Exploring 17th Century Medicine with Holly Tucker

This month’s Books and Ideas podcast (#41) is an interview with Holly Tucker, author of Blood Work: A Tale of Medicine and Murder in the Scientific Revolution.  Dr. Tucker’s book is about the first blood transfusions—which, surprisingly, occurred way back in the 1660’s; 150 years before the first successful human-to-human transfusions.

The thing that makes Blood Work compelling is that Dr. Tucker puts these early efforts into the context of their time, and she helps us to consider how these events could be relevant to the medical controversies of our own time.  And, as we will allude to during our conversation, the story includes a fascinating murder mystery.

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 Links of Interest:

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Dr. Robert Martensen Returns to Books and Ideas (B&I 29)

life-worth-living In Episode 29 of Books and Ideas Robert Martensen, MD returns to talk about his book A Life Worth Living: A Doctor's Reflections on Illness in a High-Tech Era. Last month we talked about Dr. Martensen's career as both an emergency physician and as an historian. This month we concentrate on the issues facing patients with life threatening illnesses, including making decisions about end of life care. Dr. Martensen and I agree that the American emphasis on high tech care tends to ignore the needs of people in these situations. We discuss the importance of better communication between physicians and patients as well as the need for fundamental changes in our system.

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ninakimberlythemerciless This episode includes a short promo for Nina Kimberly the Merciless by Christiana Ellis. You can learn more about Christiana's work at http://ninakimberly.com.

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Interview with Robert Martensen, MD (B&I 28)

martensen-crop Books and Ideas #28 is an interview with Robert Martensen, MD, author of A Life Worth Living: A Doctor's Reflections on Illness in a High-Tech Era. Dr. Martensen worked for 25 years as an emergency physician, but about mid-way through his career he went to graduate school and earned a PhD in history, while continuing to work in the ER at night and on weekends. He is now the Director of the NIH Office of History. This interview is actually the first of two parts. In this first part we talked about Dr. Martensen's career and we also reflected briefly on the history of emergency medicine in the United States. Dr. Martensen also explained the purpose fo the NIH Office of History and described its current and upcoming projects. When Dr. Martensen returns (hopefully next month) we will discuss his book A Life Worth Living: A Doctor's Reflections on Illness in a High-Tech Era.

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Pioneering Neuroscientist Eve Marder, PhD (BSP 56)

evemarder2 Episode 56 of the Brain Science Podcast is an interview with neuroscientist, Eve Marder, PhD. Dr. Marder has spent 35 years studying the somatogastric ganglion of the lobster. In this interview we talk about how she got into neuroscience during its early days, her recent tenure as president of the Society for Neuroscience, and how some of her key discoveries have implications for studying more complex nervous systems.

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Jennifer Michael Hecht: Historian & Poet (B&I 27)

jmhecht Episode 27 of Books and Ideas is an interview with Jennifer Michael Hecht, author of Doubt: A History: The Great Doubters and Their Legacy of Innovation from Socrates and Jesus to Thomas Jefferson and Emily Dickinson and The Happiness Myth. As a poet and historian Hecht brings a unique perspective to her examination of the role of science in modern society. She also shares how writing Doubt changed her attitude toward religion. I have wanted to interview Jennifer for several years so I was very grateful that my recent appearance on Point of Inquiry led to this conversation. Hecht earned her PhD in the History of Science and while Doubt was an examination of the history of belief (and non-belief), she said that The Happiness Myth shares  key ideas from the history of science. Hecht argues convincingly that the arrogance of modern science can not be justified,  because history shows how much science, despite its best efforts, is always influenced by the cultural fads of its time. She feels that this knowledge could free us from unnecessary guilt, but that it should also motivate us to question our priorities (such as placing so much emphasis on long life instead of the quality of life). You won't want to miss this thought-provoking conversation.

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Philosopher Patricia Churchland (BSP 55)

bsp-300-hi Episode 55 of the Brain Science Podcast is an interview with highly respected philosopher Patricia Churchland. Churchland is the author of Neurophilosophy and Brain. She is currently on the faculty of the University of California at San Diego and she was a featured speaker at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in 2008. In this interview we talked about neurophilosophy, which is an approach to philosophy of mind that gives high priority to incorporating the empiric findings of neuroscience. We also talk about the evolving relationship between philosophy and neuroscience. Churchland shares her enthusiasm for how the discoveries of neuroscience are changing the way we see ourselves as human beings. We also talked a little about the issues of reductionism that I first brought up in Episode 53.

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Vaccines DO NOT cause Autism (B&I 25)

offit-1 Paul Offit, MD Episode 25 of Books and Ideas is an interview with Dr. Paul Offit, author of Autism's False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure. I consider this the most important episode that I have ever released because despite overwhelming scientific evidence that shows NO connection between vaccines and autism, vaccine opponents continue to discourage parents from having their children vaccinated against preventable and potentially fatal childhood diseases. Epidemics of measles and hemophilis influenza type B meningitis are beginning to emerge among unvaccinated children. In this interview we talk about the scientific evidence that vaccines DO NOT cause autism, but we also examine why the controversy continues despite the evidence. Most importantly we examine the growing threat posed by the increasing number of unvaccinated children in the US. As Dr. Offit observes "The threat is not theoretical anymore." It is very real.

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ADDITIONAL SHOW NOTES

I recommend Dr. Offit's book Autism's False Prophets to everyone because of its thorough examination of the vaccine-autism controversy. He examines the evidence from both sides, while showing compassion for why parents are easily confused and frightened by claims that physicians and scientists have dismissed. The book is unlikely to dissuade those who are convinced by the tactics of vaccine opponents, but it will be a valuable resource to parents who want a clear explanation that includes a sober account of the risks of not vaccinating their children. Physicians and scientists will also benefit from reading this book because it provides an important case study in how lack of scientific literacy can threaten public health.

Links:

References:

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Dr. Brenda Milner: Pioneer of Memory Research (BSP 49)

Brain Science Podcast #49 is an interview with pioneering neuroscientist, Brenda Milner, PhD. Dr. Milner is known for her contributions to understanding memory and her work with split-brain patients. Her work as an experimental psychologist has been fundamental to the emergence of the field of cognitive neuroscience. This interview is a follow-up of Dr. Milner's recent interview with Dr. Marc Pelletier on Futures in Biotech. I highly recommend listening to both interviews.

Listen to Episode 49 of the Brain Science Podcast

Listen to Dr. Milner on Futures in Biotech (Episode33)

Click here for detailed show notes and links.

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Dr. Eugenie Scott on Teaching Evolution (B&I 21)

Eugenie Scott, the Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education, was interviewed in Episode 21 of Books and Ideas. The focus of our conversation was the importance of teaching evolution in the public schools. Dr. Scott and the NCSE have worked for over 20 years to promote the teaching of evolution because it is an essential component of a modern education in the life sciences. Unfortunately, nearly 150 years after Darwin's On the Origin of Species (1859) many Americans still reject this fundamental idea and much of Scott's work is focused on trying to keep creationism and so-called Intelligent Design out of school curriculum. Recently the NCSE launched a very valuable site called Expelled Exposed, which focuses on exposing the many inaccuracies presented in Ben Stein's recent pro-intelligent design "documentary" Expelled. One of the things that has come out in numerous interviews is that the producers of the film mislead all the pro-evolution guests that appear in the film. We discuss this briefly near the end of the interview, but it was not the focus of our discussion. (see below for more links regarding Expelled) Since Dr. Scott has been interviewed about Expelled and Expelled Exposed on several other podcasts, I wanted to focus our interview more on the importance of accurate science education. Also, we discussed the fact that despite the claims of right-wing fundamentalists there are many Christians and people of other faiths who accept the theory of evolution as scientifically valid. Accepting evolution does not mean one is choosing atheism. I think this is a very important distinction because while atheists are outspoken in their support of evolution they represent a small minority. I was encouraged to learn from Dr. Scott that the NCSE is working closely with religious leaders and scientists of faith to try to educate their members. Since Books and Ideas reaches an international audience I thought that it was important that we discuss the origins of the evolution versus creationism controversy, which is unique to the United States. Scott does an excellent job of explaining how our unique religious heritage along with our locally controlled school systems combine to create a situation that most of the world find's rather mystifying. Her book Evolution vs. Creationism: An Introduction also provides an excellent overview of the subject from both an historical and scientific prospective. Finally, we talk about the importance of evolution as a basic idea in modern biology. While we didn't dwell on this, I think we are both concerned about the implications for the future if a majority of young Americans are reaching college without a solid foundation in the principles of evolution. We also talked about why intelligent design fails to meet the basic definition of a scientific theory since it provides no testable hypotheses. Dr. Scott also provides a excellent review of the basic writings for those who want to learn more.

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Links and References: Other Books mentioned by Dr. Scott:
  • Of Pandas and People: The Central Question of Biological Origins by Percival Davis and Dean H. Kenyon : the 1989 textbook that introduced the term “intelligent design”
  • Darwin on Trial by Phillip E. Johnson, 1991.
  • Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution by Michael J. Behe
  • The Design Inference: Eliminating Chance through Small Probabilities by William A. Dembski
  • Behe MJ, Snoke DW. 2004. Simulating evolution by gene duplication of protein features that require multiple amino acid residues. Protein Science 10:2651-64.
Responses to Expelled Exposed by Christians

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The Evolution of Language (BSP 30)

firstword.jpg Episode 30 of the Brain Science Podcast is a discussion of The First Word: The Search for the Origins of Language by Christine Kenneally. We focus mostly on the first part of the book, which tells the story of how the study of language evolution has grown from almost a banned subject to a new field of inquiry called evolutionary linguistics. We also reflect on how recent findings in neuroscience like the importance of plasticity are influencing the field. Listen to Episode 30 Scientists Discussed in the Episode: *References: Pinker, Steven, and Paul Bloom, "Natural Language and Natural Selection," Behavioral and Brains Sciences 13 (1990): 707-84. Marc D. Hauser, Noam Chomsky, and W. Tecumseh Fitch (2002). "The Faculty of Language: What Is It, Who Has It, and How Did It Evolve?" Science 298:1569-1579. Christine Kenneally, The First Word: The Search for the Origins of Language (2007). Stanley I. Greenspan and Stuart G. Shanker, The First Idea: How Symbols, Language, and Intelligence Evolved from our Primate Ancestors to Modern Humans (2004). *Additional references can be found in Kenneally's book and at the websites of the scientists listed above. Listen to this episode now. Share your comments on the Discussion Forum Audience Survey itunes-chicklet.gif Subscribe via iTunes™ Subscribe in a reader or podcatcher Subscribe to Brain Science Podcast with Dr. Ginger Campbell by Email

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Dr. Maryanne Wolf talks about the Reading Brain (BSP 29)

wolff200.jpgDr. Maryanne Wolf, Director of The Center for Reading and Language Research at Tufts University Brain Science Podcast #29 is an interview with cognitive neuroscientist, Dr. Maryanne Wolf, author of Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain. I discussed her book in Episode 24, so this interview was an opportunity to ask her some follow-up questions, and to focus more on how children learn to read. Dr. Wolf shares her ten years of experience helping children learn to read and developing programs to help children with problems like dyslexia. She shares some practical advice for parents as well as her concerns about how reliance on the internet could influence reading skills. I enjoyed the conversation and, while I especially want to share this episode with parents, I think Dr. Wolf gives everyone some interesting ideas to consider. Listen to the interview. Links: Listen to this episode now. Share your comments on the Discussion Forum Audience Survey itunes-chicklet.gif Subscribe via iTunes™ Subscribe in a reader or podcatcher Subscribe to Brain Science Podcast with Dr. Ginger Campbell by Email

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Dr. Norman Doidge discusses Neuroplasticity (BSP 26)

I have posted a new episode of the Brain Science Podcast. To learn more please go to the show notes for episode 26. I am not going to be posted detail show notes in this blog until I can solve the problem of not being able to post audio links. If you rely on the RSS feed from this blog to know when new episodes are available, I recommend subscribing to the Brain Science Podcast and Blog feed. Subscribe to Brain Science Podcast and Blog in a reader
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Reading and the Brain (BSP 24)

proustandthesquid.jpg Listen to this episode now. Show Notes Dr. Wolf's book Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain, is divided into three main topics: the history of how writing and reading developed over the last few thousand years, the developmental stages involved in learning how to read, and what happens when the brain can't learn to read. My podcast concentrates on the main ideas from the first two topics. History of Writing:
  • the discovery of symbols
  • Early writing systems- cuneiform and hieroglyphics
    • why Chinese gives us a window into the past
  • Importance of the Alphabet
    • some claims and conclusions
  • Why Socrates opposed literacy
The Stages of Becoming a Reader:
  • the early pre-reader-with emphasis on language development
  • the novice reader-connecting letters to the sounds of language
  • the decoding reader-
  • the fluent comprehending reader-learning to "read between the lines"
  • the expert reader-why reading continues to change us throughout our lives
What goes wrong when the brain can't learn to read: how new findings are leading to new solutions Links and References
  • FastForward-an successful approach to treating dyslexia
  • Michael Posner-a psychologist who used PET scans to study what happens during shifts of attention (a necessary first step in reading)
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Review: "Palestine" by President Jimmy Carter (B&I 8)

I was a little hesitant to choose a controversial book, but after I read President Carter's new book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, I felt the ideas were too important not to share. I also feel that anyone who reads the book for themselves will agree that Jewish Americans are being unfair when they accuse President Carter of taking sides. It is true that he highlights the plight of the Palestinians in the occupied territories, but this hardly makes him biased. Episode 8 of Books and Ideas is only an introduction to the book. You will have to read it yourself to make your own decision. Listen Now Download Transcript Subscribe to this podcast Subscribe via iTunes™ Join email list Here are some links you might find interesting: The Carter Center CNN's coverage of the resignation of the Jewish members of the Carter Center Some information about the Wall Israel is building around its settlements
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My first interview: Matthew Cobb, author of "Generation" (B&I 7)

matthewcobb.jpgMatthew Cobb Show Notes In this podcast is an interview with Matthew Cobb who wrote Generation: The Seventeenth-Century Scientists Who Unraveled the Secrets of Sex, Life, and Growth, which was discussed in Episode 6. Cobb discusses how he became interested in the Dutch Golden Age and the pioneers who discovered the egg and the sperm, even though it was almost 200 years before the discovery of genetics helped solve the mystery of human reproduction. We also discuss how the history of of science reveals the role of human nature in the scientific endeavor. Matthew gave a great interview, but I haven't had time to compile detailed shownotes. Listen to the interview now. Download Episode Transcript Subscribe to this podcast Subscribe via iTunes™ Join email list Egg and Sperm website
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Review: "Generation" by Matthew Cobb (B&I 6)

generation.jpgGeneration: The Seventeenth-Century Scientists Who Unraveled the Secrets of Sex, Life, and Growth by Matthew Cobb Listen to this episode now Subscribe to this podcast Subscribe via iTunes™ Join email list Show Notes In this episode I discuss the highlights of Matthew Cobb’s account of the early days of the scientific revolution. During the Dutch Golden Age of the 17th century, several Dutch thinkers made important contributions to discovering how human reproduction happens. Their work helped established the scientific method of experimentation and helped revolutionize how we see ourselves relative to the other living things on earth. Here are the full names of the people mentioned: William Harvey Neils Steno Francesco Redi Robert Hooke Johannes van Horne Jan Swammerdam Reinier de Graaf Antoni Leeuwenhoek Gregor Mendel Other interesting Links: Matthew Cobb’s Website an American Scientist Bookstand interview of Matthew Cobb
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The Relationship between Science and Philosophy (B&I 5)

The main subject of Episode 5 is a discussion of the relationship between science and philosophy. After tracing their common heritage, Dr. Campbell examines why the fields have become estranged and why communication between science and philosophy is important to the advancement and integrity of both disciplines. She argues that individuals should take the opportunity to learn about other fields in order to counteract over specialization. Show Notes Movies: Smokey and the Bandit Close Encounters of the Third Kind Television: Ugly Betty Audiobook: Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen Book: Doubt: A History: The Great Doubters and Their Legacy of Innovation from Socrates and Jesus to Thomas Jefferson and Emily Dickinson by Jennifer Michael Hecht Books and Ideas is committed to exploring ideas from diverse fields. Listen to this episode now Episode Transcript (Download PDF) Subscribe to this podcast Subscribe via iTunes™ Here is a video worth watching! Save the Internet | Rock the Vote
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