The Astonishingly Woke Australian Academy Of Science

Written by:
30 August 2023
The Astonishingly Woke Australian Academy Of Science - Featured image
Originally Appeared In

In this article, Dr Peter Ridd contextualises and disseminates the findings of the IPA’s research into the Great Barrier Reef, conducted as part of the IPA’s Project for Real Science Program.

The Project for Real Science is an initiative of the Institute of Public Affairs to rebuild the integrity of scientific research in Australia.

The Australian Academy of Science (AAS) recently released a report Reef Futures Roundtable, which is ostensibly about the doomed Great Barrier Reef. However, the report only demonstrates that the AAS, Australia’s peak science body, has become not just unscientific, but anti-scientific. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it has also become astonishingly Woke.

The AAS report predictably concluded that the Great Barrier Reef could already be ‘irreversibly’ damaged. The fact that UNESCO has just declared it not endangered did not rate a mention, and neither did the latest two years of statistics showing the reef is at record high coral levels. Remarkably, the report does not contain a single fact or figure to support any of its claims about the reef – except the area of the reef is 340,000 square kilometres. There are no figures, no percentages. Nowhere does it mention that coral grows 30 per cent faster for every degree increase in water temperatures. Or that there is 100 per cent more coral on the reef today than in 2012. Or that just 1 per cent of the reef has the potential to be impacted by farm sediment, fertiliser or pesticides, even in the slightest way. Or that the sea level has fallen by 1 metre in the last 5,000 years.

The problem with this completely unanalytical approach is seen in the ‘interventions’ it recommends to fix the reef. Their impracticality is breathtaking. For example, it suggests ‘solar radiation management’ – shading the reef from the sun with man-made fog and clouds to prevent the water heating up and causing coral bleaching. The only number cited in the entire report – the area of the reef, which is as big as Germany – should have given them a hint that this is crazy. How are you going to make a cloud as big as Germany and keep it anchored over the reef for the whole summer over the next few hundred years? And you will also have to stop hot water flowing into the reef from the Coral Sea at the same time. That would require a dam 2,000 kilometres long and 100 metres high.

While a simple calculation is all that is required to reveal the absurdity of this idea, modern science is full of people who are almost completely non-quantitative and, as such, impractical and virtually useless as scientists.

Next there is rubble stabilisation. The supposed experts worry that the Great Barrier Reef will break up from climate change. Each of the 3,000 reefs is an almost solid lump of calcium carbonate rock (fragments of coral glued together over eons) a few kilometres wide and 100 metres high. How this is going to be broken up by some climate change magic is unexplained. But even if that were to happen, are they seriously suggesting we can wire it back together with steel reinforcing and concrete? Just do the calculation on how much concrete and steel this would entail.

The unscientific nature of the AAS report is largely a result of its anti-scientific approach. The report is actually a parody of wokeness and romantic mythology. This starts with the way the roundtable committees of ‘experts’, whom they questioned about the reef, were formed. Each roundtable had two chairs, a non-Indigenous chair, and a specially selected Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander chair. The romantic mythology about the special knowledge of any person with Indigenous heritage pervades the entire document, and starts in the foreword by the head of the AAS.

As the Academy approached the task of planning this project it became immediately obvious that there was no separating nature and culture when it comes to the GBR. Land and sea cannot be separated. No priority can be selected on an ecological basis alone. Having a Traditional Knowledges co-Chair in each roundtable allowed for different sources of knowledge to be shared and to form a basis for a number of the observations featured in this report.

Having a diversity of ideas and scientific thought would have gone some of the way to curing the AAS of the groupthink which renders its report risible. And the views and experience of people from the coral islands of the Torres Straits and northern Great Barrier Reef could have been used to great effect. These people tend to be deeply practical about the reef – like almost all seafaring people who live and work on the reef. And practical people know you cannot bolt the reef, which is the size of Germany, down to the seafloor. But selecting people for their ‘roundtables’ on the basis of their ethnicity rather than their scientific or real-world experience is a fundamentally anti-scientific approach.

But it gets worse. The dearth of statistics about the reef are made up for by an abundance of data on the gender identification of all those who participated in the ‘roundtables’. There is also the Indigenous percentage. And not just of those who participated, but also of those who were invited to participate but did not. One could quibble and point out that those claiming to be male or female added up to exactly 100 per cent in all categories, indicating a terrifying lack of diversity on the LGBQTI+++ spectrum. But there is no question, on the important matters for the Woke brigade, that this report is brimming with instructive statistics.

The AAS ascribes such importance to facts and figures on gender and race, but not to scientific facts. This demonstrates it is anti-science. Science is about evidence and logic. It does not matter whether one is male or female or whatever else, it is still impossible to make clouds as big as Germany for the next hundred years. That is called a fact, and facts do not vary with race, gender, or any ideology.

I have been saying for some time that many of our science institutions have become totally untrustworthy. By its wilful abandonment of quantitative analysis, the AAS has destroyed its reputation as a source of useful scientific advice. The media loves a bad news story – they should focus on what has happened to a once-esteemed organisation.

The Australian Academy of Science is now a joke.

Support the IPA

If you liked what you read, consider supporting the IPA. We are entirely funded by individual supporters like you. You can become an IPA member and/or make a tax-deductible donation.