George McCartney is to be commended for his astute review (“Can’t Get No Satisfaction,” In the Dark, August) of the new film adaptation of Madame Bovary. Dr. McCartney’s close acquaintance with Gustave Flaubert’s novel serves him well. In connection with the 19th-century belief in progress, and its pitfalls, illustrated by the unsuccessful operation on Hippolyte’s club foot, Dr. McCartney observes that 21st-century medicine has provided genuine help through joint and limb replacements and repair; we are glad to read that he has benefited from such himself.
Closer equivalents to the mad devotion of Homais to science are experiments on human beings carried out by Nazis and, more recently, cloning of human tissues, hormonal and surgical transgendering, and the scientific separation of procreation from traditional couples by laboratory fertilization of unknowns by unknowns, the offspring of which are often destined to be reared in unusual social arrangements with terrible consequences—a Faustian and Soviétique vision come true.
—Catharine Savage Brosman
Dr. McCartney Replies:
Thank you, Dr. Brosman, for your kind words regarding my review. I had always thought Flaubert treated poor old Homais somewhat too roughly. After all he was only trying to improve the human condition—and, of course, his own social position. As such, he is a perfect example of enlightened self-interest. But you’re right. Homais is clearly an instance of Flaubert’s prescience. He’s harbinger of what was to come at the hands of enlightenment zealots, including the current madness of sexual reassignment for the neurotically dissatisfied. The spirit of doing things for no better reason than that they can be done, and done profitably, has inflicted endless harm in our time.
Still, I’m glad I found a talented surgeon who introduced exquisitely tiny tools into my shoulder to burr smooth the bone spurs that had developed on my scapular and thus relieve me of excruciating pain. I have occasionally wondered how many unsuccessful trial-and-error attempts to perform this surgical feat preceded my treatment. But I’m much too selfish to concern myself overly with the discomfort and pain previous subjects of this operation may have experienced.
My point is this: The Homais spirit is not wrong in and of itself; it does harm only when pursued without regard for spiritual and moral consequences. The Planned Parenthood videos now running on the news channels provide a perfect example of how seemingly “normal” people can become grotesquely amoral. I’m not the first to point out that there is a direct line connecting the moral imbecilism of Nazi and Soviet human experimenters with that of the Planned Parenthood officials.