Technorati href="http://www.technorProfile Thinking Nurse: Jef Raskin Vs Martha Rogers

Thinking Nurse

This blog will reflect my interests in learning disabilities, nursing, nursing theory, philosophy and politics and my general interests in the arts and literature. (Nursing is an art as well as a science!) Philosophy and nursing have been intrinsically linked since the days of Socrates, his mother was a midwife, and taught him everything he knew!

Friday, December 17, 2004

Jef Raskin Vs Martha Rogers

Jef Raskin is a leading designer and developer of Computers, instrumental in the conception of the Apple Macintosh, his key revolutionary concept being to make computers usable by everyone, rather than just by technophiles, by using pictures that you can point at rather than having to laboriously type in code.

In his spare time, Raskin uses his considerable intellect to commentate on a wide variety of subjects, but with a common theme of the defence of the scientific method, and it’s achievements, against ignorance and misinterpretation.

It is in this quest that he has ‘banged heads’ with the work of Martha Rogers, who was a nurse theorist, a PhD, and dean of Nursing at New York University. It is hardly surprising that Raskins theory base and that of Martha Rogers should clash, with Roger’s belief in human beings as ‘infinite energy fields’ being a direct challenge to conventional scientific thought!

Raskin has written a highly entertaining, and utterly ruthless destruction of Rogers’ ideas, which you can reach by clicking on the title of this post.
I think every potential nurse should read it, as it highlights the pitfalls that many Nursing Theorists fall into, and the dangers of much ‘New Age’ type thinking.

Opponents of Raskin have suggested that he is defending ‘empirical’ science, and has not recognised the existence of ‘human’ science, which is ironic given his record of enabling humans to interface with science based machinery!

The argument that there is ‘human science’ starts out easily enough; take the human face, it is possible to identify the scientific name of each muscle, and chart their positions and fields of movement. None of this work would tell you much about the meaning of a smile - the human meaning expressed through our faces.

It can be argued that there are different types of knowledge that work at different levels, the high level rules that attach to human meaning are different from the fundamental laws of physics.

However, what is crucially important is that these laws of meaning are confined to their own realm – within the human mind, and between one mind and another – it is not possible, and this is where Martha Rogers falls down, for events in the ‘higher’ realm of human meaning to defy the basic laws of physics.

The writing that your PC is delivering to you now conveys my meaning (or as much of it as I am capable of expressing), wherever you are in the world – but there are still physical processes going on which enable my meaning to get from my end of the wire to your end. These physical processes are measurable, and can be proved to be there.

Equally in nursing, we transmit information to our patients and clients, not just verbally, but through our tone of voice, and through body language, and we receive information in a similar way. This information is carried on photons of light, sound waves etc.

Martha Roger’s theories rely however on an energy field that cannot be measured, and for which there is no evidence, and as Raskin points out in such devastating fashion, she and her followers have constructed a whole system of humbug and pseudoscience to justify this.

Nurses must be very careful about their claims – there is nothing mystical about the healing power of human touch – it is an expression of emotional caring that is immensely beneficial to patients, a direct transfer of meaning between one person and another. There is no need to construct a pseudoscience about mystical energy fields to explain this phenomenon.

Nothing Raskin says contradicts the need for nurses to be sensitive to the human needs of their patients and clients, and in a way, Raskins attempts to make the interface between man and machine totally intuitive seems to echo Benner’s assertion that experienced nurses can develop an intuitive rapport with their patients.

Our understanding of the workings of the human mind is still far in it’s infancy. It is such a complex organism that much of our appreciation of it’s functioning is really at the level of astrology and alchemy rather than fully informed science. In such an atmosphere, the pseudoscientific assertions of people like Martha Rogers can all too easily gain credibility, unless we train ourselves in our abilities to spot humbug.


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