Nature & Nuture

“We have a tendency to attach a kind of quasi-religious significance to our DNA, to be more deterministic than we should.” Dr Francis Collins, US National Human Genome Research Institute

“Gathering knowledge and understanding is a good thing but we need a bit of humility – we’re not just a collection of genes.” Dr Sue Meyer, Genewatch UK

"It's a concern that the importance of environmental influences will be lost in the fanfare about genetics. The first message from genetic research is that genes play a surprisingly important role for almost all complex traits, whether behavioural or medical. But the second message is just as important: individual differences in complex traits are due at least as much to environmental influences as they are to genetic influence."  Professor Robert Plomin, Institute of Psychiatry, London, UK

‘Man is an instrument over which a series of external and internal impressions are driven, like the alternations of an ever-changing wind over an Æolian lyre; which move it, by their motion, to ever-changing melody.’ Defence of Poetry: Part First, Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1821

‘Genes influence not only health and disease, but also human traits and behaviours. Science is only beginning to unravel the complicated pathways that underlie such attributes as handedness, cognition, diurnal rhythms and various behavioural characteristics. Too often, research in behavioural genetics, such as that regarding sexual orientation or intelligence, has been poorly designed and its findings have been communicated in a way that oversimplifies and overstates the role of genetic factors. This has caused serious problems for those who have been stigmatized by the suggestion that alleles associated with what some people perceive as 'negative' physiological or behavioural traits are more frequent in certain populations. Given this history and the real potential for recurrence, it is particularly important to gather sufficient scientifically valid information about genetic and environmental factors to provide a sound understanding of the contributions and interactions between genes and environment in these complex phenotypes. It is also important that there be robust research to investigate the implications, for both individuals and society, of uncovering any genomic contributions that there may be to traits and behaviours. The field of genomics has a responsibility to consider the social implications of research into the genetic contributions to traits and behaviours, perhaps an even greater responsibility than in other areas where there is less of a history of misunderstanding and stigmatization. Decisions about research in this area are often best made with input from a diverse group of individuals and organizations.’ A Vision for the Future of Genomics Research, US National Human Genome Research Institute, 2003

“By understanding genetic changes, we can then go on to identify the environmental changes that contribute. If we can identify the nature, which we will do to a very significant extent, we can use this to identify the nurture. This is the second goal of the Human Genome Project.”  Professor Peter Little, Imperial College, London, UK

‘How much of a person's fate is written in the genes? Deciphering the entire code for human life is undoubtedly a colossal technical achievement. But even if it does eventually lead to an understanding of the function of every gene, will it really allow us to accurately predict who will develop heart disease, become violent or become homosexual? What about our childhood, our diet, our living conditions, our stress levels? Will scientists still need to look to our environment to explain our health and behaviour? Of course, say gene experts…But intriguingly, the revelation of the role of genes could lay bare the influence of environmental factors with greater clarity than ever. Dr Paul Kelly, director of Gemini Genomics in Cambridge, UK, says the sequencing "will make environment more important, not less important". For example, by studying the DNA of someone suffering from diabetes, scientists will be able to work out to what extent their genes are responsible for their disease, and to what extent their lifestyle is the problem. This will allow a doctor to tailor a treatment that might involve only specific lifestyle changes…But anxiety remains that the hype surrounding the sequencing of DNA will overwhelm a more balanced view of what makes Homo sapiens human. In other words, though gene disorders are the sole cause of a small minority of diseases (e.g. haemophilia), the genetic component of the cause of most diseases could be no more than 50%. The other 50% might be down to our environment, which may involve experiences in the womb, as well as after birth. And environmental influences may be at least as important as genetic factors in determining intelligence and other aspects of personality.’ BBC News, 2000

I cannot see my heart, unopened rose

I cannot see my heart, unopened rose,

but feel how it came into the world -

bud that might bloom gloriously,

show-flower, full of dew, pollen;

but strain, genus, Latin classification,

making vulnerable to affliction, hurt,

infection; drooping, loss of petals,

turning blue like returning blood -

burning summer like foolish Icarus,

overlooking a disharmonious music.

So many creatures passed away

within its crimson chambers -

lying down in swamps, struggling

against bitter wind, cosmic storms,

so this hot red organ might appear here,

to run me; organic clock, drum-muscle

symbolising love - tough enough to keep

growing, open - flowering even in snow;

can be nurtured, protected, hothoused -

treated carefully, recognising its nature.

‘…the brain, the body and the genome are locked all three in a dance. The genome is as much under the control of the other two as they are controlled by it. That is partly why genetic determinsm is such a myth. The switching off and on can be influenced by conscious or unconscious external action.’ Matt Ridley, Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters, Fourth Estate, 2000

‘“We'll find those, too; but there's going to be a lot of behavioural studies involved, and they will yield up some pretty interesting discoveries…Again, there is this risk that if we discover some of those variants, people will say, 'a-ha - that proves it really was just nature all along'. Then we'll forget about the nurture part - and that would be a terrible mistake." Dr Collins warned that that a number of ethical questions would be raised by the discoveries, although he also stressed that it was not scientifically possible to engineer DNA, for example, to make people more intelligent. "We may be able to discover variations that correlate with intelligence, but to actually utilise that, to tinker with the human gene pool, is ethically a very difficult and challenging topic," he said. "Scientifically, it's not something we know how to do." And Dr Collins said that even if it were possible to augment intelligence - for example with a pill to raise it - it would potentially create a great divide between "who has access and who does not". "If this is a particular approach which is very expensive and only available to people with lots of resources, then what have you done? You've created a divide in an already divided world. That is a very dangerous and troubling outcome, which I think we should guard against”.’ BBC, 2006

‘The brain and body are part of the same system. If the brain, responding to psychological stress, stimulates the release of cortisol and cortisol suppresses the reactivity of the immune system, then a dormant viral infection may well flare up, or a new one catch hold. The symptoms may indeed be physical and the causes psychological. If a disease affects the brain and alters the mood, the causes may be physical and the symptoms psychological…Poor old Rene Descartes usually gets the blame for the dualism that has dominated western thinking… [But] there is a far greater fallacy we commit…If genes are involved in behaviour then it is they that are the cause and they that are deemed immutable. This is a mistake made not just be genetic determinists, but by their vociferous opponents…They forget that genes need to be switched on, and external events – of free-willed behaviour – can switch on genes. Far from us being at the mercy of our omnipotent genes, it is often our genes which are at the mercy of us.’ Matt Ridley, Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters, Fourth Estate, 2000

You came smiling

Another for my boy, Comrie

You came smiling into the world,

dormouse-curled, flushing pink -

blood unfurling in welcoming red

veins under the small hurting stars;

your cry more like first birdsong,

a wild creature not yet knowing

itself human, than any yearning

for returned dark. Now apart –

beating alone; waternaut unplugged,

in a new element, brilliant and light.

Chinese eyes reconnoitring dazzle,

a curious alien presence, appeared.

You came pre-wired for play -

satisfaction, education; content

with a toy or two, grass and flowers.

The art of sleeping already learned -

connected empathetically to the hearts

of others - their tears. Music, laughter

pre-recorded in organic harp cords –

umistakeable happiness shoots seen,

like first green snowdrop breaths -

already planted in your fresh earth;

coldest north wind barely ruffling

your ethereal white dandelion hair.

And even you were given beauty -

obvious as a Fairy Godmother’s gift;

one of those fairy babies - seemingly

brought from another realm, exuding

fleshly radiance, internal light lingering;

luminous even in the dark arms of night.

So you were easy to cuddle, hug, love,

and so more cuddled, hugged, loved -

even by nursery workers, total strangers -

the self-fulfilling equation caring nothing

for fairness, advantage; such inequality.

How could we deserve this abundance -

to see just once, the Universe’s perfect face -

only glimpsed for a moment before in a rose,

sunset, grand romance; now shown, embodied

in adapted code - culled from both our bodies -

these cups and cups of living blood, our passion;

expression of love’s principle in flesh, new eyes.

Yes, we have loved you; encouraged, listened,

supported you; so many million kisses printed

on your face like spiritual apple shine. But before

all that - the good fortune of a happy life and love;

no matter our efforts, our contribution -

I know you came into the world smiling.

‘Are You Born Brainy? Intelligence tests have been involved in the promotion of eugenics, the idea that you could control the human race by selective breeding. Francis Galton - one of the pioneers of intelligence tests - was also a founding member of the Eugenics Society in the UK. The belief that intelligence is biologically determined in the make-up of the brain, and therefore to some extent genetically determined, is widely accepted. But a number of researchers over the years have used this idea to advocate social change. Using intelligence as one of their factors, Hernstein and Murray's controversial book, The Bell Curve (1994) argued that differences in IQ scores between racial groups reflect innate biological differences. The Bell Curve is a graph that plots the range of IQ scores of an average population. However, it can be interpreted in many ways, and when the intelligence of the whole human race is in question, the stakes are high. Critics argue that the way intelligence is measured contains a high level of random variation and therefore it's impossible to generalise it all into one graph. However, belief in the Bell Curve and in the genetic, rather than social, basis for intelligence has unfortunately led to the propagation of many racist ideas. Evidence to suggest social factors are important in 'intelligence' is strong. The US military tested recruits to assign rank and found that black applicants scored lower than whites. However, analysis of the recruits were found to be due to educational differences; black recruits scored very low until the 1950s, when an increase in score corresponded to improved educational standards for all.’ BBC Science online, UK, 2004

‘US researchers believe they have identified the parts of the human genome involved in developing a person's intelligence. This means scientists could soon test the potential intelligence of new-born babies. The discovery has been seized on by some on the Right who claim it backs their view that the way people turn out depends more on the genes with which they are born rather than on the schools they attend. Others have warned the discovery gives succour to those parents who would wish to improve their children through genetic engineering. The researchers, working for the US National Institutes of Health, analysed the DNA of 200 of the brightest kids in America and compared them with the genetic material from ordinary children. The results are due out next year, but the BBC Newsnight programme has learned that key differences have been found. In other words, the scientists are homing in on the genes for genius. The team believe more than one gene is involved - and that these genes can make a big difference to a person's intelligence. The research was led by Professor Robert Plomin. "I think we need to recognise that genetic influences are important and that we will find genes for intelligence," he told the BBC. "Each may account for a small piece of the action, but together they give us a significant source of prediction for intelligence." The next step will be to discover what these genius genes do. One theory is that they help make nerve cells. They help transmit signals, our thoughts if you like, from one part of the brain to another.’ Pallab Ghosh, 2000

‘In spring 1998, Robert Plomin claimed to have discovered a gene linked with intelligence. More recently, the Human Genome Project is cautious when approaching areas implying racial differences since research actually shows greater genetic differences within races than between races. However, not all individuals are endowed with the same intelligence and many believe this must have something to do with our genes and the way they interact with the environment. Identical twins are more likely to obtain the same score in an IQ test than twins from two separate eggs that have a different genetic make up. It is important to remember that genes work by interacting with the environment, so social factors will also influence intelligence. Intelligence tests may be more of an assessment of social factors, such as your educational background. Black children adopted into white middle class families score significantly higher on average than those in working class families - implying a cultural slant to tests. It is impossible to devise questions without some cultural or gender bias; boys tend to do better in spatial tests whereas girls score higher on linguistic tests. Better schooling, parenting and increased leisure time for activities are believed to have influenced improved IQ scores across the board. Good nutrition means an individual is able to function well both physically and mentally. Although many believe this plays a role in intelligence, it is very difficult to assess. A balanced diet will provide all the foods required to maintain the correct balance of neurotransmitters.’ BBC Science online, UK

Such bright shuffling

Such bright shuffling in the secret dark - latent currents -

sparks, arcane messages; such subtle wiring, connection,

spidering, sparkling - webbing, jumping. Such dancing!

The brain is the undug treasure of mankind; amazing bowl

of thought and love - source of cruelty, compassion, skill -

intelligence, doubt, faith. Such a cauldron! Such a mixture!

Genes and electricity; blood, juice, nerves and cushioning fluids.

Endless activity, never ever stopping - even in sleep – in dreams;

phantasms, solutions, premonitions, augurs, loves, fears - sexual

activity, genitalia-free, (sometimes, someone you wouldn’t even

partner at tennis or never ever fancied at school). Looking, small,

ugly, unprepossessing, more like food - than god-like in capacity;

stalk, florets – clearly haunted by the vegetable ghost - illustration

of the white cauliflower which stayed where it was in the Genome.

Such adaptation, change, power, complexity; character expounding

from manipulated lips - enclosing the words of the heart as hostage.

It can pick up a pin with wired arms, send theories to little prickling

fingers waiting at the page - hypotheses to skip the unseen heavens;

calculations on the fiery hearts of planets only possible in the mind -

already cold and dead, their light travelling as a smile through space;

equations recorded in a code evolved that will write a universe down.


It can mike up the moving mouth - send flowers forth, kind words -

intimate with the whole twinkling Genome’s warm flesh mannequin;

from its dark ship, two pilot lights steering, observing or exchanging.

Gathering in hothouse spheres; emailing fizzing sparks,

glowing with bright communication - bubbling beneath

what looks like light in our eyes, as sparks in a diagram;

ear-shells hearing chattering voices of sleepless brain -

even in blots of silence; overpowering voice of bigger

me, overriding gossip, prittle-prattle, bursting bubbles,

idle chat - giggling at the dull, mundane task of sorting,

storing, giving to charity; burning, framing, displaying;

laying at white altars, where no years, nor time can dust

such inspiration to the floor - mind stars, mental suns.

How it hatches symbols, signs within vegetable folds,

weaving into particular shapes - such stories it makes;

such serendipities, luck, grace - such hexing, hope.

Whirring like crickets, inexhaustible, unless upset -

unless broken, chemicals disturbed, bad interaction;

starved, over-connecting, blowing out, collapsing -

bleeding, chemical catastrophe - madness flooding

the very foundations; crazy, marathon jig of genius,

dragging a man to glorious tunes - weak, praying,

rejoicing in different measure - exhilerated, afraid;

feeling atoms collide, lightning strike - that circuit,

hurting circuit, umbilical shooting wire; silver,

burning, where pain and pleasure wipe - before

necessity, vision, unalterable heavenly message;

urge to exist among life’s brimming creatures,

Earth presentations of subliminal codes, snug

in the dark heart of potential existence. Light

known to be and understood, as the eye is made -

Nature reminding regally of her authority, of her

endless passion of Motherhood, artistic principle,

connections; how the brain in a white skull cave

is never left alone - built from ever-striving earth,

coagulation of word, water, light over sticky time,

can never be alone, for one energy binds us.

We spill, are spilled, in the greater cauldron;

spilled out upon mystery - gathered in tides.

Our heart, it says, is rose and muscle - asking

why it is root-red, blood-blue, alarming scarlet

to shock - why it will kill itself, sicken, expire -

lay down these buzzing white molecules,

the golden blood-honey hive, for another.

How this can make any sense? Evolution

with filaments so absolutely wired - we’re told,

for survival of the self; slave of supreme genes,

inhabiting their dear, transient, tender creature -

so gorgeously bizarre, tears are caused -

synapses prickling webs of speckle-stars;

puzzling at the mystery – beauty of itself.

‘A report from the Royal Society also warned that it is likely to be at least 15 to 20 years before a patient’s genetic make-up is a major factor in determining which drugs they are prescribed (known as ‘pharmacogenetics’) because so many complex genetic and environmental factors are usually involved.’ Genewatch, 2006

‘The Medical Research Council (MRC) today welcomed the publication of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics’ report, Genetics and Human Behaviour. Professor Sir George Radda, Chief Executive of the Medical Research Council, said: “Poor mental health, serious behavioural disorders and mild learning difficulties can present significant problems for medical, educational and social services, and cause a great deal of suffering for the people affected and their families and friends.“Research in behavioural genetics can provide pieces of the scientific jigsaw which have been unavailable until now. While such research needs to be guided by open ethical debate, and individual projects need rigorous independent review, we believe that scientific projects in this area should be seen as an integral part of modern psychological research.” The MRC’s overall strategy for supporting research into mental illness and behavioural disorders seeks to develop research centres and teams which explore the interaction between environmental and genetic factors.A key part of the strategy has been the formation of the MRC Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Research Centre at the Institute of Psychiatry which is at the leading edge of MRC’s work in this area.’ Medical Research Council, 2002

Mad is the same kind of word as ghost, spirit, witch, nymph

‘Mad’ is the same kind of word as ghost, spirit, kelpie,

witch, nymph - and so on - belonging to that colourful

throng, when what we really mean is a man’s behaviour

affected - deranged by chemical imbalance in the brain;

no more his fault than a broken leg - or diabetes, cancer.

When you were mad, people fled, literally; primaeval

fear pursuing them - some people didn’t like our use

of the word ‘mad’ - shorthand like soul for a concept;

but more romantic at least. Then we reclaimed ‘loony’

like ‘nigger’ - tapping the power of derogatory terms,

because the word is quite funny, related to lovely ‘lunatic’,

which shines blackly - something of weird Moon beauty.

And it seems superstition rightly stays around this illness,

because my hairs did stand on end; you seemed possessed,

inhabited by someone who wasn’t you, we gave a name to,

who had squeezed you out somewhere - maybe safe in Heaven.

You were genuinely scary, changed; I remember your eye-light

turned ballbearing colour, exactly that strange shade, white and

colour gone - something terrible afflicting the original star-light

of an eye; you were in chemical cloud, because all that old stuff

can enter a sick brain, spill out where genes have stuffed their cupboards

full of such things - you could see demons, you said, and I believed you.

Your skin was hot to touch - you said you were fire - if anyone touched,

they would be burned. And that was true; I did burn. See, metaphors can

live - walk, if strong enough. You could create fire, you said, suggesting

a test among cold autumn bonfires of burning red leaves; but when they

hit you on the head with a chemical hammer, the blinds that had opened

came down - demons scarpered - leaves dimmed into embers; went out –

cracks in the world, the Universe - where other things had come and gone

I can’t mention yet, sealed up; except the cigarette I watched drop through

the dark border pattern of an antique Eastern carpet never came back,

is probably smoking somewhere still. And being ‘nuts’ is a whole lot

funnier when you say it like that; laugh – go on - at some of the stuff -

carrying carrots, pressing those exquisite bottles of old French brandy

on bewildered alcoholics in London gutters; as why, compassion asks,

should they drink cheap booze when already so afflicted. Or nearly being

sacrificed in a temple in India - ha, ha - not many people can say that, eh?

beaten with ceremonial sticks, but rescued and washed by a kind stranger -

so you can be glad for that intervention, tenderness and bread; compassion.

Because it’s how you interpret what happens that makes all the difference -

if you live - don’t kill yourself for shame - causing fear in others’ eyes;

crucifiction of light in those whom you love. Just as other studies show

much of our ordinary happiness comes down to personal interpretation -

analysis of life occurrences - because it’s not some pot of psychological

gold; lounging rich, thin, gorgeous, famous, lauded. Just be loved; loved

above all. Though still rushing after the rainbow - listening to leprechauns,

when over and over life keeps on repeating - love, love, is all; without this,

nothing else is worth having. All proof ignored - stars and celebrities wiped

out by their own success misaligned. Frustrating species, remaining ingenue,

even those thought sane - the same brain that forms the growing truth - seed,

branch, tree; these luscious fruits of age - lush truths you can get hold of;

squeeze for their sweet and bittersweet juice - our genetic lessons in love.

Toughest and loveliest, written in strings of silver DNA; tested, stretched,

interwoven in emotional messes no one will ever untangle - writing plays

meaningful enough to sustain love; even in the dark Kingdom of Madness.

‘Nature or nurture? Science is unravelling how genes influence behaviour. The human genetic sequence will allow researchers to make rapid progress in understanding the relationship between genes and behaviour. The finding that we have far fewer genes than expected suggests that environmental influences play a greater role in our development than was previously thought. Understanding how a relatively small number of genes translates into the incredible complexity of a human being will be one of the challenges of the future. Researchers are predicting that the data will unlock some of the secrets of how genes influence behaviour. But they warn against headline-making claims that a given gene can be the cause of crime, homosexuality or even sporting brilliance. Dr Craig Venter, the leader of the private effort to decode the human genome, said genetic determinism, the idea that a person is controlled by their genes, was a fallacy. "There are two fallacies to be avoided," Dr Venter's team write in the journal Science. "Determinism, the idea that all characteristics of a person are 'hard-wired' by the genome; and reductionism, that now the human sequence is completely known, it is just a matter of time before our understanding of gene functions and interactions will provide a complete causal description of human variability." One area where the study of genes is expected to have an impact is in identifying mental disorders with genetic roots, perhaps reducing the stigma of conditions such as depression or schizophrenia. Researchers are also closing in on stretches of genetic code that may make an individual more vulnerable to developing drug or alcohol addiction.’ BBC Science, 2001

‘Genes may determine how many cigarettes a smoker gets through each day, claims a European Respiratory Journal report. Researchers at Keio University in Japan say that the regularity of smokers’ cravings is fixed by the speed at which nicotine breaks down in the blood. The breakdown is caused by a blood enzyme, CYP2A6. People with different genes have different levels of the enzyme, and blocking the enzyme’s production could cut smokers’ cravings.’ The Times, 2006


Frost prints my living breath in winter air -

moving blue spirits of my life’s red fire; as

ghosts are prints of death, negative and cold.

I miss my cigarette’s autumn smoke - spiral-

motion fumes - the psychology of exhalation;

horsey snort of it - wizard-skill, dragon-blow.

Those wobbling, sighing wreathes - purpley rings

like spell-skins - simple souls unhinged, released -

lost, wandering, until emaciated to vanishing point.

I miss the Victorian feel of my dull brass tobacco tin,

thumb-rubbed golden lighter, with a fingerpad shine;

fluttery white papers, thin as milk - gunpowder smell

of Scottish Bluebells, (still blue), shoogling in 1930s

boxes; their tiny explosions - romantic flare of a face.

Soldierly rows of neat cigarettes, freshly at attention -

all waiting for me. Or shaggy dark golden hair of expert

roll-ups, (I made the best skinny spliffs anyone had seen;

elegant, skilful, as well as pretty, economical, incendiary).

I miss the soothing illusion of calm - satisfaction, peace.

Being thin. How strange the breath of life to be hijacked

by death, seduced by a cool, blatant shadow - early death.

I would have paid my last special penny for that skull

and crossbones pack - the drunks in the gutter; junkies

stealing money from mothers’ purses, are my brothers

and sisters in genes; just among different circumstance,

experiences - and expectation. And what stops me now

is the thought of that torture, empty black hole opening

in my stomach, heart; needing cigarette smoke

and nothing else - no other substance, element,

entity, to fill, stop that agony, suffering. I was

a drug-baby, unable to suck. I remember how I became

a restless, living spirit, abroad in this everyday world –

but wickedly disturbed; tormented, racked and tortured,

like those naked and bound enemies left to the midgies

by Highlanders’ wrath. I found I had all the willpower

of snowflakes on a warm summer day, but ridiculously

expected to act as a normal person - with a dumb screaming

going on inside, my mouth not allowed to shout - on and on

until foul gum shut it up five minutes at a time; still hunting

my old pockets, sofa bowels, locking our own door;

I needed my lips sewn up, like morbidly obese guts,

lay weeping on the rug like a gasping fish desperate

for sea, water for my lungs - waiting for some slow closing,

brain gates they say addiction in the genetically vulnerable

opens up; such agonising creaking, rustily grating, torture -

how long passed before peace, food enjoyed not endured;

lonely wine. Though the wired pathway healed, would be

triggered in neon - re-opened instantly, with just one puff.

I knew it was genetic

There, I knew it was genetic, nothing to do with me;

I was a just victim of my own addictive nature, see,

I only looked once at a cigarette -

And my awful fate was sealed, set;

My fingers only rolled the one,

Then instantly, tobacco by the tonne.

But even if I die of cancer,

There’s something that requires an answer –

Is there anything worse than an amateur smoker?

Who acts cool like a smoker but is only a joker?

The kind that has five just when they’re ‘out drinking’ -

Usually yours, which they selfishly rob without thinking,

Then smoke none for the rest of the time -

No nicotine fingers, yellow teeth, the slime;

No smoking fifty late at night,

Cocktails of Camel, Silk Cut, Marlboro Light,

Then having to crunch Polos for your breath -

Because they’re so worried about a hideous death.

(And by the way, Polos are quite addictive too,     

Also need flushing down the loo).

Have they ever dried out broken, floating fags?

Tabbies stuck to an applecore - or used teabags?

It’s not just smoking in public that should be banned,

But amateur smokers - put them head first in buckets of sand,

Until they start to get the message, change their ways -

The one who smokes is the one who pays -

Smoke properly and feel the fear - run the risks or not at all,

Playing at smoking isn’t clever, smug gits making us feel small -

If you’re not seriously prone to addiction,

Just stay out of the bloody cigarette kitchen!

Putting on weight is something the same, it’s clear -

One glimpse of a bun - three pounds on my rear,

Likewise crisps, really anything nice, especially chocolate,

To be born like that is very unfortunate -

If I even sniff a bottle of wine,

In comes that addictive nature of mine -

Persuaded a glass like a goldfish bowl

Equals just one unit in the weekly alcohol goal -

Whoever set that pathetic limit,

Was probably one of these people that eat millet;

What they classify as a binge,

Is enough to make a Scotsman cringe -

A ‘binge’ is what he calls a minor sociable frolic -

It seems everyone north of Hadrian’s wall is alcoholic.

But what can you do, hey, when it’s in your genes,

You’re faultless and powerless that’s what it means…

Though what’s the point in carrying on sighing,

It’s not fair, but eventually quitting excess is better than dying;

Now all I’ve got left to make my life worth living -

Is nicotine gum, some pish green tea; and carrots, hardly filling.

Help me Lord for I am genetically weak

Help me Lord for I am genetically weak -

Hopelessly drawn to cigarettes and booze,

That help me out when shy to schmooze,

And everyone else seems in a clique.

I’m not so bad about chocolate treats,

Whole packets of biscuits stuffed in my face -

Multi-packs, Family-size, Flakes at pace,

But pre-menstrual, that too - buns and sweets.

But anxious, oversensitive - a wee bit plump,

I’d rather be me than those self-controlled creeps,

Who only drink water (bottled) - eat broccoli, neeps,

Though ‘spose it’ll be me that ends up a great lump.


No wonder the Lord is truly forgiving,

He knows it’s tough, this business of living -

He sees the mixture in the genes,

And being omniscient knows what this means -

You can try your best to be really good,

And do those things you really should,

Eat fruit and vegetables, just lean meat,

Drink gallons of water, (no mean feat),

Run hundreds of miles, go to the gym,

Don’t watch TV when you could go for a swim -

No smoking, no drinking, at least not to excess -

(Drinking less than your granny is all they’ll bless).

No gossip, no vengeance, no lack of forgiveness -

See, being a Christian is a challenging business;

But here is a parachute, spiritual loophole -

It’s the genes that play with us - like a football.

They make us turn out the way we do -

Well, we may be influenced by nurture too,

But who cares about that when science is sure,

We shouldn’t get blamed for being weak – or poor;

And what’s not in the genes, not their entire fault,

We can blame on parents, teachers, the whole damn lot.

And once you’ve been round every other sod,

If made in His image, there’s always God...

Note from the author
exploring the project

    Gene Story
    Romantic Science
    Some Special Genes
        The Art of Cloning
        Hello Dolly
        The World’s First
        Celebrity Sheep
        Human Cloning
        Nature & Nurture
    X & Y

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