Special Science Feature: Chance


Connected by cloning.

The double lives of clones.

The cataclysmic disruption of discovering the existence of one another has forced them to adapt to new circumstances, and their strategies for survival are now modified by entirely new concerns. Sarah makes a choice to sacrifice her autonomy and her plans to run away with daughter by committing herself to the common cause with her sisters. Alison finally acquiesces to the reality that she has to lead a double life. Cosima allows herself to begin falling down the rabbit hole of scientific research. And Helena is derailed from her monstrous mission to eradicate them all when she realizes she cannot kill Sarah. If their lives once seemed directed by the dual fates of both their nature and their nurturing, it now seems equally subject to the interventions of chance.

In ancient Greece the idea of ‘chance’ did not mean what it typically means for us today. Chance had nothing to do with random, undetermined events, but rather referred to a notion that when the right circumstances converge the underlying order of the universe is given the chance to reveal itself. Now many of us generally think of chance as an unpredictability of events, accidents that seem to defy to the natural order of things. But it is unclear how, if at all, either of these forms of chance have directed Sarah and her sisters toward the road they now travel together on. Whatever ‘chance’ might be, it clearly undermines the possibility that their lives could be entirely determined by either their biology or how they were raised.

"Dirty little copy cop." - Helena

“Dirty little copy cop.” – Helena

The ‘nature vs nurture’ debate rears its head throughout this episode. But so do questions of whether this framework might have been faulty from the outset. It’s a dualism that reduces us to simplistic fatalisms, and doesn’t take into account how the stakes change with unforeseen upheavals in our social landscapes. How we adapt to our changing environments can’t be predicted by either our origins, or by our social conditioning.

The role that chance might play in evolutionary processes is at the heart of many long-standing, impassioned debates. And it is precisely the contention that there is no place for randomness in God, the Almighty Designer’s Plan that fuels bitter disputes between Creation theorists and card-carrying Darwinians.

Have questions for “Orphan Black” Science Consultant, Cosima Herter? Leave them in the comments below.

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BBC America