Academic freedom and hypocrisy


They always come in twos and threes. Today, Roger Pielke Jr has an article in the Guardian asking excited climate-activist Australians to be tolerant of Bjorn Lomborg. He advises them:

Don’t seek to shut down debate and discussion. This means not seeking to prevent individuals from publishing their views or holding a job where they publish those views. It also means working to create a safe space for the open exchange of ideas, especially when there are social media or other shout down campaigns under way. …

How delightfully ironic. Not many years ago, when I published a piece on critical of Pielke Jr’s ‘iron law’ hypothesis that is exactly what he did: ‘prevent individuals from publishing their views’. The article disappeared overnight: Pielke Jr had prevailed upon Anthony Watts to do the dirty deed.

Speaking of intolerance, everyone’s favourite troll ‘ATTP’ posted yet another diffusely worded tract about ‘the avoidance of the intellectual’. ATTP bemoans how ‘people who spend their lives trying to understand the world’ (i.e., academics like him) are ‘discouraged’ from taking a stand, and are ‘content to stay in their own little bubble, rather than engaging with the broader community.’

I don’t know about you but I can say with confidence ATTP’s online behaviour is exactly that of someone trying hard to ‘stay in his own little bubble, rather than engaging with the broader community’. In fact whenever the ‘broader community’ attempts contact, ATTP shrinks away into the bubble banishing the ‘contactees’. In the latest episode, moderator RachelM banned longtime climate commentator Tom Fuller without asking him first: Fuller was the kind of guy ATTP would have banned anyway.

There are other peculiarities here. In an interesting article on censorship on university campuses Nick Cohen points out how universities no longer support and nurture freedom of expression, in a form they traditionally did.

Michael Harris, a colleague on the Guardian, made the brilliant point to me afterwards that tuition fees had made students consumers. They no more felt they had a duty to uphold freedom of speech when they disapproved of a speaker, than shoppers thought they had a duty to visit M&S …

If tuition fees spurred by the corporatization of universities had made students into consumers, would lecturers and teachers who swim and survive in the environment be far behind? ATTP himself confirms the impression. He points out:

Universities are also now run more as a business than as some institution of learning that provides a service to the broader public …

Consumer students would think like corporate entities and open discussion is not a priority. Cohen says (emphasis mine):

I left thinking how too many left-wing academics were creating the ideal authoritarian types for the corporations, political parties and police forces of tomorrow. The abiding lesson of their supposedly liberal education was that they were entitled to suppress argument.

This precisely describes ATTP’s inclination and a broader tendency among academics. Despite the pious words, ATTP’s blog behavior is fundamentally corporate, and not ‘university-like’, and stems from his academic background.

In defending Lomborg, Pielke Jr says he welcomes a ‘discussion about academic intolerance’. But academic freedom and tolerance are no special breed. You either fight for it for all individuals, including those critical of your ideas, or you don’t. Academics make poor defenders of academic freedom. Despite what they tell you, that’s not what they want.



  1. omanuel

    We live in a world George Orwell described in the book he started writing in 1946:

    “Nineteen Eighty-Four”

    It is no mere coincidence that 1946 is the year when another British author of science fiction, Sir Fred Hoyle, published papers that changed the Sun’s internal composition from:

    1. Mostly iron (Fe) in 1945 to
    2. Mostly hydrogen (H) in 1946

  2. omanuel

    Science became a tool of propaganda to hide the powerful force of creation after Stalin won WWII and united the nations (UN) and national academies of science (NAS) to prohibit knowledge of Neutron Repulsion: “The Force of Creation” that

    1. Converts neutrons into atoms
    2. Rest mass into kinetic energy
    3. Ever increasing entropy, and
    4. Expansion of the universe.

  3. omanuel

    Refusal to accept reality destroyed the freedom and sanity of mankind: The Force of Creation Is The Force of Destruction!

    “One day in August 1945, while standing in the ruins of Hiroshima,” a nuclear geochemist who later became known as Professor Paul Kazuo Kuroda concluded, the BEGINNING of the world may have been just like this.” [1]

    Two months later – on 24 Oct 1945 – frighten world leaders united nations (UN) and national academies of science (NAS) to rule by deceit and forbid public knowledge of neutron repulsionthe driving force for creation of chemical elements from neutrons in cores of atoms heavier than ~150 amu (atomic mass units), planets, stars, galaxies and the expanding universe. [2]


    1. P. K. Kuroda, The Origin of the Chemical Elements and the Oklo Phenomenon (Springer Publishing, 165 pages, 1982) The quote is on page 2. Phenomenon/dp/3540116796

    2. O. K. Manuel, “Solar energy”

  4. gregole

    “…How delightfully ironic. Not many years ago, when I published a piece on critical of Pielke Jr’s ‘iron law’ hypothesis that is exactly what he did: ‘prevent individuals from publishing their views’. The article disappeared overnight: Pielke Jr had prevailed upon Anthony Watts to do the dirty deed…”

    I remember that episode well and it left me a bit bewildered. I figured it was some kind of “insider” thing

  5. omanuel

    FACTS [1] versus FALSEHOODS [2]

    Empirical Facts versus
    Consensus Fables

    1. EF: The Sun generates hydrogen
    1. CF: The Sun consumes hydrogen

    2. EF: Neutrons repel other neutrons
    2. CF: Neutrons attract other neutrons

    3. EF: The interior of the Sun is iron (Fe) surrounding a pulsar core
    3. CF: The interior of the Sun is hydrogen (H) encasing a H-fusion reactor

    4. EF: Aston’s “nuclear packing fraction” tells nuclear stability
    4. CF: Weizsacker’s “nuclear binding energy” tells nuclear stability

    5. EF: The Sun’s pulsar core created and sustains every atom, life and planet in the solar system.
    5. CF: World leaders and government scientists united under the UN and NAS rule the world.

    Truth and Freedom versus
    Falsehoods and Slavery

    TF: We were endowed by our Creator with inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

    SF: We are endowed by Big Brother with a life of servitude if we do not question the consensus science Big Brother purchases with public funds.

    CONCLUSION: Ordinary liars and harlots would not accept public funds to deceive and enslave the public.


    1. “Solar energy” or Teachers Supplement to “Solar Energy” or

    2. UN, NAS, DOE, NSF, NASA, EPA, NOAA, etc.

  6. Shub Niggurath

    Greg, that’s what happened. Pielke et al went behind the scenes to get what they wanted.

    Tom, that is an excellent collection. I was reading it earlier.

  7. manicbeancounter

    ATTP also did a post on Bjorn Lomborg. He is rejecting as simplistic the method (in economics and policy making) of identifying interrelated issues separately, understanding the relative size of the problems along with the effectiveness and availability of possible solutions and then prioritizing them. He pins this as an opinion of Lomborg, when it is actually the views of The Copenhagen Consensus which Lomborg heads. The academics involved include 7 Nobel prize winners in economics. I am sure ATTP is drafting the economics paper right now that will make him the greatest economist since Adam Smith.
    ATTP also claims that Lomborg is not an academic by any “standard definition”. So I looked up the word in a dictionary, and compared it with a short biography of Lomborg. He qualifies as an “academic” by two standard definitions.

  8. Shub Niggurath

    manic, ATTP is an unthinking automaton who just repeats the party line on any issue despite knowing little about it. Thus if Eli Rabett and BBD don’t like Lomborg ATTP will automatically adopt the same position.

  9. manicbeancounter

    I hope you do not mind if I disagree. ATTP is very bright and does think for himself. He shares a commonality of beliefs with his audience, but attempts to rise above the usual crowd. However, like most in the climate community he thinks belief in climate increases intellectual prowess.

    Three areas I looked at where this self-belief has made him trip up.
    – In claiming that Lomborg was not an academic by any standard definition, he now (sort of) admits he was wrong. Of 36 hours have passed, and he still has not got round to correcting his blog post.
    – By attacking the man, he denigrates Lomborg’s alleged lack understanding of economics. Lomborg brings together leading experts to solve policy problems. This includes 7 Nobel Laureates in economics. So ATTP is effectively saying that some of the world’s leading experts are ignorant.
    – He accuses someone (Pierre Gosselin) of cherry picking in his list of predictive failures of the climate community. But does not come back with predictive successes. I am still open to him returning to substantiate his claim.

  10. Shub Niggurath

    Oh, I don’t think or mean to say ATTP is intellectually deficient. Not at all. When his identity was outed one look at his CV was enough to tell the calibre of his academic profile. He has an impressive set of papers under his belt. Now, I don’t know the actual impact of those papers, I don’t know his area of research nor did I sit down and evaluate original contribution vs collaborative work etc. But one doesn’t build a CV like that overnight, or without a modicum of scientific ability. I am far junior to him but I know how academia works and what it takes to put together work like he has.

    What I meant to say, on the other hand, was this: considering his initial supposedly-open minded approach and ability to digest topics and talk about them – which wouldn’t be possible without the ability – his critical approach to climate-related claims is far lacking. There is a big mismatch.

    Take the Lomborg issue itself. If one takes what he’s written as an indicator of his thinking on the topic, there is nothing to suggest he should have any view about Bjorn Lomborg. Yet one finds him trashing Lomborg’s reputation and credentials for no apparent reason, without being able to provide justification.

    Where does this view originate?

    I believe ATTP picks on the standard climate hawk line of argument and promotes it, even though there is no reason or indication for him personally to do so. The climate hawk line is that Lomborg is bad and deserves to be vilified, trashed and harmed without mercy. From the early days of The Skeptical Environmentalist he has been subjected to sustained attacks, starting with everyone from EO Wilson to Jeff Harvey to Mark Lynas.

    This is the ‘unthinking automaton’ part – ATTP’s stance on a climate topic is fully predictable.