Monday, February 27, 2006


Black boys are victims of statistical racism says a leading criminologist who believes that yearly crime figures only reinforce the negative stereotype of young black men as `a problem' to society. Through extensive research Marianne Fitzgerald, a Professor of Criminality at the University of Kent has found that street crime is unrelated to ethnicity [It's just those racist police arresting innocent blacks, of course] but has everything to do with poverty and social circumstances. [So what causes poverty? Could it be ethnic characteristics?]

Fitzgerald who worked for the Home Office research unit for over 10 years was concerned about the way so called `ethnic' statistics were being used, particularly in the context of crime. She started by examining education statistics and then moved onto explore the notion `statistical racism' through the publication of crime figures. Her educational research led her to conclude that the education system (primary school to GCSE secondary stage) was letting down black children especially in poor areas. [Their own behaviour has nothing to do with their failure to learn, of course]

"In discussion, I'd see kids who we're unmistakeably bright but when I got them to fill in a short survey at the end of class, it was obvious they were being sent out into the world with a standard of literacy which was lower than that of my 8 year old granddaughter even though they were nearly twice as old and just as bright. "This meant their job prospects were poor; so their chances of legitimately earning the things they aspired to were very limited.

She added: "Yet, as I knew only too well, those in the poorest areas were surrounded by crime and opportunities for crime. Also very few of them were white but that was simply because these were areas that most whites had long-since abandoned." [And why would whites have abandoned them? Whites LOVE being victims of black crime!]

She has agreed with Trevor Phillips' admittance last year that black boys perform much worse in schools than white boys was true but pointed out that Asian boys from poor groups like the Pakistanis and Bangladeshis were also under-performing. However when you contrast, pupils of Indian origin (a group on equal social-economic terms as whites [And why would that be?]) they actually do better than average, with Indian girls too out-performing whites in secondary schools.

The common denominator which stands out is ethnicity rather than race. [A distinction without a difference?]

Fitzgerald says that Trevor Phillips suggestion that black boys be given separate treatment rings alarm bells about what has been referred to as `statistical racism'. When analysising prison statistics she says she was labelled as a `liberal' criminologist because she questioned the massive over-representation of black people but not `Asians'. At the Home Office all major police forces were told that from 1996 they would have to provide annual statistics on stop/searches, caution and arrests broken down by ethnic group. To Fitzgerald it was obvious which group would come out on top. [Obvious indeed]

She said: "In the long term I had concerns about ways these figures might be interpreted as a measure of the scale of `black criminality', even if this wasn't stated openly." She highlights there was "a very pronounced degree of disproportion in the prison figures from the start." Similar patterns were also apparent in the Met's arrest figures "which account for the bulk of any supposedly national statistics for black people anyway, because nearly two thirds of the total black population lives in London."

The solution to statistical racism in the long-term, is to identify all of the factors which produce these patterns in the figures and addressing the underlying causes - many of which have nothing at all to do with race and ethnicity. For example street crime as a result of poor housing, unemployment or even the pressure to have the latest designer labels. [How awful to be under such pressure! An excellent reason to mug people!]

Statistical information could be used to emphasise that government policies, for example police operations are having an adverse effect on members of the black community - most of whom will be innocent of any crime. "The immediate challenge is to stop the figures being read as if they told us some objective truth about essential differences between whole groups of people," she says. [Group statistics don't tell us about group differences??]


Pro-Test: supporting animal testing

A new campaign by Oxford students makes the case for scientific progress and medical research

In recent months, medical research and animal testing has become an increasingly inflammatory topic in Oxford, England. The media interest has so far been in student fears and grievances, and the violent methods and intimidation of the animal rights protesters.

All acts of violence on the part of animal rights protesters should be denounced, and there are laws in place for this. Yet SPEAK, the non-violent animal rights group, is fully within its right to protest and make its case, however noisily.

There is little merit in being drawn into a debate about the methods of animal rights groups. This shifts the attention away from the key issues, which concern science, and our understanding of the role played by medical research in the advancement of human knowledge and welfare. Animal experimentation is an integral and necessary component of such research, and should be defended for these reasons.

With this in mind, a 16-year-old student set up Pro-Test, with the idea of defending the construction of the new Oxford animal facility. Pro-Test began with a small-scale counter-demonstration on 28 January 2006 with the slogan 'Support Progress: Build the Oxford Animal Lab'. In reaction to the positive response from Oxford students, local business owners and other people on the day, a website was launched: Today, Pro-Test consists of a group of students who are concerned above all with the promotion of science, medical research, reasoned debate, and human welfare. The goal of Pro-Test is to make the case for animal testing. It is generally well known that vaccines, antibiotics, transplant surgeries, medical devices such as pacemakers, and other developments would not be here today if animal testing had not been used. But animal rights activists want to stop all current and future animal testing.

Challenging this through a defence of scientific experimentation should not be just the particular concern of Oxford students, or of scientists. It is an issue that concerns society as a whole, and goes to the heart of how we understand ourselves, and what vision we have of humanity and the capacity for bettering human welfare through the pursuit of scientific research. Life as we know it would not be possible without experimenting on animals.

Animal rights activists often demonise scientists, pretending that they are sadists who enjoy torturing animals just for the sake of it. There are countless examples of the lengths to which scientists go to minimise the suffering of animals. But the simple point is that scientists are not sadists: they act in the way that they see fit, according to principles that they share with the rest of us.

Animal research takes place not because of the laziness of scientists, or because it is just the cheapest option foisted on to scientists by pharmaceutical companies that put profits before anything else. They take place because they are a necessary component of scientific research. At the early stages of biomedical research, alternatives to animal testing exist, which is why the majority of research devoted to finding new treatments is done through chemical, biochemical, biological and pharmacological assays involving DNA, RNA, proteins, and mammalian cells.

But in the end, drugs must be tested in an animal model in order to see the effects of a compound in the entire body, not just in a cellular environment. Testing drugs in animals before doing so in humans helps researchers find potential toxic side effects, as well as understand the metabolism of drug compounds and consequent effects seen throughout the body. This cannot be replicated in cellular assays.

As in all fields of human activity, errors have been made. Animal rights activists use isolated cases as reasons for stopping animal testing. In fact, looking more closely at such cases suggests the opposite conclusion: not less but more testing.

A famous example often cited by animal rights groups is thalidomide. Thalidomide was introduced in 1956 and marketed as a sedative. Within several years, its use had spread around the world and women began taking it to help combat the nausea associated with pregnancy. In 1961, several physicians linked thalidomide with birth defects they observed in cases of female patients who had been taking it. Very quickly, these results were confirmed worldwide, and thalidomide was taken off the market.

Thalidomide did initially pass safety tests in animals because the proper tests - namely, testing thalidomide in pregnant animals - were not performed. If a thorough battery of tests had been performed in animals, the birth defects would have been detected. Animal rights groups confuse an error resulting from an absence of testing with one resulting from conducting tests on animals. They claim, quite erroneously, that thalidomide did not cause birth defects in animals, only humans. Once the drug was pulled off the market, additional tests in animals were done, and it was found that mice, rats, hamsters, marmosets and baboons all suffered similar effects as observed in humans....

In contemporary debate, animal rights groups dominate the agenda. Those who oppose animal rights groups often concede on the principle, and argue only with the methods of animal rights activists. Yet the only way to challenge the climate of fear that currently surrounds the debate on animal testing is to win the argument. Confidence in the strength of their ideas will give people the will to stand up to the threats and intimidation. This can only come through a defence of animal research as a necessary component of scientific experimentation.

Pro-Test stands by the belief that the value of human life is such that these drugs should be tested on animals before they are tested on any human beings.

More here

No comments: