Lorne Manly of The New York Times interviewed the executive producers of Lost, Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, and asked them about science and religion:
Q. Your show traffics in a lot of big themes—fate versus free will, good versus evil, faith versus reason, how often Sawyer should be shirtless. Ultimately, what were the most important themes for you in this series?
Damon Lindelof: If there’s one word that we keep coming back to, it’s redemption. It is that idea of everybody has something to be redeemed for and the idea that that redemption doesn’t necessarily come from anywhere else other than internally. But in order to redeem yourself, you can only do it through a community. So the redemption theme started to kind of connect into “live together, die alone,” which is that these people were all lone wolves who were complete strangers on an aircraft, even the ones who were flying together like Sun and Jin. Then let’s bring them together and through their experiences together allow themselves to be redeemed. When the show is firing on all pistons, that’s the kind of storytelling that we’re doing.
I think we’ve always said that the characters of “Lost” are deeply flawed, but when you look at their flashback stories, they’re all victims. Kate was a victim before she killed her stepfather. Sawyer’s parents killed themselves as he was hiding under the bed. Jack’s dad was a drunk who berated him as a child. Sayid was manipulated by the American government into torturing somebody else. John Locke had his kidney stolen. This idea of saying this bad thing happened to me and I’m a victim and it created some bad behavior and now I’m going to take responsibility for that and allow myself to be redeemed by community with other people, that seems to be the theme that we keep coming back to.
Today, the producers respond to questions about the show from readers:
Q. In your 2005 interview with The Times you said, “There can be things that are happening that are quote, phenomenal, but there’s always a scientific answer to it.” With ghosts and immortals (to name but two), you have clearly moved out of the realm where a scientific answer is possible for everything. Did you know that back in 2005 or realize it as the series went on?
Lindelof: While we certainly don’t want to rewrite history (or do we?), the context of that quote applied to the show at the time. Certainly, the pilot strongly hinted at supernatural elements and by the end of Season 1, we saw “the monster” was a being made of black smoke. Since that time, we’ve gone on record as “letting our freak flag fly” into the realm of the supernatural, and although it has probably cost us some members of our audience, from the moment Locke got out of his wheelchair (in the fourth episode of the series) we knew the reason behind it was not going to be “scientific.”
As for the decision to bring in ideas from many different faith traditions (as well as atheism), Lindelof says:
… it’s our hope that the show speaks to people all along the spectrum. At the same time, we’ve gone out of our way never to seem “preachy” and to have the characters on the show actively debate whether or not there is any purpose or design to what the hell they’re doing on the island.