17 Apr 2019
Professor Peter Ridd has won a landmark court victory in the Australian courts against the university which fired him for daring to challenge the narrative that the Great Barrier Reef is being destroyed by climate change.
The historic judgement by Judge Vasta in Brisbane, Australia, found that Ridd was wrongly dismissed by James Cook University in Queensland, Australia. It has been hailed as a major victory for free speech, free academic inquiry and scientific integrity.
A spokesman for the Institute of Public Affairs, the Australian think tank which helped raise funds for Ridd’s case, said:
“This judgement should rightly send shockwaves through Australian universities regarding their commitment to academic freedom and how they deal with academics who hold a contrary view to established group think.”
It marks a victory not just for Ridd but also for his former friend and colleague the late Bob Carter, another outspoken climate sceptic who was similarly traduced and ostracised by the same university.
Ridd, Professor of Physics at James Cook University, was ostensibly sacked for ‘academic misconduct.’ But as Breitbart News reported last year, the underlying reason was his refusal to play ball on the subject of the Great Barrier Reef. The GBR has become one of the poster children for the great global warming scare – and much generous grant funding is available to any Australian university department which can claim to show how badly it is imperilled by man’s selfishness, greed and refusal to amend his carbon-guzzling lifestyle.
But Ridd just wasn’t having it.
As he told Fox News last year:
I have published numerous scientific papers showing that much of the “science” claiming damage to the reef is either plain wrong or greatly exaggerated. As just one example, coral growth rates that have supposedly collapsed along the reef have, if anything, increased slightly.
He went on:
The Great Barrier Reef is in fact in excellent condition. It certainly goes through periods of destruction where huge areas of coral are killed from hurricanes, starfish plagues and coral bleaching. However, it largely regrows within a decade to its former glory.
These statements went down like a cup of cold sick with his university colleagues, not least when he publicly criticised their misleading studies which had claimed – on little scientific evidence – that the Great Barrier Reef is being harmed by climate change.
”…we can no longer trust the scientific organisations like the Australian Institute of Marine Science, even things like the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies – a lot of this is stuff is coming out, 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 any more.”
The ARC Centre of Excellence is part of James Cook University. Not unsurprisingly, the university was keen to slap down Ridd’s uncollegiate behaviour.
But now a judge has found that he was perfectly within his rights to blow the whistle on his colleagues’ dodgy science.
Had Ridd lost the case it would have been ruinous both for his finances and his academic future. It was a huge gamble, not least because JCU was determined crush him – and is believed to have spent as much as $1 million on the case. Ridd could only afford to fight the case thanks to the $260,000 he had been given by well-wishers.
The outcome was by no means certain because JCU chose not to fight its case on the rights or wrongs of the science, only on the narrow considerations of whether or not Ridd was technically in breach of his contract.
Happily for Ridd – and for the cause of honest science, academic inquiry and freedom of speech – Judge Vasta ruled that the overriding factor in the case was the university’s Clause 14 on ‘Intellectual Freedom’.
This begins: ‘JCU is committed to act in a manner consistent with the protection and promotion of intellectual freedom within the University and in accordance with JCU’s Code of Conduct’.
Judge Vasta said in his scathing written summary:
“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. It may not always be possible to act collegiately when diametrically opposed views clash in the search for truth.”
“That is why intellectual freedom is so important. It allows academics to express their opinions without fear of reprisals. It allows a Charles Darwin to break free of the constraints of creationism. It allows an Albert Einstein to break free of the constraints of Newtonian physics. It allows the human race to question conventional wisdom in the never-ending search for knowledge and truth. And that, at its core, is what higher learning is about. To suggest otherwise is to ignore why universities were created and why critically focussed academics remain central to all that university teaching claims to offer.”
Nice job, Judge Vasta. Many congrats, Peter. And thanks to all the Breitbart readers who helped contribute to his defence