Truth Comes Second To Telling People How To Think


On Wednesday, the High Court has the opportunity to defend academic freedom in Australian universities, but to do so it must explicitly reject a lower-court ruling that this vital principle is more or less obsolete. What it decides will be a marker for the state of our civilisation.

On that day, the court will hear arguments in the dispute between James Cook University and Peter Ridd, the professor and marine geophysicist it sacked in 2018.

Ridd was dismissed after dis­agreeing with some of his colleagues regarding their claims about damage to the Great Barrier Reef allegedly caused by climate change and other factors such as farm run-off, including in a chapter contributed to the Institute of Public Affairs’ essay collection Climate Change: The Facts 2017.

Last year the Federal Court raised the stakes when, in upholding an appeal by JCU against an earlier decision, the majority judgment purported to dismiss the entire tradition of free inquiry on which the modern university is founded. As such, the case has become much more than a mere contractual dispute. It raises important questions about how the modern university understands its mission and, moreover, how our society understands the concept of knowledge itself.

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