“The study of the evolution of disease patterns provides evidence that
during the last century doctors have affected epidemics no more
profoundly than did priests during earlier times. Epidemics came and went,
imprecated by both but touched by neither. They are not modified any
more decisively by the rituals performed in medical clinics than by those
customary at religious shrines.”
— Ivan Illich, in Limits to Medicine
Author’s introduction to the English edition
In 1998, while I was living close to Geneva, the Swiss people were called to the polls on a major issue regarding the extent to which genetic engineering should or shouldn’t be allowed. This important issue raised debates of an intensity usually unknown to the Swiss.
Every day, I read the newspaper articles written by the advocates and opponents to genetic engineering, as well as the letters sent by readers of these newspapers. While reading this material, it became obvious to me that both parties were unaware that this upcoming vote was not only a
scientific issue, but also — if not mainly — a religious one (as hinted by the posters of one political party titled “A new Creation? We like the old one better”).
That understanding led me to write a long letter to a major Swiss newspaper, which ended up being published in its entirety. Its impact on readers startled me. I started receiving letters and even phone calls from many people: They said that my letter had put words on something they vaguely felt but hadn’t quite intellectualized as I had.
I was then asked to lecture on the topic of this religious dimension of life sciences and medicine, both in Switzerland and France. The more I did so, the more I realized that what seemed an obvious matter to me — the superposition of medicine over religion — was not as obvious to most people. This led me to decide to write a small book in French on this issue, which was published in September 1999.
Many physicians, doctors, and even university professors wrote to me after reading this book to share with me how the insights they had found in my writings had helped them take another look at their profession and sometimes better understand what was going on below the surface in their
relationships with their patients, or in their research programs.
Then, I was asked to summarize the ideas contained in my book for an AIDS-oriented website (Continuum). I translated to English myself the overview of the book and had it “polished” by someone of English mother tongue. As soon as this overview was published on the web, I started
receiving numerous e-mails from all over the world. At some point, the important daily amount of e-mails led me to think that they couldn’t all be the result of just that one Continuum site. After checking with a search engine, I found out that my article had been copied in many other sites and
had also been included in some news groups and forums.
I took the enthusiastic feedback from my web readers as a sign that my book could be of interest beyond the French-speaking countries, as also confirmed by the fact that a UCLA student spontaneously — and very kindly — offered to translate the rest of the book (thanks again, Rachel!).
Having worked as Foreign Rights Manager for a Franco-Swiss publishing house, I had personal contacts with various English and American publishers. That’s how I ended up receiving a positive reply from my amazing friend Bradley L. Winch of Personhood Press, California. I had gotten to know Bradley through his other publishing house, Jalmar Press, which has been doing such a fantastic job for decades to help promote a better and less violent world and a better education for children. So, I
am both proud and very thankful to be published by him.
One last thing: I am aware that the religious (and medical) context is quite different in the United States from what it is in France and European countries. But behind these superficial differences, the dynamics I reveal in this book are the same (as suggested by the feedback from my non-French
readers on the web). I feel, therefore, confident that my English-speaking readers will be able to adapt to their specific religious and medical context the examples I give, when needed.
Olivier F. Clerc
English Download https://t.co/NUpSXgejBQ?amp=1
French Download https://t.co/ZVV961Ly1T?amp=1