Daniel Dennett has it right

PZ Myers has survived urgent elective heart surgery and is back to writing on his blog with “A fistful of stents“.

First of all, I’m not dead yet. Let’s get that out of the way.

Yesterday morning was the big event here in hospital-land: I was to get an angiogram, this procedure where they thread wires up your femoral artery to you heart and start poking around with dyes and things to figure out what’s going on….  I resolved to use my keen scientific mind to observe and report back later on what it was like.

Go to PZ’s link to read his amusing description of surgery from the point of view of a semi-conscious patient.

… soon enough I’ll be off to resting at home, beginning the cardio therapy the doctor will no doubt be putting me on, and back to classes and writing. Expect blogging to be on the light side, though, while I catch up on rest and other pressing projects that were interrupted by this surprise event.

Daniel Dennett sums up my feelings most eloquently: “Thank goodness!

Daniel C. Dennett

I saw with greater clarity than ever before in my life that when I say “Thank goodness!” this is not merely a euphemism for “Thank God!” (We atheists don’t believe that there is any God to thank.) I really do mean thank goodness! There is a lot of goodness in this world, and more goodness every day, and this fantastic human-made fabric of excellence  is genuinely responsible for the fact that I am alive today. It is a worthy recipient of the gratitude I feel today, and I want to celebrate that fact here and now.

To whom, then, do I owe a debt of gratitude? To the cardiologist who has kept me alive and ticking for years, and who swiftly and confidently rejected the original diagnosis of nothing worse than pneumonia. To the surgeons, neurologists, anesthesiologists, and the perfusionist, who kept my systems going for many hours under daunting circumstances. To the dozen or so physician assistants, and to nurses and physical therapists and x-ray technicians and a small army of phlebotomists so deft that you hardly know they are drawing your blood, and the people who brought the meals, kept my room clean, did the mountains of laundry generated by such a messy case, wheel-chaired me to x-ray, and so forth. These people came from Uganda, Kenya, Liberia, Haiti, the Philippines, Croatia, Russia, China, Korea,  India—and the United States, of course—and I have never seen more impressive mutual respect, as they helped each other out and checked each other’s work. But for all their teamwork, this local gang could not have done their jobs without the huge background of contributions from others. I remember with gratitude my late friend and Tufts colleague, physicist Allan Cormack, who shared the Nobel Prize for his invention of the c-t scanner. Allan—you have posthumously saved yet another life, but who’s counting? The world is better for the work you did. Thank goodness. Then there is the whole system of medicine, both the science and the technology, without which the best-intentioned efforts of individuals would be roughly useless. So I am grateful to the editorial boards and referees, past and present, of Science, Nature, Journal of the American Medical Association, Lancet, and all the other institutions of science and medicine that keep churning  out improvements, detecting and correcting flaws.

One Response to “Daniel Dennett has it right”

  1. Jason Blum Says:

    Absolutely. And reading Hitchens deal with his cancer, it’s clear these guys have more honesty and integrity in their pinky toes than in all popes, monks, priests, bishops and other religious salesmen who ever lived.


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