Predisposition masquerading as academic assessment

[450 words] The Oxford University Press publishes a blog. OUP defines the blog as “Oxford University Press’s Academic Insights for the Thinking World“. But that is not how I would describe one post I read. Dated 5th April 2021, the post is titled “Anti Asian violence: the racist use of COVID 19“. The third paragraph opens with the words:

From the outset of the pandemic, President Donald Trump repeatedly referred to COVID-19 as the “China Flu” and “Kung Flu”—both terms that cemented the association of the virus with Asian bodies and thus racialized a pathogen that respects no national borders.

I invite you to reflect on that sentence dispassionately and rationally. After all, it is an example of OUP’s “academic insight for the thinking world“.

So, what strikes you about it ?

Allow me to share what I think.

Firstly, I should point out that I regard Donald Trump as a conceited individual and that I am relieved he is no longer President of the United States of America.

That said, Mr Trump won the Presidential election in November 2016 and he also obtained the votes of more than 74 million Americans in November 2020.

My view of Donald Trump must therefore be put into another perspective. It is my opinion. It is evidently not the opinion of the millions of Americans who voted for him.

With reference to the comments about Covid 19, the following goes unrecognized:

  1. Covid 19 originated in China in late 2019
  2. the World Health Organisation sent a team of investigators to China recently to investigate the nature and origins of the virus
  3. the WHO team went to the market in Wuhan, the location believed to be the source of the outbreak
  4. a year ago, the Chinese authorities themselves identified Wuhan as the location of Covid 19’s first appearance
  5. the WHO investigation has concluded that the most likely explanation for Covid 19’s origins was a transition from animals to humans
  6. health concerns have been raised in previous years about Chinese markets dealing in exotic animals for human consumption – however
  7. local cultural resistance to reform has prevented the suppression of this dubious practice

None of this accords with the thesis advanced by Daryl Joji Maeda,  the author of the April 5th post at OUPblog. This suggests to me that the post reflects the worldview and predisposition of the author who fails to take account of the points raised above. To me,  it fails as academic insight for the thinking world – indeed it constitutes a predisposed political viewpoint passed off as academic insight.

So, I find myself asking:  Why does the publishing arm of the University of Oxford see fit to give a platform to such comment ?

OUPblog Reference:

Anti-Asian violence: the racist use of COVID-19 | OUPblog

Academic survey or political polling ?

[300 words]  May I refer you to a news release from the University of Oxford on 24th March 2021, titled:

Majority of UK public want greater choice at the end of life – survey

The news release concludes with Professor Julian Savulescu, Director of the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics saying:

This survey shows that the general public want to have greater choice at the end of life.

However, elsewhere in the news release, we learn that the numbers participating in the survey were about 500. This, of course, is not 5,000 or even 500,000. It is certainly nothing like the 66+ million figure for the population of the United Kingdom.

Yet a professor at the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics is stating that the general public wants what he suggests.

As many people know,  surveys are often a poor barometer of public opinion. As evidence I cite the outcome of Mrs May’s 2017 General Election gamble, and the result of the Brexit Referendum in June 2016. In both instances, the pollsters were critically and notoriously wrong.

One reason is obvious: however carefully selected to be representative, a small sample does not necessarily represent the whole. Secondly, I suspect that people’s minds are far more focused when they believe that the expression of their view may make a real difference. A survey of opinion is not an official ballot which will lead to a  change of government or policy.

Is it really the case that these Oxford academics don’t realize this ?

Of course, many intelligent and informed people know that opinion polls can be used for political purposes.

The University news release for this can be found at

Majority of UK public want greater choice at the end of life – survey | University of Oxford

The link to the survey report can be found in the news release.