Insert Comma logo
Insert Comma • A Portfolio of Leigh E. Rich
Categories: Books, Editorials, Ethics, Health, Media, Politics, Science, Social Science, Utrinque Paratus | Comments Off on Prestidigitation vs. public trust

Or how we can learn to change the conversation and prevent powers from “organizing the discontent” By Leigh E. Rich When Drs. Silvia Camporesi, Mark Davis, and Maria Vaccarella (2017) approached the Journal of Bioethical Inquiry about a symposium on “Public Trust in Expert Knowledge” as well as a panel session at the October 2016 […]

Categories: Books, Editorials, Education, Ethics, Social Science, Utrinque Paratus | Comments Off on Afterthoughts and foresight

Digging through boxes of bygone beliefs and brooding about the burgeoning of bioethics By Leigh E. Rich I recently unearthed a box long lost in the back of my closet, a box that has travelled with me across several states and too many years. I don’t think of myself as a pack rat by any […]

Categories: Books, Ethics, Media, Science, Television, Utrinque Paratus | Comments Off on “Hannibal” and the horrors of hyper-rationality

A common theme in detective stories is the introduction of an archenemy—often a serial killer who rivals the protagonist in intelligence and cunning but clearly lacks a moral center. This “two sides of the same coin” trope heightens the suspense in the storyline not only because the hero and the villain stand toe-to-toe (or brain-to-brain), especially in the final face-off, but also because the constructed symmetry suggests that there is but a fragile line between “genius” and “evil genius.” In the television series Hannibal, FBI consultant Will Graham and the cannibalistic psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter seem on the surface to fit these roles. Upon closer inspection, however, the two characters share little in common: While the latter is a medically-trained psychopath, impeccably poised but devoid of compassion, the former’s talent for catching killers stems from his “remarkably vivid imagination” and rare capacity for “[p]ure empathy.” This empathetic understanding, a combination of rational and emotive deduction, enables Graham to “see” what the FBI’s behavioral and forensic scientists cannot: a contextualized and embodied view of another’s actions rather than a reconstructed and technologized myopia of the “evidence that counts.” Interestingly, it also allows him to recognize each killer as human, not as some wholly distinct and monstrous “other.” In this way, it is instead the members of the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit—inculcated with a “professional distance” that tends to transform all subjects into objects—that are “just like” Lecter. Thus, rather than merely another round of rivalry between hero and antihero, Hannibal calls into question the “objective distance” of professionalism and emphasizes that “genius” (revelation) is rooted not just in reason but also in emotional and subjective experience, exploring cultural fears of the fuzzy postmodern constructions of science and the self. While empathy poses certain real risks (from which Will Graham and the rest of us are not immune), Graham’s character and the Hannibal television program suggest that, rather than undermining understandings of the world or ourselves, an empathetic approach to discovery is more authentic and ethical because it leads to greater recognition of oneself and others—and who we are in relation with others (identity as co-constructed)—as well as greater capacity to take responsibility for our actions.

Categories: Books, Editorials, Ethics, Social Science, Utrinque Paratus | Comments Off on Government of the people, by the people, for the people

Bioethics, literature, and method By Michael A. Ashby and Leigh E. Rich Why do we listen to songs and watch soap operas, and some of us even try to read poetry? Why do we love stories, joke about serious issues, and listen in on other people’s conversations? Why are we sad when a good book […]

Categories: Books, History, Politics, Religion, Utrinque Paratus | Comments Off on Scientology as case study

What the ethical and legal history of Scientology can teach us about religion By Leigh E. Rich Though in many ways still shrouded in secrecy, Scientology could be said to be one of the most “accessible” religions in the world—that is, in terms of documenting and understanding its origins. Part of this has to do with its young age, […]

Categories: Books, People, Utrinque Paratus | Comments Off on Authors sign book in blood

Curse drives Denver-based horror duo to dig deep By Leigh E. Rich Chaosicon: A Novel of Supernatural Terror By Christopher Leppek and Emanuel Isler Write Way Publishing June 2001 358 pages Horror authors Christopher Leppek and Emanuel “Mani” Isler never thought “chaos” would stalk them. Or come for their blood. Literally. The Denver-based duo recently […]

Categories: Books, Science, Social Science, Utrinque Paratus | Comments Off on The elusive but useful epidemic

Does the ‘preparedness industry’ predict calamity or promote the illusion of a ‘risk-free’ life? By Leigh E. Rich Dread: How Fear and Fantasy Have Fueled Epidemics From the Black Death to Avian Flu By Philip Alcabes Public Affairs April 2009 336 pages When it comes to many of today’s epidemics, perhaps, as FDR warned during […]

Categories: Books, People, Science, Social Science, Utrinque Paratus | Comments Off on Prepared or panicked?

Epidemics and the concept of ‘Dread’ with author Philip Alcabes By Leigh E. Rich In the mid-1300s, the “Great Mortality” decimated nearly one-third of Europe’s population. One of every three or four individuals was stricken with the “pestilence,” a mysterious illness that began with a headache, fever and swollen lymph glands—around which red spots on […]

Categories: Books, Religion, Social Science, Utrinque Paratus | Comments Off on On demons and doctors

What does horror have to do with public health? By Leigh E. Rich American sportswriter Red Smith once said, “There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at the typewriter and open a vein.” Two Denver-based horror novelists have done away with the metaphor and are literally mixing their blood with ink, selling […]

Categories: Books, Ethics, Health, History, Media, Social Science, Television, Utrinque Paratus | Comments Off on The afterbirth of the clinic

A Foucauldian perspective on “House M.D.” and American medicine in the 21st century By Leigh E. Rich, Jack Simmons, David Adams, Scott Thorpe, and Michael Mink Mirroring Michel Foucault’s The Birth of the Clinic (1963), which describes the philosophical shift in medical discourse in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the Fox television series House […]

Categories: Books, Health, Utrinque Paratus | Comments Off on The meaning of knife

Surgeon-turned-writer shares his ‘Mortal Lessons’ with Savannah By Leigh E. Rich Maimonides. Chekhov. Keats. Rabelais. William Carlos Williams. Richard Selzer chuckles while ticking off names of his predecessors as if seating arrangements for an Algonquin soiree. He is but one, he says, in a long line of physician-writers. “I’m the one that’s just alive,” the […]

Categories: Books, Health, People, Utrinque Paratus | Comments Off on Written exam

Former surgeon Richard Selzer dissects ‘The Doctor as Writer’ By Leigh E. Rich It’s taken him 37 years, but surgeon-turnedauthor Richard Selzer knows his worth—at least as a writer. “It’s not much, but it’s something,” the soon-to-be 78-year-old says with a wry smile and a wink. No politician or pop star, Selzer undersells himself. The […]