoting it - to the point of flogging and burning people who disagree - seems to me altogether unnecessary.
Almost like they were protesting too much, y'know?
 

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The best and most succinct explanation of the Problem of Evil is from Tracie Harris:

Tracie Harris said:
If I could stop an adult from raping a child, I would. That's the difference between me and your god.
 

Tom Sawyer

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Also, if you're God, there's zero difference in the amount of effort required to interfere one time to save the child and one billion times to simultaneously save the child and then deal with any negative consequences from that action and any negative consequences from those actions and so on and so on. The Rule of Unintended Consequences doesn't apply to him so he doesn't need to worry about making things worse as a result of his intervention because he can deal with any worse consequences by making them better at the point when he intervenes in the first place.
 

arkirk

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I read somewhere recently, "If I saw a man raping a young child I would try to stop him; that's the difference between me and your god."


My first emotional response is, "damn right I would!" Weeks later, I was pondering this again, in teh context of the novel 11-22-63 by Stephen King, in which our hero is presented with a time portal that allows him to right past wrongs. He starts by stopping a murder that resulted in an orphaning and a terrible injury to a man. He stops the murder and goes back forward only to find that the injury he prevented now resulted in the man being sent to Vietnam and killed. It goes on from there...

During down moments I thought about this again and played scenarios. I have always thought it would be incredible cool-awesome to be able to see/know "what if" historical changes. WHAT IF religions had lost their appeal early in the evolutionary process of humans. What would the world be like? WHAT IF a Monroe Doctrine-like solution had taken place after WWI; WHAT IF Colonists to various parts of the world arrived with more compassion and appreciation for the people already there.

But those ponderings are always in the context of just wanting to know, because I think about the unknown unknowns of what the change would create.

So, then, am I really different than the notion of an omni-god who does not interfere? I suppose if I'm omni then I can make constant subtle changes to eliminate much without allowing the bad side-effects to carry out.


So... morally, should the crimes be prevented? Can a moral being accept a future that somehow "depends" on the cruelty to small children? It might make a good novel... (oh, wait).

You wouldn't do too well on the Trolley thought experiment with thinking like that! Glad there is more than one of us.:D
 

Philos

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Folks,

We cannot redo what we didn't do or undo what we did do in past events.

(I have been watching the trial of Oscar Pistorius.:sadyes:)

But we can come clean with ourselves.

Alex.
 

Cheerful Charlie

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Interesting ideas - if I understadn you right, the Omni experiences ALL possible outcomes as equally real so what's the point of guiding any one?

Molinism. God can know in any possibler situation what a person would do. God can chose to actualize any one of these possible worlds. Question, why does God chose to actualize so many evil possibilities? Only the worlds God actualizes are real, others are merely possibly real.

Molinist theories have opened many ugly cans of worms.
 
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