“Nature is to Zoos as God is to Churches.” – Crake

While reading Margaret Atwood’s piece of dystopia entitled Oryx and Crake, I was startled by the parallels I found between the novel’s world and our own. What I found particularly fascinating was Crake’s outlook on invention, creation, innovation and his concept of “for the greater good”. One moment where the reader gets a glimpse into Crake’s newfound ideologies are where he remarks to Jimmy “Nature is to Zoos as God is to Churches.”

I had the read the line over many times to understand what Crake was conveying and to see past the superficial/innocent meaning that I saw at first glance.

Society seeks to confine, retain, straighten, idealize, maintain and perfect what is out of our control. Some may argue that innovation brings this notion upon itself, as though innovation’s true origin is from a desire for eternal and guaranteed perfection. Examining history, however, will show us this is not the case. Innovation has been derived mainly from necessity, of which a topical example would be fossil fuels. The burning of fossil fuels, which began around the 1880’s, was derived from a need for quick energy. Yet as early as 1912, a New Zealand newspaper included a short and foreshadowing paragraph in the “Rodney and Otamatea Times, Waitemata and Kaipara Gazette” reading:

Fully aware of the impacts that the #1 contributor to the enhanced greenhouse effect could have on global climate, fossil fuels continue to provide about 64.5% of global energy. Thus, this method of innovation born out of necessity has brought humanity to the gravest times for Earth (no where near our “idealized perfection”).

“Nature is to Zoos as God is to Churches” is another example of an idealized solution to humanities problems, the only difference being its futuristic context. To Crake, nature only existed in a closed-off environment, a place where they were meant to be put on display (a Zoo). Crake’s disbelief in the concept of God, or a higher power, connects to his belief that a higher power is a fabrication merely existing in a place where people let such a figure exist (the Church, comparable to a Mandir, Synagogue, Mosque, Shrine and many more). We can also see that in the minds of the “innovators” at Crake’s school (Watson-Crick Institute), nature can be manipulated without ethical concern. Nature is no entity, it is not a proper noun deserving a capital N (as is remarked later in the passage by Crake) but is a mere mistake of evolution. 

As a Hindu, I believe in Bhagwan ji (God). And with this notion of a higher power, I accept that there are events that I cannot control. However, Crake believes that every human being has the power to become a creator of humanity making my personal beliefs opposite to Crake’s. Crake defends his beliefs as being a realist, an innovator and by referring to individuals with contradicting beliefs as “neuro-typicals”. However, no matter how book-intelligent Crake may be, I believe he lacks the knowledge of being an honourable human being. His intentions, although well-placed, created more tragedy for those left behind than it benefited his intentions. This concept is one slowly seeping its way into our everyday lives as humanity approaches the scale of genetic engineering discussed in Oryx and Crake. But someday, nature might be all that is left. No longer bordered or manipulated, but showing the scars inflicted by the humans who failed to understand it.


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