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Science-Mediated Philanthropy: A Logic for Compassion?

You might wonder what philanthropy has to do with science (or with popular science, for that matter): Xavier Lopez argues that question is upside down...

This site is mainly about popular science, but I am increasingly been drawn (and hired) to write on philanthropic topics. You might wonder what philanthropy has to do with science (or with popular science, for that matter): frankly, you wouldn't be the first. However, thanks to the projects I have been doing lately, I think that question is the wrong way around. A better question might be "how can we make the world a better place?" and from that starting point, the link between science and philanthropy is every bit as obvious as that between philanthropy and the arts or religion. So many of today's problems are environmental or technological and the solutions to today's environmental and medical problems are primarily technological. Clean energy to avert climate change? The answer lies in science and engineering. A cure for AIDS? The answer lies in pharmacology and possibly vaccine development. Clean-up of oil spillages and decomposition plastic litter? Again, the answer lies in science. New science and new ideas are, probably, the only way to solve some of our existing problems. Of course, there are social issues that humanity needs to address as we evolve- but the idea that science is somehow unconnected with the struggle to create a better world is a flawed one.

Science is different from the arts in that, as it progresses, it allows man to wield ever greater power and influence over his environment; it brings progressively greater power and with such expanding power comes expanding responsiblity and moral duty. As Mathematician Alan Turing wrote several decades ago: "We can see only a short distance ahead, but we can see plenty there that needs to be done".

Aspects of science and society are inevitably very complex, but, fundamentally, as has been argued elsewhere, mankind has a simple choice- he can build or he can destroy. Whether you believe that making "the right", ethical, compassionate decision is inevitably always a struggle or not, it is always a choice.

Today, there are a vast number of charities and pressure groups covering a huge array of concerns and ranging from those that are so unequivocably humanitiarian that no one could contest the importance and value of their those that are more political and subjective. Everyone has their favourites. With that in mind, I have listed a few of the topics we on TheGreatestMinds consider important and actionable below and some links to organisations working in those areas. Things being actionable is an important point- it would, naturally, be wonderful if humanity had free renewable energy, but this is not all that actionable for most individuals.

I would also define "philanthropy" to include environmental and animal welfare/ conservation projects. The logic for this could be from a purely human perspective- that humanity can only thrive on a biodiverse planet. However, in view of scientific studies showing complex interactions, decision making, stress responses and communication amongst plants and animals, I think the evidence points towards "all sentient beings" essentially being capable of experiencing suffering under adverse conditions. Thus, the only logical aim for us as individuals and as a species is to work towards the well-being of all sentient beings (in so far as such a thing can ever be possible). It is a huge "quest" and the work of many generations. Undoubtedly new problems will appear as we- humanity- solve those presently in front of our eyes. But, as with any scientific challenge, we have to start somewhere.

Below are some resources on my own pet projects and organisations. The standard disclaimers apply- i.e. neither I nor TheGreatetMinds take anyresponsiblity for the accuracy of information provided on websites other than this one and , as always, you are advised to do your own due diligence checks before supporting any organisation., regardless of any recommendations.

- X. Lopez.

Philanthropic Links & Resources by Topic:


A) Rainforest Conservation:

1. The Rainforest Site-

2. Rainforest Concern-

3. Greenpeace- Protect the Amazon Rainforest campaign-

B) Elephant Conservation:

4) The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust-

C) Rhino Conservation:

5) Save the Rhino-

6) The WWF's Rhino Conservation Campaign-

D) Saving Seahorses & Seadragons:

7) The Seahorse Trust-

8) Save Our Seahorses-

E) Clean Water, Vaccines & Medicines:

11) UNICEF report on dirty water and infection in Sierra Leone-

12) UNICEF main site-

F) Suffering-free Meat:

Great advances in cultured meat mean that in future it may be pssible to meet the worlds meat requirements and demands entirely by meat grown from muscle cells in a test tube/in vitro culture, without any animals being farmed for their flesh or killed. Here are just three articles on this expanding field-

17) The Wikipedia Entry on Cultured Meat-

18) "World's first lab-grown burger is eaten in London" (BBC article 2013)-

19) "Scientists "grow" meat in laboratory", by Nick Britten, Nov 2009, Pub: The Daily Telegraph-


G) Literacy and Education:

20) Book Aid International-

21) The National Literacy Trust (UK)-

22) List of >150  literacy/book charities-

23) List of 10 charities that promote literacy-

24) Education Rights for Girls-


Female Genital Mutilation is not a scientific issue per se, but it is an example of a very damaging cultural practice that persists, despite the known scientific and medical evidence of how harmful (sometimes fatal) it is.

25) Equality Now- Eliminating FGM in the UK campaign-

26) National and Local estimates of FGM prevalence in the UK (information paper)-

27) Equality Now representation to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (on FGM elimination), 2014-

28) Orchid Project- Stop FGM in the Middle East-

29) The Desert Flower Foundation-

I) International Development:

International development projects are frequently about bringing technological and health developments to communities that have lost them or had them disrupted for various reasons, or are simply trapped in poverty that prevents them from acquiring technology breakthroughs that much of the world now takes for granted (vaccines, clean water, sewage treatment, electricity, medicines, chimneys and smokeless cookers to reduce lung disease, improved childhood nutrition etc)

30) Plan International-

31) Oxfam-


J) Humanitarian- North Korea:

32) Testimonies alleging large scale human rights violations in North Korea-

Yeonmi Park's video testimony-

33) "The Girl with Seven Names", by Hyeonseo Lee,

Pub: William Collins, ISBN: 978-0007554850

34) "Dear Leader", by Jang Jin-sung,

Pub: Rider Books, ISBN:  978-1476766560

35) "Every Falling Star", by Sungju Lee and Susan McClelland,

Pub: Amulet Books, ISBN: 978-1419721328

36) "I thought my country was a utopia", by Monique Rivalland,

Pub: The Week, 27th May 2017, pages 52-53, Issue 1126.

37) Charities supporting North Korean refugees-

K) Mental Health:

38) The Samaritans-

39) Open Door (London, Young people)-

40) Combat Stress (UK Militay Veterans)-

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