Monday, February 14, 2022

Bernard Rollin and ethical "mindfucks."

From Nautilus, issue 41, pp.12 - 13

Well into the 1980s, doctors would perform open-heart surgery on infants without giving them pain-relieving drugs. This is hard to believe: By the standards of contemporary medicine, not to mention common sense, the practice is akin to torture. Yet then-conventional wisdom held that babies did not feel pain, at least not in any meaningful way. Their brains and nervous systems were considered undeveloped. And regardless of what they felt, they wouldn’t remember it.

One can read about this in Science and Ethics, written in 2006 by Bernard Rollin, an iconoclastic philosopher who died in November at age 78. When I read of his passing, I recalled a conversation we had several years ago. Rollin, who devoted much of his life to speaking for the voiceless, was still enraged at what happened to those babies. He might have made the point that knowledge changes, sometimes profoundly, and that one era’s objective truth may be revealed, by the light of another era, as a fallacy held together by thoughtless habit. The exact word he used was “mindfuck.”

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