Depiction Of The Negative Effects Of Science And Technological Progress In Oryx And Crake

It is understood today technology plays an important part in society’s lives. In the emerging technical age, the perspective of advancing science with no ethics causes a worldwide dilemma. In Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake, the novel demonstrates two dystopian worlds in which science rapidly evolves. The main protagonist Jimmy faces restoring humanity and basic rights, he has flashbacks as to before the scientifically controlled virus outbreak occurred. In the world of Oryx and Crake science and technological progress is the sole intellectual pursuit valued by society, once the role of humans was to live happily and loved until death the novel changes it to one of the permanent intellectual evolution. Unlike most dystopias, Atwood’s novel serves as a warning not towards our future, but here, she paints a picture of a post-apocalyptic world ravaged by too much stress on scientific progress. Advancing scientifically has always been an area of excellence for the human race. To conclude the rapid advancement and extreme dedication to scientific evolution proves to have several negative outcomes.

Throughout the novel, Atwood paints a world where ethics, morality, and responsible decision making have been replaced to scientific progress. Suggesting that scientific progress absent ethical reasoning leads to dehumanizing relationships, literature, and culture. Throughout history, the human race was given the ability to express their freedom of thought through art and literature yet, all those have been stripped away when society began competing in a scientific race against themselves. In a world where literature is frowned upon, Jimmy acknowledges that being a “word person” makes him an outcast. However, the novel implies that belonging to the “word people” is in fact humanizing. Jimmy states “Homo Sapiens Sapiens was once so ingenious with language, and not only with language. Ingenious in every direction at once.” What the readers grasp from this quote allows them to freely think of moments in the past where humans would form connects between words and numbers. The quote furthers the understanding that the past world was filled with humanity and focus was directed to self-expression rather than speed of evolving, Homo Sapiens at one point excelled and evolved equally in ever direction of research. The novel is trouble as humans adapt to a more progress-obsessed culture which only looks towards the future, and fails to remember the past. Which in turn causes society to fail and see themselves as members of human culture. What further dehumanizes people is the lack of literature, religion and traditions. Passed down by centuries, these two works of expression shape our lives and build on the ability to self think and create. Crake exemplifies the negative aspects forcing science upon religion “Crake the “mad scientist” believes he is in the same place as God due to his ability of genetic modification.” However, by killing off this supply of information dehumanization will occur and the ability to choose between right or wrong will no longer be an option as seen in this quote, “Had he been a lunatic or an intellectually honourable man who’d thought things through to their logical conclusion? And was there any difference?”. The significance of this quote allows the readers to see the impacts on society when the necessary building blocks for growth are removed. The inability of creating an opinion and determining whether what one did was good or bad demonstrates how essential literature is. Although science shows great importance, reading and writing are what shapes a human mind to form the ability of opinions and decision making. Furthermore, Jimmy’s love of language and self-expression is what brings some happiness and comfort in a society where emotions are no longer expressed.

Oryx and Crake present a world incapable of human bonding seen through Jimmy’s journey to seek connection and love. In a world where scientific evolution has brainwashed humans to bond often ignoring emotions. Any form of relationship, whether it be parental, friendship, romantic and even sexual is seen as a distraction from science and frowned upon in society. In the quote “Leave Daddy alone,” said his mother. “Daddy is thinking. That’s what they pay him for. He doesn’t have time for you,”” (Atwood.58.) The readers understand how labour in a scientific field strips any choice for love and parental affection. Parents are commonly known to be loving or show some sort of interest in their kids yet Jimmy’s father is seen as distant and focused on evolving. This further proves that gaining substantive scientific knowledge lessens the time spent with friends and family. Through a rapidly evolving society competes in a race against themselves to witness what concept shall end the world first. The lack of emotions that radiate off of the citizens of this world is what essentially causes an end. Crake exemplifies this and is often described as a mad scientist “Is able to manifest his own goals unnoticed, scientists, who visibly manifest outlaw emotions are interpreted as dangerous as they possess the knowledge and tools to act on these emotions”. It is understood that these types of people formed by the rapid pace of science are so isolated and unloved that they contain the inability to realize their consequences. Due to the lack of emotions topics of sex and intimacy aren’t understood and therefore several civilians are sex addicts. Jimmy seeks sex continuously yet, he rarely finds comfort or pleasure in the sex he does have. Jimmy’s relationships are characterized by emptiness and betrayal after hence his nickname after the plague “Snowman”, meaning “no man” implicating that without any other human relationship people can’t be themselves and express free thought and choices. The ability to scientifically modify relationships, human nature, instincts and emotions are dangerous. Crake never showed any familial love and thinks little about sex, seeing it in purely scientific terms as an “inelegant” solution for reproduction. He further believes that love is nothing more than the painful consequence of poorly regulated hormones, messy and unnecessary. Crake tries unethically to eliminate sex and romance through genetic modification so that sexual frustration, overpopulation and betrayal are eliminated.

Obtaining the ability to create new kinds of life and manipulating natural processes can raise many questions about the moral and ethical responsibilities of science and scientists. Several characters fail to exercise their intellect in an ethical way. Throughout the novel, Crake exemplifies this failure by creating his genetically modified organisms crakers. This species specifically violates every code of ethics as they are made from stolen embryos which are then genetically altered. HealthWyzer spends plenty of resources and manpower secretly modifying viruses and release them into the population so that new cures can be sold. It’s important in the scientific world to progress slowly and in a matter of caution especially when dealing with genetics. However, in the novel science has brainwashed society and pushed their limits to create monstrous products of advanced biological science with no proven repercussions an example of this monstrous effect can be seen in this quote, “People come here from all over the world — they shop around. Gender, sexual orientation, height, the colour of skin and eyes — it’s all on order, it can all be done or redone.”  Various ethical issues are identified from this quote, what was once a job of nature is now used to manipulate human DNA to create artificial humans. This often violates ethical issues yet, that is not a problem for this dystopian world as a society has been hypnotized and manipulated to dedicate their lives to science. However, Oryx and Crake also imagine the decline in humanistic questions regarding ethics, morality, and responsible decision making which has been pushed aside for scientific progress. Scientific progress that lacks humanistic thinking leads to malicious uses of scientific power and knowledge and has a dehumanizing effect.

To conclude the rapid advancement and extreme dedication to scientific evolution proves to have several negative outcomes. The intense focus on only excelling science leads to a decrease in ingenious with several other aspects of the study, which over time with the loss of literature and culture allows for dehumanization. Along with dehumanization, many natural emotions are pushed deep down in order to focus on scientific and self-evolution. Lacking emotions can cause several physiological issues which can decrease the thought of humanistic questions and morals. Lastly, over several centuries society set in place morals and ethics to avoid dehumanization and manipulation yet this dystopian world displays all evil from rapid science. Advancing scientifically has always been an area of excellence for the human race, however, the ambition shown by humanity in scientific progress often has detrimental outcomes.  

16 December 2021
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