“The tragedy of illness at present is that it delivers you helplessly into the hands of a profession which you deeply mistrust”- George Bernard Shaw
In the science departments at Geneseo you will often here the professors telling you to always be skeptic as a scientist. I thought I generally understood what they meant, that you should always question data numbers and ask “why”. Following my reading the introduction of Medical Apartheid this quote sparked an important question to me, should you be skeptic towards medical professionals and what is the difference between being skeptical and mistrusting them? Read more
When I decided to take this class, I knew that I wanted to gain something from this course, but I did not know how immediately the ideas brought up in class would start to connect with me. When I woke up on Monday morning, just one days into my junior year of college, I had immediate tooth pain. It was the kind of pain that keeps you up for hours at night as you switch from applying hot water for fifteen minutes to applying ice for fifteen minutes just to keep yourself busy so you don’t lose your mind or your patience. After two days of this I knew it was time to drive myself to one of the four dentists in Geneseo and found out it was a root canal Read more
I arrived at this class with little or no knowledge of the subject. I wasn’t sure how I would like the class since I wasn’t really interested in medicine and had only a minimal knowledge on the topic of racism (through high-school history classes, social media, and current events). My initial reaction to the class was probably more on the negative side. I wondered what could racism possibly have to do with medicine? I wasn’t familiar with the subject and we never discussed it in high school. Nonetheless, after doing research and learning about racism and medicine, and their correlation, I have grown curious and interested in this topic.
This tangent may seem slightly off topic but it actually brings me to an important point. The reason I am so uninformed about the correlation of medicine and racism may not be a coincidence, rather due to the inaccessibility of these sources. In Medical Aparthied, Harriet A. Washington describes that many of the medical records of experimentation are not easily accessible. Washington begins the novel by explaining that there has been an mistreatment of African Americans in general, but specifically in the medical field. The author goes on to list various examples of issues in medical research with African Americans. These include but are not limited to historical cases and some more contemporary.
On page 1, Harriet Washington refers to a well-known women’s doctor, James Marian Sims, who had many breakthroughs but who also had a dark past regarding medical experimentation on African Americans. Despite performing many gruesome surgeries, Sims is still praised for his medical breakthroughs and contributions to women’s surgery. Another more contemporary example of this idea is found on page 8. Washington refers to a case in which the Medical College of Georgia used stolen African American bodies for physician training. Although this was a terrible incident, it was overlooked due to the school’s prestige.
Harriet A. Washington’s introduction to Medical Aparthied conveys many crucial themes, one of which is the idea that African American’s side of the story was not well represented. Rather than portraying the abuse and records of experimentation of African Americans, the breakthroughs of upper class white doctors was magnified. A Nigerian proverb on page 8 states “Don’t let the lion tell the giraffe’s story.” Unfortunately in our world, the lion told it. Although there are many medical records, they do not account for the pain that many African Americans went through and are going through. The author also states that many of these documents are hidden away.
It’s disturbing to me that this topic is not often talked about. In a plethora of ways, it is wrong that people like James Marion Sims are glorified when they have committed such monstrous acts. Although it isn’t the most lighthearted topic, it is imperative to address the evident mistreatment, abuse, and experimentation of so many innocent people.
There is no single story or event that defines a person’s life. Instead, we have countless stories that define who we are. Unfortunately, today we live in a society where people easily point fingers, or are quick to stereotype. The problem is that these stereotypes prevent people from knowing the whole story. I thoroughly appreciated Chimamanda Adichie’s Ted Talk, especially with some of the recent political events. Adichie says that we are always quick to blame a corrupt or tyrannical group for any problem that may occur. Read more
“Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance”
In learning more about the disgusting history of racism in America, the above quote by George Bernard Shaw springs to mind. Considering the gruesome and inhumane pseudo-scientific practices that governed the eugenics movement in this country before and after the civil war, I find the wisdom of his words hard to deny. As a member of a proud, medically-minded community here at Geneseo, the abuses of those in our chosen field are particularly hard to hear about. However, to turn away from the topic in disgust and simply ignore the actions of past physicians would only make us complicate in their crimes. What disturbs me most is that those who participated in the abuses of African-American men and women did not do so secretly to hide their shame from the world, but did so openly without consequence, often to the approval of their fellow White citizens who saw them as saviors and their “patients” as little more than laboratory specimens.
The lesson we can all learn from these atrocities is just how devastating false science can be in its destructive potential. Long accused of being superstitious and irrational in their iatrophobia, the history of abuses against African-Americans gives credibility to such beliefs, ironically contributing in part to the poorer health outcomes among African-American populations. Even today, one does not have to look far in America to find dubious scientific claims being treated like religious dogma. The Anti-Vaccer movement, for example, continues to site disproved evidence concerning the link between vaccines and autism while well-meaning but poorly informed people continuously raise concerns of genetically modified food long put to rest by the scientific community.
Perhaps the worst crime committed by false science is that it competes with and often undermines real scientific study. Science is an imperfect process; a method of research that is laborious, multi-faceted, and time-consuming. It does not lend itself to sweeping proposals or sensationalism. Though often fascinating in its discoveries, it is essentially boring and struggles to compete with the emotional and often vindicating results pseudo-science provides to its adherents. Worse still, it can often masquerade as genuine science for years, as seen with the eugenics movement and persistent scientific agreement on the inferiority of non-white races. This undermines the trust given by the public to scientific endeavors and in turn makes it harder to pursue actually discovery.
There is no one solution for confronting the issue of what Churchill called “perverted science.” Although I’m sure education will help prevent the persuasion of those more skeptical students, confronting the close-minded zealotry that often accompanies pseudo-science will be much harder to overcome. Skepticism towards science helped elevate the least qualified candidate in modern history to the office of the president and has begun seeping into our institutions and poisoning the way the world views us. We owe it to ourselves and our fellow citizens to be responsible in the use and dissemination of knowledge and to work so that truth will always prevail in the face of false prophets.
Throughout history, there have been divisions among people based off of external qualities. Some of these qualities included skin color, eye color, hair type, etc. These qualities form categories based on race. In biology, there is no genetic code that defines what race one is. There are small variations in strains of DNA between the human species. Many experiments have been done to look for something that simply isn’t there. Read more
Throughout today’s society, racism is predominant in various culture.
On 9/6 we viewed a Ted Talk on culture. This Ted Talk stood out to me because the speaker, who is from Nigeria, discussed how she had a house boy growing up and throughout her life, the speaker was told on multiple occasions, that their house boy was poor. The speaker grew up believing that her house boy was uncultured and him and his family were incapable of basic life function. The speaker then visited where her house boy lives and was surprised to see that her house boys brother weaved a basket by hand. She was surprised to see this because she assumed her whole life that her house boys worth was based solely off of money and that poor people were incapable of most things. Later on in the talk the speaker shares an experience of when the roles were reversed. The speaker talks about when she attended college and had an American roommate. Her american roommate told the speaker she was shocked that her English was so good but was surprised when the speaker responded by saying English is the first language in Nigeria. Her roommate also asked if she could teach her some tribal music but the speaker made a tasteful joke that the tribal music was a Maria Carey album.
For one out of class assignment we had to read the introduction of Medical Apartheid by Harriet A. Washington. One part of this novel that stood out to me and relates to culture was the discussion of African American personal and family stories of abuse rarely surfaced and were discussed in medical literature and popular literature. Washington states, “The experimental suffering of black Americans has taken many forms: fear, profound deception, psychological trauma, pain, injection with deadly agents, disfigurement, crippling, chronic illness, undignified display, intractable pain, stolen fertility and death” (Pg. 9). Although the suffering of black Americans is tragic in many forms, it goes undiscovered throughout history due to the lack of documentation of medical practitioners. The information was “downplayed” and seen as therapy.
I suppose I will be the first to post in our class (English 101), as I haven’t seen posts from anyone else in our class (though correct me if I’m wrong!*UPDATE: I see someone posted at the exact same time as I did!) Blogging is definitely new to me, so bear with me as I attempt to do this somewhat correctly and actually catch your guys’ interest! What I really wanted to talk about here regards Dan Hurley’s article, Grandma’s Experiences Leave a Mark on Your Genes, that we read about behavioral epigenetics. Now because I know that it is very likely that not all of you read this, I will try to give a brief preface of what it was about. I apologize if it’s not very scientific language, but I’ll do my best! Read more
By Sunita Singh
A methyl group is one of the simplest molecules of organic chemistry. In my organic chemistry class sophomore year, this is one of the few concepts I could firmly grasp. As I went on to my Genetics and Heredity classes, I was especially interested on the profound effect methyl groups can have on gene expression. When I saw epigenetics was the topic of Grandma’s Experiences Leave a Mark on Your Genes, I was excited to revisit the subject. Read more