Status claudeoegoimagus

Medical research has always had a bit of a drawback, and that’s that healthy people typically don’t want doctors and researchers poking about in their innards. Think about it. If you’re feeling fine, why are you at the doctor’s office?

Okay, maybe you’re poor enough to be selling plasma. Or taking ten to twenty bucks for participating in some study or other. If you need the money that badly, stuff that wouldn’t normally sound like a good idea starts to sound better. Why else are they offering money in the first place, except to encourage you to be there to be poked and prodded and bled?

Fine. Research is important and $10 is $10. Take what you can get. $10 is another three or four days of eating if you’re frugal.

But there’s an important consideration here. Doctors and researchers need to remember that they’re getting their data from poor people. Poverty means poor nutrition as well, and poor nutrition means poor health, both physically and mentally.

Western medicine finally figured this out less than a hundred years ago. This was around the end of the era where the “resurrectionists” were digging up the recently dead to sell cadavers to medical schools. City officials still donate unclaimed corpses from flop houses and orphanages because burials are expensive and medical research will always need cadavers of every age.

But this kind of exclusive source of cadavers can lead to serious medical goofs, such as “status thymicolymphaticus“, which, in the late eighteen hundreds, right after the discovery of X-rays, was believed to be the cause for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. See, when babies were taken in for their checkups they were X-rayed to hell and back because no one knew that was particularly bad for you, and the X-rays showed this huge thymus gland apparently weighing down on the babies’ pulmonary apparatuses, and, since studies of little baby cadavers showed tiny little shriveled thymuses instead of bloated, lymph-filled thingies, the doctors would use said X-rays to irradiate the fuck out of the thymuses until they were suitably shriveled and/or nonexistent and declare the babies healthy.

No one particularly thought that maybe dead babies had died for a reason, and among those reasons might be poor nutrition and poor hydration, and that that, in turn, might lead to a tiny shriveled thymus in addition to death.

It wasn’t until the 1960s that the thymus was discovered to be pretty damned critical to the immune system–particularly during childhood–as the body learns friend from foe, immunologically speaking.

In any case, trying to figure out the medicine of health from sick and dead people is tricky business. You have to study healthy people to get a good baseline.

Which is why this worries me a trifle. “Game worlds show their human side” is the title of the BBC article. I guess it’s accurate enough.

It’s high time that serious studies of the sociology of online interactions come into being. There’s a lot more of it now that there used to be, say, twenty years ago, and there will be a lot more later on than there is now. But I cringe to think that researchers will try to find extrapolatable facts from rules they discover from studying populations rife with people who prefer contact with others to be filtered through the impenetrable shield of online avatars.

Health is defined by what’s statistically “normal”, or at least prevalent enough to be accepted as a workable strategy. Homosexual inclination, for instance, is not particularly concerned with replication of genetic material and rearing children, but since non-breeding populations are not exactly detrimental to society in general and individuals have other worths that completely trump the decreasingly relevant choice to spawn biologically (a tendency neither unique to homosexuality nor a requirement of it), homosexual inclination becomes accepted. And a useful part of regulating population size without, say, culls. Or wars. Or famine. Or pestilence. Which are basically culls.

I don’t want doctors telling me in therapy that I will feel less uncomfortable among other people if I construct an exaggerated, physiologically unlikely, and aesthetically idealized self-image I’ll never be able to achieve in real life and use it like a puppet to talk to people I’d never have the nerve to talk to otherwise. Frankly, if I never needed to talk to human beings in the real world that might be fine, but, in fact, if I ever need to sit through a job interview or a thesis defense or talk to potential investors or (God Forbid I ever need to do this again) date, I should possibly have a less ludicrous and more realistic self-image.

I don’t know if I’ll be able to say that in another twenty years’ time, but I’m fairly convinced it’s true for now.


July 29, 2007 · by xalieri · Posted in Everything Else  


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