If you are an avid TV watcher like me and also follow the philosophical thread in the general debate over Darwinian evolution, then you probably would be interested in the new season of CBS’s Thursday night drama Person of Interest. The show comes from the fertile minds of J.J. Abrams (who also created Lost) and Jonathan Nolan (who co-wrote the Dark Knight series of Batman films). The deeper issues raised in Person of Interest should come as no surprise, since these are guys with a track record of dealing with issues a little bigger than just fighting crime or getting off an island.
The story currently revolves around a shadowy former Special Forces expert who is recruited by a billionaire computer scientist to stop crimes and save people. Sort of the standard brains-and-brawn crime fighting team, but with a twist. The twist is the supercomputer created by the programmer for the government and designed to monitor a vast array of communications and computer networks to predict potential terrorist or other violent threats before they happen. Each week the machine spits out a Social Security number and the crime fighters investigate, not knowing if the person referenced is a probable victim or a probable terrorist.
The second season started last week and picked up where the last season left off — with a female sociopathic villain simply known as “Root” tracking down and kidnapping the off-the-grid billionaire programmer. Her purpose is to get access to the supercomputer.
Throughout the show she espouses very Darwinian/materialist views that are reminiscent of the types of comments we have heard from certain real-life figures who have made news under tragic circumstances over the past few decades. She specifically says at one point that humans are not designed, they’re accidents — “bad code” — and so can’t help but act the way they do. Later in the program, she says that “designed” things are good, and implies that they are rational and purposeful, but obviously she doesn’t hold that view of humanity.
The writers didn’t rebut these comments in any useful or serious way — at least not in last week’s episode. This is clearly a long-term story arc so it will be interesting to see how they handle these themes in future episodes.