Report on session III
Three position papers were presented and discussion followed.
Dr. Ribes summarized some major points of his paper, "La Maiîtrise
de la Vie: Pour Quoi Faire?" First of all, he treated two aspects of modern
biological research: the necessity of advancing current knowledge, and the
problems entailed in this advance. Research is necessarily pushed forward by
broad demands for the improvement of life, e.g., for improvement of industrial
and agricultural production, for health care at individual and national levels,
and by problems concerning genetic factors at the international level.
Nevertheless, research and the application of research results are often carried
out despite fundamental ignorance, on our part, concerning the global effects of
our interventions - certain drugs, for example, have immediate side-effects,
others can affect genetic structures. The question thus arises: should we do all
that we have the power to do, or should we first try to overcome our ignorance?
The second part of the presentation dealt with the question: "What
is Life?" It was stressed that life is not simply a totality of regulated
chemical elements, but rather an evolving dynamic. This evolution has two
aspects: towards individual perfection and towards "depassment" of the
individual and liberation from necessity. The principal factor in the second
aspect is an openness to other living beings, already evident in sexuality and
showing that life itself is relation.
It is now important to reinforce this "depassment," and this can
be done according to five requirements which can be summarized as follows:
(a) stressing compatibility;
(b) learning the possibilities for open life, rather than
(c) intensifying the relational character of openness to others;
(d) preserving the singularity of the individual; and
(e) accepting the historical character of life, for life has no
sense - biological or otherwise - apart from this historical
Dr. Mori presented his paper entitled "Restructuring a Framework
for the Assessment of Science and Technology as a Driving Power for Social
Development: A Biosociological Approach." Dr. Mori extended the anthropological
methods of Imanishi Kinji to contemporary power relationships, and he applied
Imanishi's non-Darwinian theory of evolution in order to analyse such power
relationships at the systems level. After considering the characteristics of
animal societies, he maintained that what distinguishes human societies is
culture, i.e., conscious control of nature and appropriation of surplus in order
to raise living standards. Science and technology were portrayed as cultural
phenomena; and modern science and technology were presented as having two
distinct components, viz., universal general principles and cultural elements.
Because modern science developed in Europe it is natural for problems, due to
the specifically European cultural elements, to arise when modern science and
technology are transferred to other cultures. It is thus necessary to analyse
the needs which modern science/technology are meant to fulfill within another
culture, if they are to be successfully rooted into it.
Science and technology at the global level seem today to have lost
their power as forces for the constructive transformation of the world, and this
is because the global hierarchical structures of political power have reached a
level at which they are blocking general human development. Among other things,
this has serious repercussions upon social and physiological time-sensitivity.
The third position paper was that of Dr. Rakic entitled "Medical
Technology and Its Effects." It was presented by Dr. Milanovic. The paper dealt
with human relations in the field of medicine. Emphasis was placed on problems
inherent in current specialization in medical research, which tends to preclude
an integral approach to health care and which simultaneously leads to lack of
specificity in dealing with the problems of any given individual. At the same
time, the medical knowledge of most people is left at a fairly low level. And
hence impersonal and bureaucratic relations tend to prevail in the
doctor-patient relationship. On the one hand, there is the patient, who doesn't
know what's happening to him but who often expects more from the physician than
can actually be given. On the other hand, the physician becomes a distant agent
whose task is seen only as the application of specialist research. To overcome
this situation it is necessary to depersonalize the doctor-patient relationship.
Re-personalization can be facilitated: (1) by development within medical
research of a broad multi-disciplinarily between the various medical-related
sciences themselves and also between them and pertinent branches of the social
sciences; (2) by keeping in mind the physical and social specificity of each
patient; and (3) by promoting general medical education for the general
population, and for each patient in regard to his own case.
Furthermore, the medical profession as a whole should become
involved in self-regulation and should take a critical attitude to the results
of medical practice; and the concept of the physician's ethical responsibility
must be broadened, so as to take into account both the needs of scientific
progress and the needs of the local, national, and international communities.
In the discussion several themes were developed.
1. It was strongly questioned whether Dr. Mori's
attempt to apply a biosociological approach to contemporary human problems is
valid. There was divergence about whether such an approach leads to illusions
about reconciling irreconcilable forces in the political sphere, or whether it
can aid in constructing a non-confrontational model for dealing with problems.
It was pointed out that the distortion of social time-sensibility
is an extremely great problem, which is leading to a generation gap on a world
scale. Productivism tends to destroy people's collective memories and hence to
make impossible a collective present.
2. It was pointed out that transformation of existing medical
relations must involve a clear understanding of the role of the transnational
pharmaceutical companies. It was also said that physicians must choose between
serving these companies or serving the real needs of the people.
3. In regard to medical practice, it is necessary to keep in mind
the mutual interaction between the individual human organism and the external
environment. Many types of disease are impossible to cure without a previous
transformation of external physical or social conditions. In such a situation,
it is extremely misleading to think that medical success can be attained at the
level of the individual alone.
4. It is incorrect to consider science and technology as panaceas
for all problems, as independent and isolated from other factors in the world.
It was observed that the majority of technological advances since 1945 have been
consequences of the armaments race and that this race now dominates
technological advance. It is true, thus, that science and technology are sources
of power in the present transformation of the world, but they must be viewed
within the full context of global power relations.
5. It was observed that, since 1947, the greatest overall growth
in the world has taken place in the underdeveloped countries, and that this
growth has for the most part occurred in industrial production, whereas growth
in the developed world has mostly occurred in the service sectors.
6. It was said that the negative effects of industrial techniques
are only inevitable so long as there is no social control over them. Also, it is
necessary to take into account all aspects of transformation planning: e.g., it
is absurd to promote schemes for "rural development" which ignore subsequent