James M. Redwine
William Wordsworth (1770-1850) was an English poet who in 1807 wrote the poem The World Is Too Much With Us. “Getting and spending we lay waste our powers. Little we see in Nature that is ours.” Wordsworth was inundated with a world in chaos: The American Revolution (1776-1783); the French Revolution (1789-1794); and most significantly the Industrial Revolution (1760-1840). Wordsworth was twenty-eight years old when his British contemporary, Thomas Malthus (1766-1834), who was a scholar and cleric, wrote An Essay on the Principle of Population.
Malthus looked at the earth’s burgeoning population, about one billion humans as 1800 neared, and wrote:
“The power of population is definitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man. That population does invariably increase when the means of subsistence increase.”
Malthus theorized that as we humans found ways to increase the food supply (and other assets) instead of concentrating on the quality of life we increase our numbers. Then eventually the poorer classes, that is, almost everyone, encounter famine and disease. This Malthusian Catastrophe is of our own making.
The American neuroscientist and psychologist Joseph V. Brady (1922-2011) while doing research for our space program did a study known as the Executive Monkey Experiment. Brady put two monkeys in cages that each had a lever. If the “right” lever was pulled neither monkey received an electric shock. However, if the “Executive” monkey failed to properly pull the lever both monkeys received a shock.
After conditioning the two monkeys to this procedure Brady then shocked both monkeys even if the previously right lever was pulled. This led to numerous ill effects on the monkey responsible for avoiding the electric charge. Eventually the Executive Monkey just gave up and was catatonic as it made no difference what decision the monkey made.
There have been several studies done on overpopulation using mice and lemmings. What the research has consistently determined is as the number of animals was increased into the same original area eventually the animals will turn violent and sometimes resort to cannibalism even though ample food is kept available. The psyches of the mice and lemmings cannot deal with the inability to get some individual space/control.
This is what Wordsworth and Malthus were opining about due to the unnatural changes in our human environment brought on by the Industrial Revolution. Cartoonist Walt Kelly (1913-1973) in his comic strip Pogo published a strip in 1971 that addressed similar issues of overpopulation and pollution when he portrayed his cartoon characters observing their once pristine natural environment filled with trash, “We have met the enemy and he is us”. The humorist Walt Kelly was not being humorous.
If Wordsworth and Malthus feared the results we humans had wrought by the 19th Century when we had one billion people and mechanical devices, what about our politicians (our Executive Monkeys) today who face a world with eight billion people and the Internet? What can they expect and what can we, the governed (the Proletariat Monkeys), expect from our leaders? Has it become such a complex and daunting world our only decisions are to not make decisions, that is catatonia, or to cannibalize one another in public and through the media? Does it always have to be, “All right, circle up and fire?”
There are no simple solutions to complicated problems such as infrastructure, war, disease, overpopulation, global warming, pollution and disparate distribution of our earth’s resources. But invective and ad hominem attacks are no solution at all. As with most seemingly insurmountable problems the first step is to take a first step forward instead of sideways or to the rear.
Incremental steps and positive attitudes may not save us from ourselves, but lighting a candle instead of torching our fellow sufferers will produce at least a little light and a lot less heat.
China’s National Science Review reported in March 2019 that Bing Su of the Kunming Institute of Zoology has inserted human genes into monkeys. His apparent goal was to investigate how the brains of early primates developed along different paths with monkeys remaining in the trees and Homo sapiens progressing to the Internet.
Chinese scientist He Jiankui while at the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, China claims to have modified the genome, the DNA, of twin female humans in an attempt to preempt the possibility of them someday contracting the HIV virus.
Both of these researchers dealt with DNA and CRISPR. DNA is familiarly known as deoxyribonucleric acid and CRISPR is an acronym for clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats. The genome is the famous Double Helix discovered by James Watson and Francis Crick in 1953. DNA is our 23 pairs of intertwined chromosomes that make us us. CRISPR is the DNA from viruses that might protect us from other viruses such as HIV.
Gentle Reader, if I were you I would not rely upon this exposition of biological knowledge from me for answers you may wish some paid tutor to give on your child’s SAT test. Please remember, I was an English major.
Instead of science, let’s you and I turn to literature for our analysis of genetic engineering. We can start at the beginning. In Genesis, that was written about 400 BC if we look to the Dead Sea Scrolls for a date, Yahweh was doing a little human manipulation when he decided Adam needed a companion. The DNA from Adam’s rib was used to create Eve. The Bible does not explain why two Adams was not the result. However, blissful ignorance was the life these humans led until fruit from the Tree of Knowledge was eaten. Some may think it’s been all downhill since.
About 300 years before Adam and Eve those marvelous Greeks were writing about Achilles who was the product of a human, Peleus, and the immortal nymph, Thetis. This mixing of DNA’s of differing species helped lead to the sack of Troy.
Of course, Jesus, about 2,000 years ago, was a similar product of the human Mary and a god who used genetic merging to create a Prince of Peace. To my way of thinking this was evidence there may be some true benefit to Mankind from such genomitry.
As for me, I could support the manipulation of human genetics if we could create drivers who would not clog up the passing lane and who could survive at least a few moments without a cell phone stuck in their ear. Also, as a husband, could we not embed in wives a gene that allows for beer and football instead of yard work?
The seven day period beginning April 08 and ending April 15 has two important days, one joyous and one sad. April 08 is Peg’s birthday. Please wish her happiness and strength as she deals with having me home a lot more now. As to the other significant anniversary, Abraham Lincoln died on April 15, 1865. As if paying our taxes on April 15 was not already sad enough.
Of course, there is a certain historic connection between federal income taxes and President Lincoln. He helped institute the first federal income tax to pay for the Civil War, which was fought to preserve the Union. However, after the Civil War ended the income tax was also ended until 1916 when it was made permanent by the 16th Amendment to the Constitution.
Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois claim Lincoln for our own but hardly anyone lays claim to the income tax. As Peg and I will wait until 11:59 p.m. on April 15 to pay ours we assume we will have a lot of fellow travelers. It is widely accepted that the major need for America to impose taxes on itself is to pay for wars or the preparation for potential wars. Oh, we expend a lot for various other things too such as salaries and expense accounts for Congress people, Executive Branch workers and judges, health care and the clean up after celebrations such as inaugurations and ticker-tape parades to honor sports teams. I am assured by those involved in these endeavors our hard earned money is well spent.
If you are like me you put Presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln in a separate rarified class from other presidents. And while George Washington never visited Posey County, Indiana as did Abraham Lincoln (thanks to my friend and historian Jerry King for this information), I note Washington managed to birth our nation without a federal income tax. Anyway, I forgive Lincoln since he took the time to dedicate a bridge in Savah, Posey County, Indiana in 1844 when he was campaigning for Henry Clay (1777-1852); Clay lost. Maybe those early Hoosiers suspected Abraham Lincoln might someday start an income tax.
Well, income taxes and the Civil War aside, Abraham Lincoln still has much to teach us about humility, compromise, mercy, justice and just plain decency. And as for Peg’s birthday, I am going to celebrate it by thanking you Gentle Readers who have been kind enough to commiserate with her as she has often served as a foil in these articles over the many years!
Adolf Ochs (1858-1935) pinned the motto of the New York Times newspaper: “All the News Fit to Print” in 1897. It remains on the paper’s front page today. Mottoes sometimes are more hope than substance.
In 1965, as the Viet Nam War was gearing up and 18 year old men could be drafted but could not vote, Barry McGuire (born 1935) sang ♫The Eve of Destruction♫. The lyrics included the following phrases:
“The eastern world, it is expoldin’
Violence flarin’, bullets loadin’
You’re old enough to kill but not for votin’
You don’t believe in war, but what’s that gun you’re totin’?
The poundin’ of the drums, the pride and disgrace
You can bury your dead but don’t leave a trace
Hate your next door neighbor, but don’t forget to say grace.”
About twenty years later in 1983 Anne Murray (born June 20, 1945) sang the song ♫A Little Good News Today♫ that included:
“I rolled out this morning
Kids had the morning news show on
Some senator was squawkin’ ‘bout the bad economy
It’s gonna get worse you see, we need a change in policy
Just once how I’d like to see the headline say
‘Not much to print today, can’t find nothing bad to say’
We sure could use a little good news today.”
So, Gentle Reader, I submit the following retreat from the edge of doom and a little good news for your April First consideration.
It was announced today that Sean Hannity has been hired to replace Wolf Blitzer at CNN and Joe Scarborough will be joining FOX News.
At his debut on CNN Sean Hannity reported that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump had met with Mitch McConnell and Nancy Pelosi at Camp David where they decided to apply the national defense budget to universal health care and free college tuition for all.
The budgets for the CIA and FBI will be redirected to environmental concerns and repair of the nation’s infrastructure. McConnell was assured by Chuck Schumer there would be unanimous support for these proposals in the Senate. And in the House, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy heaped praise on both Pelosi and Clinton as he pledged his ardent support for both.
At a conference of media anchors held just outside the gates of Camp David it was announced by Washington Post’s editor Martin Baron that the national print and electronic media were impressed with the honesty, integrity and goodwill of the Executive and Legislative branches. Baron even mentioned the anticipated wisdom of the Supreme Court that is expected to refuse to grant any delays in the implementation of the stated goals of fair and equal treatment for all Americans.
Well, Gentle Reader, that’s about all the Good News I can report. It appears the country is just brimming with good works and goodwill.
Both the Quran and the Bible claim the World was created in 6 days by a God who even took a final day to rest up. I am okay with this explanation. It is simple, understandable and interesting. It certainly beats all the hours needed by me in an attempt to dimly comprehend the physics, chemistry and biology behind evolution. However, this is not a column about the age-old discussion about science versus religion. No, this is a plea to the sadists who write the directions that accompany Do-It-Yourself home improvement projects such as installing a ceiling fan.
If God needed only 6 days to create the World, it is pretty obvious to me He did not have to decipher some instruction manual written originally in Chinese then translated into what resembles English. God had the advantage of proceeding unencumbered by misleading photographs of parts and diabolical descriptions of which part goes where. My assumption is Satan was still in God’s good graces when the World was created or he had already been cast out of heaven before God decided to amuse Himself with Adam and Eve.
Apparently Satan did not attempt to confuse God with some phony How-To book on Creation as did the fiends who wrote the instructions for installing the ceiling fan Peg demanded I put up last weekend.
Let me first point out the light Peg told me to replace had been put in by me only 10 years earlier. I had no trouble unscrewing the old one and connecting the black wire to the black, the white wire to the white and the green ground wire. After all, I have had about 20 years of formal education and labored at numerous jobs that required I follow instructions, being a husband for instance. If things are simple, I am your man.
But when I opened the 39 page instruction manual for the “Impreso en China” (made in China?) ceiling fan and light I had the same sinking feeling I experienced when I sat for the Bar Exam. It did not help that the portion written in Spanish made as much sense to me as the part in English.
The most nefarious part of this guide into the depths of the “simple” procedure was the statement on page 5: “ESTIMATED ASSEMBLY TIME – 45 MINUTES”. Yes, this was all in capital letters and in bold type. I could sense the glee of the group of nasty nerds when they wrote this great Creation Myth. God would have just thrown up His hands had these sadistic purveyors of obfuscation been around to “help” Him develop the World.