Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Squirrels of Santa Monica...

I recently moved to Santa Monica, where the city has long had a problem controlling the squirrel population. They tried poisoning, gassing, and otherwise euthanizing the critters, but such methods ticked off the animal lovers. Recently, in an effort to control the squirrels non-lethally, the city began vaccinating them with an immuno-contraceptive that inhibits reproduction. So what does all this have to do with Lost? I believe that the Purge was a similar -- albeit more lethal -- effort to limit reproduction on the Island. The motive was Dharma's realization that children born there represent an emergent new species that could very well spell humanity's extinction if allowed to go forth and multiply.

I've speculated previously that the Valenzetti Equation actually predicts humanity's metaphorical "extinction" by evolution into a new post-human species like the Star Child in 2001:ASO or Dr. Manhattan in Watchmen. It turns, out however, that the threat may be more literal, as evidenced by our own history as Homo Sapiens. Most of us think of Neanderthals (i.e., cavemen) as our ancestors. In fact, recent mitochondrial DNA analysis indicates that we Homo Sapiens are a distinct species that evolved separately between 100,000 and 200,000 years ago. Around 80,000 years ago, we swept out of Africa in a mass migration, displacing other Homo species like Neanderthalis, eventually rendering the cavemen extinct. Well, mostly...

Let's say the Island is a kind of fountain of evolution, mutating fetuses into post-human psychics. Think of the mutant children in John Wyndham's sci fi classic, the Chrysalids, which was recommended to me by a poster named gusthepolarbear. Dharma may originally have sought to harness these psychic powers in an effort to influence the core factors of the Valenzetti. At some point, however, they realized that the psychic children could not be controlled. If allowed to leave the Island, the kids would quickly take over the world. If allowed to reproduce, they would eventually displace Homo Sapiens, rendering us extinct like we did the Neanderthals. But how to prevent that parade of horribles from happening?

Dharma couldn't just poison or destroy the Island -- not if they wanted to continue using it for experiments. And efforts to terminate the children probably encountered resistance from those responsible for their care. I've speculated previously that such a conflict over the kids' fate could account for the "AH/MDG Incident" notation on the Blast Door Map. Eventually, Dharma probably decided (much like the city of Santa Monica) that the best solution was to prevent all further procreation on the Island. What they did ain't exactly clear, but some clues to the nature of this biological Purge can be found in Juliet's claim that pregnant women on the Island all die because their bodies attack the fetus like it's a foreign object.

Interestingly, one persistent mystery of science is why all mothers don't similarly "reject" their fetuses, which contain foreign DNA from the fathers. The body's immune system is designed to purge such foreign DNA -- that's why organ donation recipients (e.g., Anthony Cooper) take immuno-suppressants. Somehow, the pregnant mother's body manages to suppress her immune response naturally where the fetus is concerned. The aforementioned vaccine used to limit Santa Monica's squirrel population causes the animal's own immune system to produce antibodies that interfere with the reproductive process. Dharma apparently relied on a cruder and more lethal immuno-contraceptive that spurs the body to attack fetal DNA directly.

Even if the foregoing is true, plenty of questions remain. Why, for example, didn't Danielle or Claire die as a result of exposure to the immuno-contraceptive? Is there something about conceiving off the Island that protects expectant mothers from the contraceptive's effects? And if the latter is true, why don't the Others just avoid the problem entirely by having mothers conceive elsewhere then give birth on the Island?* Any answers to these questions would be sheer speculation. All we know (or think we do) is that someone doesn't want people giving birth on the Island. And if the squirrels of Santa Monica are any guide, an immuno-contraceptive is probably causing the effect. Come to think of it, Ben's chicken could even be dosed with the stuff...

Of course, if you're willing to follow me through the looking glass, consider an even more radical possibility. What if the Island itself is somehow reproducing via parthenogenesis? Perhaps where the fetus is conceived has little bearing on whether mothers live or die -- what really matters is the how. The immuno-contraceptive I've described assumes that the fetus contains some foreign DNA (i.e., from the father). Parthenogenesis, however, involves reproduction using just the mother's own genetic material, which presumably wouldn't trigger immune attack. This raises the intriguing possibility that the Purge wasn't meant to prevent all childbirths, just those that aren't the result of "virgin" conceptions by the Island. Did somebody say Emily Locke?

*ETA: A poster named Johnny Reb offers an excellent answer to this question of why the Others don't take women off the Island to conceive -- there's probably a direct cost to coming and going. My guess would be that each time they open the "door" to the Island dimension, it becomes accessible to new uninvited "visitors." Oceanic 815, for example, arrived when Richard left to photograph Rachel. (System Failure caused the crash but opening the Island "door" placed Oceanic 815 in the Island's vicinity.) Similarly, Desmond arrived when the Others brought Juliet. And Danielle? Perhaps her crew arrived when the last surviving Dharma scientists fled the Island...


Chopper said...

I like the idea of this. After last week's episode I posted a theory on DarkUfo site which is similar. I think that Ben and them are the good guys, and call my theory Let's Save The World.

Harbringer said...

Hello again,

I have a couple of thoughts, and rather then posting them on the traditional forums, I'd rather run them by you for your opinions since you seem to put a lot more thought into your theories then most. I know they aren't relative to this post neccesarily but I didn't know where else to discuss them since this is your blog and not a forum ;)

The first is in regards to Smokey. I've been watching and re-watching the first two seasons and studying the scenes in which it appears and what it's behavior dictates. From what I can tell, it appears from the ground from one of the many "Cerberus Vents" that could either be pre-existing or that it creates when it comes forth. When it isn't in motion, the industrial sounds (heavy clanking, wheels turning, grinding) are not present, with the exception that when it is in it's quick travel form (i.e. the thin line of smoke that Eco sees when he is on route to the plane with Charlie) the only sounds that it emits are a slight clicking.

My theory is that it is being manipulated by a complex system of magnets below the surface, and that the sounds that we are hearing, are these gears and pulleys re-arranging along pre-determined routes and passages (similar to a train track being repositioned to cause the train to follow a different path). This wouldn't explain Smokey overall, but if true, would at least prove that it is being manipulated for human intents and purposes, and is not a manifestation of the "islands will". I don't believe that Ben's group of scientists has a hand in it (due to the security features of the sonic fence) but rather the third group of players in this game that we have only been introduced to in subtle ways. One of which, as someone before me mentioned, being the fact that were the "Others" the only group operating on the island after the purge, what purpose would Ben have had in calling out to Michail not to shoot at the Flame Station, when the plane had only crashed a short time before? It would still explain Ben's intrigue in Locke, if for some reason, this third group went out of thier way to help John with whatever powers they may possess that Ben has fallen from grace without. Hence Ben exclaiming to Locke that he is right even though he has "no idea what he is talking about".

The second thought is, I'm surprised that there has been less discussion about the similarity between the words "Mittelos" and Thomas "Mittlewerk". If there were a connection here then it would help explain who the "Others" are, being that they (proven through Ethan and R. Alpert) seem to have a strong connection (representatives, or funded at the least) to the company.

If Mittlewerk has a hand in Mittelos or if it is an offshoot of the conquered Hanso Foundation, then it would make sense that once Alvar Hanso shut the Dharma Initiative down, Mittlewerk put his own people in place to continue the work, despite the resistance of the Dharma Initiative who knew the importance of the work and might have refused to let it be taken on by people with any less of a moral standard who could use the findings so far, to position for power rather then to "save the world".

Sorry for the length of my comment, just some food for thought. It doesn't really shed any light on Ben being "born on the island" or the islands many mysteries beyond Smokey but still worth consideration I think.

Anonymous said...

Chopper, I think your theory is very good, up until the part with Hanso teaming with Ben to counter Dharma. For instance, the understanding right now is Dharma initiated the purge, not the Others.

But the vaccination stuff is good. And I agree that the virus may have gotten loose at some point -- this would account for the sickness.

I bet Mittelwerk's virus he describes in the Sri Lanka video (hitting precise genetic targets) is similar to what was used on the island.


Bigmouth said...

chopper: Very interesting theory! I especially like the Children of Men reference, which is on my list of book/films to read/see. Did you follow the Lost Experience at all? Overpopulation certainly seemed to be a major trope. So do you think Jacob/Hanso is alive and on the Island?

harbringer: You are welcome to post your insightful thoughts and questions anywhere you like -- I won't tell you what you can't do. I'm absolutely fascinated by your observations re Smokey, especially the timing of the mechanical noises. I'm not sure I buy the notion of moving magnets, though this fits well with Desmond's elaborate surveillance system that we witnessed in the S2 premier. I'm curious, though, if you've considered that those mechanical noises might be related to the opening and closing of Cerberus Vents. The example that sticks out in my mind is when Smokey was dragging Locke down the hole in Exodus -- how much you want to bet that was a Cerberus Vent?

As for Mittelwerk, I too have wondered if he's somehow linked with Mittelos. Like you, the similarity in names strikes me as too big of a coincidence. I could easily see the Others having seized control of THF as part of a conflict that began on the Island. That possibility also fits well with the speculation that Jacob is long gone -- I think Ben uses His name to maintain order like the Wizard of Oz. The only problem is that Mittelwerk seems to be the kind of guy who still wants to help humanity -- he's just an extremist. Ben's agenda doesn't strike me as quite so humanitarian, notwithstanding his insistence that they're the "good guys."

a: That's a great clarification, but don't be too sure that Alvar wasn't secretly playing both sides. Check out my theory Jacob is Alvar's Alias, if you're interested in reading further scenarios along these lines.

Harbringer said...

In regards to the noises being the Cerberus Vents opening and closing, that was my first conclusion as well. However there are a few scenes in which the vent should have been long open or closed, but yet the grinding continues as it moves. I only put the theory forward since it would remain consistent with the information we received from the podcasts in which the EP's state that all things will be able to be explained without drawing on the mystical to support it, although I suppose if the technology exists for a cloud of black smoke to "scan and judge" people then it wouldn't be going much further to say that it can fly about on it's own accord. But consider also that it may help to explain why the smoke was unable to fly over the sonic fence barrier. If the magnets underground could not pass beyond the fence, then the creature would not be able to either. Also, if there are vents that lead into the earth so frequently placed about the island one must consider a tunnel system through which the creature can maneuver. It's only taking it a step further to hypothesize that there is additional technology within the tunnels that could control it in this way. It may also help explain why Smokey only appears in certain locations, and how people are able to escape it by running, if they are running out of the range of the system under the earth that it is controlled by. It may only have a limited field in which it can travel, a certain distance away from a vent, and magnets or some system underground would be a viable explanation since it wouldn't necessarily span the island in it's entirety.

Additionally, I freeze framed the scene in which Eco confronts the cloud again, and noticed that one particular sound (it sounds like a snap or a quick crackle of electricity) is consistent with each image that appears within the cloud. The image appears at the precise moment the crack occurs. It reminds me of the sound that a synapsis might make when firing. I made another observation during that sequence which is more or less pure speculation.

What if this creature is more related to the space-time storyline then the island psychic branch of the story? What if instead of scanning people and looking into their minds and pulling information from it, it is somehow re-visiting particular occurances and witnessing first hand the events that have shaped them into the people that they are. I don't really have anything to base the theory on, other than that it would be easier for me to wrap multiple mysteries into one plot line. If the main theme turns out to be time based rather then psychic, it wouldn't be that far of a stretch to incorporate the creature into it. Perhaps it's the embodiment of a temporal disturbance, or the essence of a paradox (the incident?) of one form or another trying to right itself. Like I said, this isn't anything but random speculation, and doesn't really coincide with most of my theories regarding Smokey and the island. Just a thought that struck me when viewing the images.

Harbringer said...

Sorry to spam the comments again, but here is random food for thought from watching the episode "Maternity Leave" just now. Kate finds the costume kit in the locker of the Caduceus Station. If you look closely when she examines the bottle of "Theatrical Glue" you will see that there is a Dharma Caduceus Station symbol on it (similar to the playing cards from the Swan Station having a Swan Station Logo). I can understand the Swan having Playing Cards for the pairs to pass the time with, but answer me this: Why on earth would the medical station be specifically equipped with Theatrical Glue?

I never know whether to chalk these kinds of questions up as oversights by the writers (which I try desperatly to avoid) or consider something far more sinister (which seems unlikely).

And as closure to the above post, it sure would be nice if the Losties went back and checked even one of those vents at some point. The thing keeps flying up from the ground and they never examine the area from which it emits. Ah well, suspension of disbelief is not for me I suppose. :)

Bigmouth said...

Harbringer: Hmmm...good point re Smokey and the fence. I'm still not thinking it's quite as elaborate as you describe but I definitely agree re the tunnels and the noises being related to navigation. Maybe moving through the tunnel system requires opening and closing various blast doors? As for the Smoke monster's snaps, crackles, and pops, I love your analogy to neurons firing! The analogy that actually occurred to me is a storm cloud -- it's noises remind me of those associated with static electrical shocks. Here's my old theory on the subject:

That's a very interesting point about Smokey's possible connection with time. I'm curious, however, why you separate that from psychic phenomena on the show. My instinct is that psychic powers are somehow linked with time and its manipulation, as is the Incident. On that point, what if Dharma's experiments in the future somehow created Smokey in the past? Is that the kind of paradox you mean?

Great catch, btw, regarding the makeup having a Staff symbol. There are those who believe that the Staff Station is -- and always was -- a total scam. At this point, however, I tend to think of the significance as metaphorical. As we're learning, Claire's experience in Staff isn't as straightforward as we originally thought.

PS: I just wanted to add something we've been discussing on the fuselage. It's starting to look like Swan may have been the source of the immuno-contraceptive. Some believe that magnetic fields have an indirect effect on immune function via the pineal gland, which secretes melatonin. Here's what's really interesting -- melatonin is not only critical for immune function, it's also thought to inhibit development of cancer.

The problem is that exposure to magnetic fields is thought to DECREASE melatonin secretion and immune function, and thus to INCREASE the likelihood of cancer. But the idea of an immuno-contraceptive (not to mention the immunity to cancer) implies INCREASED immune function -- i.e., the opposite of what Swan's magnet should do. Argh! Still, my gut tells me there's something to this notion that pushing the button was what prevented the pregnancies...

Bigmouth said...

PS: Harbringer, have you heard the most recent podcast? Damon and Carlton imply that the monster may not be able to detach completely from the ground. Could be a clue to your additional underground technology. Good call!

Nancy said...

Hey there! LOVE your blog! I'm forever indebted to "Doc" Jensen for writing about you!
I'm gonna go a little off topic; but when you wrote, "Interestingly, one persistent mystery of science is why all mothers don't similarly "reject" their fetuses, which contain foreign DNA from the fathers..." It made me remember an hypothesis that made it big in the news a few years back.
The idea had to do with why some men are born gay and the hypothesis is that it may be because the Mother's immune system attacks the fetus!
Of course, this notion has not been proved and it has been met with a lot of speculation but studies do show that a large number of gay men come from families with more than one male child... and it's usually the youngest male who winds up being gay. The Dr. who published this notion (I forget his name) said that it has something to do with the developing fetus, hormone levels, and the fact that the woman's body tries to combat the foreign male DNA with female hormones and each time the mother becomes pregnant with a male child, her body fights harder (built up "antibodies"?)
Again, I don't remember the ~exact~ argument (and like I said, it was met with a lot of scrutiny) but I do remember that this story originally broke right around Season 1 of LOST.
Anyway, that's my 2 cents.
Oh... BTW, could it be that the Others know so much about the losties b/c they have (had) a connection to the outside world, lots of money, and the means to dig up information on just about everyone on the planet if they wanted to? Mybe it's just one o' those "so obvious, it's not" kinda' things.
Keep up the great work!!! :)

Bigmouth said...

Nancy: Not half as indebted as I am to him for writing about it, and to you for reading it! What were we talking about? Ah, yes, the birth order/immunological explanation for homosexuality -- most interesting! Birth order seems to have all sorts of interesting psychological/sociological effects, but I did not realize it could affect sexual preference, as well. Kind of makes you wonder if Ben was a younger sib of someone...

As for your other point, I tend to agree that they have ample resources to dig up info on our losties. It's the weird little things like Sawyer killing Duckett, a crime with no witnesses we know

Jay said...

I mentioned this in the comments on my blog too, Bigmouth, but that's a brilliant theory. I never considered DHARMA could be behind the sterilization of the Others. Very cool. :)