Modernism, postmodernism and health
With the beginning of the Renaissance, attention to the recognition of nature and the centrality of man in human thought led to great progress in the experimental sciences. Such an attitude towards the world led to the discovery of countless mysteries of nature. Physics, mathematics and life sciences were among the leaders of these sciences. This approach was not limited to these sciences and its effects were well visible in all aspects of human life. One of the manifestations of these scientific advances was in the field of health and medicine. In past centuries, human attitudes toward disease were more superstitious than scientific. Pasteur made a dramatic change in medical knowledge by proposing microbial theory. The result of this attitude was the discovery of antibiotics. One of the greatest achievements of this attitude was the control and treatment of infectious or contagious diseases. Epidemics of these diseases were one of the most important causes of human mortality. Tuberculosis, pneumonia and influenza were among the most common causes of death in the early twentieth century. This problem is largely under control today, although new concerns such as drug resistance or immunodeficiency infections have been raised. Gradually, with the control of infections and infectious diseases, the role of non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancers became more prominent. In recent decades, we have witnessed another development in the field of medical science, and that is the attention to basic biological sciences. Until now, scientists have looked at diseases at the level of organs and tissues. With advances in technology, attitudes toward disease have reached the cellular and molecular level. The discovery of James Watson and Francis Creek in the 1960s and the explanation of the structure of the DNA molecule opened a new window for medical science. The efforts of scientists today have identified the cellular and molecular causes of many physiological and pathological phenomena. The process of this new attitude has had a tremendous impact on the pattern of human health and disease. Control of infectious diseases and progress in personal and environmental health has led to an increase in human life expectancy from about 50 years in the early twentieth century to more than 70 years by the end of it in many developed countries, but at the same time witnessed a dramatic increase in diseases. We are non-contagious. The treatment of these diseases is not easy, but it seems that the new attitude of modernism to man and nature has played a significant role in this increase. Modernism’s attitude towards man and domination over nature has created a contradiction between the two. The development and spread of harmful habits such as poor diet, inactivity, smoking and addiction play a significant role in the development of non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes or cancer. Of course, the phenomenon of globalization and technological progress are also very effective in spreading these wrong habits. Ruthlessness with nature and trying to overcome it has led to climate change in the world, which itself has a detrimental role on human health. Gradually, in the last few decades, these problems have created a new wave, which many have called postmodernism. In this thinking, man is a part of nature. Although the age of modernism is not completely over and we have not yet entered the age of postmodernism, its aftermath is visible. This wave can also be seen in the category of health and medical science. These include paying attention to simple and natural methods such as following a healthy diet, avoiding the consumption of artificial foods, paying attention to physical activity, and also paying attention to non-invasive treatment methods. Of course, the phenomenon of globalization and advancement in technology will still be very effective in spreading this new wave. In the treatment of many non-communicable diseases, the use of less invasive methods or smaller surgeries has grown significantly compared to before. These include the use of springs or stents in coronary arteries instead of heart surgery, or the use of nanotechnology in the treatment of cancer instead of extensive surgery. Another manifestation of the impact of postmodernism on health and medicine is people’s attention to traditional or complementary medicine. Attitudes toward these types of treatments are based on attitudes toward humans as a whole, not individuals (at the organ or cellular or molecular level) and the use of herbal remedies instead of chemicals. Although the effects of these drugs require more scientific and specialized work, patients around the world have paid special attention to it. With the spread of postmodern thinking and human societies, it seems that health and medical science will be accompanied by many changes in the future. These changes can be accompanied by changing the pattern of diseases and offering new solutions.
Dr. Reza Saidi Firoozabadi – Transplant Surgeon