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NBN Newsletter #19
Featuring New Books in Medicine and an interview with Professor Stephen G. Post
Medicine and Religion
All living things become sick, but through genius and a long process of discovery, we have radically lengthened average lifespans and improved many aspects of life quality for those suffering. While nearly all of the best contemporary research appears in journals like The Lancet, the New England Journal of Medicine, and the Journal of the American Medical Association, books on the culture, politics, and history of medicine are invaluable for helping us navigate the world.
We cannot have a proper understanding of the world without understanding how disease and medicine have shaped and been shaped by religion. For example, the Torah or Hebrew Bible is replete with discussions of proper cleanliness, hygiene, and treatment protocols for those suffering from infectious diseases. Religion and medicine are so intertwined, that, as of 2015, 70% of hospitals in the United States had permanent chaplains on staff. Astonishingly, this is up from just 53% of hospitals in 2002.
Understandably, many ailing people find comfort in speaking with a spiritually-minded professional, especially amid fluorescent lights and starched hospital beds. Religion and science are too often treated as oppositional forces; however, inside modern hospitals, they share a common ground in healing patients’ wounds— both physical and spiritual.
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Stephen G. Post is Director of the Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care and Bioethics and Professor of Family, Population, and Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University.
Q: What are you reading right now?
Q: What is your favorite book or essay to assign to give to people and why?
A: Leo Alexander MD, “Medical Science Under Dictatorship,” (New England Journal of Medicine, 1949) covers how German doctors went so wrong.
Q: Is there a book you read as a student that had a particularly profound impact on your trajectory as a scholar?
A: Reinhold Niebuhr’s The Children of Light and the Children of Darkness.
Q: Which deceased writer would you most like to meet?
Q: What's the best book you've read in the past year?
Q: Have you seen any films, documentaries, or museum exhibitions that left an impression on you recently?
Q: What do you plan on reading next?
A: Margaret Lock’s The Alzheimer Conundrum: Entanglements of Dementia and Aging.
(If you’ve just finished an exceptionally engrossing book, listened to a great NBN episode, discovered a new podcast, or stumbled across an interesting website, please email email@example.com)
A review of the recently published book, Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World.
“A dazzling history and easily one of the best works of nonfiction that I’ve ever read, Crashed is aware of its own magnitude but never collapses under its own weight. It is an epic and a page-turner.
Adam Tooze’s book is surprisingly technical, dealing constantly with macroeconomic concepts that I found fascinating but often mind-numbingly difficult. Thankfully, Tooze writes with great clarity and a historian’s sense of consequence and chronology. He artfully illustrates the genesis of the financial crash and its consequences in the United States, the European Union, and China. Tooze is particularly vehement in his denunciation of Western European leaders for fumbling the continent’s response to 2008, and in doing so, setting the stage for a Eurozone crisis that they prolonged with austerity programs and misguided, insufficient bailouts. His picture of Merkel's leadership is particularly unflattering, especially considering her sterling reputation in the U.S. as a torchbearer of an embattled liberal democratic world order.
Tooze paints a more flattering portrait of American leadership. Unlike the Europeans, the Americans— via TARP, the Obama stimulus, quantitative easing, Dodd-Frank, and more— prevented a far greater global calamity, but in doing so, propped up the grossly overgrown system of financial capitalism that started the entire crisis. Democratic politicians, particularly allies of Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama, paid a steep political price. Republicans were able to capitalize on political fury in the wake of the recession and smooth over tensions between their plutocratic leadership and increasingly furious base (until Trump, perhaps).
In his all-too-short conclusion, Tooze stresses the political in the term political economy, and his whole book can be read as a case for the primary role that political ideology—rather than mere greed and self-interest—plays in the course of global economic history. It is a refreshing and needed perspective.”
-Samuel McCarthy (New York, New York)
New Books, Links, and Other Things
- by Max Read
- by Akila
- by Matthew C. Klein
- by Tomas Pueyo
- by Adam Tooze