December 13, 2006

Academic Freedom

"Here's more evidence that 'academic freedom' doesn't apply to anyone actually on or near a campus" opens an OpinionJournal Political Diary item by Holman Jenkins, Jr.

The chancellor of British Columbia's Thompson Rivers University has become a public enemy after uttering judicious words on global warming on a Canadian Broadcasting breakfast show last week. Chancellor Nancy Greene Raine, previously an Olympic skiing champion and national heroine as Canada's official "female athlete of the century," told listeners: "In science, there's almost never black and white. We don't know what next week's weather is going to be. To say in 50 or 100 years, the temperature is going to do this, is a bit of a stretch for me."

The result was a "furor on campus," reports the local Kamloops Daily News. Professors have demanded Ms. Greene Raine's ouster from the ceremonial post. A Canadian government meteorologist "questioned why Greene Raine would offer comment about something on which she is not versed. He noted that no one comes to him for advice on skiing."

In fact, poor Ms. Greene Raine was making exactly the judgment that all citizens and politicians are called upon to make in the global warming debate: How reliable are long-range climate predictions? How should we weigh the costs and benefits of various policy prescriptions? Nor is she alone. Freeman Dyson, the legendary physicist and mathematician, offered similar views in a commencement address at the University of Michigan last year. For that matter, Ms. Greene Raine was kicked off a film of Canadian celebrities talking about global warming in 2005 when the producers discovered she thought spending money on poverty and disease was more urgent than spending money on climate change.

Questions of whether to adapt to climate change or try to prevent it, of how much to spend on CO2 reduction and the like, are questions the public is apparently supposed to shut up about. Message to Ms. Greene Raine and anyone else: Your job is merely to register support for "good" environmentalists versus "bad" skeptics, then submit to whatever policies the Al Gores of the world prescribe for our salvation.

The email version curiously features a picture of Vice President Gore. That may be a stretch, but it is not a stretch to point out that soi disant free academic thinkers will tolerate no questioning of their conclusions.

Environment Posted by John Kranz at December 13, 2006 2:05 PM