Monday, October 25, 2010

On things that are not visible and science

The fox tells the Little Prince that

What is important is invisible to the eye; only with the heart one can see clearly.”

Ever since I was a child I have tried to live by that wise advice, sometimes forgetting those golden words. My first career choice was to be a Jesuit priest so that I could learn and study all my life and be of service to my fellowman. No doubt we all come to this Earth trailing stardust and tendencies of character and spirit. But, I gave up that career path when my hormones hit the fan.

As I grew older I settled for psychology, telling myself that everything about a person was a manifestation of the way a person saw the world. I did contemplate medicine as a child, but my impression of medicine was too idealistic; I thought a doctor should be the quintessential Renaissance person; yet, I did not see that quality in the few doctors that attended me and my family through our minor health problems.

In college I concluded that Psychology (at that time-the 70s) was a refuge for students and professors who needed to figure out their convoluted heads (I am told this has changed, now.) Disappointed, I went back to medicine, telling myself that I would do it my way, and seek to be that integrative thinker I idealized.

It has been an exhilarating ride with many ups and downs. The bottom line is that I feel called to the work I do. In it, I have shunned material things, including the Hummer my mother tells me I should buy every time she sees me arrive at her trailer in my used Jeep Wrangler. So, I guess that in a way I have lived a simple, Jesuit-like life, committed to the things that cannot be seen.

Navigating the world of science has not been easy with these feelings. Often I have run into brick walls built by scientists whose left brains seemed over-developed at the expense of their right brain. Seeking to understand the great work those scientists do (it’s part of my job,) I have delved into many fields that I feel are necessary to be the kind of doctor I seek to be: anthropology, history, religion, philosophy, economics, politics, literature and physics. It is in the latter field that I found another pearl I wish to share with you:

Religion without science is lame; science without religion is blind.” Einstein.

This is why I was intrigued by a couple of articles that appeared in the JAMA in October 2010, “Wisdom; a neuroscience perspective” and “Empathy in Medicine: a neurologic perspective.” [1] Sure, both articles are still a little rigid about “what is invisible to the eye,” but they are honest attempts to quantify those traits through technology like brain scanning. I hope there will be more studies like them and that scientists continue to approach the middle ground between spirit and brain that we should have never left all those centuries ago when a shaman was also the medicine man. No doubt we have made progress with our scientific toys and theories, but throwing out the “spiritual baby” with the bath water has not helped our societies much.

[1] JAMA 2010;304:1602 &1604


At November 24, 2010 at 9:32:00 AM PST , Blogger Mr. Baghoonti said...

I just started reading your blog (looks like I've got a lot of back-reading to do). I am especially grateful for this post - thank you so much!

At December 13, 2010 at 10:39:00 PM PST , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for quoting the Little Prince and for not driving a Hummer!


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