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I was wondering something regarding the Back To The Future movie: Marty McFly is on stage and he's playing Johnny B. Goode. Marvin Berry phones his cousin Chuck Berry (the person who wrote the song).

Chuck hears the song and he uses it as a hit for himself. Now at this point Chuck learns the song through Marty but Marty learned it through Chuck. There is no actual creation moment of the song as both parties copied the song. So doesn't that mean the song can't exist at all? What kind of paradox would this be?

marked as duplicate by Valorum, Jason Baker, Dr R Dizzle, Paul D. Waite, Lobo Nov 3 '15 at 13:28

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  • Although your question is about the type of paradox this would be, I just wanted to note that the writers of Back to the Future actually made sure to avoid the implication that Chuck Berry learned the song from Marty, you'll notice that by the time Marvin Berry holds up the phone Marty has already finished with the lyrics and main tune to the song, and just does a little more of the guitar riff before transitioning to the more 1980s sound that his audience isn't quite ready for. – Hypnosifl Nov 3 '15 at 15:12
  • @Hypnosifl Very true! This is of course me assuming that Chuck learned it from Marty. They aren't completely off the hook but it works. – SgtMcFuzzyboots Nov 4 '15 at 13:08
  • I also want to mention that this question is not a duplicate. My question was not regarding how Chuck Berry learned the song but how this was possible and as a result what kind of a paradox would this be. I edited the question to elaborate on that part. Its sad that I get downvoted because of a mere misunderstanding – SgtMcFuzzyboots Nov 4 '15 at 13:11
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What you are describing is called a Bootstrap Paradox. They talked about it in the Doctor Who episode Before the Flood. This is a casual loop, which means: (quote from the wikipedia page, emphasis mine)

A causal loop is a paradox of time travel that occurs when a future event is the cause of a past event, which in turn is the cause of the future event. Both events then exist in spacetime, but their origin cannot be determined. A causal loop is also known as a bootstrap paradox, predestination paradox or ontological paradox in fiction.

Most time-travel related works of fiction contain some type of paradox, due to the butterfly effect. Any and every change or addition to the past creates an alternate timeline. Hope this helps.

  • Great minds think alike. – Dr R Dizzle Nov 3 '15 at 12:25
  • I can't "Best answer" you both! D: – SgtMcFuzzyboots Nov 3 '15 at 12:29
  • I don't want to be picky, but I did answer 13 seconds before @DrRDizzle – Lord Voldemort Nov 3 '15 at 12:30
  • This is very true. I am sorry @DrRDizzle Loved both your answers just as much :) Thanks to both of you for answering my question – SgtMcFuzzyboots Nov 3 '15 at 12:31
  • @SgtMcFuzzyboots No problem at all. – Dr R Dizzle Nov 3 '15 at 12:33
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Yes, this is an example of a particular type of paradox, commonly known as the Bootstrap Paradox or the Casual Loop.

From the Wikipedia page linked above;

A causal loop is a paradox of time travel that occurs when a future event is the cause of a past event, which in turn is the cause of the future event. Both events then exist in spacetime, but their origin cannot be determined.

It does not mean that the song doesn't exist - it simply means that it is impossible to determine who the original writer of the song is, as both contenders (Marty McFly and Chuck Berry) copied it from someone else.

For a good explanation of and another example of the Bootstrap Paradox, take a look at the recent Doctor Who season 9 episode "Before the Flood".

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    Our answers are almost identical! I'm afraid I answered seconds before you, though. – Lord Voldemort Nov 3 '15 at 12:25
  • @LordVoldemort We even make reference to the same Doctor Who episode. – Dr R Dizzle Nov 3 '15 at 12:26
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    I know, and the same wikipedia quote. What are the odds! – Lord Voldemort Nov 3 '15 at 12:27
  • I can't "Best answer" you both! D: – SgtMcFuzzyboots Nov 3 '15 at 12:29

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