Anthony Daniels

Family commitments

Twice in my career, in very remote places, I encountered lunatics who had been chained for many years to the wall or to posts in the ground. The reasons why they were so enchained had been lost in the sands of time, but their keepers were convinced that they were far too dangerous to be

For richer, for poorer

It is an old-established truth, a truism in fact, that money does not buy you happiness — though, as the late Professor Joad pointed out, it does allow you to be miserable in comfort. Yet the great majority of people, knowing this, nevertheless devote their energies to increasing their wealth, which suggests that happiness is

Government health warning

Few men are prepared to die for the right of others to say what they strongly disagree with; and most people’s faith in multiparty democracy is at best a lukewarm recognition that the alternative is much worse. Secretly most men would like their ideas (which they naturally believe to be correct) to rule absolutely and

The Brain is Wider Than the Sky by Bryan Appleyard

With all the advances of science, we may be no nearer to understanding ourselves than before, says Anthony Daniels — but we shouldn’t dismiss the possibility outright Some years ago I had a patient who believed that his neighbours, unskilled workers like himself, had developed an electronic thought-scanner whose antennae they could, and did, direct

Prince of war

Why shouldn’t one of Liberia’s most infamous psychopaths become its president? Human rights are universal and indivisible, existing as they do in an unexplored metaphysical sphere in which the European Court of Human Rights plays the role of Christopher Columbus. So it is a wonderful thing to see the court’s discoveries accepted, applied and even

The mind’s I

The quasi-religious zeal with which certain popularising neuroscientists claim that man is no different, essentially, from the animals, and that consciousness is but an epiphenomenon, strikes me as distinctly odd. The popularisers seem to take a sado-masochistic delight in it, in the way that some people get a thrill from envisaging the end of the

Fear of the unseen

There was a time when detailed case histories, including direct quotations from patients’ accounts of their own experiences, formed a significant part of the medical literature. There was a time when detailed case histories, including direct quotations from patients’ accounts of their own experiences, formed a significant part of the medical literature. French doctors of

Don’t believe in miracles

Irrationality, without which life cannot be lived, is profoundly irritating, especially in others. It is at its worst when those who are guilty of it try to sue those who, like Simon Singh, try to expose it. Singh was sued by the British Chiropractic Association after he wrote a book debunking several alternative ‘therapies’. A few

Cries and whispers | 23 September 2009

The habit of dividing the past into centuries or decades might be historiographically suspect, but by now it seems unavoidable. And it is possible that, because we now expect decades to have flavours of their own, they end up actually having them. We change our behaviour when the year ends in 0. Can there be

Whistling in the dark | 21 March 2009

It’s Our Turn to Eat: The Story of a Kenyan Whistleblower, by Michela Wrong Once, when I was crossing Mali by bus, it took three days to go 100 yards. This was not because of the condition of the road, but because three sets of officials — the army, the police and the douaniers —

Nothing ever new out of Africa

When I was a young doctor working in what was still Rhodesia, I read a book by a nun who was also a political economist. She demonstrated that land reform was not only a requirement of social justice but would lead to greatly increased agricultural output, since African peasant farmers cultivated their land more intensively

Running for shelter

It is questionable whether psychiatry as a whole does, or has done throughout its history, more good than harm. Certainly there are some patients who benefit from its ministrations; but there are many others who have been harmed by the wrongful administration of noxious drugs or other therapies. A less tangible, but nevertheless potentially serious,

No simple solutions

The epidemic of Aids among heterosexuals of which we were once warned by public health officials is now almost as forgotten as the global freezing of which the environmentalists in the 1970s also warned us. Only in Africa has Aids spread through the general population, reducing the already low life expectancies of several countries still

Taking courage from the Dutch

Globalisation is not as new as we sometimes like to think. Within a mere five years of the publication in 1798 of Jenner’s tract about vaccination, Dr Francisco Xavier de Balmis set sail to the Spanish colony of New Spain (Mexico) with a view to introducing vaccination there. Having done so successfully, he sailed on

The commonsense approach

Medical advance has been startling in the past half-century. To give only one example, more or less at random: if the techniques of resuscitation and trauma surgery that were available in 1960 were still in use today, our homicide rate would be three to five times higher than it is (and it is two or

Kicking a man when he’s down

The desire to wage war as if it were keyhole surgery is, after a certain fashion, a laudable one. It indicates that a government can no longer afford to treat its own population, if not that of the enemy, as mere cannon fodder. Each soldier killed is ten, a hundred, votes lost. But the new-found

Virtually a kangaroo court

When Slobodan Milosevic died, more than four years into his trial for war crimes, newspapers around the world said that he had cheated justice. It would have been more accurate to say that he had cheated injustice. Had he lived, the judges would have been faced with an unpleasant dilemma: either to find him not

The case for the defence | 4 November 2006

Hubris is followed by nemesis, and the idea that the English-speaking peoples (that is, those who speak English as their native language) exert an economic, political, moral and cultural hegemony in the world strikes me as distinctly hubristic. Whether it is true, or if true desirable, is another question. Andrew Roberts’ history is rather old-fashioned,

Seeds of wisdom and dissent

George Orwell was deeply hostile to vegetarianism. Vegetarians were of ‘that dreary tribe of high-minded women and sandal-wearers and bearded fruit-juice drinkers who come flocking to the smell of “progress” like bluebottles to a dead cat’. And before the days of South Indian restaurants in London, one had only to go to a vegetarian eating

Sorting out the selves

There are few pleasures more reassuring than that of disagreement with some of the contents of a book that is closely argued, extremely well-written and clearly the work of a highly civilised, cultivated and decent man. Such a pleasure is reassuring because, in a hate-filled world, it reminds us that identity of opinion, which makes