Christopher Monckton of Brenchley draws our attention to another highly-paid individual in a position of trust who had taken the easy way out when called upon to stand up for principles.
In the U.S. we have had a number of attacks in which police have been murdered in the course of their duty. Whether there was a good reason for the anger of the murderer, there was no justification for this response. But my point is this: We still see American police out on the street doing their duty, even though doing so might cost them their lives.
But there is no such edifying example from Professor John Butterworth, "the useless bureaucrat in charge of the College’s department of Physics and Astronomy", as Monckton calls him. Faced with protests about some colleagues running a seminar on climate change - but one (HORROR!) at which a skeptical eye would be cast upon the mainstream viewpoint - the cowardly Butterworth asked the organiser to cancel his booking.
Compare: Ordinary police continue to risk their actual rives to do their job; but Butterworth, in a much more privileged and responsible position, cannot even risk some criticism.
Both butterworth and the entire UCL have trashed their reputations over this.
There is a more general point to be made here.
Scholarship, academe, science - three overlapping and related terms - cover a field of human endeavour that is one of the key factors that have raised the horizons of the possible and the imaginable for our species. As I have said many times on our bird website, wingedhearts.org, there is nothing "mere" about being an animal. Our bird friends have adopted us into their families, taught us how to communicate with them, taught us their laws and shown us their family relationships. So when I say, as I am about to do, that there is something special about humans, it is not from any naive idea of human exceptionalism.
What is exceptional is this: despite their love, wisdom, heroism, and many other qualities that they share with humans, no bird has ever wondered where the universe came from, or what are the laws that allow it to fly, or how the sun works.
Yet humans wonder about all these things. From hunter-gatherers to scientists, "how?", "why?", "where did we come from?" and like questions invade our minds. And our highly-paid university professors are the foremost guardians of our right to engage in this fundamentally human activity - arguably the central attribute of "being human".
These intellectuals are actually paid (with public money - our taxes) to do what almost every human would like to do if the problem of earning a crust did not exist. How lucky are these privileged people! And one of the key responsibilities that comes with that privilege is the duty to preserve the free and open, enquiring atmosphere in which all of us can ask hard questions about difficult subjects.
The reason for this is that scholarship and science are nothing more than formalisations of the most effective ways to engage in this fundamentally human activity. Science is the discovery that truth is more effectively discovered by formulation of hypotheses and testing against evidence, than by going along with the crowd or believing what the king says or saying what the boss tells us to say.
This is what is most obscene about the behaviour of "the useless bureaucrat". Butterworth has betrayed the most fundamental trust of any academic: to fearlessly enquire into the most sacred idols, to discover the secrets of nature without regard to the interests or beliefs of the majority.
And here he was not even asked to do anything! All he had to do was to not betray the primary trust of academe. He is condemned out of his own mouth:
“It has been brought to my attention that you have booked a room at University College, London, for an external conference in September for a rather fringe group discussing aspects of climate science.
“If this event were to go ahead at UCL, it would generate a great deal of strong feeling, indeed it already has, as members of the UCL community are expressing concern to me that we are giving a platform to speakers who deny anthropogenic climate change while flying in the face of accepted scientific methods. I am sure you have no desire to bring UCL into disrepute, or to cause dissension in the UCL community, and I would encourage you to think about moving the event to a different venue, not on UCL premises.”
The victim of this intimidation was Professor Alsabti. My only criticism of him is that, when confronted with this direct attack on one of the core human activities, he cancelled his booking and went elsewhere. The correct thing to do with these unprincipled cowards, who are not worth their salary or the respect they are usually given, is to uncompromisingly denounce them.
Professor John Butterworth, go talk to an American policeman; learn what real courage is. As Monckton says: Professor Butterworth owes Professor Alsabti an abject apology.