Thursday, October 30, 2014

Prompt 1

Brooke Kihle

Professor Adam Johns

English Composition


Determinism versus free will

                Free will is a basic human right. We, as a country value free will so highly it’s written into our constitution as the first amendment.  This being said it’s hard to picture a culture that views free will as a second importance, that determinism is better than allowing someone the choice of determining. One of the main beliefs of Oankali is to help human’s survive to inevitably interbreed and create a “better” generation. The Oankali truly believe that they are doing right by humans when they go against their free will and perform experiments that save their lives. However, where is the line crossed? When is it okay to perform on a human body without consent; even if it is for their benefit? Human society values free will above all else but the Oankali’s are blind to emotional connections and believe the science of determinism is best for survival.

                The first time we see the Oankali disregard free will is on page 6 when they perform experiments of Lilith Iyapo’s body. She awakes to find a scar on her abdomen and no memory of how it got there. In the beginning we are blind to what this experiment outcomes were and therefore look at it as cruel torture. It’s instinctual for us to view this type of experiment as inhuman and against Lilith’s basic human right. However, as we go further into the story we see that the Oankali surgically removed a malignant cancerous tumor. This was not entirely selfless but rather the opposite because the Oankali wanted this cancer to research and experiment on the DNA. Once Lilith is aware of the experiment she compares it to how modern scientist experiment on animals, “we used to treat animals that way, we did things to them inoculations, surgery, isolation- all for their own good. It scares me to have people doing things to me that I don’t understand” (Butler 33). Lilith draws the connection between the Oankali’s view of determinism as helpful and her human instinct to need free will. Following her experiment, Lilith undergoes consistent “awakenings” where she has no idea how she falls asleep, for how long, or what happens to her while she’s under. There are many examples when the Oankali continue to disregard Lilith’s basic free will such as their “trade”. The Oankali literally trade things that they value from humans with their DNA, essentially interbreeding between the two. Lilith’s immediate response is repulsion, “No. I don’t care what you do with what you’ve already learned- how you apply it to yourselves-but leave us out of it” (Butler 42).  Jhaya’s simple answer explains the Oankali’s view point, “We are committed to the trade as your body is to breathing” (Butler 42). The Oankali truly believe, instinctually believe, that genetic determinism is best for survival. They see the best traits of the humans mixed with their as the ultimate offspring and therefore helping humans to continue existence.

                It’s hard to view the Oankali with an unbiased eye but maybe that’s the point. Free will is the highest form of human or anything rights. Determinism is situation of course, but without the consent of someone to determine is it right? By situational, I mean not everything in life can be determined, specifically the main area of Oankali’s belief of determinism focuses on in Lilith’s Brood is genetic. In the world of modern science genetic determinism is a false theory. In Ideology of Biology, Lewontin’s main thesis is to disprove the common misconceptions of genetic determinism and overall the myth that genetic determinism plays a main role in our phenotype- who we are. Lewontin’s ideas correlate directly opposite of the views that Oankali hold so high. Where Lewontin sees genetic determinism as ignorant they see as the only possibility (this being said Oankali can make genetic determinism happen whereas modern science cannot). However, Lewontin’s point is that human characteristics are made from multiple factors including the environment in which we have no control over. When the Oankali completely disregard human’s basic rights to free will, they are ignoring the environmental factors that play into it, like stress of the unknown and fear of their surroundings. The Oankali justify their actions because they are “benefiting” human society but what of the individual. Is Lilith really benefitting from an unknown surgery that she never consented to? Is Lilith benefitting when she’s told she has no choice but to interbreed with this alien species she doesn’t trust let alone understand? The reason free will is an important human right is because it protects the individual. I believe that free will is more important that determinism even if determinism benefits that human’s health.

                In conclusion, the major conflict between Oankali’s beliefs and Lilith’s or more specifically humans is the importance of free will. Human society values free will as a basic right, one we are entitled to from birth. The Oankali on the other hand view determinism as the most essential way to survive and therefore the most important value. As long as determinism benefits the human or alien species and save population growth that free will can be ignored. This viewpoint however disregards environmental factors that are completely eradicate genetic determinism. The “trade” or interbreeding between alien and human species is not a guaranteed solution. Free will protects each individual on a more emotional, spiritual level and when the Oankali ignore basic free will they ignore these spiritual factors that will eventually descend throughout their offspring growth. Free will should be valued more importantly than determinism if not to protect the individual but inevitably protect the society.
Works Cited:
Butler, Octavie E. Lilith's Brood. New York: Aspect/Warner, 2000. Print.

Prompt 1 Blog 6

Jonathan Hranek
Dr. Adam Johns
English Composition 0200
29 October 2014
On Intelligence and Hierarchies
            Hierarchies are visible constantly in daily life, whether within jobs, classes, or society. There are always factors that lead to competition, and it is this competitive edge that drives human capacities for learning and understanding evermore into the depths of the unknown and unexplored. However, the Oankali within Octavia Butler’s “Lilith’s Brood” disagree wholeheartedly. Although incorrect, they argue that the very hierarchical structure that defines everything humans know, is actually the greatest downfall to their society.
            According to the Oankali, the two fatal flaws of humans are intelligence and the hierarchies that are so natural and present in the environment. One alone, they say, could be useful and possibly even successful, but the two genetic characteristics combined are a terrible mixture. This all comes down to the fact that both lead to further competition between peoples. Intelligence allows a person to perceive when he or she is being cheated by belonging to a lesser hierarchy, and therefore stimulates that person and gives them the desire to climb the ladder of society and go as high as possible. Through intelligence, people are given the ability to ignore the flaws in the structural hierarchy. This could possibly be the most dangerous aspect of the structure because it prevents individuals from seeing the inequalities that are the results of a hierarchy. By always providing people with a dream of being more successful, those very same people will then compete for better jobs, therefore impacting their friendships and relationships with other people. These two characteristics only lead to more strife between people and factions. In this way, it is almost like humans are the perfect species to kill themselves because society is always trying to one-up its competitors. By constantly attempting to out-do one another, tensions can rise and lead to conflict.
            The views of the Oankali are presented through a message of warning conveyed in the shape of simple observations. This cautioning information advises to tread carefully where intelligence and hierarchies are mixed, as it can lead to the destruction of human society and humanity as a whole.  However, this is simply not true. The Oankali are extremely biased due to their inability to relate to humans. They believe it to be a downfall to humanity if intelligence and hierarchies are intertwined. Contrary to what they think, intelligence and hierarchies are the foundation to every major change in human history. There are certainly downsides to both aspects of the characteristics, but without them, people would neither have the desire to progress, nor the ability to do so. Intelligence gives people the chance to climb the social ladder while the hierarchical structure makes them realize where they are and gives them the drive to get to where they need to be.
            Although the Oankali believe that the two genetic characteristics of hierarchy and intelligence are fatal when put together, they are simply incorrect. Without these two features of humanity driving each other, progress could never have been made. Conflict may arise, but the overall benefits of a competitive environment are necessary to further growth and development, and therefore outweigh the potential dangers. In this way, the limitations of a hierarchy and intelligence are not ignored, but accepted.

Works Cited
Butler, Octavia E. Lilith's Brood. New York: Aspect/Warner, 2000. Print.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Prompt 1 Octavia Butler

As a species, humans seek out order. It gives them a sense of control, that can’t be found in the vortex of chaos. As such humans crave organization which all starts with a leader. Though at times it may seem that leadership is undesired by our race, we require it to create the sense of calm that accompanies the order that we crave. However the Oankali, cause the readers to question this concept, the necessity and efficiency of leadership. 
The Oankali, are non-human creatures that are gifted with the ability to understand and alter genetic structure. They were able to identify the cause of humanity’s downfall. “You are hierarchical.  That’s the older and more entrenched characteristic. … When human intelligence served it instead of guiding it, when human intelligence did not even acknowledge it as a problem, but took pride in it or did not notice it at all…that was like ignoring cancer. I think your people did not realize what a dangerous thing they were doing” (Butler, 39). They are absolutely certain that the human race is a self-destructing civilization due to these contradictory traits. “Your Earth is still your Earth, but between the efforts of your people to destroy it and ours to restore it, it has changed.” These were, they declare, what caused the nuclear war. Hence they expend strict control over the human beings, however patronizing, for the good of the species. However the humans hate the idea of captivation. After such long periods of superiority, they are unable to comprehend and exist comfortably in a society where they are the minority. It causes major discomfort and in some instances like Curt’s case, it causes him to completely lose control over his behavior.
Nevertheless, the Oankali are utilizing sociobiology as a rationalization for colonization, similar to the idea behind the Holocaust. The Nazis ruthlessly killed the innocent Jews to clean the race and create a superior genetic pool. Likewise the Oankali are using the ideas of sociobiology to justify the imprisonment and mistreatment of humans. They were removing native dwellers out of a condition of viciousness and unawareness. They cause the readers to question the effectiveness of their method and in turn question the leadership of the Oankali.
The Oankali’s genetic trade with human beings is infected by exploitation and cruelty: Lilith involuntarily passes two years in solitary imprisonment while the Oankali scrutinize her behaviors and actions; she is originally deprived of writing provisions. It begins small and builds up into perplexing actions. She is forced to bear a child without her knowledge or consent. “I have made you pregnant with Joseph’s child.” (Butler 246)The Oankali also demolished all remains of human civilization that had endured the nuclear war because they required humans to start with a completely blank slate. However they hold double standards, as they didn’t destroy their own records. Again the leadership of the Oankali, is completely hated by the humans. They have lost their free-will due to such pragmatic leadership, and hence shows a change in necessity of leadership.
The Oankali manipulate Lilith into training the first group of humans to re-inhabit Earth. Lilith is a natural leader, but leading 40 irritated, muddled and trapped humans is no easy mission. Her allegiances are split: On one hand she desires human independence “Learn and run!” (Butler 248); on the other, she approaches a state of veneration and possibly even love for some of the Oankali. She cultivates a gratifying yet imbalanced intimate relationship with one of the Oankali ooloi (Nikanj). The connections Butler fashions resist classification. Lilith serves as both a guide and rival to the humans; lover, prisoner and rebellious trainee to the Oankali. Neither the humans nor the Oankali take into consideration Lilith’s position and emotions, making it that much harder for her to serve as a leader, but also a follower (to the Oankali).  The human group is detestable, ferocious and unpleasant. The Oankali are haughty, uncaring and ignorant of human rights. Through the character of Lilith, Butler portrays flaws of leadership and how it can negatively affect society. Lilith’s leadership unknowingly caused barriers to be formed between the humans and the Oankali. This paved the way for the resentment that the humans feel towards their captors. Even when the group leaves the Oankali, they are strongly attracted to the concept of no leader. Complete freedom. Even though Lilith is more knowledgeable about their situation, no one seems to want to listen to her, showing the clear distaste for leadership and order.
In conclusion, Butler has effectively integrated an abundant amount of material into a short space. She weaves the themes of slavery, sexuality, gender and race and portrays the negative impacts of leadership on a society. She made me question the necessity leadership, organized or otherwise. In the end, I felt like any sort of leadership that was established in the novel was overlooked and demolished. Any sense of order was destroyed the minute humans turned on each other. Ultimately, the leadership that was meant to bring order, caused loss. Loss of a parent and defeat of a widowed cop’s mind. To the Oankali, the humans became some sort of experiment and this caused flawed leadership that caused devastation and chaos.
Butler, Octavia E. Lilith's Brood. New York: Aspect/Warner, 2000. Print.

Prompt 1: Home

Prompt 1: Home

Take one moment from the text where an Oankali offers what you see as an interesting or credible critique/reversal/undermining of our received wisdom, explain how that critique or alternative is presented, and then evaluation from your own point of view (you might make use of Lewontin or Darwin here, but that's strictly optional).  You might argue, for instance, that the imagined Oankali alternative is a kind of vision of the future toward which we should aspire.

In the novel Lilith’s Brood by Octavia Butler the main character, a human Lilith, is confronted by many new and strange ways of thinking while adapting to a new life on an alien spaceship. These ideas often contradict wisdom/ advice we have received on earth. I believe Octavia Butler uses this as a device to allow us to question our fundamental ideals, and norms we’ve created to live our lives by. She believes we need to question how we could reach our full potential as a species if we got to start over. It allows us to view normally positively viewed social constructs in a critical light.
After Lilith has meet her first alien Jdahya she tries to get her many questions answered. She realizes they are on a ship and asks questions about his home planet. She starts, “‘Why can’t you go back to your homeworld?’ she asked. ‘It…still exists, doesn’t it?’ He seemed to think for a moment. ‘We left it so long ago…I doubt that it does still exist.’ ‘Why did you leave?’ ‘It was a womb. The time had come for us to be born’” (Butler 37).  Here we are able to put in comparison Jdahya’s specie’s indifference to their home planet, and Lilith’s extreme desire to return to earth. Lilith as can be expected reminisces about her life on earth just like many people probably would. There are a huge number of movies and books about humans resorting to space after earth has become to populated or polluted. Many of these are focused around Humans potentially one day returning to our home planet. We have turned the idea of a permanent home into a sentimental anchor. The Oankali obviously don’t suffer this affliction. Jadahya explains they grew their ship and that the ship will soon be divided in three ways and the Oankali will be to. Lilith seems surprised and asks if Jadahya will ever see the other ships and aliens again. He says no. Jadahya seems less dedicated to a permanent idea of a community and home.
People have a tendency to settle down. There is no longer the need to migrate. Technology has made it possible for us to have permanent homes. It is usually a goal to find a home because apparently “there’s no place like home”. Why do we feel the need to settle down? It is because of the images presented to us about what a home represents: comfort, stability, and love. We’ve discussed in class the burden agriculture and settlement has had. Agriculture is the origin of disease and epidemics. So what would our planet, species, and lives be like without settlement? It is an impossible question to answer. For the Oankali home would offer none of the comfort it gives us. The Oankali don’t need homes because of their need to pursue knowledge. Their travel is a necessity of life because knowledge is a necessity of life. The idea of a home is a sentimental construction that isn’t practical for the survival of their species. A home would tie the Oankali back from progress of their knowledge and diversity in their genetics.

Octavia Butler calls into question the value of our ideas of home. Do they hold us back? Do they make us weaker then we would be if we had more diversity in our lives? Would we as a species be better without them? All of these are impossible to answer right now, but if we set out again as a species just as Lilith and the other humans have to what would we do differently. To recolonize the earth they would have to be focused completely on survival, so would homes make the cut? I don’t think so. Homes are a completely sentimental construct with no evolutionary value. They caused many health problems, and could be holding us back from our true potential as the human race. The Oankali do better without them, and I think we do to.

prompt 1

Ruthie Cohen
Professor Johns
Seminar in Composition
29 October 2014

Challenging Death to Survive

As children grow up in our society, they learn the significance and acceptance of death. Whether by attending funerals, watching grandparents grow old, or witnessing any number of tragedies, this part of the human life cycle is, as we learn, inevitable. While the human race has merely come to terms with the idea of mortality, the Oankali challenge such limits. Octavia E. Butler’s Lilith’s Brood uses the Oankali, an alien species far more developed than the human race, to challenge the idea of death.
Upon meeting Jdhaya, Lilith questions the scar on her abdomen, discovering that the Oankali had removed a malignant, cancerous growth. She explains that her relatives had also been diagnosed with cancer. Like Lilith, many families are plagued by the reckless course cancer has taken on millions of victims. Without a cure, it is one of the primary issues that modern medicine faces. Yet it comes to light that the Oankali “are intensely interested in it” because “it suggests abilities we have never been able to trade for successfully before” (Butler 40). Many people associate cancer with death and defeat, unable to do anything but submit to a timely death. The Oankali, however, have turned this omen of death around, seeing “great potential in it” (Butler 40). These developed creatures have taken the bane of human existence and suggest that it is actually useful. They challenge age-old advice against cheating death and seem to refuse the acknowledgement that death has a divine element that conquers the human will.
Whether very religious or not, it is often human nature to find comfort in one’s faith at a time of death. While this is a part of the human psyche, it is a practice that has been learned from generations before and continues out of comfort and familiarity. Although the Oankali have no reason for such an emotional connection to the remaining humans they find on earth, they speak of their deaths in a very scientific manner. For example, when Jdhaya explains, “we began putting two or more together, and many injured or killed one another” (Butler 18), a detached tone indicates their interpretation of death as a sort of experiment.
At the end of the chapter “Dawn,” Jdhaya offers to sting Lilith to death as “a gift he was offering” and “not a threat” (Butler 43). While suicide happens sometimes in human society, factors such as religion and social stigmas discourage people from ending their own lives. In the world of the Oankali, death seems to be in a much more scientific context and something they can control. It is interesting how, in today’s world, people cope with death by saying that everything happens for a reason. Phrases like “it was his time” place the burden of death on another party, making tragedy seem more bearable. The Oankali reverse these traditions by taking on a more scientific and confident approach.
This ability of the Oankali to make use of something as toxic as cancer is definitely something for the human race to aspire to. While Butler’s novel is fictional and the knowledge of the Oankali is far more superior to our scientific knowledge, such an attitude, or reversal of traditional thinking, might be just what the human race needs. Jdhaya explains, “We do it naturally. We must do it. It renews us, enables us to survive as an evolving species instead of specializing ourselves into extinction or stagnation.” (Butler 40). This recognition of the importance in not being stuck in time, or as Jdhaya puts it, “stagnation,” in itself is something humans can strive for.
In many ways, the Oankali take traditionally human views of death and reverse them, showing that alternative methods are the way of the future. Specifically, the Oankali’s use of cancer shows their motivation not to get stuck in a scientific rut, recognizing the importance of such forward thinking. Although this is a fictional novel, I think there are many things that can be learned from the seemingly backwards and culturally different ways of the Oankali.

Prompt 1 Essay #6

Madison Kraemer
Professor Adam Johns
English Composition 0200
29 October 2014
Oankali’s Beneficial Use of Cancer

“Cancer is a major public health problem in the United States and many other parts of the world. One in 4 deaths in the United States is due to cancer,” (Cancer Statistics 2014). In our world today, people live their lives in fear and dismay because statistics show we are all going to die of this vicious disease. In Lilith’s Brood, Butler uses the Oankali to transform this view we humans acquire, and manipulate it to form a view that cancer can be something savior and useful. (Butler 41). Essentially, Butler wants to express that cancer is not always viewed as something negative, but rather it can be viewed as something valuable and profitable.
In the very beginning, Butler writes how Lilith has a family history of cancer and that she has acquired this type of cancer because in fact, it can be passed down through genetics. Jdahya describes Lilith’s cancer and all types of cancer as “beautiful”  because it helps in the “regeneration of lost limbs, controls malleability, [... and] increases longevity,”  (41).  The use of contrast between positive and negative is present here because instead of pairing cancer with a malicious word, Butler decided to pair it with the word “beautiful” to show the true positive effect cancer has on the Oankali. The Oankali take most of their time to figure out the true meaning and use of cancer due to the fact that they do not have a hierarchical status like us humans. They are able to focus their attention on taking cancer from different humans and place the cancer within themselves so they can determine the possible outcomes and changes it can do to their race. I just find it so fascinating that the Oankali’s have taken something so dangerous and lethal to us humans and altered it so it can be useful to their race and future generations.
Cancer helps increase the way they function during their lifetime due to the fact that cancer changes the appearance of the Oankali’s. Butler says that the Oankali use cancer as a way to “[...] reshape themselves and look more like the partners before trade,” (41). The ooloi are the ones who usually receive the cancer from the “traders” since they can manipulate the gene in a way that can result in the ability to determine the appearance of their next generation. This intrigued me because that means that cancer is essentially the “holy grail” to the Oankali’s. It can dramatically change their appearance by transforming them from this medusa, “snakes for hair [and] nests of night crawlers for eyes and ears,” appearance to more of a Lilith, human like appearance. (43).  It would change them in a way where people would not be so afraid of them, but rather they would appear to look just like the people they are trading from because they would be able to regenerate their limbs and increase longevity. The Oankali are looking into the future and figuring out ways to use something so dangerous to humans and transform it into something that could benefit themselves and the lives of future generations.
To the Oankali’s, cancer is the thing that can aid your way of life and can be very successful and useful, whereas humans view cancer as a disease that only destroys and kills. In a way, I understand why humans view cancer this way because it is what we are told, but instead of just searching for a cause, maybe we could be like the Oankali’s and look at cancer in a different way so we can figure out how cancer could benefit our future lives.

Works Cited
Butler, Octavia E. Lilith's Brood. New York: Aspect/Warner, 2000. Print.

Siegel, Rebecca, Jiemin Ma, and Zhaohui Zou. "Cancer Statistics, 2014." Cancer Statistics, 2014. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Oct. 2014 <>.

Butler Prompt 1

Irene Magdon
Seminar in Composition
Dr. Adam Johns
October 29, 2014
Superiority and the Golden Rule
In Lilith’s Brood by Octavia E. Butler, the Oankali view the humans of Earth as their trade partners even though we are not entirely sure what the objects of this trade are at this point. Throughout the first part of this reading, one gets the feeling that the Oankali carry themselves in a manner of superiority over the human species for their advanced knowledge and virtual rescuing of mankind. On page 81, we are given the view shared by many of the Oankali when Nikanj tells Lilith, “Ooan says humans – any new trade partner species – can’t be treated the way we must treat each other,” (Butler). This statement inverts our society’s Golden Rule; one must treat others as they would want to be treated themselves. I wholeheartedly disagree with Ooan’s belief on this matter and do not think that this is something we, as a society, should aspire to.
            Ooan’s view of the treatment of trade partners is brought up when Lilith has difficulty learning the Oankalis’ ways and language. When this difficulty becomes too much of an inconvenience to them, Lilith’s wandering away from Kaal for example, they pressure her to have her brain altered to enhance her memory and make their lives and the process of teaching her easier. This issue of communication is often found in the United States, not only between its trade partners, but also with its high influx of migrants from South American counties.
            While immigration, both legal and illegal, is a hot topic in current politics; there is a general consensus on how these people are treated. The United States of America is a melting pot of cultures and has been such since its founding. While there are requirements to become a citizen, we do not force our traditions on people. You are not entitled to pledge your allegiance to our flag or given a deadline to learn English. Instead, to make it easier on a large number of Spanish-speaking people coming into the country, we provide many Spanish translations on almost everything. Take a stroll through a supermarket and you are guaranteed to find translations on almost every box and set of instructions along with a Spanish food isle.
            Since we are viewed as one of the leading world powers, and one with such cultural diversity, we are expected to have to resources to teach our citizens the ways of other cultures. When participating in foreign trade, the American trader is most likely the one communicating in the foreign language or has a translator to assist them with their partner. Though in theory America may be superior to other countries, we do not treat others as inferior as the Oankali may.
            The Oankali’s technology is vastly advanced beyond that of the human species. It is this advancement that makes them superior to other species at least in the eyes of Oankali like Ooan. They are the heroes saving the day for humans and we are automatically indebted to them because we are inferior. Is this how the United States treated Haitians after their country was almost leveled by natural disaster? Or those suffering from the enormous influence of HIV/AIDS in Africa? No. They are given what help the US can provide in the hopes that if such tragedy befell America, the international world would lend a hand in any way they could. But we are not big bullies in the playground holding our assistance over the heads of the smallest kid. Worst yet, the humans being influenced by the Oankali don’t even know what the price for their assistance is.
            Ooan’s view of the treatment of trade partners is not something that we should adopt. Instead we should, as Nikanj stated, “find ways through most our difference,” (Butler, 82). We as a society should hold to the Golden Rule of treating others as we would want to be treated and not hold our influence over others who are less equipped. As Americans, we believe that every human being is entitled to the same human rights no matter their geographic origin or level of intelligence in comparison to ourselves and this is the moral stance that we should keep.

Works Cited:

Butler, Octavia E. Lilith's Brood. New York: Warner, 2000. Print.


Ryan Cooley
October 29, 2014
Seminar in Composition
Adam Johns

Oankali Trade
              Trade has been a foundation of human civilization since the origin of the word. It is everywhere trade is what keeps all societies and economies in our world bonded together. In the first story of Lilith’s Brood, “Dawn,” by Olivia E. Butler, the Oankali race, like humanity, lives around a trading system. Though as an advanced alien race with no home world they take part in a much different trade and money for food, to name an example. The Oankali live to seek out new species, like humans, who need help to give and in return for rebooting said civilization the Oankali take knowledge. In the case of humanity, the Oankali are interested in our genetic makeup and forms of cancer.
              Both, we and the Oankali have the same basic application of trade down, give up something to gain another, whether we deem it equal or not. It seems as long as the Oankali can even remember they have been world hopping in hopes to find things that provide use to them. Clearly, they are quite the gentlemanly race because they are willing to spend hundreds of years just on Earth to restore some population and life back onto the planet. In fact, it seems that what they can find may have no limits and be quite fascinating all at the same time, as Jdahya claims “[Cancer] suggest abilities we have never been able to trade for” and “the ooloi see great potential in it” (40, Butler).  In all of their time traveling the stars the idea that something like cancer is so unique and valuable is extravagant. Jdahya explains that the ooloi can use cancer as a regeneration tool, quite frankly harnessing power like that is worth quite a bit.  I find the Oankali movement to be a noble and most interesting of one. Traveling the cosmos and collecting vast knowledge is always a fascinating dream that is shared by humans too.
              How should we react as humans to what the Oankali are offering us? It seems almost irresistible – give us back our planet and take away such a horrible disease. That is a winning outcome to such a terrible scenario (what the war did to the earth). This offer is so much so a win for humanity on the surface that Lilith straight up says “you’re welcome to [cancer]” (40, Butler). But, throughout our own history, we have been taught that most are not to be trusted because contracts are never this simple. This is where I feel connections with Lilith because in situations where she discovers her purpose among the Oankali like reproduction and teaching, her reactions are the same as ones I would have in that situation. Her goal is to get home but she has to be a lab rat to the ooloi. I would go as far as to compare the book to a contract because the more I read, the more I figure out what the Oankali really want and sometimes I just do not agree but at the same time, they are restoring a planet, so…how does one choose?

               Trade seems to be the only thing that unifies humanity as a whole and for scientific purposes trade like the Oankali embark on may spark the minds of our scientists too. But, should we aspire to do it? Trading genetics for genetics or in other words life for life seems very far away from where we are today and on the surface it seems like a logical idea to pursue in the interest of survival, becoming the fittest race. But there is two sides to every coin, life for life may turn out to be a deal with the devil. But, that may just be another piece of science fiction for another day. 

Works Cited:
Butler, Octavia E. Lilith's Brood. New York: Aspect/Warner, 2000. Print.

Erasing History

Jessi Duffner
Dr. Adam Johns
Seminar in Composition
29 October 2014
Throughout the first book of the Lilith’s Brood trilogy, Dawn, by Octavia Butler, the Oankali present the idea of erasing history. They seem to think that history in the hands of humans will cause more harm than good. They finish destroying the Earth the humans left in rubbles and begin to create a new one. In today’s world, most individuals (myself included) find the idea of abolishing history absurd. Many people believe it is best we understand history and learn from it. While the Oankali have several interesting ideas on how to approach certain topics, I do not believe we should take their ideas literally. This story told by Butler should be used to show why history is so important to the human race.
As the book unfolds, we find that the human race has nearly destroyed itself by means of “humanicide” or nuclear warfare. The few humans who did survive were captured by the Oankali. The Oankali have spent a great deal of time attempting to repair the earth. They have gone so far as to mutate plant life and completely change animals. When Jdahya informs Lilith of how the Oankali have destroyed what ruins were left on earth she becomes flustered:
“You destroyed them? There were things left and you destroyed them?”
“You’ll begin again. We’ll put you in areas that are clean of radioactivity and history. You will become something other than you were.”
“And you think destroying what was left of our cultures will make us better?”
“No. Only different” (74).
The Oankali seem to function by eabolishing history entirely and recreating their lives. For one, they are capable of genetically altering many things. Also, they feel as though destroying history is the only way to a fresh start. Another instance where the Oankali show they want to discard history is shown when Lilith asks to have a piece of paper and a pen. Lilith believes this is a simple request. She only wants pen and paper to aid her in learning the language of the Oankali. However, Nikanj responds to this request quite angerly:
“I cannot give you such things. Not to write or to read.”
“It is not allowed. The people have decided that it should not be allowed” (132).
Leading up to this exchange of words, Lilith was spelling out names in the soil. After a short while, the letters would disappear. She wanted paper to document what she was learning and to potentially speed up the learning process. The Oankali, however, do not allow Lilith to document the words she is learning. This would create records of history. The Oankali believe in forgetting about the past and so they deny Lilith’s request.
I would like to denounce the Oankali’s perspective on history. I feel as though understanding our history is essential to shaping a better world. Our view of he past shapes the way we view the present. We study history to learn about those who came before us: what they have accomplished, what they have failed to do. We use the knowledge we acquire to shape the best future for ourselves. Without full knowledge of the past, history will surely repeat itself. While history is most commonly linked with the political agenda (war and leadership), this is not the only instance where history is important. David Crabtree, founder of Gutenberg College, has unique way of explaining why history is so important. While stating examples, he writes:
“When you go into a doctor’s office for the first time, you invariably have to fill out an information sheet that asks about your medical history. Some of these forms are very detailed, asking questions that require information from rarely accessed memory banks. Why does a doctor ask these questions? The doctor is trying to construct an accurate picture of your state of health. Your health is heavily influenced by the past. Your heredity, past behaviors, past experiences are all important determinants and clues to your present condition. Whenever you return to the doctor, he or she pulls out a file which contains all the notes from past visits. This file is a history of your health. Doctors understand very clearly that the past matters.”
History is important in all aspects of life: big or small. We need history to properly make decisions.
            While Butler uses the Oankali to dangle the idea of abolishing history in front of us, we must realize history is undoubtedly important. The past tells us much about the problems we face now. If we do not listen, we may end up where we began. The power of history has shaped us into the beings we are today, and it must continue to do so in order for humans to properly progress.

Works Cited:
Butler, Octavia E. Dawn. New York: Integrated Media, n.d. Web.

Crabtree, David. "The Importance of History." Gutenberg College Great Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Oct. 2014. <>.