The Tyranny of Science and the Humanities as a Liberating Force

By: Eric Cassell   Lauren Barron  

For science, only knowledge from scientific methods or research is valid. Understandings from the humanities are discounted; subjectivity and subjective knowledge have no place. But people are concerned about and comprised of their experiences: past and present, waking and sleeping, thinking and feeling, interpersonal events and private ideas and fantasies. From the 1950s into the 1980s, dynamic psychologies infused these concerns with knowledge and sophistication. After WWII, science, scientific objectivity, and empiricism, plus a denigration of subjectivity, rode the success of medical science to increasing influence in Western society. By the mid-80s, science as a social force drove from favor previously successful everyday psychological sophistication. Science has taken the place of religion before the Renaissance. Devotion to STEM implies nothing else is important. This emphasis has had a malignant effect on the teaching and study of the humanities. Medicine about persons and relationships, not only the body, is case in point in which science reigns supreme and technology overrides human concerns. Scientific medicine implies that science makes the diagnosis and treats the patient. The humanities offer liberation from the tyranny of science. Medicine is constituted by physicians as persons caring for patients as persons. The humanities teach about persons, emphasizing their relationships, historical being, aesthetic nature, constant search for meaning, and drive for freedom. Science values sameness, but individuals differ one from another in every respect. This paper considers how teaching the humanities provides depth, rigor, and humanistic knowledge to thinking about people as human beings, not just human bodies.

medical humanities subjectivity
2018 Special Focus: Reconsidering Freedom
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Eric Cassell

Cornell University , Internal Medicine and Public Health , Medical Practice, Research & Scholarship

Lauren Barron

Director and Clinical Professor, Medical Humanities , Baylor University , United States
Texas, United States

My background includes a bachelor's degree in psychology after which I studied medicine at UT McGovern in Houston. I am proudest of my admission to Alpha Omega Alpha, the medical honor society, and receipt of the Gold Headed Cane Award. I completed residency training in family medicine at one of the leading family medicine residency programs in the country where I served as chief resident and was invited to join the faculty at the conclusion of my training in 1995. I completed a fellowship in academic medicine and developed special interests in women's health and palliative care. I later joined a private practice in Waco during which time I served as medical director of a local hospice and chief of medical staff at Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center. I have now transitioned to Baylor University as a clinical professor where I continue to practice medicine through the Family Health Center in a way that complements my teaching in the classroom with prehealth students. I now serve as the director of the innovative Medical Humanties Program at Baylor University, one of the first in the country to offer a bachelor's degree in Medical Humanities. I describe this program as a bridge between the art and science of medicine and as the best of a liberal arts education with a focus in heatlhcare. I now dedicate most of my time to the professional formation of universtiy students who plan careers working in and around healthcare.