Recently, an old and very dear never-Mormon friend died following a few weeks in hospital after the late discovery of last stage cancer. She was content, had lived a full life and was in her eighties. A short service, led by a nondenominational female minister I have seen conduct several such services, was held at the local crematorium. It was handled well and kind words were spoken. Naturally, there were a couple of scripture readings, hymns and set prayers. One hymn was ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’ and it struck me how we are indoctrinated from a very young age by such hymns (at least here in the UK where we sang it regularly in school assembly from my age five). We are thankful to a god for all the beautiful things listed in the hymn. They are beautiful of course and the hymn is lovely. But there were two problems for me as we once again sang it.
The first was that I knew my friend didn’t actually believe in any god. I am not sure if her family were fully aware or not and she was such a sweet lady that I am sure she didn’t mind them planning a low key Christian service at all. She may even have chosen the hymns herself. In any event, the service certainly helped those attending to cope with their grief. And, of course, everyone expects to have a funeral – it’s tradition. No one seems to realise that it is only one option. I don’t like the idea at all – so I am not going to have one. My wife and I have donated our bodies to London University for medical research. They will collect our cadavers when the time comes and when they are finished with them, probably several years later, any remains will simply be cremated without ceremony. It is a personal choice to help the next generation of medical students along their way.
The second problem for me was the fact that whilst a god is credited with all the ‘beautiful’ things (lovable life forms and pretty scenery) that he supposedly designed and created, he is never credited with – let alone held to account for – all the ‘not so nice’ life forms, geological and meteorological events that constantly afflict humans. Why is there no mention of the many horrible things that, if a god created this planet and all life upon it, are equally his responsibility? We don’t like to think about them, or of god actually ‘creating’ them, as there is no logical reason for him to have done so. It many cases it could be considered an extremely evil thing to do – so we ignore the problem instead of facing it and holding god accountable – but the fact is that if he is real, then he is culpable.
It seemed ironic that I had recently been thinking about this very hymn and had composed parallel verses in order to create balance to the supposed truth about his ‘creation’ of all life. I had not intended to share it but this experience has now prompted me to do so. Some may consider it a parody but it is not intended to be. It is in fact an equal and opposite statement of some of the facts about this god’s work that must also be considered, if he is real, and it is time he stood up and was counted for ‘All Things’ – bright and beautiful or not.
All Things Dark And Miserable.
(For Which God Is Also Culpable, Responsible, And Accountable).
All things dark and miserable,
All stingers great and small,
All things cruel and noxious,
The Lord God made them all. (Chorus).
Each little bug that kills us,
Each killer wasp that stings,
He made their evil natures,
The suffering that each brings.
Volcanoes spewing lava,
Tsunami’s on their way,
Thousands are in mourning,
More dying every day;
Viral infections and bacteria,
Skin cancer from the sun,
The diseases and the venoms,
He made them every one;
And the parasitic worm, **
Are just a few examples,
To make your stomach turn;
The Loa loa (eye) worm, ***
Inflicts excruciating pain,
How cruel is God Almighty,
What did he have to gain?
All things dark and miserable,
All stingers great and small,
All things cruel and noxious,
The Lord God made them all.
Copyright © Jim Whitefield 2013
If God created all life on Earth (great and small), then he also created these, along with many more, not so nice or even remotely useful life forms. Yet, God is never credited with any of them – especially in hymns. There are many things not to be grateful for at all; yet they are all God’s very own ‘creations’.
This is Leucochloridium paradoxum. No, not the snail. The thing in its eyes.
The parasite starts its life as an egg that is found in bird droppings. A grazing Succinea snail will come across the droppings and ingest it. The egg hatches and the L. paradoxum finds its way to the snail’s hepatopancreas*. The parasite builds up brood nests in the eye stalks of the snail, as shown in the picture. This makes the eyestalks look like caterpillars. This behaviour has resulted in them earning the common name, Green-banded Broodsac.
The parasite also takes control of the snail’s brain. It makes the snail, which usually lives in the shade, attracted to sunlight. The snail comes out into the open. At this point, the snail’s eyestalks look like pulsating caterpillars sitting on a leaf. Dinner for the birds. After the bird eats the snail’s eyestalks, they get infected by the L. paradoxum, which proceeds to lay eggs in the rectum of their new hosts. These eggs make their way out of the bird in their droppings and the cycle begins again.
*Hepatopancreas – The snail equivalent of a liver/pancreas.
More details. Leucochloridium paradoxum.
See a video: Zombie snails.
** Parasitic worms. From the ‘All Science All The Time’ (facebook) page:
5 Most Horrific Parasitic Worms
Loathed wherever they go, parasitic worms are some of the animal kingdom’s true lowlifes. They feed off living hosts, sapping them of energy and nutrients while causing a range of horrible diseases. After worming their way into people’s lives, particularly in developing countries, these suckers can lie undetected for months or even years. They just take, take, take, and when they reveal themselves, gracious me, are they hideous creatures to lay your eyes on! We’ve picked five of the worst known to eat us humans from the inside out.
While living in its host’s gut, the Hookworm lodges its well developed, toothy mouth into the intestinal lining and voraciously begins sucking out blood. This thirsty vampire drinks so much of the red stuff that there is a serious risk of anaemia caused by iron deficiency. Rashes, nausea and diarrhoea are among the symptoms those infected by Hookworm can expect, though part of the danger lies in the fact that its damage is so insidious and easy to miss.
As larva, the Hookworm forces entry by burrowing into its host’s skin, usually through bare feet, and from there it travels through the body to the intestine, at which point it grows into an adult worm. Although all but eradicated in America’s South, where it infected a large proportion of the population during the early 20th century, the Hookworm remains a major threat to children in the tropics, causing retarded growth as well as cognitive and intellectual impairment. As many as 740 million individuals are thought to be infected by Hookworm today.
2. Ascaris (I suggest you NOT do a google image search for this one!*)
A larger cousin of the Hookworm, Ascaris is a giant sized roundworm that can reach as long as 40cm, as opposed to little over 1cm. It too sets up shop in its host’s small intestine, using its characteristic mouth, which is surrounded by three less than luscious lips.
Ascaris is in fact the parasite most familiar to us humans, though the fact that up to 25% percent of the world’s population is infected certainly doesn’t make it any more welcome in our bowels. Sickness, fever, and heavy infestations with severe intestinal blockages kill up to 20,000 people a year.
Like the Hookworm, the Ascaris likes warm, damp conditions with poor hygiene, and is a particularly severe pain in the backside for young people. Yet while the larva of Ascaris’ smaller relative tends to penetrate the skin of prospective hosts, infection in this case occurs through consuming food contaminated with faeces containing Ascaris eggs. The larva then hatches and migrates through the gut and respiratory system, before eventually being re-swallowed and allowed to mature, anchored snugly to the intestinal wall. The female Ascaris may then lay hundreds of thousands of eggs a day.
3. Guinea Worm (*or this one).
Another elongated roundworm of ill repute, the Guinea Worm is one of the best documented of human parasites – and at around a meter in length, as thick as a spaghetti noodle, and with some decidedly unsavoury habits, it’s easy to see why. When humans drink stagnant water contaminated with this nasty blighter’s eggs, it eventually gives rise to a slender, fulsome female Guinea Worm that burrows its way along to the arms or more likely the legs. There it assumes a position under the skin, before boring its way out through a blister that brings excruciating pain to the unfortunate host.
The burning sore often leads the afflicted individual to dunk their limb in cool water, much to the delight of the Guinea Worm, which proceeds to release hundreds of thousands of larvae, infecting the water supply and starting the cycle all over again. Meanwhile, the host must wind the Guinea worm around a stick and slowly tease it out over several agonising, debilitating weeks.
Still, it’s better to endure the ghastly Guinea Worm hanging there, for if it breaks apart it is more likely to cause a potentially fatal infection. Despite efforts to eradicate it, largely through education, this remains one strand of evolutionary adaptation that definitely gets too close to the bone.
Typically 3-5m long, this odious form of parasitic flatworm can grow to over 12m in some situations – situations that usually involve the digestive tracts of humans, livestock or other animals. Armed with powerful suckers and revolting teeth, the Tapeworm hunkers down and grows. And grows.
Despite its size, the common Beef Tapeworm is not especially dangerous: it can by avoided by having your steak well done, and its symptoms are limited to sickness and intestinal obstruction. Not so with its cousin Echinococcus…
An Echinococcus, like the Hyper Tapeworm, carries with it a rather nasty surprise in the shape of hydatid disease. This occurs when the Tapeworm eggs are ingested in fecal-contaminated food, and the embryos take a ride in the bloodstream to hook themselves onto an organ like the lungs or liver. There, they grow into hydatid cysts, which act as a nursery for the next generation of Tapeworm larva – but which, less maternally, also put pressure on the host’s organs, and can cause shock if they rupture. These large, potentially fatal cysts need to be surgically removed.
5. Filarial Worm
Last but not least – although it may actually be the most microscopic of the bunch – meet the Filarial Worm, another repugnant roundworm, and one with a rather remarkable life cycle allied to some pretty gruesome costs. Once injected into its host by that harbinger of disease and destruction, the mosquito, this threadlike little horror needles its way into its host’s lymphatic system, where it lodges itself and can cause blockages. This in turn may lead to elephantiasis, a grotesque swelling of the skin and tissue usually in the limbs. The Filarial Worm is thought to be one of the world’s leading causes of disability.
One of the things that makes the Filarial Worm so ingenious, as well as so abhorrent, is the way in which it has so successfully perpetuated its population over thousands of years. What’s so special? Well, after the Filarial larva has been born in the lymphatic system, it slowly migrates to the lungs, where it rests by day, only to move to the peripheral blood vessels by night, in anticipation of being sucked up by a thirsty mosquito. Thus the cycle is kept going. Recently, we humans have stepped up our efforts to eliminate this crippling critter, but until that day the Filarial Worm looks set to remain among the diminutive big hitters that are parasitic worms.
Almost one in six people worldwide are infected by parasitic worms, while parasitic infections of livestock cause economic losses of billions of Euro per year. Resistance to the few drugs available to treat infections is increasing and there is an urgent need to identify additional strategies to control parasitic diseases. A new study by Martina Ondrovics and colleagues at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna describes a rational approach to identifying proteins that might be involved in the larval development of a particular worm that infects pigs.
***Eye worm, (species Loa loa), common parasite of humans and other primates in central and western Africa, a member of the phylum Nematoda. It is transmitted to humans by the deerfly, Chrysops (the intermediate host), which feeds on primate blood. When the fly alights on a human victim, the wormlarva drops onto the new host’s skin and burrows underneath. The larva migrates through the bloodstream, commonly locating in the eye or in other tissues just under the skin. The adult worm is 3–6 cm (1.2–2.4 inches) long. The movement of the worm beneath the skin may cause itching or sometimes swellings as large as a hen’s egg.
Within the human host the adult female worm produces large numbers of microscopic, active embryos called microfilariae, which enter the host’s blood or lymph vessels. Some of these are ingested by a deerfly as it sucks blood and, after about two weeks, complete a series of growth stages. As infective larvae, they move to the insect’s proboscis to await an opportunity to transfer to a new human host.
(Source: Encyclopaedia Britannica).
Millions of animals suffer and die terrible deaths every day as they are torn apart and eaten alive by other animals. Many creatures suffer excruciating pain before they die due to the survival instincts and actions of others. You could question why any god would ‘design’ let alone create such creatures that use others to ensure their own survival in this manner… any caring human designing an animal kingdom would surely have made a far more humane job of it. Evolution explains the development of all life very well – things are as they are – but a god ‘designing’ such a system?
And finally (from the ‘Science is Awesome’ fb page), god made these:
Image shows four (dead) queen Vespa mandarinia. (Image credit).
Vespa mandarinia (Asian giant hornets) extend about 3.5 to 3.9 centimetres in length, and have an orange head with a black tooth used for burrowing. Swarms of the aggressive hornets have killed 42 people and injured 1,675 people in three cities in Shaanxi province in China since July. The hornets are in their autumn mating season, though the attacks could be caused by the unusually dry weather in the area.
Read more: Deadly giant hornets kill 42 people in China.
And the list of god’s unholy creations goes on and on and on… think about it.
[March 2014]: Since writing about ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’, I just discovered that Eric Idle also composed a similar set of verses (great minds think alike), and it was sung by the Monty Python team.
This is Eric’s version:
The Lord God Made Them All.
All things dull and ugly
All creatures short and squat
All things rude and nasty
The Lord God made the lot.
Each little snake that poisons
Each little wasp that stings
He made their brutish venom
He made their horrid wings.
All things sick and cancerous
All evil great and small,
All things foul and dangerous
The Lord God made them all.
Each nasty little hornet
Each beastly little squid
Who made the spiky urchin?
Who made the sharks? He did!
All things scabbed and ulcerous
All pox both great and small
Putrid, foul and gangrenous
The Lord God made them all.
—Composed by Eric Idle, sung by the Monty Python team.