Return to the Planet of the Apes?

In 1989, a philosophy professor at a German university announced a new course based on a book called Practical Ethics by the Australian moral philosopher Peter Singer. The course was repeatedly disrupted by organised protests and had to be cancelled. Singer was about to lecture in Dortmund and take part in a private symposium at Marburg, speaking on the desirability of consensual infanticide for severely disabled newborn children. But before he had even boarded a plane for Germany, the public character of the lecture in Dortmund led to the withdrawal of the invitation to Marburg. Protests and hostile articles in Der Spiegel soon led to the lecture's cancellation too.

An alternative lecture, hurriedly organised in Saarbrucken by Singer sympathisers, was repeatedly disrupted by catcalls and whistles. Serious attempts were made to engineer the dismissal of the professor who had invited Singer to lecture at Dortmund and he was obliged to explain to his employer, the government of Nordrhein- Westfalen, why he had issued the invitation to Singer.

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