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Special Science Feature: Chance

by Cosima Herter, Science Consultant

“Meanwhile the indefiniteness remains, and the limits of variation are really much wider than any one would imagine…” – George Eliot, Middlemarch (1872)

Despite their common origins, the lives of Sarah and her sisters have each had uniquely different paths. They’ve been bred to be genetically identical, yet being nurtured in radically different environments molded different personalities, and provided them each with their own novel ways of adapting to the vicissitudes of life. Their lives are as much a product of the conditions in which they were raised as they are built from the intentions of whomever it was that designed them. They are strange variations of the same template – their cells identically assembled, but their identities constructed by profoundly disparate worlds. They all share a crucial historical commonality – their Frankenstein origins – but their lives could not be more different.

That is, until their worlds unexpectedly collide.

Sarah meets her 'soccer mom' dupe.
Sarah meets her ‘soccer mom’ dupe, Alison.

Until the moment when each of them individually becomes aware of their collective existence, there is nothing in their lives that could have given them any reason to predict this reality. Nothing in their biology, nor their upbringing, could have prepared them for the various chance encounters that eventually led them into each other’s lives. If Helena appears different in this respect it is only because she seems to have long been aware that there were others. She’s been hunting them down, and killing off what she thinks are abominations. But she could not have anticipated that startling, visceral feeling of connection she has when she encounters Sarah. Sarah is something new, something unexpected, something not part of Helena’s plan.

None of them could have planned for any of this.

"Can you feel it?" - Helena
“We have a connection…Can you feel it?” – Helena

Yet now their paths have converged, and they are forced to make very difficult choices. They’ve each come to the same fork in the road, each turned in the same direction towards each other, but each have uniquely different ways of rationalizing that decision. This is a decision that ties them together in such a way that now they could not foresee their futures without each other. Despite Alison’s protestations, or Sarah’s desire to flee to a better life, or Cosima’s attempt to reduce them scientific formulas, or Helena’s pursuit to eliminate them all – their lives have become inextricably bound, and their futures now uncomfortably contingent on the choices they individually make.

NEXT: Leading double lives and the ‘nature vs. nurture’ debate >

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