Three cheers for Oxford.

Oxford university has been showing great leadership, defending reason in at least two ways: one passive and one active.

The first, more passive leadership is providing an academic home a for Richard Dawkins, one of two Simonyi Professors, and, now, a defender of reason in human affairs, via Channel 4 (who also deserve a pat on the back)*. This is pretty passive: they allow their name to be attached to a controversial idea. More actively, they have pushed ahead building a new animal research facility. This has now lead the human murder group (“animal rights activists”) to state that all staff, all students, any company supplying Oxford with any good or service is a legitimate target for attack, without limit! Just think about that for a second… a group says they will attack 18yrs old students, staff researching such unlikely topics as the 16th century names for badgers, and folk selling muffins and pouring coffee. Oh yes, and you too, if you happen to be in their way.

Oxford haven’t flinched. That is brave and correct. I support them, and I hope you will too, however you can: either by attending as a student, attending conferences, buying books from OUP: it all helps. Or if you’re a business operating in the UK, consider becoming a supplier of goods and services if suppliers drop off (capitalists are just businessmen, not philosophers: most will run at this sight).

Oxford’s students, to their great credit, are hitting back with pro-research protests.

In other locations, research is moving forward, and being driven back. Edinburgh University are establishing a lab for stem sell research, delivering experimental gene therapy to patients with low chances of survival on currently approved therapies. Another move forward. Cambridge University, by contrast, decided to buy peace at the cost of dropping plans for a primate research centre. Now admittedly, primate research ought to be conducted with human standards of ethical concern, and the new Oxford facility will mostly mostly involve research on fish and rats. But still, it is sad to see that we will cease to learn from our nearest relatives, while their native bands are being driven to extinction, often as “bush meat”.

Moving backwards also, Edinburgh College of Arts, under pressure from animal rights activists now state they will have “nothing to do with Oxford University”. Too bad.

So, when you or a relative is cured of one of the many thousands of genetic disorders which we share directly with animals, or for whom animals can be a model for cures (like Alzheimer’s), it will be Oxford and other institutions that you have to thank. Likewise, it is animal terror organizations and creationists who you can “thank” for deaths due to slow discovery. Also, of course, thank anti-discovery legislation by organizations such as the FDA and their global counterparts, for restricting the development of novel therapeutics by requiring large hurdles in terms of proof of efficacy, disallowing new drugs directed at health rather than disease, or at “natural” phenomena such as aging (not classified as a disease, despite meeting any logical criteria that I can see), and restricting the use of proven health aids to within the medical profession (for instance, I just found out via Kate that you can’t test your partner for HIV at home – you have to give the Dr and counseling specialist his or her cut of the proceeds, increasing the cost and, no doubt, killing several hundred people a year.

So, it is hard to stand up for anything in the face of organized protest. Oxford deserves a medal, and we should support them.


Channel 4 have much better content, more in depth analysis, and more interesting programming than anything on the state owned, sponsored and controlled BBC.

The crazy broadcasting system here in the UK essentially censors media by subsidizing the state mouth piece (BBC) and not its commercial competitors. Despite desperate efforts on the part of Prospect articles on the need to save the public from choice (what the?), the advent of the internet and cable must gradually diffuse this advantage, but sadly cannot eradicate it.


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