Re: [XTalk] Lest We Forget
- 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
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.
Clive F. Jacks, Th.D.
Professor of Religion, Emeritus
(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).
>Austin Graduate School of Theology
- At 12:43 PM 9/4/2005, Frank Jacks wrote:
>Thanks for this posting, if only because I led me to "google" Ms. Allen,These are all good questions, *including* the "obvious" about the physical
>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
>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.
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...
Robert M. Schacht, Ph.D.
Northern Arizona University
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
- 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
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
Department of Arts and Sciences
Johnson & Wales University
Cahrlotte, NC 28202
- On Sep 4, 2005, at 9:05 PM, Brian Mooney wrote:
> James Brabazon's biography, now in its second edition (2000) is aBrian,
> 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.
Many thanks for this reference -- the sort of thing I was hoping
Allen's comment would elicit!