Ihate to say it, but the sacking of professor Peter Ridd by James Cook University does raise issues of academic freedom. Not simple issues, and ones that can be refuted as the university is doing, but ones that matter nonetheless.
I hate to say it because we know what this is really about. The cause of Ridd has been championed by those parts of the media and certain institutes – well, the Institute of Public Affairs – that have done all they humanly can to stop serious action in this country against climate change.
They have no interest in fair-minded coverage of the weight of scientific evidence, now overwhelming, that human action is causing global warming, and that urgent action is required globally to limit its dangerous impacts. Their interest is ideological, with an endearing lack of self-awareness in their charge that the “warmists” are the ideologues. They leap on the 3% or so of scientists who argue their colleagues have got it all wrong, and would risk everything on those odds.
So, it is not that these Ridd champions – Andrew Bolt, Terry McCrann, the Australian, which now reports as fact that Ridd is a “marine science whistle blower”– have any inherent concern about academic freedom.
That’s the context, and we shouldn’t forget it. Yet for those who try for some consistency, this is a messy case, and Ridd has an argument that it is his views, at least in part, that got him sacked.
James Cook University, for all its worries about its reputation, seems to have diminished its own. As the national tertiary education union’s Queensland secretary, Michael McNally put it a few days ago: “All management have done is to feed a right-wing media narrative that universities are conformist and actively suppress heterodox views on topics such as climate change.”