Ignorance is strength at Australian universities

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“Australia’s culture of open debate is increasingly sick”.

“Outrage, confected or otherwise, is a popular tool to condemn your opponents because it avoids the need to actually debate ideas.”

Those are the words of Australia’s Human Rights Commissioner, Tim Wilson, in The Australian on Monday.

The University of Western Australia’s decision to bow to the shrill demands of a small but vocal minority and reject the proposed Australian Consensus Centre is a watershed moment for Australian universities and academia in this country.

The purpose of the Australian Consensus Centre was to advise on the best ways to tackle the world’s development challenges. This includes climate change and other issues regarding health, education and nutrition.

Bjørn Lomborg was to be an adjunct professor at the Australian Consensus Centre. His work at CCC has not set out to question the validity of the anthropogenic climate change hypothesis; his work simply seeks to assess the cost-benefit of various climate change policies, and how best to allocate scarce resources.

Bjørn Lomborg has strongly responded to UWA’s decision to reject his think tank in the Wall Street Journal:

Philanthropists, donors and policy makers must prioritize development goals. What Copenhagen Consensus does is ensure that such parties understand the price tags and potential outcomes for each option.

This work has shown that some aid projects do phenomenally well: For instance, providing contraception to the 215 million women across the globe who lack access to it would reduce maternal mortality and boost growth, producing $120 in social benefits for each dollar spent.

Other policies have lower multipliers. Getting sanitation to the poorest half of the world, for example, would produce only $3 of benefits for each dollar spent. This is worthy, but for a government with a limited development budget, it probably isn’t the first place to spend money.

We should focus resources where they will do the most good—not where they will make us feel the most good.

What is the lesson for young academics? Avoid producing research that could produce politically difficult answers. Steer clear of results that others might find contentious. Consider where your study could take you, and don’t go there if it means upsetting the status quo.

This dominant, progressive group-think that pervades universities doesn’t just affect academics. It affects students all over the world, to the point where for some, the only choice left is to laugh. But we are all worse for it. The culture of muzzling ideas we don’t agree with not because they are bad, but because they fail to meet a perceived moral threshold is dangerous.

The reality is that there are thousands of students on Australian university campuses who are too afraid to make their voices heard and share their opinions because they dissent from the increasingly aggressive, dominant and hostile Left. It is time we talked about that.

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