Lives in Medicine

ANNOUNCEMENTS, 30 Sep 2019

John Scales Avery – TRANSCEND Media Service

A New Freely Downloadable Book

I would like to announce the publication of a book, which reviews the history of medicine through the lives and thoughts of some of the women and men who have contributed importantly to the field. The book covers developments from ancient times to the present, and modern topics, such as biosemiotics, cloning and theories of the origin of life are included. The book can be freely downloaded and circulated from the following link:

http://eacpe.org/app/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Lives-in-Medicine-John-Scales-Avery.pdf

Cultural History

We need to reform our educational systems, particularly the teaching of history. As it is taught today, history is a chronicle of power struggles and war, told from a biased national standpoint. We are taught that our own country is always heroic and in the right.

We urgently need to replace this indoctrination in chauvinism by a reformed view of history, where the slow development of human culture is described, giving credit to all who have contributed. When we teach history, it should not be about power struggles. It should be about how human culture was gradually built up over thousands of years by the patient work of millions of hands and minds. Our common global culture, the music, science, literature and art that all of us share, should be presented as a precious heritage – far too precious to be risked in a thermonuclear war.

Human nature has two sides: It has a dark side, to which nationalism and militarism appeal; but our species also has a genius for cooperation, which we can see in the growth of culture. Our modern civilization has been built up by means of a worldwide exchange of ideas and inventions. It is built on the achievements of many ancient cultures. China, Japan, India, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, the Islamic world, Christian Europe, and the Jewish intellectual traditions all have contributed. Potatoes, corn, squash, vanilla, chocolate, chilli peppers, and quinine are gifts from the American Indians.

Culture Is Cooperative, Not Competitive

Our modern civilization has been built on the achievements of all the peoples of the world throughout history. The true history of humanity is not the history of power struggles, conflicts, kings, dictators and empires. The true history of humanity is a history of ideas, inventions, progress, shared knowledge, shared culture and cooperation.

Our cultural heritage is not only immensely valuable; it is also so great that no individual comprehends all of it. We are all specialists, who understand only a tiny fragment of the enormous edifice. No scientist understands all of science. Perhaps Leonardo da Vinci could come close in his day, but today it is impossible. Nor do the vast majority people who use cell phones, personal computers and television sets every day understand in detail how they work. Our health is preserved by medicines, which are made by processes that most of us do not understand, and we travel to work in automobiles and buses that we would be completely unable to construct.

The sharing of scientific and technological knowledge is essential to modern civilization. The great power of science is derived from an enormous concentration of attention and resources on the understanding of a tiny fragment of nature. It would make no sense to proceed in this way if knowledge were not permanent, and if it were not shared by the entire world.

Science is not competitive. It is cooperative. It is a great monument built by many thousands of hands, each adding a stone to the cairn. This is true not only of scientific knowledge but also of every aspect of our culture, history, art and literature, as well as the skills that produce everyday objects upon which our lives depend. Civilization is not competitive. It is cooperative!

Lives in Medicine

With the aim of writing cultural history in mind, I have started to write a series of books about the lives of women and men who have contributed importantly to various fields. The completed books are:

Lives in Physics
Lives in Economics
Lives in Ecology
Lives in the Peace Movement

The present book, Lives in Medicine, is part of this series, and others are planned. I hope that they will make a small contribution to cultural history.

Other Books and Articles about Global Problems Are on These Links:

http://eacpe.org/about-john-scales-avery/

https://wsimag.com/authors/716-john-scales-avery

I hope that you will circulate the links (as well as the link at the start of this article) to friends who might be interested.

__________________________________________

John Scales Avery, Ph.D., who was part of a group that shared the 1995 Nobel Peace Prize for their work in organizing the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, is a member of the TRANSCEND Network and Associate Professor Emeritus at the H.C. Ørsted Institute, University of Copenhagen, Denmark. He is chairman of both the Danish National Pugwash Group and the Danish Peace Academy and received his training in theoretical physics and theoretical chemistry at M.I.T., the University of Chicago and the University of London. He is the author of numerous books and articles both on scientific topics and on broader social questions. His most recent books are Information Theory and Evolution and Civilization’s Crisis in the 21st Century (pdf).


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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 30 Sep 2019.

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