Medicine: Art or Science?

At our Spring 2014 Fundraising event, Siloam Family Health Center had the pleasure of featuring Wendell Berry speak on “The Health of a Community.”

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As a Kentucky farmer, poet, essayist, and novelist, Wendell Berry may seem like an unlikely voice to speak into the matters of health and the work of medicine, but when one leans in to hear him speak, there’s an uncanny sense of insight that unveils the shadows of our modernity and brings truths to light.  His perception introduces a new way of thinking about health, where the body is more than a sum of its parts, like a machine, where the work of medicine is something much more meaningful than the tinkering of that  “machine.”

His essay, “Health is Membership,” explores this idea even more as Wendell Berry wrestles between the art and science of healing.

“I take literally the statement in the Gospel of John that God loves the world.  I believe that the world was created and approved by love, that it subsists, coheres, and endures by love, and that, insofar as it is redeemable, it can be redeemed only by love.  I believe that divine love, incarnate and indwelling in the world, summons the world always toward wholeness, which ultimately is reconciliation and atonement with God.”

With this thought that “health is wholeness,” Wendell proposes the notion that the work of medicine comes from love and can no longer fit within the confines of standardized practice alone—that seeking efficiency within medicine is a deficit when it allies with the paradigm of human health as a science alone, that the work of medicine should come from a place of love if it’s goal is healing in the truest sense of the word.

Delivered as a speech at a conference in Louisville, Kentucky in October 17, 1994, we invite you to read the full essay here.

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