WE NEED TO FACE 2022 WITH COURAGE AND SCIENTIFIC INTEGRITY
JPR Vol 11 #2 January 5, 2022
Alan Eppel MB, FRCPC
Professor of Psychiatry Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences, Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada. ORCID iD https://orcid.org/ 0000-0002-4880-4097
Ana Hategan, MD, FRCPC
Clinical Professor, Geriatric Psychiatrist, Division of Geriatric Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences, Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada. ORCID iD https://orcid.org/0000-0003-0221-1154
Caroline Giroux MD, FRCPC
Associate Clinical Professor, Psychiatrist, University of California, Davis Medical Center, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Sacramento, California, USA.
As we begin the year 2022 we are faced with social and environmental threats to the survival of human society. The coronavirus pandemic will continue to exert enormous stress on the health and safety of the population. There is widespread fatigue and demoralization in response to the prolonged encounter with COVID-19. Many families face economic hardship and even collapse. Healthcare professionals and services have faced unique demands not experienced in North America even during wartime.
The relentless progression of climatic change poses a threat to the very existence of our planet and to its human and animal populations. International relationships are in a precarious unstable equilibrium. There has been a shocking emergence of authoritarianism and fascism on our own continent and in Europe not witnessed since the 1930s and 1940s. The major military powers in the world have increased their capacity to cause nuclear destruction and the risks of military conflict have escalated.
What then can give us hope in this new year?
Two exemplary scientists may provide inspiration to readers of this Journal because of their vision, tenacity and creativity: Jacob Bronowski and Jonas Salk.
The first, Jacob Bronowski (1908-1974), was a brilliant mathematician who had graduated from Cambridge University with first class honours. He was also a physicist, biologist and poet. Bronowski was one of the leading scientists and intellectuals of his time and developed a unified view of the scientific and artistic imagination. He went on to work with Jonas Salk in creating the ideas and plans for the Salk Institute in La Jolla California.
Bronowski, designated the forward progress and cultural evolution of human existence as “The Ascent of Man,” a contrast to Darwin’s “The Descent of Man” . Bronowski emphasised that humans are unique in their imaginative, adaptive and cognitive abilities. This has manifested in the development of science and technology and the expression of new art forms. It is the scientific endeavour with its creativity, synthesis and objectivity that has allowed humankind to survive in the face of climatic and environmental catastrophes.
Jonas Salk graduated from New York University School of Medicine in 1939 and became a scientist physician at Mount Sinai Hospital. In 1947 he was appointed director of the Virus Research Laboratory at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. His work led to the development of the first polio vaccine.
For many decades he has been an inspiration to many scientists and physicians and his philosophy is summarised in his saying:
“Hope lies in dreams, in imagination and in the courage of those who dare to make dreams into reality.”
But Bronowski expresses a note of caution:
“The Ascent of Man is always teetering in the balance. There is always a sense of uncertainty, whether when man lifts his foot for the next step it is really going to come down pointing ahead. And what is ahead for us? At last the bringing together of all that we have learned, in physics and biology, towards an understanding of where we have come: what man is.
Knowledge is our destiny. Self-knowledge, at last bringing together the experience of the arts and the explanations of science, waits ahead of us.” .
The Journal of Psychiatry Reform (JPR) has since its inception in October 2015 sought to enhance the scientific endeavour and cultural evolution by disseminating information and providing critical commentary on publications and practices in the field of psychiatry and related disciplines. We have maintained our stance of “no conflicts of interest”. We provide unbiased information with complete independence from financial or other external influences. We have published commentary on the pressing issues of the day: psychiatric education, medical education and mentorship, COVID-19, climate change and mental health, psychotherapeutics, psychopharmacology, trauma, discrimination, racism, and the genocide of indigenous peoples.. We continue to be inspired by Bronowski’s ethos and heroic words :
“We are all afraid – for our confidence, for the future, for the world. That is the nature of the human imagination. Yet every man, every civilization, has gone forward because of its engagement with what it has set itself to do. The personal commitment of a man to his skill, the intellectual commitment and the emotional commitment working together as one, has made the Ascent of Man.”
In a year in which the ascent of man was indeed teetering in the balance, 2021 has been eventful for scientific advances. Pandemic-related research has been just one storyline of this year’s global narrative. Looking to 2022, the JPR’s editors anticipate that the ascent of human progress will continue with further research into how emerging COVID-19 vaccines and therapies affect people who are currently experiencing long-COVID symptoms and into ways of offering more protection to those at risk of becoming seriously ill with neuropsychiatric symptom manifestations.
More radical research is also required into health systems organization and service delivery models in order to meet the ongoing threats of disease and climate change. Health systems will need to be configured to adapt to rapidly changing needs. Flexibility, responsiveness and access will be key. Elimination of structural racism and other forms of discrimination within healthcare and medical research will be essential in order for us to maintain forward progress.
This is an article about the ascent of man but also about the rise of human consciousness. By giving a voice to all, including oppressed and minority groups, by bringing stories together, breaking the silence, disseminating cutting edge knowledge, raising awareness, we empower ourselves and our readers to become agents of change.
- Jacob Bronowski. The Ascent of Man. British Broadcasting Corporation, London 1973.
2. Jonas Salk. Salk Institute for Biological Studies. https://www.salk.edu/about/history-of-salk/jonas-salk/
(Accessed January 4, 2022)