I’ve got a great idea for a screenplay. Hollywood should love it, and it’s even based on a true story.
A lone research professor discovers that powerful interests are manipulating science to foist upon the people of a state a series of unjust regulations. But that’s not all. As he digs down into the data, he discovers corruption and misconduct. The state’s lead “scientist” turns out to have a fake degree, purchased from a fictitious “Thornhill University.” Moreover, key members of the state’s “scientific review panel” have overstayed term limits by decades. The professor blows the whistle, the scientist with the fake degree is suspended, the scientific review panel dislodges its entrenched members (at least temporarily), and the state begins to rethink its long-held assumptions.
Such a brave dissenter, a man unafraid to “speak truth to power” has no doubt been showered with academic awards, right? This is why professors work to protect academic freedom, isn’t it? The Left loves science, so this man must be an academic hero.
Not so fast. If the science the professor challenges is junk science engineered to justify draconian emissions regulations in California, and if the wrongly entrenched scientists include radicals like a former member of the infamous “Chicago Seven,” then dissent is not quite so patriotic, and “power” is not quite so enamored with truth. Instead, this professor was terminated, his funding looted so that he was forced to work a year without pay as he appealed his termination, and he was denied even the ability to fully defend himself in his own appeals.
And at the end of the day, the “scientist” with the fake degree kept his job while the scientist who exposed fraud lost his.
FIRE, Reason, and many others have highlighted the professor’s plight, and late yesterday my colleagues and I at the ACLJ filed suit against officials from UCLA on behalf of Dr. James E. Enstrom, a research professor who blew the whistle on junk science, exposed very real scientific misconduct, and was fired for his trouble. Given the ideological monoculture of academia, I’ve long been amused by the Left’s claims of a Republican “war on science.” (Must everything be a “war”?) Does the academic Left really believe that groupthink breeds the kind of intellectual independence and fearlessness that the great scientists possessed?
We know the answer to that question, and so does Dr. Enstrom. Fortunately, however, the First Amendment still protects the right of academic dissent, and we will soon see if UCLA’s actions can withstand the scrutiny of federal court.