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We know that Kyle Reese grew up after Skynet's actions against humanity as he says this to Sarah. John Connor sent him back to save Sarah. We also meet this Kyle Reese in Salvation.

This Kyle Reese is also John Connor's father because he impregnated Sarah when time traveling but impossible to be the father of John who sent him back in time.

Who gave birth to the John Connor that sent Kyle Reese back and who is that John Connor's father? It couldn't have been Kyle because he was not yet born when John was born.

I understand different universes have different rules for time travel but this scenario makes no sense. How could a son be fathered by a man who does not exist and then send the newly existing man back in time to father him?

Edit* this may help others better understand the question I am asking:

  • John Connor is alive and the leader of the Resistance in the year 2029
  • In the year 2029, John Connor meets a man named Kyle Reese, who has joined the Resistance to fight Skynet
  • John Connor learns of Skynet's plans to send a Terminator back in time, to 1984, to kill John's mother Sarah to prevent John from ever being born
  • Kyle Reese travels back in time to 1984. He has sex with Sarah Connor and we know that Kyle Reese is John Connor's father
  • Before Kyle Reese and Sarah Connor have sex, Sarah asks Kyle to talk about his life. Kyle shares the following two items:
  1. Kyle Reese was born after the original Skynet Event
  2. Kyle Reese fell in love with Sarah Connor after being given a photo of her by John and from the stories John told about her

So my question is really this: John Connor was alive in 2029 to send a man named Kyle Reese back in time to become John Connor's father -- how was John alive in 2029?

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    Why is it not possible for Kyle to be John's father? You state that as a given, but it contradicts the movie, so what is your evidence?
    – DavidW
    Aug 28, 2023 at 2:05
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    The Terminator has a completely clean closed timelike loop. Everything is consistent. Once the rules change in Terminator 2, so that history can change, then it's anyone's guess what the explanation is supposed to be.
    – Buzz
    Aug 28, 2023 at 2:15
  • @DavidW my evidence is Terminator 1. Kyle Reese tells Sarah he fell in love with her after seeing a picture of her that John gave him and because of the stories John told him about her. Also in Terminator 1, Sarah asks Kyle to tell her about his life and he says he grew up after the original event. This means that John was born before Kyle was born. Kyle could not be John's father. Aug 28, 2023 at 2:32
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    Kyle couldn't be John's father except for the part, you know, where he gets sent back in time. Really, did we watch the same movie?
    – DavidW
    Aug 28, 2023 at 2:49
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    “I understand different universes have different rules for time travel but this scenario makes no sense” — no time travel scenario makes sense, based on current human understanding of time. Aug 28, 2023 at 9:18

1 Answer 1

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I think I now understand your confusion, but I'm not sure if I can explain it very well.

I believe you're trying to determine an ultimate cause; that is, which came first, John being born or John sending Kyle back to be his father. This is known as the Bootstrap Paradox since each action seems to depend on the other. (Referring to the hoary old cliché of "pulling oneself up by one's bootstraps.")

There has actually been serious theoretical analysis of "closed timelike curves" which describe situations like this where time travel back to the specific past of the current universe happens. (As opposed to parallel universe time travel where you can travel back in time but necessarily end up in a different universe.) Colloquially what is demonstrated in Terminator is a "stable time loop." The technical term for this is the Novikov Self-consistency Principle.

In this conception of time travel, Kyle Reese's journey to the past, meeting Sarah and becoming John's father has always been that way. Nothing that happens between 1984 and 2029 is changed by the events shown in the movie; this has always been the way the universe unfolded.

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  • Thank you for the thoughtful and detailed response. The links are great and I now have some reading to do -- you have probably created a hyperfixation that will consume my free time for the next few days :) I marked your answer as correct though I don't really like the idea of "... has always been that way" as I am not overly happy with it, if that makes sense. Aug 28, 2023 at 4:21
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    @armtriangles I do understand that it's an uncomfortable hypothesis, especially for people growing up with modern "western" thought patterns, since it seems to deny people agency; it makes what they do seem "fated." But it is a consistent hypothesis, and in theory only really binds actions that relate to the events of the loop itself. It is also only visible as "fate" from an outside-universe perspective; from the point of view of those involved they are acting normally and freely.
    – DavidW
    Aug 28, 2023 at 4:27
  • +1 Excellent answer, and useful link to the stable time loop concept. Noteworthy: Heinlein's story All You Zombies (adapted to Predestination for the big screen) is another great example of a closed time loop; everything "has always been like this", nothing can be changed.
    – Andres F.
    Jan 4 at 17:36
  • A more pressing question from the movie "Somewhere in Time"... where did the watch come from? (I'd post it as a question if it could be considered a serious question.) Jan 5 at 15:24
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    @DavidW So not a bad question, but a useless one. I seriously doubt anyone involved with that movie gave it any thought at all. Jan 5 at 16:29

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