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After a three month hiatus, the TV show LOST returned last night for the first of sixteen new episodes in sixteen weeks. Fans of the show were treated to more background information on one of the newer characters that were introduced in the first half of the third season, Juliet. It turns out that she was married in her earlier life to Edmund Burke—the doctor, not the philosopher—and she was successful in causing her sister in Miami to become pregnant through a series of shots that she was administering to her. In typical LOST fashion, we are overwhelmed with much information and we’re not really given any indication about what is significant and what isn’t.
What is interesting though is that the show now has at least four characters named after famous philosophers from the 17th and 18th centuries. Rousseau, John Locke, David Hume, and now, Burke. Danielle Rousseau is the “French woman” who has been on the island for at least 16 years. She stays hidden in the jungle most of the time for fear of the “others.” Rousseau the philosopher was known for his “social contract” views and believed that humans are inherently good, but it is society that brings corruption. His ideas helped fuel the fires of rebellion during the French Revolution. John Locke is the on again, off again leader of the island refugees. Locke is something of a maverick, and is often locking horns with Jack, the other unofficial leader. Locke refers to himself as a “man of faith” and believes that the island itself brought them all there for a purpose. John Locke the philosopher was also a social contract theorist, but unlike Rousseau his conclusions led him to advocate government that is approved by the people. True democracy for Locke was the best form of governing because this would have the “consent of the governed,” the ultimate form of social contract. Desmond David Hume was the character that was locked inside the hatch “pushing the button to save the world” until Jack and Locke set him free. David Hume was a skeptic/naturalist who was influenced in part by Locke (the philosopher). Hume, the philosopher, is best represented by Jack on the show. Finally, Edmund Burke, a conservative political theorist, supported the American War for Independence, yet opposed the French Revolution. Burke understood that pure humanism unchecked as it was in France was doomed for failure and ultimately, tyranny. Interestingly, Burke (on the show) was the roadblock between Juliet and her attempts to impregnate her sister via medicine, i.e. in a purely humanistic way. The end of the show finds Burke getting hit by a bus and Juliet being approached by scientists that want her to continue her research. With the restraining force out of the way, Juliet is free to pursue her methods, free from any moral (or otherwise) intervention.
Skeptic James Randi is convinced that the increased primetime attention to the supernatural in shows like LOST, Heroes, Medium, etc is a bad sign:
Anyone who thinks it’s a good sign that “Lost” is back has not spent enough time at the Web site of James Randi, a skeptical scholar of the pseudoscientific and the supernatural. A fan recently posed this question online at randi.org: “Is a fascination and increased belief in the supernatural a sign of social decline?” The answer came as categorically as the words under the Magic 8-Ball: “Yes. Absolutely.”
Randi, like Hume, believes that we are actually harming ourselves when we dabble in the supernatural. According to Randi, societies that don’t have their attention fixed on the natural, the “real,” are bound for decline. Interestingly enough for Randi and the rest of the New Atheists, they conveniently forget the pragmatic nature of Americans. The naturalists have had their time in the sun and the people are ready for something else. The 1950s through the 1990s were materialist to the core, Humean if you like, and look where it got us. Unimpressed and completely burned out on pure humanism, the American public is seeking something more, not only in their entertainment choices, but also in how they view life in general. The resurgence of Reformed theology among college-age and young adults confirm this trend. Ravi Zacharias reports how teens in Europe are turning up in highly liturgical churches, seeking a “transcendent experience.” Randi and his materialist friends have nothing to offer in this category. As a former illusionist, Randi should understand this. People came to his shows to experience something “amazing” and “supernatural.” Randi would have us live in the world of Vincent (Tom Cruise) in the film Collateral, who “callously murders without reason because he believes ‘millions of galaxies of hundreds of millions of stars and a speck one on in a blink, that’s us. Lost in space. The universe don’t care (about you).” According to Randi and all pure materialsts, holding to Vincent’s worldview is much better than our current fascination with the supernatural.