original Italian text by by Giorgio Agamben
translated for The Saker Blog by Gulab Bara
posted by permission of the author
original article here: https://www.quodlibet.it/giorgio-agamben-la-medicina-come-religione
It is now plainly evident that science has become the religion of our times, the one that humans believe they believe in. In the modern west, three great systems of faith have coexisted, and to some extent continue to coexist—Christianity, capitalism, and science. In the history of modernity, these three “religions” have intersected a number of times, occasionally coming into conflict before reconciling in one way or another, gradually finding a kind of peaceable and sensible coexistence, if not a real and proper alliance in the name of common interest.
What is new is, that without us noticing, an underlying and implacable conflict has been reignited between science and the other two religions. The victorious outcomes of this conflict for science are today right under our eyes and noses, conditioning every aspect of our existence in unprecedented fashion. Unlike previous conflicts, this one does not concern theory and general principles, but rather religious practice, so to speak. In fact, like every religion, science organizes itself in different forms and levels to establish a structured order. At the theoretical level, science features a subtle and rigorous dogma, while at the practical level there is a corresponding religious sphere that is extremely broad and detailed. This sphere coincides with what we call “technology.”
It is unsurprising that the central role in this new religious war is played by medicine, a field of science that is relatively undogmatic and strongly pragmatic, concerned directly with the living body of human beings. Let’s try to define the essential characteristics of this triumphant religious faith, with which we must increasingly come to terms.
- The first characteristic is that medicine, like capitalism, has no need of any special dogma; it limits itself to borrowing its fundamental concepts from biology. Unlike biology, however, it organizes these concepts in a gnostic-manichean sense, i.e., in accordance with an exaggerated dualistic opposition. There exists an “evil” power or principle, which is disease, whose specific agents are bacteria and viruses. At the same time, there exists a “good” force or principle. But this opposing principle is not health,