English: Photograph of Abraham Flexner (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Part 3 of “When the World Stopped Making Sense,” a continuing series within Thoughts from a Useless Eater–the podcast that seeks a better understanding of “the way things really are in the world,” from a Christian perspective.
In this segment, J.Q. Useless continues a multi-part examination of construct that he calls “material, middle-class fake rationality,” a way of looking at the world that was arguably promulgated to those in American society beginning with the post-World-War-II “baby boom” generation. It’s a worldview centered on ideas of naturalistic/scientific rationality, of a supposedly free-market economic system that allegedly operates according to a “fair set of rules,” and of a society with a social contract in which people who work hard and “play by the rules” can expect to be rewarded with a decent standard of living–a worldview in which the individual can rely on his or her own strengths under a social structure said to have been set up with the best interests of the individual in mind.
J.Q. continues the breakdown of this worldview into ten component parts, examining issues that point to the construct’s arguable invalidity and deceptiveness. As he discusses the third and fourth of the ten characteristics of the model, he touches on issues related to the rapid advances in the 20th century in medicine and technology, examining the extent to which these advances have lived up to their promise of being beneficial to the common man and the quality of life of the individual. Over the course of this discussion, J.Q. touches on The Flexner Report, a study sponsored by the Carnegie Foundation that was instrumental in changing medical education in the United States and by extension, the emergence of allopathic medicine (the pharmacology-oriented branch of medicine practised by those who hold the M.D. Degree) as the dominate mode of medical practice, at one point nearly extinguishing alternative approaches such as homoeopathic, holistic, chiropractic, and osteopathic medicine.
Critiques of the Flexner Report have not by any means been confined to the “fringe” or “conspiracy” realms. As a salient example, J.Q. discusses a retrospective analysis published in 2010 in The Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine. He then moves on to a key text from a more vociferous opponent of the Flexner Report and its impact on medicine: Emanuel M. Josephson, M.D., a New York City physician and author works viewed as central texts among many American conspiracy theorists, who alleges that Rockefeller and allied industrialists exploited the Flexner report’s findings to re-shape medicine to the benefit of the emerging pharmaceutical industry and, by extension, to the financial benefit of a monied elite as part of an ongoing effort to further consolidate power and influence.
The fourth characteristic of J.Q.’s model concerns the advances of science and technology and the almost religious faith the American middle class began to place in them. Through a mix of examples at the personal and societal level, J.Q. makes the case that this faith in science and technology had its peak in a period that began in the years following World War II in the United States but began to shatter some 25-30 years later as limitations, exposed through such developments as the emergence of drug-resistant infectious origins and insidious side effects of drugs whose introduction into the population may have been inappropriately accelerated for pecuniary motivations, and emerging questions about the efficacy and possible hazards of vaccines.
Thomas Duffy, M.D. “The Flexner Report – 100 Years Later.” The Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, 84(3), September 2011. Available at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3178858/.
Emanuel M. Josephson, M.D. Your Life is Their Toy: Merchants in Medicine. New York: Chedney Press, 1948. Available at http://www.amazon.com/Your-Life-Their-Toy-Merchants/dp/B0007EL4NQ.
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