If our university community opposes racism, sexism, and heterosexism, why should we put up with research that counters our goals simply in the name of “academic freedom”?
Instead, I would like to propose a more rigorous standard: one of “academic justice.” When an academic community observes research promoting or justifying oppression, it should ensure that this research does not continue.
I want to give an example to show why this a horribly bad idea:
Imagine a society which takes the idea of “equal rights for everybody” very seriously. Therefore, in this society there is no age of consent regarding to sexual relationships. People argue that such an age of consent would limit the rights of children and would be “ageist”.
So in this society, adults could have sex with children.
Now, there would be some scientists that see problems with this situation. They have hints that children suffer from this practise. So they want to start a research about if and how sex between adults and children might be harmful to children.
But, thanks to the policy of Academic Justice, which takes the value of “equal rights for everybody” very seriously, which has an agenda against ageism, this research would be stopped immediately.
What the proponent of “Academic Justice” misses out is that values like anti-racism and anti-sexism are not “just there”. They arose and spread out because people questioned racism and sexism. And they could do so because of freedom of thought.
Additionally, it is not always clear how these goals are best implemented in practice. The recent debate on prostitution in Germany is such an example: Some people argue that keeping it legalized and regulated is anti-sexist because it empowers women while other people argue that banning it serves better.
It is the constant questioning of our values and goals that makes sure they are good values and that their implementation specs head to the right directions or rather should be corrected.
Arguing that this freedom of thought is not necessary anymore is like saying that all our current values and specs are the best ones ever possible.