Good vs Evil: Jacob and The Garden of Eden (long version)

Written 30th March

I tend to be overly wordy…. So please feel free to skip every other paragraph of so J….


One common theme that seems to be of interest lately is the persuasion of Good and Evil in the Lost world, and a lingering question remains if the finale will be a demonstration of one absolute conquering the other.


There are those who are opposed to this concept of absolute GvE (i.e. a ‘Good’ Jacob vs. a ‘Bad’ Nemi) (Nemi is short for Nemesis, or Man In Black), and I don’t blame them. Here are a few of my thoughts regarding that:


There is no absolute ‘Good’ or ‘Evil’ in Lost. Both exist within humanity, and within Jacob and Nemi, and with the theme of Lost. Rather than an “absolute”, there is a portion of good and evil within each individual (thus the symbolism of the scale); and these portions are driven by actions and decisions driven by situations.


Jacob is not absolutely good, nor absolutely evil. Let’s take a closer look at this: if Jacob is indeed drawing people to the island as he claims, he is at least partially responsible for the fate of those people. The deaths of those that died therefore rest with him (perhaps not solely, but he is by no means innocent of their deaths).

Thus — Jacob cannot be considered “absolute good”. But that begs the question — what does ‘absolute good’ mean? I’m going out on a limb to state that absolute good is much like infinity — you can strive to get ever closer to it, but can never attain it. Ditto for absolute evil as well (though perhaps this is an easier road for some).


I’ve written a few hypotheses here to help ,me translate my idea of “situational good and evil” vs. “absolute good and evil”. (Bear with me on this J)

(1)   Pretend you have been brought back to the early 1900s. In your hand is a loaded gun. Before you stands Hitler, as a child. Do you shoot him, and possibly prevent World War II and the horrific events associated with Hitler’s reign? If so — is that the choice of “good”, or of “evil”? Killing a child who at that moment is innocent — is it possible to consider that “good”? Recall Sayid’s choice to shoot Ben when Linus was a child.

(2)   You have been brought back to the past (again — boy, what a day). You (somehow) control the fate of a steamship in the distance. On the ship is Hitler, as a youth. You can sink the ship, and likely prevent the horrific occurrences he will bring about later in life, but in doing so, everyone else on the steamship must also die. What do you do? And which choice is “good”? Which is “evil”? Does it come down to numbers — you save millions by killing hundreds, therefore the “good” outweighs the “evil” simply by the addition and subtraction of lives?

And now a twist: By sinking the ship, there is also a chance that you may also unknowingly kill the great-great grandfather of an individual who will be instrumental in curing cancer in the future — and thus many more people will now die to your decision to sink the ship – possibly. (The point is: “uncertainty” comes into play as well; this is not driven by “Fate” but by freewill).

(3)   You are Jacob. You “foresee” the end of humanity as you know it. In order to create a series of events that may allow humanity to save itself, you must bring harm to innocent people (crashing a plane, etc.), and to boot the path is also wrought with “uncertainty” — so you may go through with this and humanity may still perish anyhow. Are you “good” if you choose the path that may save humanity? Are you “evil” for killing innocents by choosing this path? Are you “evil” if you simply do nothing, knowing humanity may be extinguished?

      And another twist: Perhaps by doing something, i.e., bringing people to the island, you CREATE THE SITUATION ITSELF.


The immediate response to #3 may likely be: well, instead of harming people in the process (such as bringing people to the island where they will likely die), I’d find another way to keep Nemi at bay and save the world from destruction.

OR: I’d do nothing, since Nemi seemingly can’t get off the island without help from people anyhow — i.e. who would kill Jacob if Jacob doesn’t bring anyone around to do so?


Recall: Jacob states that he is trying to ‘prove’ something to Nemi — that people can be inherently good; that they can make the right choices; that they will not go down the path of corruption. Well, this certainly seems like a high-stakes game he’s willing to play, considering the lives at stake and the manipulations involved. And not to mention the possibility that he is putting humanity in danger of extinguishment. Certainly not something one would expect from a selfless, virtuous being. Why play that game at all? Is it necessary? What’s the point of it?

This is an important concept because one large unknown is the following: does Jacob cause the possible demise of humanity by bringing people to the island, or would Nemi find a way off the island regardless?

Due to the fact that the solution to the Valenzetti equation, which predicts humanity’s doom, is made up of the ‘numbers’, which we now know represent the candidates, it seems to me that Jacob indeed brings this all about — he brings the numbers (the candidates) to the island — for better or for worse.


See, Jacob wants an answer. He wants a ‘yes’ or ‘no’, a ‘black’ or ‘white’, an ‘evil’ or ‘good’. He wants to prove a point. Yes, evil and good reside in all of us — but Jacob is all in. He sets the table to see what humanity’s cards are with all the chips in play. It is judgment day — only, Jacob is not God; and either Jacob has a duty, or he is insanely curious.

Think of the Garden of Eden — the stage was set there as well.

So how did the stage get set? Due to its magnetic/special properties, the island created a portal to the otherworld (the otherworld being heaven, a spiritual world, the beyond, etc.), thus “Jacob’s Ladder”; Jacob came through, Nemi came through, the spirits come and go…. and Jacob happens to be the “candidate” who puts humanity on trial.


Why test humanity, one may ask? Well, WHY did God put the Apple in the Garden of Eden? I am not saying Jacob is God, but to be human is to be tested. Continuously. Right vs. wrong. Good vs. evil.


So what of religion in all of this? What role does it play in the scheme of right vs. wrong, good vs. evil?


I’ll approach it this way: Religion, philosophy, physics/mathematics — what do these have in common? (other than the fact that they play a substantial behind-the-scenes role in Lost). Well, one commonality is that they are all mechanisms humanity has used to try to understand the Universe and the Purpose of Life. They are different tactics, yet at their core, they are reaching for the same answers. Why are we here? What is our purpose? What role do we play? What role does nature play? How does nature work? Is there a God?

They of course play the same role in Lost: they are used as clues, as backdrops with hints and signs and postings pointing towards the “answer”, in most cases cryptically. That said, I do not believe that the intention of Lost is to state that one approach is better than the other: science vs religion vs philosophy vs etc… but that these mediums all have value and all have clues to help answer the greater questions of life (and Lost).


Due to this fact, I believe we are to use these mediums to help us answer the questions about time travel, about the flash-sideways, about Jacob and Nemi, about the spirits that inhabit the island, etc.. Let’s look at one (this will loop back to Jacob):


1)      Adam and Eve: when God said “don’t take a bite out of this apple”, he didn’t pop back in right before Eve went for it: “hey, you almost bit it, but I’m stepping in to save you.” (1) Because this was a test and (2) God does not interfere. Look at all the bad things that happen in the world. Plain and simple. God created the Universe and let it roll. Granted, the Bible has many cases of God stepping in, but in the case of Lost, I’m theorizing that the ‘Adam and Eve’ scenario is the most accurate in terms of God’s role in the world.

Based on this, Jacob’s ‘non-interference’ may make more sense if viewed in the context of God’s actions with Adam and Eve. This is not to say that Jacob is God — far from it, in fact. But it reveals why Jacob does not interfere directly.

Now, the island itself seems symbolic of the Garden of Eden, so it would not be a stretch to view it in the same manner. Only this time, instead of “taking a bite” or “not taking a bite” of the apple, humanity must make a choice (or series of choices) that will ultimately lead to its demise or survival. Like Adam and Eve represented humanity at the time (granted they were the only ones around), it seems the candidates (and perhaps some others, like Richard) will represent humanity’s course of action this time around.


So why go through all of this? It’s to answer a rather simple question:


Is humanity worthy of life? I think this is one of the core questions of Lost.


So this isn’t about Jacob swooping in and saving the day himself. IT CAN’T BE. In mathematics, a severely watered-down version of the Heisenberg principle comes to mind: you affect the end result by testing it yourself, which is undesirable. Jacob can manipulate events to set the stage, but once the parts are in motion, he stands back. He CANNOT influence humanity’s choice by directly interacting. If he were to do so, then the test itself would be unfulfilled, meaningless, worthless.


Whether this is his duty or his choice — that remains to be seen. But I do not think it is as simple as Good vs Evil — if it were, Jacob could have taken many other actions (or inactions) to prevent Nemi from leaving the island.

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The views of space and time that I wish to lay before you have sprung from the soil of experimental physics, and therein lies their strength. They are radical. Henceforth space by itself and time by itself are doomed to fade away into mere shadows, and only a kind of union of the two will preserve an independent reality. Hermann Minkowski

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