David Attenborough: It’s amazing, the discoveries made in my lifetime. Have you heard of hox genes?
Andrew Denton: No. (Then didn’t pursue the matter.) [From an interview a few years ago.]
I’ve always rather liked Andrew Denton,
But I thought he missed a good chance then,
Given all the time I’ve spent on
Reading up scientific gen.
Attenborough was, I think, intent on
Expanding on genetics again.
But he never got the chance,
Imagine if he went on
To expound on the romance
Of thrilling new knowledge,
The untold immense expanse
Of science now, and the homage
Due to the science pioneers.
In many an institute and college
Through the last hundred years
Sensational finds have been made
In a multitude of spheres,
In biology, astronomy, a cascade
Of startling findings are now known:
The genetic code displayed,
It’s now been clearly shown
That all life on earth is kin,
That the earth’s a speck alone
In the vast cosmic dark within
Which a billion galaxies revolve.
Now, muons, gluons, quarks and their “spin”
Present more conundrums to solve,
With which quantum mechanics copes,
A mind-boggling topic, which might absolve
Us from getting up our feeble hopes
Ever to understand the subject.
But bear in mind this theory scopes
(In a way we couldn’t expect)
Devices like computers, lasers,
Which might induce us to respect
Physics findings in all their phases.
This torrent of discoveries
Which our whole cerebellum dazes
Might, too, indulge our reveries
That science knowledge might be liked,
Accepted not only by devotees
But by all, not spitefully spiked
By those whose vested interests clash.
Climate scientists have striven and hiked
A million miles to check and rehash
Their results, only to be vilified,
Traduced, by corporate cash
And their paid politicians, who lied.
But to Attenborough again!
He was clearly seeking to confide
Genetic secrets to us then,
Part of the amazing global survey
Since Crick and Watson, two young men,
Discovered the structure of DNA.
So much more is known now,
The genetic code, evolution’s way:
How a spider relates to a cow,
Fossils, the dinosaurs’ extinctions,
Continental drift, and how
Science makes true predictions.
The genetics Attenborough instructed
(Hox genes) lay out the directions
On which the body is constructed:
The head here, limbs there, as if planned,
In amazing detail conducted.
This evidence itself is grand,
The process fascinating too.
From the science we understand
More now about the “genome view”
Of which the hox genes form a part.
The genome is what makes you you,
What makes all creatures from the start.
And these discoveries have all been made
While Attenborough’s noble heart
Strove decade after decade
To illuminate nature’s broad domain.
Lately his temper’s been more frayed
By the deniers’ and doubters’ campaign.
His warnings are much stronger now
As his time ebbs, trying to explain
To his public they must not allow
Vested interests to dominate.
Too much is at stake, so disavow
The purblind before it is too late.
The urgency is still no less,
Attenborough’s vision still will rate.
I share his excitement at the progress
Of modern science, not to abate
His warnings on our present state.