10.0789 humane technology

WILLARD MCCARTY (willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk)
Wed, 19 Mar 1997 09:42:43 +0000 (GMT)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 10, No. 789.
Center for Electronic Texts in the Humanities (Princeton/Rutgers)
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
Information at http://www.princeton.edu/~mccarty/humanist/

[1] From: MNIELSEN34@aol.com (25)
Subject: Re: 10.0780 humane technology

[2] From: Jascha Kessler <jkessler@ucla.edu> (27)
Subject: Re: 10.0780 humane technology

Date: Mon, 17 Mar 1997 13:46:49 -0500 (EST)
From: MNIELSEN34@aol.com
Subject: Re: 10.0780 humane technology

Dr. McCarty (& other seminar members) -

Thank you, first off, for the tips about the Raymond Tallis and B.
Holtzman-Kevles books reviewed in the Times Literary Supplement. I may find
these sources very helpful in my own work. Also -- and please pardon my
inexperience in this realm of research and literary criticism -- it was not
clear to me whether you were referring to a supplement to a European "Times"
or whether the review is in the New York Times. Please clarify if possible.

Secondly, I have a comment regarding your (or Tallis') assertion that
"Science and humanity, kindness and cure, can work hand in hand." While in
principle, I wholeheartedly agree with this philosophy as one that can
humanely guide medical research and technology, I need to make a distinction
between long-term ideals and realistic daily practice in the field of
medicine. Politically and theologically speaking, I find it hard to believe,
even if science and humanity *can* work hand in hand, that they actually will
on a consistent basis.

The modern -- at least modern American -- developments in medicine are driven
very much by profit-motive. I see history's lessons as teaching us that
profit-motive -- among other problems that it raises -- too often runs
counter to the needs of the majority of any population. Though it may sound
crass and shallow, as a Christian and a bit of a Marxist I feel most of us
would be "better off dead" than subjected to the whims of the scientfic and
economic juggernaut that is modern medicine. In short, the time is upon us
when we must ask: How far is too far?

For a cogent analysis of some of these ethical/theological problems -- one
not colored by the recent New Age influences -- I recommend "The
Technological Bluff" by Jacques Ellul (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1990).

Date: Tue, 18 Mar 1997 11:10:44 -0800
From: Jascha Kessler <jkessler@ucla.edu>
Subject: Re: 10.0780 humane technology

Dear Willard and readers:
At the risk of ultimate oversimplification, I would observe that from
what I understand of (Freudian) psychology, it might be possible to suggest
that the antagonism and "resistance" to technology in its medical forms,
and it has been technology since the first herbs were gathered and used,
whether as poultice or brew, or steamed for inhalation in some cave, arises
from anxiety, and that anxiety itself ( a difficult thing to describe and
analyzed as Freud noted long ago in THE PROBLEM OF ANXIETY) arises from the
fundamental human nature of narcissism. That is, the integrity of the body
itself, as protected by the mind that observes itself violated. The infant
itself demonstrates this from the moment of its birth, both the fear of
being touched to be cleaned, and the relief subsequent upon that. What
comes from outside the skin is fearsome, fearful, and a potential danger.
Resistance to any treatment is a form of attack upon oneself, and the
instrument that attacks, that cuts and wounds is something alien and often
novel. That is not to mention the invisible attackers that Pasteur
discovered: germs. And we know how vaccination itself has had a a
difficult history from the start. All that is easily extended to the new,
and the newfangled instruments that attack us, our minds, our habits, our
ways of seeing and doing ordinary things. The original Luddite is perhaps
the ID itself. But, as we are species dependent upon prostheses from the
hour of birth, clothing and whatever else it takes to get food and shelter,
etc., we are both impelled to invent new ones, and anxious about their
effects on ourselves.
Jascha Kessler

Jascha Kessler
Professor of English & Modern Literature, UCLA
Telephone/Facsimile: (310) 393-4648