by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
At UCLA, a respected researcher, James Enstrom, discovered that job-killing state regulations were based on junk science, that the “scientist” advancing those regulations had purchased his doctorate from a fictitious university, and that the state panel reviewing his findings was stocked with ideologues who had long overstayed mandatory term limits. At a rational university, Enstrom would be showered with accolades and hailed for protecting scientific integrity against political corruption. But Enstrom is a conservative, and the junk science he exposed was environmental science. Threats to “scientific consensus” are not permitted, so UCLA fired him, ending a 35-year career. Enstrom filed suit, and in March his case was settled, with his termination essentially reversed and with UCLA compensating him for his financial losses. This was a victory for academic freedom, no doubt, but equally significant was a discovery process that revealed that UCLA’s scientists created consensus in part by not bothering to familiarize themselves with contrary research findings or opposing ideas. Under oath, senior scientists at UCLA confessed to not even reading Enstrom’s peer-reviewed research. So the next time you hear that a scientific debate is “settled,” remember Enstrom, and remember that sometimes debates are settled not by science but by censorship.