Commercialism and Scientific Ethics
Although the pre-apocalyptic world in Oryx and Crake is not fully developed, we can gather a significant amount of information from Snowman’s flashbacks. It is clear that society has become significantly stratified along socio-economic lines. There are the corporate-run compounds and the (at least seemingly) dangerous pleebland slums. The world has become a capitalist, money-driven dystopia. Crake notes the importance of the bottom line a few times: especially when detailing how HealthWyzer includes diseases they can cure with their vitamins. Civilian government is conspicuously absent as well as the rule of law. It is unclear whether the police force, CorpsSeCorps, is a government entity or a corporation with strict confidentiality regulations. In any case, the status quo has become the rich enclaves systematically bleeding everyone else dry.
There is a complete absence of scientific ethics in the novel. Espionage and sabotage are an ever-present fear among the corporate city-states. Furthermore, consumer rights are nonexistent, again as evidenced by HealthWyzer’s plot. However, despite the clear slant toward commercialization and the “bottom line”, money plays a remarkably small role in the novel. Perhaps this is due to the general affluence of Jimmy/Snowman and Crake. After all, once they have jobs, their company takes care of everything for them, in terms of living expenses, so there is no fear of not being able to pay the bills. Money seems to only exist for discretionary purposes. Ultimately, this doesn’t really mesh. Clearly, there are products out there of varying quality (we especially see this in various “real” foods), but no one in the novel really seems to be out for personal gain. Rather, the corporate city-states appear to be waging war while keeping all their employees happy. There is corporate head-hunting, but individual incentives are lacking. The result is a strange blend of capitalism and communalism.
Clearly, the greatest example of science without ethics is Crake’s genetically engineered holocaust. Although he was motivated by good intentions, in a sense, and had clearly given the plan a lot of consideration, it would be difficult to consider the extinction of a species, no matter how destructive, as ethical. In some sense, however, Crake’s purge was more ethical than the constant shady dealing of the various corporations. After all, his plan was literally selfless, he had nothing to gain, personally, by destroying humanity and himself. It was honest and consistent… perhaps ethical from a Kantian’s point of view. It was untainted by the rampant commercialism which undermined society.