The Issue Of Scientific Manipulation In Atwood's' Oryx And Crake

In a world of ever-changing scientific technology, there has been an emergence of scientific social responsibility or better yet, lack thereof. Within the novel of Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood, it presents the lack of social responsibility through the exploration of scientific manipulation through the eyes of Jimmy/Snowman among the dystopian worlds that Atwood has created. Seemingly within the flashbacks that Jimmy has within the novel, science and its technology has evolved faster than a human’s moral responsibility has been able to adapt in itself. The total disregard of humanity, in regard to, scientific manipulation, among the post-diseased world that is overrun by genetically engineered animals and some “humans (Crakers)”. The lack of scientific social responsibility has run rampant throughout Oryx and Crake as the personal responsibility of individuals has diminished without a thought of consequences to everything that is scientifically manipulated. Science over took the “should we” like a child yielding a loaded gun, once the shot is made the consequences can’t be changed.

To put Social Responsibility into perspective, this could have a variety of meanings to be a person’s civic duty to the society around them, an individual’s purpose in life to help others benefit from this world of ours, however the “operationalization remains underdeveloped,” (Sankar). There is not a set preference to what people in society believe that social responsibility is. A person could think that volunteering every day and helping people with the slightest of errands is what social responsibility is a part of as it can help to a better a person’s life by a simple act. Social responsibility might just be the way people view and communicate with others around then as some people network around them and are willing and wanting to be a social butterfly that will utilize it for everyone’s benefit.

In exploration of scientific manipulation throughout Atwood’s novel, alongside Crake’s disregard for scientific responsibility due to his scientific obsession, the companies HelthWyzer and RejoovenEssence seek to exploit humans and nature in their journey to the life expectancy of humans as well as being able to manufacture diseases that have people relying on the products that they only produce. A biologically engineered future like this doesn’t seem as far-fetched as a person may think. Not only are humans altering themselves by making others ill for the benefit of having products that can help with almost anything but are altering other species in order to have beneficial value for themselves in being able to live longer. There have been many projects conducted within these companies that the public have no knowledge as to not cause a view of suspicion toward them. They were so secretive that if anybody started to have doubts about the company were taken care of, like when Crake’s father fell off a bridge, so that the company’s projects didn’t come to life. The people within this world wanted their life expectancy to be extended so bad that they, without the thought of consequence or care of what the side effects could be, took pill created by “Scientific Genius” Crake called “BlyssPluss” in hopes to improve their life and “eliminate the external causes of death” (Atwood 293). However, within the pill that was supposed to improve the lives of everyone who took it, were unknowingly ingesting virus laced pill that was named Jetspeed Ultra Virus Extraordinary (JUVE) or the Red Death that Crake had created (Atwood 341). As Crake created this virus, in an act of playing god like the companies of his world, thought that that humans that are currently populating the world are destroying it and themselves, amid wars, cannot be saved, so without a thought to the consequences of his scientific intervention, he creates a species stripped of what was considered human vulnerabilities.

Throughout this novel, Atwood explores the dangers of pushing the boundaries of science as it teeters the limits that humans have. This is shown through the advanced society that Atwood has created where there is no more moral ground to a way science is being handled and the humans within it have constructed a skewed way to exploit benefits of the manipulated sciences. Within one of the many flashbacks that Jimmy experiences, of what the world was before it fell to its knees, he remembers the genetically modified pigs known as “sus multiorganifier” (pigoons) whose goal and purpose was to “grow an assortment of foolproof human-tissue organs in a transgenic knockout pig host – organs that would transplant smoothly and avoid rejection, but would also be able to fend off attacks of opportunistic microbes and viruses, of which there are more strains every year”. Companies within Jimmy’s world have gone to the point of altering different species to be able to provide for their own needs. While the companies do this for themselves, is there not a thought of consequences or a price that might come to trying to extend live like this? In further exploration, Crake and his misguided lack of ethics for science have brought the companies that he has worked for past the limit of science with no regard to consequences. Companies within Crake and Jimmy’s world have a total disregard of what could happen if they mess with their species and manipulation other species that the should not try and be a part of. The companies in Atwood’s novel have seemingly acted like they are playing god and manipulate their own species as well as nonhuman species in a scientific manner as they have become codependent on science changing everything for the “better”.

As scientific exploration and advancements commence throughout Atwood’s novel, science obsessed Crake has pushed past the boundaries of the limits of science that his world was already pushing past. In order to “save” the world that has been destroyed, as a way of population control, and to create a world without the vulnerabilities that humans presents, Crake had to first destroy it with the BlyssPluss pill that he produced that brought the world to its knees in the matter of months. Atwood presents Crake as a desensitized human that relies on logic rather than emotion and throws out all scientific responsibility when it comes to the creation of a “new world”. For this to happen Crake creates humans that are genetically modified as much as their DNA would allow, so that he could play god again. With the disregard to scientific evolution, Crake manages to splice and manipulate the composition of what humans consist of in order to make what he considers a perfect human. These “perfect” humans are known as the Crackers or the Children of Crake, which are stripped of everything that is considered a human vulnerability and evil tendency that will be put forth into the “new world”. This violates the structure of what lies within science.

After the violation of manipulating human composition, the Crakers emerge. These beings are devoid of all human vulnerabilities, that Crake determined that was the weakness of humanity. Crake made the Children of Crake to see each other as equals so as to not start a class system like the prejudice one that existed before the world fell apart as well as not being territorial but being able to share equally. The Crakers had no notion of racism or repercussion of what racism could be. Crake also made them go into a type of heat to avoid the issue of reproduction and lust. The Crakers were made to eat food such as leaves, roots and berries so that there would be no separation within the group. As for the mortality portion of what every human must succumb to, Crake made it so that “they are programmed to drop dead at age thirty – suddenly without getting sick. No old age, none of those anxieties. They’ll just keel over. Not that they know it,” (Atwood 303). Crake stripped away what can be concluded with a human. Within the worlds that Atwood created, humanity was already spiraling to the bottom of the barrel from the first view of Jimmy’s flashback.

The self-destructive and virus riddled dystopian worlds that Atwood has presented, brought the disturbing and terrifying perspective of a metaphorical, no so far-fetched future to the present. As science and technology continue to advance every day, it is easy for someone to be able to manipulate the compositions of just about anything. Oryx and Crake has illuminated the dangers of anybody or company wanting to play god and the lack of scientific responsibility that the structure of science has behind it. It puts into perspective that there are already companies, in actual reality, that are taking advantage of humans and their eager willingness of wanting to extend their life and getting medicines that are only available from one company.


  • Atwood, Margaret. Oryx and Crake: a novel. New York: Nan A. Talese, 2003. Print.
  • Ku, Chung-Hao. “Of Monster and Man: Transgenics and Transgression in Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake.” Concentric: Literary and Cultural Studies 32.1, 2006, pp. 107-133.
  • Moore, Lorrie. “Bioperversity: Margaret Atwood’s genetically engineered nightmare.” The New Yorker. 19 May 2003, Books. Print
  • Sankar, Pamela. L., and Cho, Mildred. K. “Engineering values into genetic engineering: a proposed analytic framework for scientific social responsibility.” NCBI PubMed Central, 2015, pp. 18–24
16 December 2021
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