“Immortality,” said Crake, “is a concept. If you take ‘mortality’ as being, not death, but the foreknowledge of it and the fear of it, then ‘immortality’ is the absence of such fear. Babies are immortal. Edit out the fear and you’ll be . . .”
“Sounds like Applied Rhetoric 101,” said Jimmy.
“Never mind. Martha Graham stuff.”
This conversation takes place in chapter 12, when Crake first revealed to Jimmy the experiments he’d been conducting on the human genome. Crake explained his hope that his new breed of humans would not have a concept of mortality and hence wouldn’t fear death. This would enable them to possess a feeling of immortality without actually living forever. When Jimmy interrupted, saying that his explanation sounded like it came directly from an elementary course in Applied Rhetoric, Crake didn’t understand what he meant. Jimmy didn’t pursue the matter, dismissing his interjection as “Martha Graham stuff”—that is, it had something to do with the kind of thinking that takes place in the humanities rather than the sciences. Though Jimmy didn’t push his point, his interjection nonetheless demonstrates an important irony in Crake’s perspective and in scientific thinking more generally. Crake prided himself on his logical thinking, and this pride frequently led him to dismiss Jimmy’s more philosophical perspective. Yet beneath Crake’s commitment to rationality lay a deeper foundation in philosophy that quietly guided his scientific inquiries. Jimmy drew attention to this underlying condition when he pointed out that Crake’s ideas about immortality—which in turn motivated his experiments—were essentially philosophical.