There are many things about individuals who are investigated by psychiatrists, anthropologists or psychologists which can only be understood through basic science. The exact nature of the chromosomal anomalies, and of the changes in the anatomy, physics, and chemistry of the brain, which characterize Down's syndrome [mongolism], for example, can only be studied by scientific methods. Even if we come to understand Down's syndrome in detail when these investigations are completed, it will be of little help to the affected individuals. And this is even more true in the case of mental patients. In schizophrenia, for example, despite intensive investigations, no alterations in the brain have been found. It seems to me that to reduce other people to the status of depersonalized objects is of no help to them whatsoever. The 'scientific' psychiatrist does not console those in despair, he calls them depressed. He does not unravel the tangled thought-processes of the confused, he calls them schizophrenic.

 

If he speaks to those in despair, to the confused, to those who think slowly, as a wise, friendly person speaks to another person, then he is no longer considered to be an objective scientist but a ... well, what would he be? We have no appropriate word to describe such persons. When we envisage them, we must admit that their training could not and cannot take place within any of the existing university specialities. I am not speaking of an anti-science or an anti-psychiatry, but rather of a field which does not yet have rules. Similar considerations apply to the other 'human sciences'. Could it not be that as anthropology and psychiatry advance, the patient, the 'other person', continually becomes more remote and less significant? Is this whole style of investigation, together not with its predictions, anything more than an ever more marked degradation of the individual until he becomes a mere cipher? It seems to me that the inexorable encroachment of science, which began in the eighteenth century during the Age of Enlightenment, on activities more properly belonging to the human individual who speaks and gives signs, has had unforeseen and devastating effects. In science all that really matters is getting interesting, accurate results as quickly as possible; there is simply no time to talk to patients. Moreover, the language of the experts is a restricted, unelaborated jargon, composed of perhaps a maximum of a thousand words and is suitable only for communication among themselves. This 'pidgin' language is considered sacred and lay people are not allowed to use it. But it would be of no use to the patients to be able to speak it, since it does not describe reality as they would see it, but, rather, abstractions of abstractions. So conversation between patients and experts is increasingly difficult, if not impossible. And the introduction of machines in no way eases the situation, for the more expensive and complicated the machines, the more the investigator distances himself from the person who is being investigated. This attitude reduces the person to a subservient depersonalized object.

 

Murderous Science, Benno Muller-Hill, Oxford Univeristy Press 1988.

 

 

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