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UVA’s Defense of Michael Mann: Back Off, He’s a Scientist!

The University of Virginia doesn't want to comply with the VA AG's investigation of warmist Michael Mann. Their reasoning? Scientists aren't subject to the same laws as the rest of us.

by
Christopher Horner

Bio

June 4, 2010 - 12:02 am
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Alternately, the university begs the question: where do standards applied to the rest of us end and a “strait jacket” begin? Or, where does protection of intellectual discourse — not actually at issue here, despite UVA hand-waving to the contrary — end and selective immunity from the laws of the land begin? These are now questions for the Virginia courts.

Sweezy is an Eisenhower-era opinion, written shortly before Ike’s farewell address. The address is famous for warning of a “military-industrial complex,” but also for warning:

Be alert to the equal and opposite danger ["opposite" of stifling academic freedom] that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.

Sadly, this has come to pass, with the University of Virginia among its most zealous defenders.

UVA’s invocation of the wholly inapplicable Sweezy illustrates the barrenness of its legal cupboard, and no distraction will change that the precedent it cites is wholly irrelevant to Mr. Cuccinelli’s inquiry into possible civil fraud. The university expends great effort to make the issue other than what it plainly is.

“Academic freedom” has of course never meant selective sanctioning of unlawful behavior. And the attorney general is not, as the university claims to the court, “engag[ing] in scientific debate.” That the university cannot or will not see this only further makes the case that it is not capable of self-investigation.

Which raises a final point. In its petition, UVA proves far too much. For example, it references two other inquiries into aspects of ClimateGate. Where, pray tell, was the outrage by Big Science or academia over these two?

The answer is that the pretense of self-policing by the University of East Anglia and by Mann’s current home, Penn State, were both exercises in wagon-circling. When they were announced, Big Science remained mum because this was transparently so, as evidenced by their stacking panels with sympathetic parties highly unlikely to conclude otherwise than they did.

About these, UVA rather disingenuously claims “the subsequent investigations have not found any fraudulent conduct.” Of course they didn’t — neither inquired into fraud! Instead, both narrowly tailored their reviews to less treacherous waters.

By this mischaracterization to the court, UVA stretches the truth while doing its credibility no good. Which nicely summarizes the entire Mann affair.

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Christopher Horner is a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and author of the recently-published The Liberal War on Transparency: Confessions of a Freedom of Information "Criminal".
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