Gene profiling by US police

People add their genetic data to genealogy DNA databanks in the hope of tracing long-lost relatives, biological parents and so on. They don’t expect their genomes to be accessed by the police. Yet officials in the US have used “investigative genetic genealogy” in more than 100 cases. One genetic testing company, Family Tree DNA, has had to apologize to users for sharing data with the FBI.

The attraction of such databases to law enforcement is clear. Just 3 million profiles from a particular population will generate a match with a third cousin or closer for 90 per cent of DNA samples. With a match, police can use public records to build  family trees and home in on people who fit the suspect’s age, location and even physical appearance.  They can even collect biological material from non-suspects without alerting them, the material to be retained in police databases as so-called “abandoned” DNA.

These DNA searches jeopardise privacy in several ways. It takes only a relatively small number of profiles to effectively waive the genomic privacy of hundreds of millions of people. An investigator who looks at the records of dozens of people linked by biology – even if they aren’t linked to each other in the real world in any way – will learn a lot of private information, with the obvious potential for abuse. 

In a new twist, police in Florida recently obtained a warrant to search all GED match’s opted-out profiles, causing disquiet among direct-to-consumer genomic testing firms. Such services hold the data of millions of people who have had their genomes screened, whether for genealogical or health reasons.  Since US privacy laws are anaemic, the least well-resourced DNA companies may prove attractive targets to the FBI and police.

More controls are urgently needed. The 21st Century Cures Act, enacted by the US Congress in 2016, created a legal protection known as a “certificate of confidentiality” to prevent law enforcement from accessing sensitive information collected to advance medical knowledge. Similar protection could be extended to recreational genetics 

12055345767968669487.jpgThe Department of Justice is currently working on a set of regulatory restrictions in order to beef up “anaemic” privacy laws, but the distaste for regulation may mean nothing much happens.  (Based on an edited article by Erin Murphy, New Scientist,  Nov 16 2019).

All who support or subscribe to Epicurean thought should be alarmed by the fact that modern technology is being used to track us and build secret databases on our lives.  It took massive effort and manpower on the part of tyrants like Hitler and Stalin to create “ Big Brother” systems of suppressing free comment and thought.  The new technology is quite easily and cheaply used.  It’s relatively easy to misuse it.  For every advance there is always a group eagerly casting aside ethical behavior.

Which foods are good for you?

For most medical issues random control trials, involving sometimes thousands of people, are usual.  But  most research on food is only observational, using unreliable food diaries and then tracking the health of participants.  About a million nutrition research papers have been published, but a fraction of these are good quality, randomized studies.  Most are very short in timespan.  The fact is that the effects of diet change take years to become obvious.

It turns out that you can take vitamin supplements and eat whole grains, fruit, vegetables and fish, and there is no reliable proof that they have any affect on mortality rates, heart attacks. cancer or anything else.

The problem is partly explained by the fact that people with low incomes tend to have unhealthy lives generally.  On the other hand those who are prosperous and who eat, say, blueberries, have fewer heart attacks because they have more effective healthcare and other privileges of money. How do you judge whether health outcomes are due to the poverty or the prosperity? Do  the blueberries matter?

What has happened over the years is that researchers have been able, without huge projects or even a lot of work, to find “evidence” that their favorite health food is the answer to long healthy life.  Moreover the media boosts interesting findings that make headlines, without looking at the scientific evidence.

The answer lies in Epicurean moderation:  eat a wide variety of foods but moderately.  Then  you will be reasonably (moderately?) fit.

(Written after reading an article on food by by Clare Wilson,  New Scientist, July 13, 2019)

 

Mass displacement by climate.

3.5 m people forced to flee cyclone Fani in India and Bangladesh

1000 killed and 617,000 uprooted from their homes by cyclone Idai in Mozambique and Zimbabwe

Bahamas were recently devastated by Hurricane Dorian

The Amazon forest fires are mostly caused naturally (although no one knows how many were man-made).

Fast ice melt in Greenland  and Antarctica.

The Great Barrier Reef blanching and dying.

13 Pacific islands have disappeared in recent years.

Glaciers melting in Andes, Iceland  and Asia.

Brush fires across Russian tundra igniting ground peat, which could burn for years, displacing people).

Rust in coffee crops of Central America, leading to collapse of coffee farming in Guatemala and  El Salvador major driver of migration save to US).

Libya in huge water crisis (90% of its water now undrinkable)

Sana’a,  capital of Yemen has lost all its natural water supply

Lack of water fueling tribal conflicts in Fergana Valley, Afghanistan

Gaza strip ( pop. 2.1 million) will run out of water from its already polluted acquifers in about 12 months time

Present population of Africa 1.35 billion, expected to reach 4.95 billion by 2,100.  How will this huge population survive?  Good question.

And global climate change is a hoax?

The threat of debt, Part 2

The Washington Post of November 30 reported that a decade of low interest rates has allowed companies to sell record amounts of bonds to investors, sending total U.S corporate debt to nearly $10 trillion, or a record 47% of the overall economy.  The Federal Reserve, the IMF and major institutional Investors are concerned that the financial markets will plunge when the next recession hits, making that recession dire.

You guessed it – it has been the financially weakest companies that are the worst culprits, using debt for “financial risk taking”, upping investor payouts and Wall Street deal making rather than productive plant and equipment.  In September alone US corporations issued $220 billion in new bonds, the biggest figure in two years. Over the last five years corporations have spent $3 trillion in buying back their own shares.  Interest rates have never been this low for so long. An artificial environment of near- free money has kept alive some debt ridden “zombie” companies that really would have failed under normal circumstances.

The Washington Post article gave other examples of the craziness. The fact is that the situation is like sitting on a bomb and not knowing what will trigger the explosion.

So here we have the golden boys of the Harvard Business School and the like playing roulette with the US ( and World!) economy – and they are supposed to be smart?  Have you read the last post  ( this one was delayed by a local internet access failure) about individual debt?  Two perfect storms!  Had all these jokers, corporate and private, heartened to the words of Epicurus – be moderate – we wouldn’t be trying to guess when the next financial collapse is going to happen.

Oh, and this has everything to do with mass common sense ( or lack of it) and nothing really to do with party politics.

The threat of debt, part 1

According to Equifax the value of unsecured personal loans in the US is up 10% in the last year alone and is similar in size to credit card debt, averaging $16,259.  In view of the currently healthy economy  and increasing wages for some, this is a bit counter-intuitive.  But, whatever the reason, in banking , if it is growing like a weed  it is probably a weed.

US consumer debt in general has reached the record level of $115 billion, helped along by a plethora of new online lenders, who apparently don’t ask too many questions of the 20 million people who use their services.  The payments, and repayment dates,  are fixed and it appears that many borrowers use this personal borrowing in order to consolidate debt, often debt on multiple credit cards. But if anything goes wrong (a serious illness, for instance) then the lenders return to borrowing on their credit cards again, in addition, creating a spiral of debt.

Meanwhile, the national auto loan debt totals $1.3 trillion and credit card debt $880 billion.  Total it all up and you get close to the levels of January 2008.  (By the way the the personal debt lenders cap their interest at 36%, which I would call usury) .

You can guess what word I am going to use:  yes, “moderation”!  When it comes to money – lending it or borrowing it – nothing ever seems to stay moderate for long.

Standing up for history

To The Sunday Times

In 1960s Oxford I would see Cecil Rhodes’s statue, think how wrong he was and walk on. That is life in an open, tolerant country: bits of our history are sticking up everywhere, and we are free to admire, condemn or laugh at them. I prefer that to a country in which public art has to conform to a prevailing ideology.

Mike Lynch, Cambridge

Quite right!  I don’t much like the deeds of Cecil Rhodes, but to take away his statue is petty and narrow minded.  Yesterday came news that a statue dedicated to the explorers Lewis and Clark is being removed because their Indian guide, Sacagawea, is represented as being in an inferior position.  Quite rightly the story is that Lewis and Clark wouldn’t have found the Mississippi without her. That is true. It is also a disagreeable fact that all women were in inferior positions in those days. Unfortunately that fact is also part of the American story.

If you excise every bit of history you don’t like you will have no history.  If you don’t know where you come from and how you got here,  you will have no hope of knowing where you are going.  Epicurus did not much like the narrow- minded.

What we sorely need is more people with a knowledge of history, a subject that educates you on the behavior and motivation of human beings. It might stop some of the stupid things our leaders  do.

More on self-perception

9% of British men consider themselves handsome; a further 7% regard themselves as good-looking. By contrast, just 1% of British women describe themselves as beautiful and 2% as good-looking. (YouGov/The Times,  21 September 2019).

Epicurus would no doubt have commented that it is what is in the hearts and minds of men and women that matters, not their outward looks.  This, for both genders, requires them to be polite, kind, attentive, gentle, thoughtful, generous and considerate of others.  Oh, and to have a sense of humor.

As for this writer, he has 
never thought about it, really.  To him all women are beautiful; some as just more beautiful than others.

 

Artificial intelligence

The promise of artificial intelligence is that it will make decisions faster.  But what happens if it makes bad decisions faster?  We are trying to replicate human skills that have evolved for millions of years, and yet we cannot predict accurately what decisions AI will come up with.  Just say AI progresses to a point where it is smarter than human beings.  Where will that leave us ?  Answer  – as virtual slaves to machines.

My own reaction to this is to invoke Epicurean moderation.  There are clearly activities for which artificial intelligence can be a benefit to the world – and others where it is yet another challenge to peace of mind.

And yet…..and yet…… I have been sitting here, having invoked moderation, trying to think what applications of AI I could actually support and find useful. But I don’t want an AI-equipped machine to cook for me, drive for me,  buy tickets to a concert for me, or book foreign holidays, either.  As you get older you need use your brain and what memory you have left. Use-it-or-lose-it.  Even at its most benign a fast- thinking machine potentially removes the need to think for yourself. So  I will give AI a pass, (that is if I have an, unlikely, say in the matter).

Oh, just remembered (without AI):  happy Thanksgiving!

A literary judgment

to The Guardian:

Notice seen recently in the window of the bookshop in Fowey, Cornwall: “The Post-Apocalyptic Fiction section has been moved to Current Affairs.”

Harry Cavill, Camberley, Surrey 

 

And an ancient complaint from an Epicurean:

At the end of the 4th Century A.D Ammianus complained that the Roman Empire had lost its cultural moorings and had descended into a state of triviality, where scholarship was no longer respected and fewer and fewer people read anything at all.  Sound familiar?

What is intelligence?

Far from being an indefinable concept, a single measure of intelligence underpins our problem-solving, musicality and even creativity and emotional skills

When researchers talk about intelligence, they are referring to a specific set of skills that includes the abilities to reason, learn, plan and solve problems. The interesting thing is that people who are good at one of them tend to be good at all of them. These skills seem to reflect a broad mental capability, which has been dubbed general intelligence or g.

That’s not to say people don’t specialise in different areas. Some will be particularly good at solving mathematical problems, others will have particularly strong verbal or spatial abilities, and so on. When it comes to intelligence tests, although these specific skills account for about half of the variation between people’s performance, the other half is down to g. “If you took a sample of 1000 people and gave them all IQ tests, the people who do better on the vocabulary test will also do better, on average, on the reaction speed test, and so on,” says Stuart Ritchie, an intelligence researcher at the University of Edinburgh, UK.

Our thinking on human intellect is clouded with misinformation. But the latest science of intelligence is surprisingly enlightening.  This seems to fly in the face of old ideas. In the early 1980s, Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner argued for the existence of multiple intelligences, including “bodily-kinaesthetic”, “logical-mathematical” and “musical”. However, most researchers now believe these categories reflect different blends of abilities, skills and personality traits, not all of which are related to cognitive ability. Likewise, recent research indicates that so-called emotional intelligence – the ability to regulate one’s emotions and relate to other people – is simply a mixture of general intelligence and personality.

Even creativity is related to g. There is a linear correlation up to an IQ of about 120 – classified as above average intelligence – although the link breaks down after that. “The idea that you can be creative without being intelligent is a myth: it takes a certain level of intelligence to acquire raw data to be creative with,” says neuropsychologist Rex Jung at the University of New Mexico.

So, what is the biological basis of g? One suggestion is that it reflects “mental energy”: the brains of people with high IQs seem to use less energy when performing mental tasks, and their neurons conduct signals faster. Possibly then, clever brains are more efficient. Another idea is that smart people have greater working memories, so can hold onto and process more information at any given moment. For now, the g-factor has a lot in common with the X factor: we don’t know precisely why it makes someone stand out, just that it does.
(Linda Geddes, New Scientist 22 July 2018)

An Epicurean enjoys the company and friendship of intelligent people, but also respects the conversation and views of those who haven’t been so amply blessed.  Some call it “being a lady or a gentleman”.

The multitasking myth

Is the idea that women are better multitaskers than men a convenient myth, to help men avoid the domestic burden? That is the implication of a new study by scientists at Aachen University in Germany, which found that the two sexes are equally good – or rather equally bad – at performing different tasks at the same time. For the study, 48 men and 48 women took part in a computer-based challenge that required them to identify letters as either consonants or vowels, and numbers as either odd or even, as they flashed up on a screen. In the first part of the experiment, the participants were presented with the letters and numbers separately. In the second, they were asked to categorise them at the same time, or to switch rapidly between the two – mimicking the kind of mental shifts involved in multitasking in other settings. While both sexes were equally adept at the first part, they found the second stage equally challenging – suggesting, says the team in PLOS One, that “there are no substantial gender differences in multitasking performance”.  (The Week, 31 Aug 2019)

What  I deduce from this is that it reinforces the whole idea of gender equality, and that individually people might prove better or worse than others, but overall there is little or no overall difference between women and men when it comes to the day-to- day tasks of life.  Hooray!

But now comes the rub.  Men and women have to behave as equals.  There seems to be among  a (hopefully small) number of women that the “tables have turned”, and that they can with impunity express their ideas and opinions at length without given a male companion an opportunity for discussion, only because of their gender, a form of bullying. Yes, for centuries men have also held forth, treating women as “the other”, not worth attending to. And many still do, regrettably.  That Is bullying, too, and is also bad manners.

Men and women have to respect each other, be kind and considerate, and espouse equality, nothing more or nor less.  We really have to stop all this nonsense.  It is no excuse to say, “this is what I learned while growing up”.  They imbibed the wrong message.

 

Is this Epicurean?

Heartlessness is now official US policy

The Trump administration is deporting thousands of legal immigrants to countries “they barely know”. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement authority (ICE) can find any refugee “deportable” if they’ve a crime on their record – even selling marijuana – and that covers about 120,000 immigrants who came here as refugees.

So now deportations to places like Somalia, Cambodia and Eritrea are soaring, as people who’ve spent decades in the US are sent to countries blighted by crime and political repression. In March, a deportee died in a restaurant bombing in Mogadishu. An Eritrean deportee was so distraught he killed himself en route to his native country.

Then there’s the case of Jimmy Aldaoud, a 41-year-old Michigan man recently deported to Iraq. Born in Greece to Iraqi Christian refugees who brought him to the US as a baby, he was severely mentally ill and often homeless. This led to the multiple arrests used as the justification for deporting him. Yet he’d never been to Iraq, “had no language skills, no place to live and no family connections”. He died, probably from poorly-controlled diabetes, a few months later. Unless ICE changes the rules, there will be many more Jimmy Aldaouds.  (Chris Gelardi, Slate (New York), and The Week 31 August 2019).

It is hard to believe that the “base” really supports this cruel treatment towards people who never lived before in the country they are deported to.  This is not a political issue; it is an issue of human kindness and respect for others.

I am an immigrant myself, albeit I did it correctly, to my utter frustration and disbelief (I will not bore you with the bureaucratic hassles).  Thus, although I consider myself a humanitarian, I think the laws should be obeyed and no one should sneak into any country without permission, otherwise I might have sneaked in myself.

But the supporters of this policy of expelling people to countries they have never lived in and whose language they barely, if at all, speak,  is quite the opposite of humane and Christian.  How can one characterize opposing  abortion, but supporting expulsion?

Taking brain pills a waste of time

“Memory supplements” have become big business: in the US, a quarter of people over 50 are thought to take them, often believing that they help ward off dementia. But according to a new report, these people are wasting their money. Researchers from the Global Council on Brain Health looked at evidence across a range of supplements, including those containing B vitamins, vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, caffeine, coenzyme Q10 and ginkgo biloba. Few, they found, had been tested for their impact on brain health, and where tests had taken place, there was little clear evidence that they improve brain function or prevent dementia. The researchers said that if people are concerned about maintaining their brain health, there are far better ways, including eating healthily, taking exercise and getting enough sleep.  (The Week 13 July 2019)

Yes, eating healthily, taking exercise and getting enough sleep. These are all activities that would have been approved of by Epicurus and his disciples.  They would probably add to the diet part “strictly in moderation”.   (P.S: Epicurus famously lived on bread and water.  I think we can expand a bit on that, but moderately)

The Epicurean good life; a quotation:

”The good life for the Epicurean involves disciplining of the appetites, curtailment of desires and needs  to the absolute minimum necessary for healthy living, detachment from most of the goals and values that are most highly regarded, and withdrawal from active participation in the life of the community, in the company of a few select friends – in a word, plain living and high thinking”.  ( page 62, “Epicurus: The Art of Happiness” George K.Strodach, pub. by Penguin)

Wealth never brings you peace of mind

“It is better for you to be free of fear and lying on a bed of straw than to own a couch of gold and a lavish table, and yet have no peace of mind”.   (Quote from “The Essential Epicurus”, by Eugene O’Connor, Great Books in Philosophy series)

The wide gulf between what companies pay their CEOs and what they pay their median worker has skyrocketed in recent years. The average CEO took home about 20 times what average workers did in 1970, compared to a ratio of 287 last year. And many corporations have gaps much larger than that.

Taking on inequality means tackling those gaps. 

The teachings of Epicurus are full of references to his disdain for those whose greed for money consumes them.  It is taken as a given that huge wealth leaves a man with no peace of mind .  A recent bill introduced in the US Congress addressing inequality will, of course, never be agreed by both political parties, but Epicurus assures us that large stores of cash seldom bring happiness.

 

Eating all your meals before 3 p.m could be good for your health

A study suggests that eating all of your meals in a 6-hour window may prevent diabetes.

A research team at the University of Alabama tested a time-restricted diet in eight overweight men who were all on the threshold of developing type 2 diabetes.

For five weeks in the Spring of 2018 the volunteers ate identical breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Half were assigned to eat all three meals within a 6-hour period ending no later than 3pm, while the other four ate within a more typical 12-hour time frame. After five weeks, the groups swapped for a further five weeks.

The time limit led to improved sugar control. The team also saw drops in overall appetite and blood pressure (Cell Metabolism, doi.org/cpmh). These effects were not due to weight loss, since everyone ate enough to maintain their weight. Instead, eating earlier in the day may align better with circadian rhythms.

 The basic premise is that we have  evolved to be active during the day, so it makes sense for our metabolism to rev up at the beginning of the day and rev down at night to be as efficient as possible.   (New Scientist, May 2018).

Peace of mind gets a sad jolt if you are told you are pre-diabetic.  In America, if the blood test shows an A1C of 6.5 you are officially a diabetic.  So you are pre-diabetic at about 5.8.  A lot of Americans fall into this category.  But the good news is that you can reverse the A1C reading; I know, because I have done it myself ( with careful diet).  The above may be another approach.

 

Flying and vapor trails

According to a new study, a huge amount of atmospheric warming is caused by the cloud-like vapor trails – or “contrails” – that planes leave in their wake when flying at high altitude. These are created when vaporised water condenses or freezes around sooty exhaust particles to create cirrus-type clouds. These can persist for hours, but are too thin to reflect warmth. Instead, ice crystals within them trap heat, warming the planet. Researchers from the Institute of Atmospheric Physics in Germany estimate that aircraft vapor trails typically have twice the warming impact of CO2 emissions. And as air traffic increases, the problem will only get worse. In a paper published in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, they argue that the industry cannot solely focus on aircraft fuel efficiency; they must also acknowledge and address the currently overlooked problem of contrails.  (The Week, 13 July 2019)

This raises the questions of hypocrisy, in this case my own.  I happen to live between America and Britain.  In the old days one would go by passenger ship .  The last time I did that it took 7 days and the funnel smoke belched out non-stop.  But I was young .  It was fun. Now I fly.  Every time I book a flight I am roiled in guilt and misgivings.  Here I am bemoaning climate change, which is heavily affected by planes flying in all directions, and I am very well aware of what the plane is doing every mile of its journey.   I tell myself that, were my wife and I no longer flying, it would make not the a slightest difference – the airlines would happily continue fouling the air.  But I am not practicing what I preach.  There! It is out in the open.

Do you do things you didn’t ought to?   Do you eat beef or go on fancy foreign holidays, or drive a car every day of your life?  If so, drop me a line on this blog – I need to feel better about it all.

 

The dodgy people who run people power

There’s much talk these days about the threat to democracy posed by Kremlin-backed troll factories spreading disinformation online.   But maybe we should pay more attention to our own homegrown “astroturfers” – political operators who concoct a following to give the appearance of spontaneous grass roots support.

Looking at Facebook, for instance, you’d think frustrated pro-Brexit activism was springing up everywhere. But dig deeper and you find that seven of the most active pro-Brexit groups – including the Jacob Rees-Mogg Appreciation Group – share the same administrator: a suspended Tory councillor called David Abbott. The same applies to avowedly non-political groups, Nuneaton Community Forum, a Facebook group supposedly catering for people in the marginal seat who want to have “a good old moan” about local matters, now appears to be run by the husband of a local Tory councillor who deletes criticism of the Tories.

People power is a powerful force in the age of digital democracy. Trouble is, it often has little to do with “the people”.  ( Xavier Greenwood,  The Week 14 Sept 2019).

How to find one’s way through the modern thicket of lies and misinformation?  Depressing.  But don’t opt out.  Use your judgment based on recent history. To opt out is irresponsible and ultimately, if everyone did it, would be deeply damaging to the country and would play into the hands of the ruthless people with autocratic tendencies and shady intentions.

Greta Thunberg

What is it about Greta Thunberg that makes people so angry?. How can a 16-year-old in plaits, who has dedicated herself to the not unreasonable cause of saving the planet, inspire such incandescent rage? Following  her recent speech to the UN, in which she excoriated world leaders for their lack of action, her critics were at it again. One commentator likened her to a figure in a Nazi propaganda poster; another referred to her as “mentally ill”. Of course, no one likes being made to feel bad about their life choices: it’s why we sneer at vegans and feel suspicious of people who don’t drink at parties. But mainly, her critics attack her because it’s far easier than discrediting her argument. 

Everything Thunberg says is true.  We have just 11 years to prevent irreversible climate change, yet the grown-ups are not treating this as an emergency. It has been left to a child to deliver the warning our leaders are too afraid to voice, which is that “it is impossible to fight climate change and continue to measure national success by the rate of growth”.  

We need to tackle climate change. But  how would people react if politicians imposed the radical changes she insists are necessary, halting economic growth? Some might willingly sacrifice their modern comforts, but persuading the majority, in the time available, will be a very hard task. In that respect, Thunberg’s “hellfire and damnation” language risks being unhelpful. It may “frighten or alienate more than it energises”. And lumping all politicians together as “useless and uncaring is wrong”: you can see why President Macron, whose attempt to hike fuel taxes helped trigger the gilets jaunes protests, is feeling sore about being told “How dare you?”. Like other liberal politicians, Macron thinks of himself as on the side of the angels.   But Thunberg isn’t having that: she knows “we tried” is not going to satisfy future generations. For her, it’s us and them – and until he adopts her cause in full, he’s one of them.  (Jennifer O’Connell, The Irish Times).

My comment:  Greta Thunberg can say these things, these absolutely correct things, because her personality is such that she has an urge to tell the unvarnished truth, and maybe doesn’t care about “offending” the thugs who attack her.  She will be remembered as a latter-day prophet.

The sea level has visibly risen year by year in the Florida keys, for instance. There have been several consecutive days when  the high tide has covered the nearby jetty completely.  The width of the beach has shrunk. The locals call this a “ King tide” and infer, or hope, that it is a just a short- term quirk of nature.  I very much doubt it.  But then my opinions are irrelevant – I will not be here to witness the end catastrophe.  We are talking to our neighbors about installing solar panels, but otherwise what am I doing about it? Aside from wringing my hands, but still flying.  And you?

When God lost our planet – a poem

Each day unfurled, Another world!

God sits up there and gently nurses

Spanking, brand new universes.

 

Purblinding flash!

Oh, boom, oh, crash!

A zillion atoms spun in space.

Where did they fly? Some place, some place.

 

For thirteen billion years, we’re told,

Did God his galaxies unfold

With neutron stars and cosmic rays.

Thus did God spend timeless days.

 

For goodness sake,

One needs a break.

Even those with mighty power

Like to relax for half an hour.

 

He thinks a thought!

Just what he sought

To liven up the daily grind – –

He has a unique scheme in mind!

 

Aha! Ambition!

Matchless mission – –

A scheme to create a race of men

With ethics and with acumen!

 

Experiment 

Was his intent.

“I’ll pick a rock of random worth, 

And, ah! I ‘ll call the planet “Earth”!


And at its birth

I’ll make this Earth

As beauteous as an April sonnet

And place my new creations on it.”

 

“They’ll look like me

Be good like me.

And every man will love his wife,

And thank me for his daily life!”

 

And so it was, and in a trice

God created paradise,

And placed in it a married pair,

A test to see how they would fare.

 

But space expands 

If left unplanned.

A planet whirls away in space,

And nothing’s left to fill the space.

 

Space grew too vast,

And God at last,

Taking years to get around,

Discovered Earth could not be found.

 

Thus men are left

On Earth, bereft,

Without a God to tell them “nay”,

Lost amidst the Milky Way.

 

It’s rather rare

To sit up there,

And even in ten billion years,

To lose a planet in the spheres.

 

“Oh, huge mistake

For me to make!

Where is that H2O and granite?

Where is my chosen little planet?

 

“Oh! Fractured hope!

How will they cope,

Lost in the vast ethereal sphere

Gripped by suspicion, greed and fear?

 

“Oh, doom, oh, gloom.

Not I? Then whom?

Who will be there to keep them moral,

To teach them how to love, not quarrel?

 

God searches here,

He searches there,

On moons, black dwarfs, dark energy,

But not a human could He see.

 

“Ah! Infinitesimal speck!

Hey, what the heck?

If men on Earth possess a flaw

Forget it!  I’ll just make some more.

 

And thus time passed

Until at last,

While rambling through a group of stars,

Why, Earth appeared, alongside Mars.

 

Ah! Eureka!

Planet seeker!

He cried, “Aha, that’s where they’ve gone!

Let’s see how they are getting on.”

 

Amazed, He found his two creations

Had spawned a multitude of nations.

No one thought or spoke the same,

Or, if in the wrong, would take the blame.

 

“Jehovah! Lord!

(With one accord!)

We’re glad you’ve come as prophesied!

We thought we’d see you when we died”.

 

So saying, men

Proceeded then

To pepper God like proper pests

With thousands of inane requests.

 

Most were self-seeking,

Falsehood-reeking,

“Bless me, Lord, and kindly strike

And punish those whom I dislike”.

 

“Oh, God, to whom we genuflect

Mine’s by far the holiest sect.

We praise you more, and they are weird.

What’s more, we wear a longer beard”.

 

 And God was pained

When people claimed

 He’d picked upon a chosen few

And helped them win a war or two.

 

And God above

Said “Where is love?

I should have been around to ground ’em,

I rather wish I’d never found ’em.”

….…………………………………………..