[A shift of topic, of personal significance but also potentially of great significance to the state of our society.]
Midwife and Jessica Breese, a Certified Nurse Midwife from Colorado, pose with new mother Amy and her son Austin. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
There has been for some time a vigorous campaign to effectively ban home births in Australia, including crude scare-mongering based on extreme cases, such as a recent article by de Crespigny and Savulescu. However the ground from which these campaigners operate is shaky, because of a dramatic rise in hospital interventions in the birthing process, and because obstetricians have an obvious conflict of interest. Medical hostility to midwifery in general, not just to home birthing, seems to be driven by a spiral of fear, which is abetted by many obstetricians’ relative lack of the skills and experience of midwives.
[I’ve wanted to write about this for a long time, and the September issue of Scientific American finally provoked me. They talk about exceeding our evolutionary limits, living beyond 1oo, manipulating ourselves to be smarter (but no mention of wiser), and so on. So, another long essay.]
The term appropriate technology was popularised after E. F. Schumacher’s pivotal work Small is Beautiful. Schumacher argued against the modern economic pathology of endless physical growth, which of course cannot continue on our finite planet. He argued further that some technology only promotes endless growth, or it distracts us from more important things in life, and is therefore not beneficial. Technology that supports a fulfilling life and is compatible with a steady-state or slowly shrinking physical economy he called appropriate technology.
As for technology, so for science. A common assumption by scientists is that if a challenge is there then it is fair game to address it. In fact it is commonly presumed that freedom of enquiry, a central ingredient of an open democratic society, justifies such an attitude. However we need to recognise that such freedom comes with responsibility. This seems to be recognised regarding human cloning, for example, where strong legal and social restrictions have commonly been imposed.
You might say our present dire condition is just the consequence of human nature, about which not much can be done.To this I say yes, but its due to the worst of human nature, not the best of human nature, and that implies there is something we can change: we can shift the values by which we live.