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The Mainstream Media is Gaslighting Us About Climate Change


In 2013, the CNN presenter Deborah Feyerick asked if asteroids falling to earth were caused by climate change. Earlier this year, CBS anchor Nate Burleson commented on the Tonga earthquake by saying: “We talk about climate change… these stories are a harsh reality of what we are going through. We have to do our part because these are more frequent.” Last week, the academic networking blog The Conversation discussed the Fagradalsfjall volcano eruption in Iceland and asked: “Is climate change causing more eruptions?”, adding that it had the potential to increase volcanic eruptions and affect their size.

Dear God – they’ll be telling us that climate change causes lightning next. Wait, hang on – “Washington DC lightning strike that killed two serves as climate warning” – Reuters, August 5th.

In the climate change show, jumping the shark is now a daily occurrence, particularly in the mainstream media. Gaslighting on a global scale is evident as the media push the command-and-control Net Zero agenda. Bad weather incidents and natural disasters are catastrophised to promote this increasingly hard-left political agenda. But the distinguished atmospheric scientist Emeritus Professor Richard Lindzen of MIT recently voiced the views of an increasing number of people when he said the current climate narrative was “absurd”. Yet he acknowledged that it had universal acceptance, despite the fact that in a normal world the counter-arguments would be compelling. “Perhaps it is the trillions of dollars being diverted into every green project under the sun, and the relentless propaganda from grant-dependent academics and agenda-driven journalists, along with the political control offered to elite groups in society by Net Zero, that currently says it is not absurd,” he speculated.

The Daily Sceptic has written numerous articles presenting evidence that global warming started to run out of steam over 20 years ago, despite the frequent, back-dated and upward temperature adjustments made by state-funded weather services. No science paper exists that proves conclusively that humans cause noticeable changes in the climate by burning fossil fuel. Despite years of research, scientists are no nearer knowing how much temperatures will rise if carbon dioxide doubles in the atmosphere. No link has been shown directly connecting temperatures and CO2 rises (and falls) over the entire paleoclimatic record. Countless natural processes play a part in determining climate conditions. And attempts to link individual weather events to long-term changes in the climate are produced by climate modellers and green activists giving vent to wishful thinking.

In the absence of credible science, there has been a resort to the name-calling, shaming and appeals to authority, common in previous ages. The recent news that the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) had returned to blooming health, and was showing record growth, was a disaster for most mainstream media outlets. All parts had reported for years that the coral was on its last legs due to human-induced climate change. During this time, the GBR observer Professor Peter Ridd was vilified for stating that the reef was a vibrant and healthy ecosystem. He was fired from his post at James Cook University for pointing out the deficiencies in the output of reef science institutions.

In August 2019, the Guardian reported that the former Australian chief scientist Ian Chubb had accused Ridd of “misrepresenting robust science” about the plight of the GBR. Shamefully, it repeated without comment Chubb’s slur that Ridd was relying on the “strategy used by the tobacco industry to raise doubts about the impact of smoking”.

Professor Ridd emerges from the whole sorry affair with his reputation restored and an acknowledgement that true scientists report their findings without fear of the mob, or seeking the favour of the Establishment.

Just days before the news was confirmed that the GBR was continuing to grow back in record amounts, the Guardian ran a long article saying that scientists had demonstrated “beyond any doubt” that humanity is forcing the climate to disastrous new extremes, They hadn’t, of course, and “beyond any doubt” is a phrase borrowed from the criminal law, not science. Professor Terry Hughes from the National Coral Bleaching Taskforce estimated that close to 50% of the GBR coral is already dead. Attribution science is said to show that the hot March weather in 2016 that caused a “catastrophic die-off” in 2016 was made “at least 175 times more likely” by the human influence on the climate. A more realistic explanation, invariably ignored in mainstream media, is that the powerful El Nino experienced in that year warmed sea waters temporarily, and led to a natural burst of bleaching. Full reef health was quickly restored when the effect of the natural oscillation was removed.

The global media gaslighting over political climate change is easier to understand if you follow the money. Earlier this year, the Daily Sceptic reported that the Associated Press was adding two dozen journalists to cover “climate issues”. Five billionaire foundations, including the left-wing Rockefeller operation, supplied $8 million. AP now says over 50 jobs are funded from these sources. The BBC and the Guardian regularly receive multi-million dollar contributions from the trusts of wealthy donors. It is estimated that Bill Gates has given more than $300 million over the past decade to a wide variety of media outlets. Democrat power couple James and Kathryn Murdoch also help pay the staff’s wages at AP. On their Foundation web site, it is noted that there is an investment in Climate Central, where meteorologists are used as “trusted messengers” of the links between extreme weather and climate change.

Meanwhile, the foundation of the green technology-funding Spanish bank BBVA hands out annual €100,000 payments. Last year the cash went to Marlow Hood of Agence France-Presse, who describes himself as the “Herald of the Anthropocene”, the latter being a political renaming of the current Holocene era. In 2019 Matt McGrath of the BBC took home the annual prize, while in 2020 it ended up in the coffers of the Guardian.

The White Queen tried to believe in six impossible things before breakfast. It’s a shame climate change wasn’t around in Alice’s day.

Chris Morrison is the Daily Sceptic’s Environment Editor

August 13, 2022 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Science and Pseudo-Science | , , , | Leave a comment

Most Published Studies Exaggerated the Effects of Ocean Acidification – and Covid, Etc.

By Jennifer Marohasy | February 20, 2022

The concept of ocean acidification, and human-caused global warming more generally, could be described as containing a grain of truth embedded in a mountain of nonsense. Indeed, the projected large increase in atmospheric CO2 will at most cause a small reduction in pH – it will not turn the ocean acidic. Yet this is what is implied by the term ocean acidification. True acidification would require average pH to be reduced below 7.0, at which point seashells would indeed begin to dissolve. This is an impossible scenario, however, because of the ocean’s effectively limitless buffering capacity.

There is a newly published study by Jeff Clements and team that concludes many of the published studies on ocean acidification, especially those studies published in high impact journals and accompanied by sensational media reporting, have turned-out to be wrong, or at least exaggerated.

My colleague Peter Ridd describes the situation:

This problem with exaggeration of threats applies to many areas of science and has a name: The Decline Effect.

The Decline Effect goes like this: an early report, usually attracting huge media interest, predicts some sort of catastrophe. But when follow up work is done, usually with far better experimental procedure and far greater numbers of samples, the original report turns out to be wrong.

Jeff Clements’ team included Timothy Clark, Josefin Sundin and Frederik Jutfelt who were involved in a study last year proving that numerous reports by James Cook University’s coral reef centres on reef fish was totally wrong.

I co-authored a book chapter with John Abbot some years ago that explained:

Initial concerns about ocean acidification focused on organisms that construct their shells or skeletons from calcium carbonate. Such organisms are referred to as marine calcifiers and include not only corals, but also crabs, clams and conchs (sea snails).

Theoretically, and according to popular science magazines, all corals are already severely and negatively affected by ocean acidification. But this is not evident from methodologically sound studies undertaken at the Great Barrier Reef. A review of the growth rates of six, hard coral species at Lord Howe Island (Anderson et al. 2015) found marked variation in the growth rates of branching coral, while growth rates of the massive Porites coral were unchanged. The researchers suggested that a decline in the growth rates of the branching species could be attributable to a reduction in the calcium carbonate saturation state as a consequence of higher summer temperatures. A study measuring calcification rates for 41 long-lived Porites corals from seven reefs from the central Great Barrier Reef (D’Olivio et al. 2009), showed good recovery from the major 1998 bleaching event, with no significant trend in calcification rates for the inner reefs. Corals from the mid-shelf central Great Barrier Reef, however, did show a decline of 3.3%.

While most ocean acidification research has been focused on physiological processes, in particular calcification, there have also been studies on three common hard corals to look at their fertilisation, embryonic development, larval survivorship, and metamorphosis (Chua et al. 2013a; Chua et al. 2013b). These studies have found the early life-history stages were unaffected by reduced pH; there was no consistent effect of elevated CO2 alone, nor in combination with temperature.

Studies of the effect of very high CO2 levels (up to 2,850 ppm) on molluscs – including oysters, clams, scallops and conchs – have shown that these species will generally build their shells more slowly as CO2 levels increase (Ries et al. 2009). This same study showed that crabs and lobsters respond quite differently to the same elevated CO2 levels, showing a general increase in calcification rates.

This chart shows how quickly scientists could meet the demand for commentary in the new area of ocean acidification, including to support the theory of human-caused global warming.

The varied responses among different organisms reflect their differing abilities to regulate pH at the site of calcification, and:

  • the extent to which their outer shell layer is protected by an organic covering
  • the solubility of their shell, or skeletal mineral
  • the extent to which they use photosynthesis (Ries et al. 2009).

Of course, many marine organisms are not calcifiers, and some of these organisms have also been tested for a response to ocean acidification.

When seagrasses collected from three locations in the Great Barrier Reef region – Cockle Bay, Magnetic Island, and Green Island – were exposed to four different CO2 concentration levels for two weeks – with water temperature and salinity in the experimental tanks near-constant throughout – all three seagrass species exhibited enhanced photosynthetic responses (Ow et al. 2015). That is growth rates, observed after two weeks of exposure to an enriched CO2 environment in an indoor aquarium, were higher. This suggests that ocean acidification could mean more seagrass, which would be good for large marine mammals like dugongs (dugongs are vulnerable to extinction because of issues unrelated to changing ocean chemistry).

Also, contrary to expectations, laboratory investigations into the effects of three different CO2 treatments on anemonefish (commonly known as the clownfish) found that higher CO2 levels stimulated breeding activity (Miller et al. 2013). The breeding pairs from the fringing reefs of Orpheus Island on the Great Barrier Reef, where they are exposed to the highest CO2 levels, produced double the number of clutches per breeding pair, and 67% more eggs per clutch than the control. However, young anemonefish that were bred in high CO2 levels and high temperatures showed decreases in their length, weight, condition, and survival (Miller et al. 2012). Though these effects were absent or reversed when their parents also experienced the higher concentrations (Miller et al. 2013).

We concluded:

Most studies have been on single species in contrived laboratory conditions. They have been of short duration, and they have not considered the potential for adaptation. In the few instances where adaptation has been considered, it has been shown to significantly modify the impact of varying pH as a consequence of elevated levels of CO2.

All of this needs to be assessed against the reality that along the length and breadth of the Great Barrier Reef there are naturally occurring large daily fluctuations in pH, and that it is unclear as to what extent the current trends of apparent pH decline are part of existing natural cycles.

Most of the articles describe the effects of changes of pH on biological organisms; many of the claims are based exclusively on laboratory experiments (Riebesell & Gattuso 2015). However, a problem with laboratory experiments is that they cannot capture the complexities of the real world, not even the tremendous natural variability in ocean pH – which is a measure of ocean acidification.

Statistician John P.A. Ioannidis published a review of medical research back in 2005 entitled ‘Why most published research findings are false’ (Plos Medicine ). It included a comment that:

The majority of modern biomedical research is operating in areas with very low pre- and post-study probability for true findings.

The review by John Ioannidis is a devastating critic of the sad state of biomedical research. It is this same profession, biomedical research, that concluded we should fear Covid-19 and get vaccinated – with the results from the Pfizer trials withheld while emergency approvals were granted for the mass vaccination of citizens across the world against Covid-19.

We will no doubt have better insights, when studies like those by Jeff Clements into ocean acidification, are undertaken into the recent Covid-19 vaccine research. We may then be in a position to judge whether the apparent ineffectiveness of these particular Covid-19 vaccines, despite all the promises, can be best explained by corporate greed and mendacity, or simply flaws in the scientific method. Certainly there was pressure on medical researchers to find a quick cure, that could be administered as part of a global public health response, to what appeared in the beginning to be a deadly new virus much worse than the seasonal flu.

The British Medical Journal in an editorial dated 19thJanuary includes commentary that we don’t know enough about Covid-19 vaccines.

‘Today, despite the global rollout of Covid-19 vaccines and treatments, the anonymised participant-level data underlying the trials for these new products remain inaccessible to doctors, researchers, and the public—and are likely to remain that way for years to come,’ the editorial states. ‘This is morally indefensible for all trials, but especially for those involving major public health interventions.’

The editorial also accuses pharmaceutical companies of ‘reaping vast profits without adequate independent scrutiny of their scientific claims,’ pointing to Pfizer, whose Covid vaccine trial was ‘funded by the company and designed, run, analysed, and authored by Pfizer employees’.

Of course, Peter Ridd lost his job at James Cook University for speaking truth to power. Those who continue to publish studies on ocean acidification, especially those studies published in high impact journals and accompanied by sensational media reporting, have most recently been rewarded by the Australian government with an additional $1billion in funding.  Some of this money will end-up funding more nonsense ocean acidification projects at James Cook University. It is unlikely that any of this grant money will be used to ensure that there is some quality assurance of the same research.

February 20, 2022 Posted by | Corruption, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment

James Cook University Walks Back Extreme Global Warming Coral Extinction Claims

By Eric Worral | Watts Up With That? | March 3, 2021

Peter Ridd is right – the Great Barrier Reef is not in immediate danger of dying. James Cook University, Peter Ridd’s adversary in his unfair dismissal court case, has just slightly walked back some of their more ridiculous Great Barrier Reef extinction claims.

Coral count rethinks extinction risk

Fraser Barton

The global extinction risk of most coral species is lower than previously estimated, scientists in North Queensland claim.

In a world-first, researchers at James Cook University have assessed the number of coral colonies in the Pacific Ocean and evaluated their risk of extinction.

The study measured the population sizes of more than 300 individual coral species on reefs across the Pacific Ocean, from Indonesia to French Polynesia.

Using a combination of coral reef habitat maps and counts of coral colonies to estimate species abundances, they estimate roughly half a trillion corals in the Pacific alone.

Given the huge size of these coral populations, researchers believe it is very unlikely that they face imminent extinction.

Co-author Professor Terry Hughes stated while the study results have huge implications for managing and restoring coral reefs, it is is not the solution to climate change.

“You would have to grow about 250 million adult corals to increase coral cover on the Great Barrier Reef by just one percent.”

Read more:

The abstract of the study;

The population sizes and global extinction risk of reef-building coral species at biogeographic scales

Andreas DietzelMichael BodeSean R. Connolly & Terry P. Hughes


Knowledge of a species’ abundance is critically important for assessing its risk of extinction, but for the vast majority of wild animal and plant species such data are scarce at biogeographic scales. Here, we estimate the total number of reef-building corals and the population sizes of more than 300 individual species on reefs spanning the Pacific Ocean biodiversity gradient, from Indonesia to French Polynesia. Our analysis suggests that approximately half a trillion corals (0.3 × 1012–0.8 × 1012) inhabit these coral reefs, similar to the number of trees in the Amazon. Two-thirds of the examined species have population sizes exceeding 100 million colonies, and one-fifth of the species even have population sizes greater than 1 billion colonies. Our findings suggest that, while local depletions pose imminent threats that can have ecologically devastating impacts to coral reefs, the global extinction risk of most coral species is lower than previously estimated.

Read more:

Professor Terry Hughes, whose name appears on this paper, lodged official complaints about Peter Ridd, and in my opinion contributed to Peter Ridd’s dismissal for the crime of being right.

On one hand it is a positive that coral science seems to be edging towards a much needed correction.

But this slight shift towards Peter Ridd’s position, that claims the Great Barrier Reef is on the verge of extinction are grossly exaggerated, in my opinion puts James Cook University into an even more untenable position.

The sooner James Cook University apologises and settles Peter Ridd’s unfair dismissal claim, the better it will be for their long journey back to restoring James Cook’s in my opinion shattered scientific reputation.

March 3, 2021 Posted by | Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | | Leave a comment

Claims of dramatic loss of Great Barrier Reef corals are false

Corals expert hits out at media reports

GWPF | October 15, 2020

Claims that Australia’s Great Barrier Reef has lost half of its coral cover between 1995 and 2017 have received global media coverage.

The stories were based on a new paper co-authored by controversial Australian researcher, Professor Terry Hughes of James Cook University.

But according to Professor Peter Ridd, a leading authority on the Great Barrier Reef, these claims are false.

According to Professor Ridd, the best data on coral cover is taken by the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), who have been measuring over 100 reefs every year since 1986:

“AIMS data shows that coral cover fluctuates dramatically with time but there is roughly the same amount of coral today as in 1995. There was a huge reduction in coral cover in 2011 which was caused by two major cyclones that halved coral cover. Cyclones have always been the major cause of temporary coral loss on the Reef.”

Coral cover of the Great Barrier Reef 1986-2019; AIMS/Peter Ridd 2020

This is not the first time that Professor Hughes has made such claims about coral loss. His previous study was strongly criticised by the AIMS scientists responsible for collecting and publishing the coral data.

Moreover, Professor Hughes has refused to make public the raw data upon which he made this claim, despite repeated requests.

“This latest work by Prof Hughes needs a thorough quality-audit to test its veracity”, says Ridd. “Prime-facie, there are excellent grounds to treat it with great scepticism.”


Professor Peter Ridd

October 15, 2020 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Science and Pseudo-Science | , , , | 1 Comment

Fishy Findings: 100% Replication Failure

Eight fish studies were double-checked. Not one was accurate.

By Donna Laframboise | Big Picture News | January 13, 2020

Science proves… Science says… Research shows…

Every week, the above phrases are employed by TV personalities, newspaper journalists, coworkers, friends, and family. When these phrases are uttered, certain ideas get elevated above the fray, enthroned on a pedestal.

Science has spoken. Who are you to be arguing with SCIENCE?

The problem, of course, is that scientific research is conducted by human beings. Who not only make mistakes, but are susceptible to peer pressure, group think, intellectual fads, and noble cause corruption.

The fallibility of ‘science’ is splendidly illustrated by a paper published last week in Nature. It concludes that not one, not two, but eight previously published studies about how climate change affects the behaviour of coral reef fish are unsound.

When a second team of researchers conducted the same experiments, the results were startlingly different. Here’s a quote from the abstract in Nature:

we comprehensively and transparently show that… ocean acidification levels have negligible effects on important behaviours of coral reef fishes… we additionally show that … [results] that have been reported in several previous studies are highly improbable. [bold added]

Extending back to 2010, many of these studies were highly publicized at the time they appeared. Physicist Peter Ridd points out they were all produced by Australia’s James Cook University. Ridd, remember, was fired by James Cook after raising concerns about research quality.

Responsibility appears to lie squarely with ecologist Philip Mundy, who investigates “the effects of climate change on reef fish populations” via “a range of laboratory and field-based experiments.” Thanks to Mundy’s team, a good chunk of what the world thinks it knows about coral reef fish and climate change has now been shown to be dead wrong.

Zero out of eight. How many other James Cook research papers should we be taking seriously?

To be continued…

January 13, 2020 Posted by | Deception, Science and Pseudo-Science | , | 2 Comments

Dr. Peter Ridd wins $1.2 million judgment – appeal possible

Watts Up With That? | September 5, 2019

Dr. Peter Ridd sends this update via email:

The court just announced that we have been awarded around $1.2 million (provisional on submissions).

This case was always about academic freedom.
It was a fight that should never have started in the first place.

I have worked for 35 years on the Great Barrier Reef, and my genuinely held belief is that there are systemic quality assurance problems at GBR science institutions. I had a right, a duty, to say this. JCU have still not accepted this fundamental right despite the importance of the debate to the North Queensland region.

The case shows the importance of strong clauses in Enterprise Agreements that were negotiated by the union, and relied upon in court. It also shows the importance of the federal government’s initiatives, such as the French Review, to require universities to behave like universities. If JCU appeals it casts doubt that academic freedom is part of their DNA as they often insist.

An appeal will continue the huge and pointless legal costs. JCU admit to spending well over $600K, although we suspect their true costs are far higher. The legal costs to my wife and I is around $200K. This is on top of the $260K that was donated to us in the crowd funding campaign. Our intention is to re-donate the $260K to assist with science quality and academic freedom initiatives but this will have to wait until any appeal is finished. I should add that under the Fair Work Act each side usually pays their own legal fees.

As ever I am very grateful to those who supported this cause. JCU has three weeks to appeal. If they appeal, regrettably I will likely have to call upon this support again. Until any prospective appeal is finalised, we will not be in a position to access the court payout. My lawyers say it is a landmark case so it is imperative that we continue the fight if necessary.

I’d like to thank my excellent legal team Stuart Wood AM QC, Ben Jellis, Ben Kidston, Mitchell Downes and Amelia Hasson. Also, without the support of the IPA especially Jennifer Marohasy, John Roskam, Gideon Roezner and Matthew Lesh, this would not have been possible

Lastly and most importantly I’d like to thank my wife Cheryl. She suffered most but was always rock-solid in support.

The link to the Judge’s reason is below:

September 6, 2019 Posted by | Science and Pseudo-Science | | 2 Comments

Peter Ridd vs The Dishonourables

A powerful bureaucracy bullies, berates, isolates, and intimidates a lone critic.

By Donna Laframboise | Big Picture News | April 24, 2019

The Peter Ridd court ruling, released last week, is a re-telling of David and Goliath. This is a story about a bureaucratic in-group persecuting a dissenting voice. It’s also a story about widespread dishonourable conduct.

Ridd formerly ran the physics department, and managed James Cook University’s marine geophysical laboratory for 15 years. He was fired in May 2018, after alleging that Great Barrier Reef research affiliated with his university was misleading politicians and the public.

When Ridd first reached out to journalist Peter Michael at the Courier-Mail about his concerns, Michael didn’t protect his source by shielding Ridd’s identity. Instead, he betrayed Ridd by forwarding the full e-mail, accompanied by a few questions of his own, to one of the organizations being criticized – the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies.

Biologist Terry Hughes was at that time, and continues to be, the person in charge at the ARC Centre. That entity’s website tells us “He has published so far 20 papers in Science and Nature. In scientific circles, therefore, he’s a golden boy. Getting published once in these prominent venues is an academic career boost.

This same biographical sketch begins by telling us:

In December 2016, Professor Terry Hughes was recognized by Nature as one of the “10 people who mattered this year” for his leadership in responding to the global coral bleaching event caused by climate change…Nature’s 10 dubbed him “Reef Sentinel”, for the global role he plays in applying multi-disciplinary science to securing reef sustainability.

Apparently reveling in the role of a brave sentinel sounding the alarm over climate change, Hughes presents this characterization of himself up front, at the top of the page.

Elsewhere, we learn that his current and recent research funding amounts to a staggering $31 million, with the vast bulk provided by Australian taxpayers. At many universities, professors share their research grants 50/50 with the administration. Hughes, therefore, is a source not only of international prestige for James Cook, but of significant funding.

According to the written judgment of Judge Salvatore Vasta, after receiving a forwarded copy of the detailed e-mail Ridd had sent to the journalist, Hughes declined to respond to the journalist’s questions. He made no attempt to address Ridd’s concerns, to explain why they were unfounded.

Like a child in a sandbox, he instead went running to the teacher. Before two hours had expired, he’d sent an e-mail to Senior Deputy Vice Chancellor Chris Cocklin (to whom both he and Ridd ultimately reported), saying he wished to file a complaint against Ridd.

From that point forward, it was unlikely Ridd would receive a fair hearing, despite the lofty language about impartiality and natural justice in that institution’s Code of Conduct.

University officials were in a clear conflict-of-interest. Their own fortunes were aligned with one side.

They didn’t dare investigate whether their star professor was misusing photographs or exaggerating his scientific conclusions. Such a finding could be humiliating for the university, whose reputation they themselves were supposed to be safeguarding.

Then there was the money angle. Anything that reflected negatively on Hughes could call into question his research grants past, present, and future. When a professor is bringing tens of millions of dollars onto campus, no administrator in their right mind wants to capsize that boat.

Last but not least, the powers-that-be at James Cook needed to worry about offending Hughes. The well-connected biologist might take his toys and go elsewhere.

Judge Vasta twice points to a double standard on the part of the administration. When Ridd did something, it was wrong. When others behaved similarly, it wasn’t even noticed. (See paragraphs 68-70 and 220-222 of the court judgment). In the judge’s words, the “hypocrisy is breathtaking,” and the “irony is even more spectacular.”

As a result of Hughes’ complaint, the university formally censured Ridd. He was found guilty of misconduct, including a failure to “uphold the integrity and good reputation of the University.”

The final sentence in his formal letter of censure urges him, in so many words, to get counseling – providing the telephone number of the university’s “free and confidential” service. The message couldn’t have been plainer. Ridd was the problem.

Three months later, Ridd made a guest appearance on Australian television. A book had just been published to which he’d contributed a chapter about the “extraordinary resilience of Great Barrier Reef corals.” In his view, corals are highly adaptable. They do well in water of various temperatures, and are therefore unlikely to be seriously harmed by climate change.

Ridd talked about the fact that most scientific research isn’t

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.

When an interviewer suggested some coral reef scientists were shamelessly “telling the government what they want to hear,” Ridd protested:

that’s possibly a bit harsh. I think that most of the scientists who are pushing out this stuff, they genuinely believe that there are problems with the reef. I just don’t think that they are 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.

He did, however, point out that scientists with whom he differs

will never debate. I’ve often tried, you know. Let’s have a debate of a couple of hours and thrash this out. But they never will.

Once again, Terry ‘crybaby’ Hughes complained to James Cook administrators, and once again the university declared that Ridd had violated the Code of Conduct. Its longstanding position that how Ridd was saying things was the problem would seem to be contradicted by many of its statements, including this one:

The University does not accept that academic freedom justifies your criticism of key stakeholders of the University…

Hughes had specifically complained that Ridd was threatening the institution’s relationships with other entities. Ergo, Ridd needed to be crushed.

Following that television appearance, James Cook initiated a relentless campaign of enforced secrecy. Ridd was repeatedly told he had “confidentiality obligations to the University,” that he was expected “to maintain the confidentiality of this matter,” and that certain actions of his were considered “a direct breach of confidentiality.”

“It is very important,” he was told, “that you comply.” Ridd was forbidden from discussing “these matters with the media or in any other public forum, including social media.” Moreover, during a three-week period in September 2017, the university insisted he wasn’t allowed to tell even his wife what was going on.

Administrators kept pointing to a clause in the employment contract to justify this secrecy. But Judge Vasta says that clause “is written for the benefit and protection of the employee.” It imposes an obligation on the university to keep personal information private. Employees, on the other hand, are at perfect liberty to discuss their own situation with whomever they choose.

In the judge’s words, the confidentiality obligations Ridd was repeatedly told to respect “do not exist.”

The overall picture, therefore, is of widespread dishonourable conduct. A powerful bureaucracy bullies and berates. It isolates and intimidates a lone critic who, in another universe, would have been receiving whistleblower protections.

The pettiness here is shocking. Ridd was forbidden from saying anything that “directly or indirectly trivializes…or parodies the University taking disciplinary action against you.” Administrators claim he disobeyed that order when he sent an email to a student with the subject line: “for your amusement.”

Worried that Ridd’s troubles might adversely affect a joint project, Fernando Pinheiro Andutta, an academic colleague who worked elsewhere, sent Ridd an e-mail wondering “if maybe you could avoid stirring the pot for a little bit.”

Ridd’s response included this sentence: “In any case I am not sure I have any influence on the outcome.” According to James Cook administrators, those words were proof he’d denigrated the university to a third party.

The judge characterizes further administrative allegations against Ridd as “totally bereft of logic,” “extremely peculiar,” having “no substance whatsoever,” and lacking “the slightest scintilla of evidence.”

While officials at James Cook University excelled at making Ridd’s life miserable, they collectively appear to have lost sight of the reason society spends enormous amounts of money on higher education.

A university is supposed to be a marketplace of ideas. It’s supposed to be an arena where conflicting perspectives are examined and challenged. That process won’t always be pleasant for those involved, but the last thing administrators are supposed to do is prevent this from taking place. In the words of Judge Vasta:

Incredibly, the University has not understood the whole concept of intellectual freedom. In the search for truth, it is an unfortunate consequence that some people may feel denigrated, offended, hurt or upset.

April 24, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Science and Pseudo-Science | | Leave a comment

The Splendid Peter Ridd Court Judgment

James Cook University took 28 separate actions against Professor Ridd. Each of them, including his termination, has been declared unlawful.

By Donna Laframboise | Big Picture News | April 22, 2019

Few victories are as complete as the one achieved last week by Peter Ridd in the Federal Circuit Court of Australia.

A former head of the physics department at James Cook University, Ridd was fired after questioning the reliability of Great Barrier Reef research produced by some of his colleagues.

To quote the editor-in-chief of The Lancet, “much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue.” Whenever third parties attempt to replicate published research, they often get different answers altogether. Since government decisions can throw people out of work, disrupt families, and destroy communities, Ridd thinks it’s a bad idea to base government policy on research that hasn’t been double-checked.

This saga began in December 2015, after Ridd sent an e-mail to journalist Peter Michael of the Courier-Mail outlining his concerns about the misleading use of Great Barrier Reef photographs and other matters. His e-mail offered to condense his thoughts for publication, but also urged the newspaper to ask pointed questions of those in charge of two publicly funded organizations affiliated with his own university.

Some journalists go to jail to protect their sources. Peter Michael instead forwarded Ridd’s e-mail whole cloth to Terry Hughes, the director of one of those entities. Less than two hours after receiving it, Hughes informed a James Cook administrator that he wanted to “make a formal complaint” against Ridd for attacking his integrity.

There’s no indication that Hughes or anyone else at James Cook has ever addressed Ridd’s concerns. When the powers-that-be swung into action, silencing him was apparently the only thing on their mind.

Universities are supposed to be places of rigorous inquiry and vigorous debate. Academic tenure is supposed to prevent exactly this situation: a professor being hounded from campus for expressing unfashionable views.

Ridd’s superiors insist his criticism of his colleagues wasn’t the problem. The way he criticized them was. In other words, their position is that bad manners is a firing offence.

Between April 2016 and May 2018, James Cook University took 28 separate actions against Ridd. Each of them, including his termination, was declared unlawful by Judge Salvatore Vasta last week (see the full list, three pages long, here).

Vasta determined that the university’s relationship with its staff is governed first and foremost by an employment contract ratified by Australia’s Fair Work Commission. That contract can’t be altered without the federal agency’s say-so, and was described by the judge as “the basis from which other [university] documents gain their power.”

Clause 14 of the contract is devoted to Intellectual Freedom, a concept Judge Vasta calls “the cornerstone upon which the University exists. If the cornerstone is removed, the building tumbles.”

Clause 14 clearly proclaims James Cook to be an institution of independent thought where professors have the right to participate in public debate. It says “ideas may be put forward and opinion expressed freely,” including  “unpopular or controversial views,” so long as the professors doing so don’t “harass, vilify, bully or intimidate those who disagree…”

Since Ridd hasn’t harassed, vilified, bullied, or intimidated anyone, the university has never claimed that Clause 14’s built-in limits apply.

Instead, those in charge have argued that a right recognized and affirmed by the Fair Work Commission isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. They say professors are only entitled to that right if they also abide by the university’s homegrown Code of Conduct, a rambling document that talks vaguely about “the collegial and academic spirit,” and instructs employees to “celebrate diversity.”

Ridd’s first Formal Censure said he’d violated the Code by failing to behave in a collegial manner and failing to respect the reputations of his colleagues (the only reputation actually mentioned in the Code is that of the university). It also claimed he’d gone to the media in a manner that “did not respect the rights of others.”

Judge Vasta observed that the university neglected to explain “exactly how this was not collegial or how the rights of others were not respected.” It just declared Ridd guilty of misconduct.

Using words such as “extraordinary” and “simply absurd,” the judge ruled that the Code of Conduct cannot be used as a mechanism to rob professors of something that has been guaranteed to them via the Fair Work Commission. In his words:

Clause 14 means that it is the right of Professor Ridd to say what he has said in any manner that he likes so long as he does not contravene the sanctions embedded in cl. 14. (my italics)

A few pages later, matters become crystal clear:

The termination of Professor Ridd’s employment was unlawful because it punished Professor Ridd for conduct that was protected by cl.14…

Case closed.

April 22, 2019 Posted by | Corruption, Full Spectrum Dominance, Science and Pseudo-Science | | 1 Comment

Be Offensive and Be Damned: The Cases of Peter Ridd and Tim Anderson

By Binoy Kampmark | Dissident Voice | December 20, 2018

It has been an ordinary year for universities in Australia. While the National Tertiary Education Union pats itself on the back for supposedly advancing the rights and pay of academics, several face removal and castigation at the hands of university management. Consumerism and pay are the sort of quotidian matters that interest the NTEU. Less interesting is the realm of academic ideas and how they clash with the bureaucratic prisons that have been built into universities.

At James Cook University, Peter Ridd was sacked on “code of conduct” grounds applied with a delightful elasticity. He claimed that it was for holding views on climate change out of step with his colleagues, and attacking the credibility of the Australian Institute of Marine Science and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies. (The pettiness of such institutions knows no bounds: Ridd’s knuckles were rapped, for instance, for satirising, trivialising or parodying the university.)

At the University of Sydney, Tim Anderson, a full time critic of Western interventions in the Middle East and acquitted for ordering the 1978 Sydney Hilton Hotel bombing, has been suspended pending what would seem to be imminent sacking. Causing “offense” was what mattered.

A cardinal rule applies in this case: Be suspicious of those who use good behaviour as a criterion of policing, notably in an environment where bad behaviour and dangerous ideas should hold sway over meek bumbling and submissiveness. Be wary of the demands to be vanilla and beige – behind them lies administrative venality and the dictates of compliance.

Such rubbery provisions as being “civil” or not causing offense shield the weak, spineless and fraudulent and, most dangerously, create the very same intolerable workplace that managers are supposedly opposed to. Very importantly, such code of conduct regulations are designed to immunise management from questions about their behaviour and often daft directives, letting institutions grow flabby with corruption.  Inoculated, that class thrives in its toxicity.

The Deputy Vice-Chancellor of JCU, Iain Gordon, has drawn upon the usual stock nonsense defending the decision regarding Ridd. “The issue has never been about Peter’s right to make statements – it’s about how he has continually broken a code of conduct that we would expect all our staff to stick to, to create a safe, respectful professional workplace.” The thrust of this is simple: Never cause offense; be compliantly decent; be cripplingly dull and go back to your homes in your suburbs living a life unexamined. As an academic, you are merely delivering a service mandated by individuals several steps removed from the education process, not performing an ancient duty to educate mankind.

The code of conduct, the product of a corporatized imbecility, assumes the mantle of dogma in such disputes. “All staff members must comply with the Code of Conduct,” goes Gordon’s official statement in May, with its distinct politburo flavour of placing things beyond debate. “This is non-negotiable. It is a fundamental duty and obligation that forms part of their employment.” Ridd, explains Gordon, “sensationalised his comments to attract attention, has criticised and denigrated published work, and has demonstrated a lack of respect for his colleague and institutions in doing so. Academic rebuttal of his scientific views on the reef has been separately published.”

Anderson, having found himself at stages in the University of Sydney’s bad books, has also run the gauntlet of offensiveness. The specific conduct resulting in his suspension featured lecture materials shown to students suggesting the imposition of a swastika upon Israel’s flag. This was deemed “disrespectful and offensive, and contrary to the university’s behavioural expectations”. Tut, tut, Anderson.

The Sydney University provost and acting vice-chancellor Stephen Garton followed the line taken at JCU towards Ridd with zombie-like predictability. “The university has, since its inception, supported and encouraged its staff to engage in public debate and it has always accepted that those views might be controversial.” But debate – and here, behavioural fetters were again to be imposed – had to be undertaken “in a civil manner.” Contrarianism should be expressed with a good measure of decency.

The letter of suspension from Garton to Anderson is one-dimensionally authoritarian. Principles of academic freedom were supported by the university, but only in “accordance with the highest ethical, professional and legal standards”. But the all supreme, and trumping document, remained the Code of Conduct, capitalised by the bureaucrats as Mosaic Law. “The inclusion of the altered image of the Israeli flag in your Twitter Posts, Facebook Posts and teaching materials is disrespectful and offensive, and contrary to the University’s behavioural expectations and requirements for all staff.”

Some heart can be taken from the protest last Friday on the part of 30 academics who signed an open letter objecting to the treatment meted out to Anderson, stating that academic freedom was “meaningless if it is suspended when its exercise is deemed offensive.” His suspension pending termination of his employment was “an unacceptable act of censorship and a body-blow to academic freedom at the University of Sydney”. Reaction to Ridd has been somewhat cooler.

The point with Anderson is that his views are deemed bad for university business, which tolerates no room for the offensive. This, in a place where the most varied, and, at points, tasteless views, should be expressed. But as universities have become shabby entrepreneurial endeavours which see students as obesely delicious milch cows for their existence, the idea is less important than the process.

As is so often the case of free speech, advocates of it always assume it doesn’t apply to others. It is only to be extolled as a mark on paper and university policy. But never, for instance, challenge inane university policy or the hacks who implement it. Never ridicule ideas that deserve it. Never mock the obscene nature of managerialism’s central principle: massaged incompetence and assured decline. University managers and the colourless suits aided by their ill-tutored human resources goon squads tend to hold sway over opinions, taking against anybody who questions certain aspects of their (non)performance.

The Ridd and Anderson cases, coming from separate parts of the academic spectrum, demonstrate the prevalence of toadyism on the part of those who wish to avoid questioning the rationale of a university’s management process. They also suggest an immemorial tendency of authority to savagely oppress those who ignore it; to manifest its existence through punishment. In truth, it is precisely in ignoring those officials long barnacled upon the research and teaching endeavours of the University and drawing revenue best spent on students and scholars that a grave sin is committed. Such officialdom should be ignored, treated as the bureaucratic irrelevance that it is. Time for sit-ins, occupations, boycotts and a retaking of the University.

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne and can be reached at:

December 20, 2018 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance, Science and Pseudo-Science, Solidarity and Activism | , , , | Leave a comment

Crying Wolf Over The Great Barrier Reef

By Dr Peter Ridd | The Global Warming Policy Forum | December 12, 2018

Scientists from James Cook University have just published a paper on the bleaching and death of corals on the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) and were surprised that the death rate was less than they expected because of the adaptability of corals to changing temperatures. It appears as though they exaggerated their original claims and are quietly backtracking. To misquote Oscar Wilde, to exaggerate once is a misfortune, to do it twice looks like carelessness, but to do it repeatedly looks like unforgivable systemic unreliability by some of our major science organisations.

It is a well-known phenomenon that corals can adapt very rapidly to high temperatures and that if you heat corals in one year, they tend to be less susceptible in future years to overheating. It is the reason why corals are one of the least likely species to be affected by climate change, irrespective of whether you believe the climate is changing by natural fluctuations or from human influence.

Corals have a unique way of dealing with changing temperature by changing the microscopic plants that live inside them. These microscopic plants called zooxanthellae give the coral energy from the sun by photosynthesis in exchange for a comfortable home inside the coral. But when the water gets hot, these little plants become effectively poisonous to the coral and the coral throws out the plants turning the coral white – it bleaches. But most of the time the coral will recover from the bleaching. And here’s their trick- they take in new zooxanthellae, that floats around in the water quite naturally, and can select different species of zooxanthellae to be better suited to hot weather. Most other organisms have to change their genetic makeup to deal with temperature changes, something that can take many generations. But corals can do it in a few weeks by just changing the plants that live inside them. They have learnt a thing or two in a couple of hundred years of evolution.

The problem here is that the world has been completely mislead by scientists about the affect of bleaching and rarely mention the spectacular regrowth that occurs. For example, the 2016 bleaching event supposedly killed either 95%, 50% or 30% of the reef depending upon which headline and scientist you want to believe. But the scientists only looked at very shallow water coral – less than 2 meters below the surface which is only a small fraction of all the coral, but by far the most susceptible to getting hot in the tropical sun. A recent study found that the deep water coral (down to over 40 m) got far less bleaching as one would expect. I estimate that less than 8% of the GBR coral actually died. That might still sound like a lot, but considering that there was a 250% INCREASE in coral between 2011 and 2016 for the entire Southern Zone of the GBR, an 8% decrease is nothing to worry about. Coral recovers fast.

But this is just the tip of the exaggeration iceberg. Some very eminent scientists claim that bleaching never happened before the 1980’s and is entirely a man-made phenomenon. This was always a ridiculous proposition. A recent study of 400-year-old corals has found that bleaching has always occurred and is no more common now than in the past. Scientist have also claimed that there has been a 15% reduction in the growth rate of corals. However, some colleagues and I demonstrated that there were serious errors in their work and that if anything there has been a slight increase in coral growth rate over the last 100 years. This is what one would expect in a gently warming climate. Corals grow up to twice as fast in the hotter water of Papua New Guinea and the northern GBR than in the southern GBR. I could go on with many more examples.

This unreliability of the science is now a widely accepted scandal in many other areas of study and now has a name. “The Replication Crisis”. When checks are made to replicate or confirm scientific results, it is regularly found that around half has flaws. This is an incredible and scandalous situation and it is not just me saying this – it is the editors of eminent journals and many science institutions.  A great deal of effort is now going into fixing this problem especially in the Biomedical Sciences where the problem was first recognised.

But not for GBR science. The science institutions deny there is a problem and fail to correct erroneous work. When Piers Larcombe and I wrote an article to a scientific journal suggesting we needed a little extra checking of GBR science, the response from many very eminent scientists was that there was no need. Everything is fine. I am not sure if this is blind optimism or wilful negligence, but why would anybody object to a little more checking? It would only cost a few million dollars, just a tiny fraction of what the governments will be spending on the reef.

But the truth will out eventually. The scare stories about the GBR started in the 1960’s when scientist first started work on the reef. They have been crying wolf ever since. But the data keeps coming in and, yes, sometimes a great deal of coral dies in a spectacular manner with accompanying media fanfare. It is like a bushfire on land, it looks terrible at first, but it quietly and rapidly grows back ready for the scientists to peddle their story all over again.

Dr Ridd was, until fired this year, a Physicist at the James Cook University Marine Geophysical Laboratory.

December 12, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | | 1 Comment

Can Universities Lawfully Bully Academics into Silence?

By Jennifer Marohasy | June 19, 2018

Dr Peter Ridd has taken James Cook University to court protesting his sacking for what he says is, primarily, speaking-out about the lack of quality assurance in Great Barrier Reef science.

Dr Ridd spoke out initially about there being no quality assurance of Great Barrier Reef science – science that is arguably misused to secure billions of dollars of tax-payer funding. When the University tried to stop Dr Ridd doing this, Dr Ridd spoke out against University management – making all the documentation public including on his new website.

I would really like the court case to be about academic freedom and the science – to lay bare the evidence. But when I went to the first day of the hearing of an application in the Federal Circuit Court last Monday (11th June – the hearing continued on 12 June 2018) for an order for reinstatement of Dr Ridd’s employment pending determination at trial, it quickly became evident that there would be no testing of the actual scientific evidence relied upon by Dr Ridd to claim that scientific institutions like AIMS and ARC Centre “can no longer be trusted” and “spin their story”.

Yesterday (19th June), Judge Jarrett gave his reasons for making orders declining to reinstate Dr Ridd but allowing him to amend his primary application to include a claim for the university taking “adverse action” against him for exercising a workplace right (i.e. his intellectual/academic freedom pursuant to the enterprise agreement). On hearing the reasons I was concerned to discover that it may all come down to poorly worded clauses in an enterprise agreement. In particular, was Dr Ridd allowed to exercise his academic freedoms free of the constraint of the university’s ‘aspirational’ (according to His Honour) code of conduct, and was he permitted to say anything publicly about what many ordinary Australians would consider a straight-forward case of the university bullying him into silence?

On the first day of the preliminary hearing Barrister Ben Kidston for the applicant (Dr Ridd) argued eloquently about how the case was about ‘academic freedom’. He went-on for over an hour moving from the big picture to the detail with respect to specific clauses in a code of conduct and the enterprise agreement, and back again. All the while His Honour and the audience listened intently – no one interrupted. Again yesterday, His Honour cited the poorly worded specific clause which the university has been relying on to silence Dr Ridd, and observed that it was open to two interpretations.

His Honour didn’t mention the Union. The National Tertiary Education Union has an interest in the enterprise agreement and like Dr Ridd, they say that the relevant clause in the agreement shouldn’t be used to silence the employee but rather, amongst other things, that the obligation of confidentiality only applies to the University’s management of the disciplinary process. Any other interpretation means that university academics would be obliged to suffer any disciplinary action by the University (legitimate or otherwise) in silence – they would never be able to publicly defend themselves in the court of public opinion, court proceedings being the only practical option. One wonders if the Union realises the implications to its members.

Yesterday, when His Honour gave his reasons for declining the application by Dr Ridd for an injunction – for his temporary reinstatement as a Professor at James Cook University pending the trial – he didn’t deal with many of the arguments advanced for Dr Ridd e.g. the effect of the clause of the enterprise agreement which states that the code of conduct is not to “detract” from the intellectual freedoms, the interaction of the express right to disagree with the University‘s decisions and processes pursuant to his intellectual freedom and the purported obligation to keep disciplinary proceedings again him confidential, whether a conflict of interest, apprehended bias or actual bias, exists by reason of the university’s commercial relationship with AIMS, GBRMPA and ARC and the effect that this has on the obligation to afford Dr Ridd procedural fairness and natural justice in the determination of the disciplinary complaint (which concerned comments he made about those bodies).

That is not intended to be critical of His Honour. His Honour took a broad brush approach and did not descend into the detail of the arguments and the evidence, as all His Honour was required to do was to ascertain whether Dr Ridd had a prima facie case, and not to decide the case itself.

Yesterday, His Honour found that Dr Ridd had an arguable prima facie case in relation to the alleged breach of the enterprise agreement by JCU and that it took adverse action against him, but that the balance of convenience did not favour his reinstatement pending trial primarily because:
1. an award of damages would be an adequate remedy if Dr Ridd was successful at trial; and
2. the university paid Dr Ridd the equivalent of six month’s pay upon his termination – so he was not presently without income to support himself and (it seems) that a trial would likely occur before the expiration of that six month period; and
3. Dr Ridd had previously turned down an offer of an undertaking by the university to suspend the disciplinary proceedings pending determination of the proceeding. It is important to note that that undertaking would have required Dr Ridd to remain silent about the disciplinary proceedings that had been taken against him by the university.

Of course, in making this determination the Judge was entirely ignoring (as he was entitled to) the very nature of Dr Ridd – a man of integrity who will not be silenced even if costs him his job, his career and results in vicious bullying.

When Christopher Murdoch QC for the respondent (JCU) argued on the first day of the hearing he explained that the University’s core issue was the breaking of confidentiality, in particular Dr Ridd was not allowed to tell anyone that he had been censured. Never mind that he had been censured for daring to speak out against a culture where scientific integrity is perhaps sacrificed for profit.

So, when I blogged about this issue of Peter Ridd being censured and the need for everyone to contribute to his GoFundMe Campaign back in May, I very deliberately emphasised the importance of being able to speak out. The most important thing, I wrote, is to not be silenced.

I was also thinking of the famous Edmund Burke quote: The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

Dr Ridd has done something. First, he detailed the scientific facts as an expert on these issues including in the scientific literature. For example, there is his article published in Marine Geology (Volume 346, pages 392-399) in which he explains that the only reason Glenn De’ath found an apparent decline in coral calcification rates was because he didn’t consider the age effect on coral growth. This is just one of many instances when Dr Ridd has detailed how scientists make spurious claims based on a flawed methodology. More recently Dr Ridd has explained the consequences of this in plain English on television.

None of this has made him popular with his colleagues most of whom rely on perceptions of imminent catastrophe at the Great Barrier Reef for their relevance and certainly their funding. Dr Ridd has done what the average Australian would consider to be the right thing. Most importantly he has not remained silent – surely, he will be vindicated at the final trial when all the evidence is heard and all the arguments made and considered.


June 24, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Science and Pseudo-Science | , | Leave a comment

Give it up James Cook University – Even The Guardian Sympathises with Climate Skeptic Peter Ridd

By Eric Worrall | Watts Up With That? | June 11, 2018

Dr. Willie Soon – the opportunity for James Cook University to salvage what is left of its academic reputation is closing fast.

Peter Ridd’s academic union is backing him, senior Australian politicians have spoken out against James Cook’s heavy handed actions, and now The Guardian is concerned about what Peter Ridd’s dismissal means for academic freedom.

Peter Ridd’s sacking pushes the limit of academic freedom

James Cook University may have damaged its reputation with a heavy-handed approach to the academic with minority views on climate change and the reef.

Gay Alcorn

Tue 5 Jun 2018 11.59 AEST

I hate 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.

His trouble started in April 2016 when he received a “formal censure” for “misconduct”. It was a curious incident: the university had got hold of an email that Ridd sent to a journalist a few months before. In it, he urged the journalist to look into work Ridd had had done suggesting that photographs released by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority indicating a big decline in reef health over time were misleading.

Ridd couldn’t help a dig: The photographs are “a dramatic example of how scientific organisations are quite happy to spin a story for their own purposes”. The authority, and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies – based at James Cook University –“should check their facts before they spin their story … my guess is that they will both wiggle and squirm because they actually know that these pictures are likely to be telling a misleading story – and they will smell a trap.”

This was enough for the university to censure Ridd on the grounds that he breached the code of conduct by “going to the media in your professional capacity in a way that was not collegial and did not respect the rights of others or uphold professional standards”. It was a warning. Ridd could make public comments but they “must be in a collegial manner that upholds the university and individuals’ respect”.

As a journalist, I find this uncomfortable. He had strong opinions, strongly put, in an area which he had professional interest and expertise. Foolishly, the journalist forwarded the entire email to an unnamed professor, who complained to the university.

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.

For all the university’s sensitivity about its brand and reputation, you have to wonder if it has damaged its own standing with its strident calls for “collegiality” and its repeated insistence that Ridd stay mute.

The other way would be for academics not to complain about Ridd’s impolite turn of phrase, but to reject his arguments, loudly and with evidence. For Australia’s premier reef research institutions to keep doing good work, and keep explaining it to the public, and to treat Ridd as little more than a thorn in their side. And for the university to put up with their troublesome academic and to not be obsessed with process and its own self importance.

As this has dragged on, that was the way that was lost.

Read more:

James Cook University IS feeding a narrative that universities actively suppress non-conformist views on climate change. The mistreatment of Peter Ridd adds evidence to concerns that other scientists have also been punished for politically inconvenient views.

Frightening scientists into silence by threatening their livelihood every time they say something inconvenient is an attack on science.

I can think of countless advances which only occurred because courageous scientists stood against mainstream thought.

Lives have been saved because of academic courage – one of my heroes Aussie medical scientist Barry Marshall risked his own life to overturn decades of misdiagnosis and misery, by deliberately infecting himself with Helicobacter Pylori to prove ulcers are caused by a bacterial infection.

Peter Ridd’s contribution is no less important.

Farmers in Queensland are threatened with increasingly costly draconian restrictions on farming practices, which are justified as vital to protect the endangered Great Barrier Reef. It is likely some farm businesses won’t survive if those restrictions are tightened further. It is also likely that some farmers in this predicament won’t survive the stress of seeing their businesses destroyed.

If Peter Ridd is right, if the problems with the reef have been exaggerated, then some or even most of these draconian restrictions on farming practices are unnecessary. There is no doubt in my mind that if Peter Ridd is right, his courage will save lives, will contribute to the happiness and wellbeing of countless rural families.

Peter Ridd deserves a fair hearing, not abuse, threat and censure.

June 14, 2018 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance, Science and Pseudo-Science | | 5 Comments