The Numbers' Noble Lie

This is the winning theory in the Lost Theory Competition.
The theory was written by Bigmouth.

Say you had a group of people on the verge of developing psychic powers. How would you ensure their powers were used for the greater good, rather than personal gain? You couldn’t force these folks — they’re too powerful. But you might be able to convince them that some overwhelming threat existed to their lives and those of their friends and loved ones.

Enter the Numbers, which we’re told relate to the Valenzetti Equation’s prediction of the time left before humanity’s extinction. Such apocalyptic stakes are sufficiently urgent to grab the attention of the most self-interested souls. But I believe it’s all a long con — the Numbers are a noble lie meant to trick people into service of the greater good.

The victims of this con were the original Dharma participants. It’s no coincidence their assigned tasks were pointless. The Initiative’s real goal was to tap subjects’ psychic potential through exposure to the Island. The Hatches merely provided a controlled environment for this process, a cocoon where the metamorphosis into moths could take place.

That brings me to the noble lie. The notion dates all the way back to Plato’s Republic, which describes a utopian society organized around a carefully crafted myth about the need to separate members by birth into various classes. The lie is meant to maintain social stability by offering a divine justification for the class system — only a privileged few know the truth.

In Dharma’s case, the Numbers’ apocalyptic fib accomplished two ends. First, it convinced some of the most talented scientific minds to drop everything for life on a remote Island. Second, it offered potent incentive for “special” subjects to use their powers for the greater good. Only a handful in charge (maybe just Hanso and the DeGroots) were privy to the truth.

In their hubris, the perpetrators of this noble hoax presumed they could keep it secret. They apparently failed to consider that (surprise, surprise) secrets are hard to keep from psychics. The Dharma subjects tattled to those scientists who weren’t in the know, and together they staged a revolt that culminated in Hanso’s expulsion from the Island (the AH/MDG Incident).

Following this revolt, some returned to the real world, while Others remained behind to build a Baconian New Atlantis. But without the noble lie to constrain them, people started using their powers in selfish ways. Jack’s and Locke’s daddies, both of whom were former Dharma participants, illustrate this problem created by demystification of the Numbers.

Christian became chief of complicated surgery at St. Sebastian but his talents made him callous — he took to operating drunk. Cooper fell even further, using his special abilities to become a confidence man. Similar problems may have arisen on the Island, prompting the Others to become more authoritarian. That’s why they’re so concerned with discerning “good” people.

Without the Numbers to constrain them, moral character is all that stands against the rising tide of anarchy.

Opinion of The Judges

Cecilia – I thought this was a cool theory that explained Lost in a creative, original way. It had a twist that made sense, and still tied together story elements well. It had a philosophical slant that even had a touch of Orwellian cynicism.

Andreas – While I’m not so sure that Lost is all about psychic powers, the idea of a hoax designed to make people do what you want is very interesting. There is a similar hoax in Damon Lindelof’s favorite graphic novel Watchmen, so I wouldn’t be surprised if parts of your theory are spot on.

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29 Responses to The Numbers' Noble Lie

  1. Pingback: Theory Competiton Winners - The Lost Blog

  2. bigmouth says:

    Hey, way cool! I’m honored…thanks so much.

    Andreas, you’re probably right re the psychic powers. But like Doc Jensen at EW.com, I can’t help thinking there’s a Heroes connection lurking.

  3. Cecilia says:

    Hey Bigmouth! Congrats. I’ll be sending your prizes on their way pretty soon, just emailed you; please email me back confirming your mailing address. Thanks.

    PS: I like your blog, there’s some interesting stuff there.

  4. mike says:

    i wouldn’t be surprised if NONE of this was correct. and i do frequent your blog bigmouth – you’ve had much more interesting theories than this IMO.

  5. bigmouth says:

    [quote comment=”15177″]i wouldn’t be surprised if NONE of this was correct. and i do frequent your blog bigmouth – you’ve had much more interesting theories than this IMO.[/quote]
    Mike: LOL! Thanks for both the skepticism and kind words re the blog. You might be curious to know that this is actually a small part of a larger theory I’m working on that places the Noble Lie (and its fallout) in larger context. So stay tuned — the overall theory may be more to your liking.

    PS: Cecelia — thanks re the blog but I never got your e-mail (though I did get an auto-reply when I originally submitted the theory).

  6. Lesley says:

    Congratulations bigmouth! I like your theory a lot and look forward to reading the larger theory when you are finished!

  7. chris says:

    OMG… that made absolutley almost NO sense! especially when you said that Jacks and Johns dads can make them do what they want, i may have believed it if this didnt happen, but listen: do you remember whe Christian was in Australia with Ana Lucia, and Christian asked that lady(supposedly Caire’s mom) and Christian said “Let me see her, shes my daughter!!” well in case you dont remember, the woman didnt let Christian see “Claire”. So judges.. do you get what im saying?? its not like im trying to take your position of first place, because i didnt write a theory, im just letting you know that you screwed up : (

    p.s. sorry to let you know

  8. Andreas says:

    I think you guys are being a bit too critical. We didn’t judge only based on plausibility, but based on a combination of plausibility, originality and creativity.

    Sure, every single point of this theory won’t happen on Lost, but I think it’s a well written, interesting theory with some very good elements.

  9. bigmouth says:

    [quote comment=”15196″]Congratulations bigmouth! I like your theory a lot and look forward to reading the larger theory when you are finished![/quote]
    Lesley: Thanks so much!
    [quote comment=”15209″]OMG… that made absolutley almost NO sense! especially when you said that Jacks and Johns dads can make them do what they want, i may have believed it if this didnt happen, but listen: do you remember whe Christian was in Australia with Ana Lucia, and Christian asked that lady(supposedly Caire’s mom) and Christian said “Let me see her, shes my daughter!!” well in case you dont remember, the woman didnt let Christian see “Claire”. [/quote]
    Chris: I honestly think you need to read again carefully.
    [quote comment=”15211″]I think you guys are being a bit too critical. We didn’t judge only based on plausibility, but based on a combination of plausibility, originality and creativity.

    Sure, every single point of this theory won’t happen on Lost, but I think it’s a well written, interesting theory with some very good elements.[/quote]
    Andreas: Truthfully, I think some of the skepticism is a function of how much people are invested in certain theories re the Numbers. A lot of people (myself included) have spent a lot of time trying to make sense of them. Many aren’t yet ready to hear they’re one big long con.

  10. Cecilia says:

    Honestly, I didn’t really understand chris’ message; that was the part that didn’t make sense to me. 🙂

  11. Great theory, bigmouth. A true long-con. A rebellion as the incident, I like it.

  12. Pastor2churches says:

    First, big congrats to “bigmouth.” The thought necessary to hold together such a theory is in the same vein as the show itself. Excellent creativity.

    Second, I am humbled to have been included in your competition and to have received such approbation.

    Now, let’s wait to see if our theories have anything what-so-ever to do with what actually occurs in the show!

  13. Poopypants says:

    best theory ive heard so far.

  14. bigmouth says:

    Island Mav, Pastor, and Poopy: Thanks for the kind words! And I can’t wait to read the theories submitted by Pastor, Lesley, and Jays!

  15. I liked the theory. Can’t wait to see the Others (HA!)

  16. chris says:

    umm, for one thing, i read the stupid thing carefully, and all im saying is i just wish that the judges chose someones elses theory, one that made sense at every part of it. but not to down on your whole parade bigmouth there were some things i found interesting in your paper, like what that islandmav guy talked about the rebellion.

  17. Chris VH says:

    Chris: I don’t think at any point that bigmouth was suggesting that Christian had the power to compel people to his wishes, only that he was exceptional. The fact that Claire’s mother didn’t let him see Claire has no bearing on anything.

  18. bigmouth says:

    [quote comment=”15607″]Chris: I don’t think at any point that bigmouth was suggesting that Christian had the power to compel people to his wishes, only that he was exceptional. The fact that Claire’s mother didn’t let him see Claire has no bearing on anything.[/quote]
    Exactly, Chris VH — thanks for clarifying. Truthfully, I’m not 100% sure what Christian’s talent might me. At points, I’ve wondered if he could heal people, or use some sixth sense to diagnose their illnesses. Never was it about compulsion…

    Other Chris, I’m curious: do you at least find it plausible that Cooper’s unusual talent for conning might be the result of psychic abilities?

    PS: Thanks Son of a Gunderson!

  19. jaystao says:

    Hehehe – congradulations Big Mouth! Viva la liberatei! I’ll join your resistance movment any day, noble lie or not!

  20. kaso says:

    I like the theory. I definitely believed most of the passengers parents had something in common. At first i thought that they where just really mean to the children, or had somehow all disappointed their children. About jacks sister… well not sure if that sounds ok. but it does seems plausible that the others left in the island planned to get the offspring of the ones who left back , or at least some of them. The ones they did not need were the ones that have died.

  21. bigmouth says:

    Jays and kaso — thanks! You can actually read this theory in context as part of a much larger theory about the show called the Mind of Magnus. Check it out:

    http://eyemsick.blogspot.com/2006/11/mind-of-magnus.html

  22. O'Neill says:

    Great theory, although maybe a little too reliant on other mini-theories being correct? I loved reading your blog site, quite the technical way of looking at the show. Who knows how much detail the writers put in i guess. Again, Great theory though; hopefully not too good to spoil the show for me :).

  23. ryan says:

    The numbers are a lie?that was proven wrong when locke through the computer down and the 108 minute timer when out and metal stuff started flying off shelves and dasmund had to use the fail safe key at the end of season 2.

  24. ryan says:

    The 108 timer WENT out, my bad

  25. Tom says:

    Evertime you think that something isnt going to get psychic, ya know i keep expecting things to have a rational ending. But I don’t think it will. I mean ok how is he psychic, will the black smog have anything to do with it. They have to got to explain some of these things before the story can end. I think also that this is going to go on for a while now that the main crew is back at camp. So it will go on for a while. Where they can show some society issues, instead of ending issues, like looking for places. Though I do think that finding jack is going to be an issue. Just due to the fact like he looked like he was having fun. I mean was he brainwashed or what, all i know is it keeps on getting better.

  26. mike D says:

    I know that this may be old news – but if you right click o the hanso site and click play – the following is spoken:

    “You’ve taken a battle …… but that’s all it was..a battle.
    Humanity needs me. Now more than ever.
    I have the virus I have the will. And I will not fail.”

  27. lost chicka says:

    i like the theory, just don’t think that christian or cooper were part of the whole dharma thing or phsycics. otherwise i really like it.

  28. marcy77 says:

    the number 108 is the sum of :4,8,15,16,23,42 did you know that? and the 540 days is 108*5. (see first dharma film)

  29. guide says:

    I admire you on the willingness to share this info with others – good luck!

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