James Cook Uni: don’t you dare endanger our grant money….

Great Barrier Reef debate submerged

Andrew Bolt, Herald Sun February 11, 2018

Professor Peter Ridd is just the latest academic to be punished for challenging the great global warming scare. Oops. I shouldn’t even have mentioned that James Cook University has ordered Ridd to stop attacking the science behind dodgy claims that global warming is killing the Great Barrier Reef.

You see, JCU insists its dirty work be kept secret. It charged Ridd even for telling his own wife it was trying to censor him, after trawling through his emails for dirt.

What kind of people run this university? They sound to me less like academics than commissars of some Third World tyranny.

No scientific debate today is more important to us than that on the theory that our emissions are warming the world dangerously.

After all, this global warming theory has panicked governments into spending billions of dollars.

They’ve already destroyed a coal-fired electricity system that once gave us cheap and reliable power, even though green power makes no measurable difference to world temperatures.

They’ve spent billions on other green schemes, even though temperatures have risen far less than predicted.

They’ve built desalination plants for Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide — all now mothballed — because they feared a “permanent” drought that never came.

And they’ve thrown our cash at Pacific islands to save them from rising seas, even though more than 80 per cent of those islands have actually grown in size or been stable.

So surely we should question the science behind all this?

Isn’t this how Western civilisation has advanced — by testing beliefs?

Instead, universities have a shameful record of stifling this debate.

Example: the late professor Bob Carter was one of the first scientists anywhere to note that global warming had, in fact, paused — and it stayed paused for most of this century.

Any university should be proud to have an academic who was first to a truth. Instead, Carter lost his position as professor emeritus at JCU, which claimed it was merely cutting costs.

Then there’s world-renowned Professor Bjorn Lomborg, who proved that most schemes to fight global warming cost a fortune without actually cutting temperatures.

For that heresy, academics and students at two universities — Flinders and the University of Western Australia — banned him from setting up his fully funded Copenhagen Consensus Centre in Australia.

And now there’s Peter Ridd.

Ridd is a professor of physics and attached to JCU’s Centre for Tropical Water and Aquatic Ecosystem Research, and he has long warned that much scientific research is not properly checked.

“I have published numerous scientific papers showing that much of the ‘science’ claiming damage to the (Great Barrier Reef) is either plain wrong or greatly exaggerated,” he said last week.

“As just one example, coral growth rates that have supposedly collapsed along the reef have, if anything, increased slightly … and mass bleaching events along the reef that supposedly serve as evidence of permanent human-caused devastation are almost certainly completely natural.”

He says the reef is actually “in excellent condition”, and largely regrows after bleaching or cyclones.

“Some parts of the southern reef, for example, have seen a tripling of coral in six years after they were devastated by a particularly severe cyclone.”

Ridd may be right or wrong. Either way, this is a critical debate, yet JCU is trying to shut it down.

It pounced after Ridd last year went on Sky News to outline his arguments, adding: “We can no longer trust the scientific organisations like the Australian Institute of Marine Science, even things like the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies.”

JCU found him guilty of “serious misconduct” and of lacking “collegiality” — meaning “groupthink”.

It has further accused him of denigrating the university and a colleague, and of breaching confidentiality.

Some of those alleged breaches were nothing more than Ridd telling his own wife that the university was punishing him. He is now fighting in the Federal Court to defend his academic freedom.

This has so far cost him $95,000 in legal fees, but thank heavens many Australians still think free speech is worth defending.

Ridd’s go-fund-me appeal raised the money in just two days.

But this case is not only about free speech. It is also about whether scientific debates are settled by censorship or by debate.

A mainstay of Western civilisation is on trial here. So why hasn’t federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham stepped in?

Why has Chief Scientist Alan Finkel not protested against this muzzling of a scientist? Where are the other academics defending their most sacred traditions?

1/ A Green sea turtle at Lady Elliot Island, part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

2/ Bob Carter, rip. http://members.iinet.net.au/~glrmc/

3/ Bjørn Lomborg: Picture supplied.

4/ James Cook University marine scientist Peter Ridd. Picture: Cameron Laird

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Update:

Academic freedom is one of the core values of our ­society, which is why the case of Professor Peter Ridd is so troubling.

Matthew Lesh, The Daily Telegraph February 14, 2018

The attack on Professor Peter Ridd’s academic freedom to discuss scientific integrity may very well mark the end of the Enlightenment at one of Australia’s universities.

Ridd has been issued a “Final Censure” by James Cook University for expressing an opinion within his field of scientific expertise. He was also ordered to keep silent about concerns related to quality assurance in Great Barrier Reef policy science.

The censure was in response to comments by Ridd on Sky News in an interview with Alan Jones to promote an Institute of Public Affairs book, Climate Change: The Facts 2017.

In the interview, Ridd questioned the quality of science from “organisations like the Australian ­Institute of Marine Science, even things like the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies”.

“The science is coming out not properly checked, tested or replicated and this is a great shame because we really need to be able to trust our scientific institutions, and the fact is I do not think we can anymore,” Ridd said.

Ridd has worked at James Cook University, where he completed his PhD, since 1989.

He is a lecturer and researcher in physics and marine geophysics with more than 100 peer- ­reviewed articles to his name, and has undertaken extensive research on coral reefs.

“I just don’t think they’re very ­objective about the science they do, I think they’re emotionally attached to their subject and, you know, you can’t blame them — the reef is a beautiful thing,” Ridd said on Sky News.

James Cook University has claimed Ridd’s remarks denigrated the university. Nothing could be further from the truth. There is nothing more essential to a functioning ­university than scientific debate.

This is the very purpose of the university. James Cook University’s code of conduct explicitly states staff must “value academic freedom, and ­inquire, examine, criticise and challenge in the collegial and academic spirit of the search for knowledge, understanding and truth”.

James Cook’s actions have a serious chilling effect on scientific debate by discouraging academics and ­students from discussing controversial topics.

In a David and Goliath battle, Ridd has chosen to not lay down in the face of threats. Ridd has lodged Federal Court action to assert his academic freedom to discuss scientific integrity.

It is only through debate, claim and counterclaim that we can hope to find truth.

The fundamental role of the university is to encourage debate, not to stifle it with preposterous claims and disciplinary action.

This is the essence of the Socratic method, the process of argumentative dialogue between opposing perspectives, on which the Enlightenment and our universities are built.

The only way to discover the truth is to stimulate critical thinking through debate. This freedom also is explicitly protected in Ridd’s enterprise agreement, which guarantees his right “to participate in public ­debate and express opinions about ­issues” within his field of competence.

If our university professors are ­incapable of questioning and debating science we are bound to enter a new Dark Age. The restriction of scientific debate, the claim that certain hypothesises can no longer be tested and ­retested, marks the end of progress.

The fundamental role of the university is to encourage debate, not to stifle it with preposterous claims and disciplinary action.

From the UK to North America to Australia, however, universities have become hotbeds of censorship and are lacking essential viewpoint diversity.

Last year a recording emerged of Canadian university tutor Lindsay Shepherd being aggressively reprimanded by senior academics for ­simply playing a debate in a communications class featuring psychology professor Jordan Peterson.

Meanwhile, protests against guest speakers, such as Charles Murray and Milo Yiannopoulos, on American college campuses have turned violent. The IPA’s Free Speech on Campus Audit 2017 found that eight in 10 Australian universities have policies or have taken action that limit free intellectual inquiry.

In the past, QUT students were dragged through Federal Court for questioning the existence of a separate computer lab for indigenous students. Meanwhile, last September a protest turned violent against a “No to same-sex marriage” stall at the University of Sydney.

Australia’s universities are public institutions, established under state and federal law, and receive most of their funding through government grants and state-subsidised loans. Their role is to serve the public interest through teaching and research, which can only be undertaken by encouraging dynamic debate about issues of public concern.

James Cook University is failing in this task by preventing the expression of an expert opinion. The university must withdraw all sanctions against Professor Peter Ridd.

Matthew Lesh is a research fellow at the Institute of Public Affairs.

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