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Re: [XTalk] Lest We Forget

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  • Frank Jacks
    Thanks for this posting, if only because I led me to google Ms. Allen, by which I found out a little about her, including that she is a journalist who seems
    Message 1 of 7 , Sep 4, 2005
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      Thanks for this posting, if only because I led me to "google" Ms. Allen,
      by which I found out a little about her, including that she is a
      journalist who seems to be quite active in writing things on various
      topics, including articles for various magazines and opinion pieces (in
      effect "columns") posted on line and elsewhere; I also ran across
      several reviews about her book, which I
      had previously known nothing about. It seems like an interesting one
      and one that apparently did involve her reading quite a bit, although I
      would be interested to find out just how much she read in preparing
      herself for the book ... and this leads me to
      a question, which probably is just to refine yours - how does she know
      all this about Schweitzer's operations in Gabon? For
      all I know her description might be accurate, although why include such
      in a book recounting the scholarly perusal on the topic of "the Quest"?
      Quite apart from whether or not her description or her judgments [how
      would she know the quality or the
      standard of Schweitzer's medical abilities?] are accurate, why did she
      include them? Frankly, I am unclear as to whether I am echoing your
      question or revising it, but what I would ask of the other listers is
      information about what her sources were - is there any evidence (one way
      or the other) about Schweitzer's abilities as a physician? Are there
      published opinions by qualified medical experts that suggest his
      "philosophy of life" led to inappropriate or at least antiquated methods
      of practicing
      medicine? [Here I mean other than the obvious and familiar, that the
      physical resources within which he functioned forced him to adapt
      practices and procedures, out of simply necessity.] Finally, wha tmight
      be the evidence that anyone in the newly independent nation of Gabon
      found Schweitzer an embarrassment? Is this anything other than bootless
      character assassination, which can be ignored? As this might well be
      judged "off topic" I would appreciate any comments or suggestions to me
      off-board for I am fairly curious about the foundation or sources upon
      which Ms. Allen's judgements were founded.

      Frank

      Clive F. Jacks, Th.D.
      Professor of Religion, Emeritus
      Pikeville College
      Pikeville, KY

      (but now happily retired back home in the metro Atlanta area!)


      Jeff Peterson wrote:

      >On Sep 4, 2005, at 7:07 AM, Jim West wrote:
      >
      >
      >
      >>Albert Schweitzer died on this day in 1965. Schweitzer was one of the
      >>most gifted persons in Western history. His abilities in historical
      >>Jesus studies, medicine, and music were simply amazing. His Quest of
      >>the Historical Jesus is required reading for anyone who studies the
      >>subject and his books on Bach are insightful and uplifting. R.I.P.
      >>
      >>
      >
      >Apologies for the earlier abortive post.
      >
      > In her well researched THE HUMAN CHRIST (1998), Charlotte Allen
      >raises questions about whether Albert Schweitzer's achievements in
      >medicine are on par with his accomplishments as a humanist, and as I
      >haven't seen this sort of thing elsewhere (apart from "reverence for
      >life," of course, though not the specific entailments of this
      >philosophy that she mentions), I thought they might be worth passing
      >along in case anyone knows of other sources of information, whether
      >pro or con Allen:
      >
      >"Over time, Schweitzer's bush hospital at Lambaréné, where his wife
      >served as anesthetist, became a medical anachronism. At best a
      >mediocre physician, he had also developed a 'reverence for life'
      >philosophy that led him to ban meat, clocks, flush toilets, and even
      >electricity and insecticides from his clinic for fear of harming
      >other creatures. After Gabon won independence from France in 1957,
      >the shambling Lambaréné clinic, where farm animals wandered freely
      >among the patients and a white-haired European with a Nobel Prize
      >played the genial tyrant, must have embarrassed the new country's
      >leaders, who wanted the world to view Gabon as a cutting-edge
      >'developing' nation with the latest in medical technology" (p. 239).
      >
      >Jeff Peterson
      >Austin Graduate School of Theology
      >Austin, Texas
      >
      >
      >
    • Bob Schacht
      ... These are all good questions, *including* the obvious about the physical resources that he had available. Remember that in a sense, Schweitzer became a
      Message 2 of 7 , Sep 4, 2005
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        At 12:43 PM 9/4/2005, Frank Jacks wrote:
        >Thanks for this posting, if only because I led me to "google" Ms. Allen,
        >by which I found out a little about her, including that she is a
        >journalist who seems to be quite active in writing things on various
        >topics, including articles for various magazines and opinion pieces (in
        >effect "columns") posted on line and elsewhere ... and this leads me to
        >a question, which probably is just to refine yours - how does she know
        >all this about Schweitzer's operations in Gabon? ...
        >- is there any evidence (one way or the other)
        >about Schweitzer's abilities as a physician? Are there
        >published opinions by qualified medical experts that suggest his
        >"philosophy of life" led to inappropriate or at least antiquated methods
        >of practicing
        >medicine? [Here I mean other than the obvious and familiar, that the
        >physical resources within which he functioned forced him to adapt
        >practices and procedures, out of simply necessity.] ...
        > I am fairly curious about the foundation or sources upon
        >which Ms. Allen's judgements were founded.
        >
        >Frank

        These are all good questions, *including* the "obvious" about the physical
        resources that he had available.
        Remember that in a sense, Schweitzer became a time capsule of medicine as
        it was practiced when he left Europe. Those who wrote later about the
        "embarrassment" came with an updated knowledge of medicine to which
        Schweitzer only had very limited access. Medicine was evolving rapidly
        during his absence from the centers of state of the art medical centers.

        Imagine if Einstein, immediately after writing his theory of relativity,
        decided to retire to Tahiti to teach in a local high school rather than
        going to Princeton, and 30 years later someone looked him up and wanted to
        discuss some of the latest advances in theoretical physics with him.

        Which, come to think of it, might be pretty close to what happened to some
        of Jesus' disciples... <g>
        ....thinking especially of John on Patmos...

        Bob
        Robert M. Schacht, Ph.D.
        Northern Arizona University
        Flagstaff, AZ

        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • Brian Mooney
        There will always be the debunkers, who boost their own status by tearing down figures like Schweitzer, and their motives as well as fairness of their
        Message 3 of 7 , Sep 4, 2005
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          There will always be the debunkers, who boost their own status by tearing
          down figures like Schweitzer, and their motives as well as fairness of their
          statements frequently prove to be more than slightly suspect. Schweitzer
          was no unblemished saint - even his daughter recounts his unbending
          autocratic style, his insistence on having his way - and maybe it is the
          blemishes that make such people so intolerable to their critics. The
          critics cannot tolerate the faults.

          Schweitzer left a comfortable life of assured success in Europe after
          embarking on a rigorous course of medical study, as good an education as he
          could obtain at that time, in order to help people who had no access to a
          western-trained physician. As one journalist remarked many years later, it
          is interesting that the people he helped seemed grateful he was there, and
          found it remarkable that he would give up such a good life to come to Africa
          and help them. He worked under difficult, even primitive, conditions, and
          did his best with what funds he could raise personally. It is certainly
          accurate to say his medical methods must have at times been a snapshot of
          medicine as it was when he left Europe, an imperfection, just as he
          sometimes showed some signs of what was an enlightened (for his time) but
          nonetheless colonialist attitude. But he was also assisted by a number of
          much younger physicians who certainly introduced medical advances when they
          were available.

          His famed Reverence for Life seems open to much misinterpretation - my
          impression is that he still killed the bacteria, the parasites and the the
          insects as medical need dictated, but that he also did it with regret.

          James Brabazon's biography, now in its second edition (2000) is a
          solid,readable and balanced account, and likely the last to be written by a
          biographer who could still interview so many who knew and worked with Albert
          Schweitzer. It addresses the issues, head on. I still found the man
          immensely admirable amd deserving of my deep and fond respect, after reading
          this book.

          Brian Mooney

          Department of Arts and Sciences
          Johnson & Wales University
          Cahrlotte, NC 28202
        • Jeff Peterson
          ... Brian, Many thanks for this reference -- the sort of thing I was hoping Allen s comment would elicit! Jeff Peterson Austin, Texas
          Message 4 of 7 , Sep 4, 2005
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            On Sep 4, 2005, at 9:05 PM, Brian Mooney wrote:
            > James Brabazon's biography, now in its second edition (2000) is a
            > solid,readable and balanced account, and likely the last to be
            > written by a
            > biographer who could still interview so many who knew and worked
            > with Albert
            > Schweitzer. It addresses the issues, head on.

            Brian,

            Many thanks for this reference -- the sort of thing I was hoping
            Allen's comment would elicit!

            Jeff Peterson
            Austin, Texas
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