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Is it murder to go back in time to prevent someone from being born?

posted by apenpaap on - last edited - Viewed by 254 users

Here's a hypothetical scenario:
Imagine I hypothetically went back into time and prevented someone I don't like from being born. Not by killing his parents or forcing them to get an abortion of course (because that would definitely be murder), and not even by preventing them from getting together. I would simply become a friend of his father in the past, and invite him for a sleepover or a party or something on the night the person whose birth I am trying to prevent was conceived in the original timeline. As such, he will be conceived the next day, or some completely other day. By then, the sperm cell that originally conceived him will be a lot older (as sperm cells only live about 5 days) and slower, or dead. So some other sperm cell will fertilize his mother's egg cell, and someone with different DNA (like a brother or sister of the original person) would be born, and the person I am trying to remove would never be born at all.
Would that be murder?

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    Vainamoinen Moderator

    By definition, no.

    But if you'd like to talk about the moral implications of your action... that's quite another thing. It's a willful act with a plan based on knowledge of the (possible) future.

  • I'm leaning towards no. Look at it this way: by not going through with this plan, you're preventing this potential brother or sister from being born. If your scenario is murder, then you're murdering a dazzling amount of potential people every time you visit the past at all. It would be hardly any better than claiming that you should rape everyone because not doing so constitutes murdering the potential child.

  • Beside of that it's physically impossible, this pretty much depends on the laws which would be in force and if travelling back in time would be common, i could imagine this beeing against the laws in several points, one of them beeing murder, you made your intention pretty obvious as well. Beside of this the results of this action could be even worse than what you've hoped for to correct.

  • I would say yes but only if going back in time to prevent yourself from being born is tantamount to suicide.

  • I wouldn't say that this would be murder, because murder is a real word that means something specific, but I would say that if you were to deliberately act in the way you describe, with the specific intention of unwriting someone's existence, then it would be just as bad as murder for the same reasons that murder is bad.

  • But doesn't killing someone without specific intent to count as manslaughter? I thought only killing for self-defense or as a soldier under orders(usually) counted as non-murder. So unless you're engaging in a time war (did I just say that?) or the undoing of the persons birth is somehow done with the intent to protect yourself, isn't it still manslaughter?

  • @Secret Fawful said: But doesn't killing someone without specific intent to count as manslaughter? I thought only killing for self-defense or as a soldier under orders(usually) counted as non-murder. So unless you're engaging in a time war (did I just say that?) or the undoing of the persons birth is somehow done with the intent to protect yourself, isn't it still manslaughter?

    I'm just saying that, from a literal standpoint, preventing someone from ever existing is a different thing from killing

  • But he already existed, otherwise apenpaap wouldn't have brought up the idea/motivation doing so.

  • And that's why it's just as bad as killing him

  • It's not just like killing him, it is killing him. Instead of a knife or a gun he just takes the knowledge about the past and a time machine.

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