This conversation is closed.

Banning science because of racist origins

I was looking for 'the best atlas of human anatomy', and I found that one of the top books ever written in medicine is the 'Atlas of Topographical and Applied Human Anatomy' by Eduard Pernkopf is no longer available in the market. BANNED :-(

Yes he was wrong and unethical when he used the bodies of more than 800 victim of the nazi terror, spending two decades in dissecting corpses and letting a team of artists draw. But that finished. It is done. What is left is the science and knowledge he discovered.

Do you think that banning the knowledge in this book from the public is the right decision?

Shouldn't we take the knowledge discovered a step further and discover new facts in an ethical way?

Should other books be banned because of their history or background?

Is banning scientific books like this better than banning the books, websites, video's...etc that tell the history of the terror of the Nazis? (there are thousands online and in different languages)

Are we being ethical by banning historic achievements? ( we don't have to promote them, only present and make them available)

Isn't it more ethical to stop the wars that WE CREATE all around the world? (dead people are burnt, burried, 'thrown in the sea (political rumour) .....etc
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

To all of those who participated in this debate: Thank you very much!!

Some members deleted their comments, so I did the same.
However, I have copied the full conversation to an MS Word document (42 comments)
I may also delete the whole conversation before it gets closed (unless you ask me not to do that)

Again, Thank you for your participation! I appreciate your ideas and thoughts

Critical thinker AND PROUD :P

  • Nov 24 2011: I personally believe no for the following reasons:
    1. within the subtext, there might lie evidence about why the people do the things they do.
    2. knowledge itself is just a tool with the capacity to do good as well as bad.
    3. where do we draw the line? morality seems to be different for different people. There are areas where the line is blurred, even today. Is it immoral to treat animals cruelly if it saves human lives? Is it immoral to change mother nature for human gain?

    That being said, we should also be careful about how we release this knowledge so that unethical methods are not encouraged, but condemned. We should honor those victimized, not by deleting their existence from the bookshelves, but allow their unwilling sacrifice to do good in the world.
  • thumb
    Nov 23 2011: I would believe that it not respectful for the people who suffered from the Nazis to use the materials built on their pain. But I also agree that knowledge is knowledge.

    So I would propose to redo ethically what was done unethically and make the knowledge widely available from ethically built materials.
    • Comment deleted

      • thumb
        Nov 25 2011: True. But the big difference is that 1/ Pharaos are not victims like where all those people in Nazis camps and mainly 2/ nobody today suffers of what happened in Egypt millenniums ago, while there are still people who were Nazis victims, or were closed relatives to those victims, and who still have strong painful feelings about this.

        I just don't want to add more to their burden. If we can find a way to disclose the same knowledge with means that hurt nobody's feeling, why not do it this way instead ?
  • thumb
    Nov 28 2011: That is a great question,

    I mean you do have a point and I do understand why they would ban such a book (fear of someone using it as a justification for the same reasons he did)...but we should be able to distinguish the work of an individual and their personal lives (unless, as it seems in this case their work and knowledge did have an influence on their personal lives and values). For example, I've read a history book in which it talked about Hitler being such a great orator and someone who put Germany on the rise. Rarely did it talk about the Holocaust and his profound influence on it...Anyhow despite this I will say this: Hitler may have been morally bankrupt and had some real serious issues but I cannot deny is rhetoric skills.

    I have never personally read the book your talking about but your correct, if we are indeed going to ban books for such reasons, then many other books should be banned...or we should come to understand that during such a time if Eduard Pernkopf had decided not to do it he and his family would have risked their lives and to be quite honest, I only know of a few people who would not have done horrible things during such a horrific time in history (I'm sure there were many good souls out there but to be realistic if someone came from being homeless, desperate and had nothing and then all of a sudden got back on their feet and is in control of their lives, the last thing they are thinking about is going back into the dark abyss)..

    If such a book is to be put back on the market, there perhaps should be certain regulations for it so history should not repeat itself again..


    Now that I think about it, the bible has so many horrible things to say in it (stoning, imperialism, human sacrifice) why does it never get banned? The inquisition was a result of it.....So was the incident of host desecration back in the 12th century..hmm
  • thumb
    Nov 27 2011: I would not ban the book, but I would question why you want to use it. I am not familiar with it other than the information you have posted, but the world is not short on anatomy book. If it contained some knowledge that was not know to us I would say we should accept this knowledge with the acknowledgement of the dubious origin. That said there are plenty of book, both with drawing and cadaver picture to choose from so why choose one that is morally tainted. I am assuming you are studding medicine of some kind to be interested in books like this, at least many people who read such books are. Would you want a doctor who had such ethical flexibility that they would seek out books written by a Nazi doctor that contains fairly common knowledge at this point.
    • Comment deleted

      • thumb
        Nov 28 2011: Well what is so special about this book. Anatomy books are fairly common, exhibits like body worlds, tour around the world, those's that need to have access to cadavers. We also must remember that there are still people alive who had to suffer through these camps. Many med students will have personal connections to the bodies that were unethically obtained. I would hardly see this as banning science as anatomy is is taught.
  • Comment deleted

    • Comment deleted

      • Comment deleted

  • Comment deleted

    • Comment deleted

      • thumb
        Nov 27 2011: easy to say for a non-Jew to say that... there is more social aspect to it as to its usefulness...
        besides we have CAT SCANS , Medical Anatomical Imaging, etc. Publishing the book entails a certain degree of AGREEMENT to the method of the immoral acquisition of such information.
  • thumb
    Nov 26 2011: With so many digital technology around to support knowledge , do we really need to have something that has very inhumane history attached with?
    • Comment deleted

      • thumb
        Nov 26 2011: OK , will check if I can find one.
        These days when lot depends on digital versions still if you are fan of prnited version of books thats fine , please try also a book named Netter's Atlas though I think you have a copy of the Eduard's Atlas.
      • thumb
        Nov 27 2011: So why you asking for it again once you have it ?

        For scientific reason and for the reason of enhancing knowledge will country you live allow open discussion on religion specially Islam?
        Or
        Discussion on medieval kingship ?
  • Nov 26 2011: It is to my understanding that the main problem of ethics with this case was that these bodies were sent to Dr. Perkopf DURING nazi times. Which means the nazis murdered these people and then sent them to be studied to the University of Vienna. Which is of course wrong. I think it is proper to ban the book. If only to discourage allowing these sorts of atrocities. You are right, knowledge is knowledge however we can not reward Eduard Pernkopf's work because of how it came about. We have to discourage any investigators from 'sacrificing' their ethics for the good of scientific advancement with the idea that in the end their work will be published anyway. They must know that if the don't follow scientific ethics, they will NOT be acknowledged and their knowledge will NOT be shared. At least I believe that is the justification behind banning Dr. Pernkopf's work. I think comparing to works that speak OF the holocaust is unfair. Since these works mention it's atrocities to make people conscious of it's horrors. Dr. Pernkopf's work is a product of these horrors and takes advantage of them in a sort of positive way.
  • Nov 24 2011: Check on the Internet for a visual atlas. There are several that are excellent (and one that costs which may be better(). Banning something because of the way it was produced is a personal (not political) question. Should we ban the negative impact of nuclear energy when nuclear medicine has benefit? There are thousands of other very obvious similar arguments. And, given we can't change history perhaps the focus should be on not repeating it instead of bringing up issues that only serve to inflame "some" of us.
  • thumb
    Nov 24 2011: Ye sI believe this material should be banned simply for the way in which it was obtained. I am all in favour of free speech ,and free ideas. But I`m sure with the knowledge obtained about human anatomy over even just the past few years would not be nessessary to have this book sitting on library shelves. It is an Insult to the people whose lives were forfieted in the obtaining of this knowledge and the manner in which a lot of it was done. Some might argue that child porn is educational and should be permitted to be viewed by all and anyone.But you forget there is a human suffering side to this kind of thinking. Perhaps the most horrific of our present times. Should these people be allowed to publish and display this type of material and suggest that it holds some sort of educational value or that it is an expression of ones freedom of thought and the writing word or for art. Pls give me a break . Sometimes a line must be drawn in the sand especially where human suffering and degredation is involved and where the only out come for the reader or viewer is either revultion or perhaps sedistic pleasure.
    • thumb
      Nov 24 2011: I think you may be missing one of the crucial differences here. Society in general rejects things like child pornography, but we don't unilaterally reject anatomy textbooks. I think we are rational enough to see the difference. Yes, atrocities were committed in both cases, but the presentation and intended use is quite different. The larger point here is that an organization or government is deciding to ban certain things and not others. In my view, when we start limiting freedoms, it can become a slippery slope. What would come next, banning documentaries on the holocaust? Burning books? That's not what a civilized society does. We can't turn away from atrocities or ignore history; we have to do our best to learn from them, so that future ones can be prevented. Banning this book isn't going to retroactively prevent the holocaust, nor will it incite people to follow the practices of the writer, but it could help people become interested in the medical sciences and go on to save lives. What better way to pay tribute to those who suffered than to use this text to do good?
      • thumb
        Nov 28 2011: No I think I am not missing the point precisely because. If society were given the facts about the ehtics and origin of this book it would indeed reject it just as it would reject child pornography.since there is plenty of other material tfy the interests of anyone whishing to study anatomy then what is the real use of such a book. It seems to stand for the author of this thread as some sort of symbol of ethics,that while we would ban this book we would not ban something else. He would have it published because something else of equally offensive material sees the light of day. I would simly say that two`` wrongs` do not make a ` right`.
    • Comment deleted

      • thumb
        Nov 28 2011: Is it simply because it is a book that you object to its banning or the intelectual content Somethings are just to offensive for proper civil society. Just as if you were sitting in a resturant and I bent over infront of you to wipe my A___ .would i`m sure cause you offence even to the point of having me banned from the resturant in the future. Even though some might say I was just using my free will to do as I pleased. However there are certain habits that we have laws against and public exposure and nasty practices that we do behind closed doors need to stay behind closed doors.As a society we generally agree. Therefore I believe the publishing of this book to sit on public library shelves for all to see is one of those liitle things in life which benefit no one except to use as a poor argument for free speech and freedom of thought. Why do we allow wars and filth of all kinds to flow into our lives and not certain other things I don`t know. Who knows maybe wiping my a___ in front of you may bring about some positive change, there may even be some intrinsic value in doing a stury of such practices , but so far it is not allowed as far as I know. for obvious reasons we take for granted.
  • thumb
    Nov 23 2011: .
    I agree these types of documents should not be banned. Knowledge is knowledge. Certainly, you don't want to encourage unethical scientific practices, but once the knowledge is out there, keeping it from people could do more harm than good.

    It's not like banning this is teaching that dead Nazi guy a lesson or anything! The same way punishing current USC athletes for what former students did is going to do any real good there.

    Having said that. There is something to be said about upholding a certain set of principles as a people. For instance, if you ran a charitable organization, would you accept a large donation knowing that it came from an organized crime syndicate? I realize that is a flawed example, but you get the idea. Allowing this type of thing can be a violation of our core principles, so I see where they are coming from.

    I would be very interested to know who banned that though. Was it your local library, Amazon.com, your government?

    Good topic by the way. Thanks.
  • thumb
    Nov 23 2011: I fully agree. Documents shouldn't be banned. It's like everything else... just keep it away from kindergarten libraries, that's all.