Tolerance and Tim Hunt 147

You can’t tolerate that which to you is inoffensive. Toleration necessarily implies putting up with people who hold views or exhibit behaviour which you do not like. The hounding of Professor Tim Hunt from his University position is an exhibition of extreme intolerance.

Brilliant scientists – which those who are able to judge say Professor Hunt is – are sometimes not the best socially integrated of people. His joke was offensive, and only very slightly amusing. He maintains views which are not those I hold, and he intends to continue to hold them – as he is entitled to do.

We are all entitled to show disapprobation of his opinions. We are not entitled to insist that he change them. And we are certainly not entitled to sanction him in his work for his opinions. The importance of his work is not pivotal to this argument – I would say the same for a waiter.

If he enforces active discrimination in the work environment that is a different question, but he does not appear to be accused of that and the facts or otherwise of that are not dependent on opinions he expresses.

Tim Hunt is a bit of a twit and a dinosaur. But some of those hounding him are a great deal more dangerous.

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147 thoughts on “Tolerance and Tim Hunt

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  • Johnstone

    Ba’al Zevul

    And where is your argument? This comes across as just plain patronizing.

  • CanSpeccy


    Well, if some people want to remain in convenient denial in the face of all the evidence

    Evidence of which none has been provided. You merely provided a link to a BBC page that offered no evidence whatever, as I pointed out. Now you provide more links, but can’t be bothered, or have no basis, to tell us what these links indicate. What you offer is do-it-yourself self-refutation. LOL.

    If you want to prove systematic bias against women in science you have to provide some real evidence: you know, statistics that prove that women of competence are consistently losing out to men in the struggle for positions and status in the academic world to a degree that cannot be explained by women’s own choices.

    And, of course, you wouldn’t dream of looking at the evidence of (a) discrimination against males, which is quite blatant, e.g., when universities designate positions to be filled by women only, and (b) actual differences between men and women that affect suitability, effectiveness and preferences for particular jobs, e.g.,


    And naturally you would never discuss the psychological, physical and social differences between men and women that underlie differences in occupation patterns.

  • CanSpeccy

    @ Johnstone:

    I have argued that his blinkered attitude to women in the work place springs from the self same blinkered attitude these kind of scientists have towards the world in general.

    What is “this blinkered attitude of these kind(s) of scientists have towards the world” that you are speaking of. There is no evidence in Craig’s post that professor Hunt is especially blinkered. At a guess, I’d say, he’s a lot less blinkered than some of the commenters here.

  • CanSpeccy

    What is certain is that Professor Hunt did not argue against women in science, he merely said keep them together in their own lab! Which is maybe not a bad idea. When my wife of 50 years was a twenty-something-year-old researcher, her programme was rated by a university audit as the only internationally significant program in the department. Her group of eight or ten people was, I believe, entirely female and included a couple of absolute stunners.

  • Phil


    I did a few years as a landline (not mobile) telephone engineer but still am confused about what system does what. For example Datong is called an IMSE catcher but then claims are made far exceeding this. As far as I can see these systems are complete tower in a box. I have heard arguments I struggle to keep up with outlining surprising technical difficulties in achieving this. However, that might be baloney to convince us technical amateurs there’s nothing to see here.

    I do think IMSI catching is used to track shoppers. Doesn’t it gives a more comprehensive picture than bluetooth or wifi (which may be disabled on the phone)?

  • Mary

    Radio 4 Today
    12 June 2015


    ‘Since his appearance on Today earlier this week, the hitherto distinguished Nobel Science Laureate, professor Tim Hunt, has been mocked and moved to resign from his post at UCL following his suggestion that science would benefit from “single-sex labs” thanks to women and their emotionally volatile nature. Professor Dame Valerie Beral is director of the Cancer Epidemiology Unit, University of Oxford. Caroline Criado-Perez is a journalist and activist.’

    >’Female scientists ‘too concerned about how they’re perceived’

    A senior female scientist has defended the Nobel Science laureate who has resigned from his university post after making contentious comments about “girls in labs”.

    Sir Tim Hunt had said odd things that sounded terrible, but he was not a sexist, said Prof Dame Valerie Beral, director of Oxford University’s Cancer Epidemiology Unit, University of Oxford.

    Prof Dame Beral told Today “he’s a very kind and very eccentric, unworldly sort of man”, and that his comments have been misinterpreted.

    There were as many women as men as doctoral students but fewer and fewer up the ranks, because equally qualified women were not applying for senior jobs, she added.

    Women working in professions like science or the city “take these intense environments a bit too seriously and if something goes wrong they take it too personally”, she said.

    “Maybe women really find that sort of environment too difficult to cope with – not intellectually, but emotionally.

    “Women are too concerned about the way they’re perceived rather than the way their science is perceived.

    “I think women are much more likely to take criticism personally rather than the work being criticised.”

    Journalist and activist Caroline Criado-Perez said that while she found the social media reaction to the comments funny, it was concerning when “online mobs” were allowed to dictate how a university responded.’

  • CanSpeccy

    Good quote, Mary.

    Most women just follow somewhat different career paths to men. Among other things they have babies and bake cookies, without which humanity would cease to exist.

    When my wife to be was a successful young biomedical researcher, she reached the lab at 6.00 AM, worked twelve hours without a break, then after dinner, worked on manuscripts.

    Not many young women want to do the same. Not many young men either, but more than women.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    I provided lots of other links yesterday on this thread, Alfred, including ones for science journals from the UK and the USA, all of which provided evidence. I realise these matters are complex. But perhaps, contrary to all the information in the links I provided, women, and women scientists, do not feel at all discriminated against any more in higher education and industry. But if I’m completely wrong about this – actually I would prefer to be wrong – then I will accept that I am wrong and will accept that you are right. I have no problem with that. That is the scientific way.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Here’s another link, this time from The Smithsonian:

    And this one – which i provided yesterday – is from the Scientific American:

    On the other hand, here is some contrary evidence in the Engineering filed. it seems there may be differences b/w scientific disciplines, different which may even be counter-intuitive.

    And something of what you suggested is here:

    So it may be that the two points of view are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

    Anyway, it’s been an interesting discussion – at least for me – and I’ve learned a lot through it.

  • CanSpeccy

    If we’re still posting links, here’s a good one:

    The unfairer sex? A scientific study on sex bias in university hiring showing substantial discrimination — against men.

    For the details see: Proceeding of the US National Academy of Sciences: National hiring experiments reveal 2:1 faculty preference for women on STEM tenure track.

    The hounding of Professor Hunt is clearly just another manifestation of the insane, cruel, unscrupulous discrimination against men in science.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Alfred, the two links refer to the same study and it’s the one I linked to in my post just above yours.

    Here is the text of the article on it:

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Here it is:

    “Universities in the United States employ many more male scientists than female ones. Men are paid more, and in fields such as mathematics, engineering and economics, they hold the majority of top-level jobs.

    But in a sign of progress, a 13 April study finds that faculty members prefer female candidates for tenure-track jobs in science and engineering — by a ratio of two to one. That result, based on experiments involving hypothetical job seekers, held true regardless of the hirer’s gender, department, career status or university type, researchers report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences1.

    “We were shocked,” says Wendy Williams, a psychologist at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, and a co-author of the study. With fellow Cornell psychologist Stephen Ceci, she surveyed 873 tenure-track faculty members in biology, psychology, economics and engineering at 371 US universities. One experiment presented participants with three hypothetical job candidates, of which two were identical except for their gender. Another experiment added descriptions of marital and parental status, to test whether underlying assumptions about gender choices affected hiring. “You don’t frequently see that level of attention and sophistication” in statistical analysis, says Robert Santos, vice-president of the American Statistical Association in Alexandria, Virginia.

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    Nothing seemed to sway study participants’ preference for female job candidates. The authors say that this is interesting given their previous finding that a relatively low percentage of female PhDs in the social and biological sciences secure academic positions — in part because they are less likely than men to apply for these jobs. Other research suggests that in the physical sciences, women and men are just as likely to secure a tenure-track position within five years of earning a PhD.

    There are more signs that science is inching towards gender equality. In February, a study2 in the journal Frontiers in Psychology reported that US women and men with bachelor’s degrees in science, engineering and mathematics go on to receive doctoral degrees at roughly the same rate.

    Nancy Hopkins, a biologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, argues that the news is not as good as it seems. Women in academic science still face gender-related obstacles before they reach the point of applying for tenure-track jobs, she says.

    In the biological sciences, for example, most elite US labs are headed by men. These principal investigators hire more male postdoctoral researchers than female ones3 — despite the fact that women receive the majority of biology doctorates. Postdocs from such elite labs also tend to be chosen for assistant-professor positions, perpetuating the cycle3. Other studies have found that individual faculty members of both genders view female students as less competent than their male counterparts when judging qualifications for junior positions in a lab4.

    Virginia Valian, a psychologist at Hunter College in New York who studies gender equality, is not surprised that the latest study found that highly qualified female candidates are judged on merit. But she questions whether some aspects of the study methods, such as descriptions of the candidates, skewed the results. Moreover, she says, “there is a valid concern that progress will be over-interpreted”.

    Asked about the doubt that has greeted the study, Williams argues that “people find it hard to accept when there’s change, even for the better.” But she does not dispute that bias may still undermine the prospects of women in science. She and Ceci are now examining women’s chances of advancement at other points in their scientific careers, on the basis of data from other nationally representative surveys.”

  • Suhayl Saadi

    So it’s complex and changing, with different disciplines in science displaying different results. I think I can accept that my bald statement early in this thread was not entirely reflective of this complexity. I would suggest that yours, just above, and here: “… the insane, cruel, unscrupulous discrimination against men in science” may not either.

    The truth is complex, as are most sociological phenomena and probably resides somewhere in between these two poles.

  • CanSpeccy

    @ SS

    … suggest that yours, just above, and here: “… the insane, cruel, unscrupulous discrimination against men in science” may not either.

    I was being ironic or something. But was taught not to use an exclamation mark since it is up to the reader to decide if something is funny. LOL. (And how my teacher would have hated LOL — LOL!)

    But you are correct, the truth is complex, a fact that the politically correct seek to obscure, in their drive for social control through brainwashing.

  • Googler

    The usual idiots making a mountain out of a molehill.

    I wonder if a female academic would get the same amount of criticism if she publicly stood up and stated that the trouble with boys is that they giggle too much or are too competitive.

    The interesting thing about accusations of male chauvinism is how easily they can be taken apart to show how hypocritical they usually are.

  • johnstone

    Genuinely interdisciplinary researchers publish in or between several different fields, moving to and fro over time. The result is greater openness and transparency about the diversity of ways to understand and address particular problems.

    It facilitates more radical interactions between different styles of knowledge, fostering potentially transformative solutions, and better linking scientific and technological advances with marginalised interests and social innovations.

    The fact that powerful disciplinary interests are more challenged by interdisciplinarity than multidisciplinarity can make the former more vulnerable. And sponsoring political interests can find the resulting transparency about complexities and uncertainties highly inconvenient.

    Aided by social science, plural and conditional interdisciplinarity can assist deeper and more robustly democratic responses to the nexus of global challenges. Power becomes visible not just in action, but in knowledge. And transcending a mystical romanticism about science arguably offers the greatest hope of all. We might call it transdisciplinarity.

    Andy Stirling is professor of science and technology policy at SPRU, University of Sussex, co-director of the STEPS Centre, and will be leading the methods stream of The Nexus Network, a new interdisciplinary initiative from the ESRC.

  • S Paterson

    I have a relative who is extremely intelligent, is at the forefront of cancer research in the UK but suffers from aspbergers. Just a thought.

  • CanSpeccy

    Re: Deeply disturbing.

    Yes, JSD, I agree.

    At one time, in polite society, when someone made a stupid or embarrassing remark people simply ignored it. That, today, an elderly person, possible suffering the onset of some kind of dementia, if not a lifelong disability such as Aspergers syndrome, should be pilloried for a feeble witticism that was clearly not in anyway malicious, shows just how malicious the politically correct bastards who dominate British society really are.

    And one should be under no misunderstanding about who these really nasty politically correct people are. They are not just, or even at all, a bunch of lesbo-shemales, they are the administrators of University College London who have booted perhaps the most distinguished member of their faculty over a silly utterance because it deviates by an iota from the acceptable narrative. Clearly, we are entering a new dark age: an age in which the people are to be mentally shackled and enslaved.

  • CanSpeccy

    The Mayor of London says the Nobel Prize winner did not deserve to be “pilloried” over his remarks that forced his resignation.

    Well of course not. All Professor Sir Tim Hunt, FRS said was that sex in the lab is a distraction that militates against discipline, which is, in general, true.

    The fuckers who should be pilloried are the PC morons at University College London and the European Research Council. In the meantime, it would be good to hear from those idiots what exactly it is they think offensive about saying that working day in, day out with attractive people of the opposite sex can be a distraction from the work in hand. And let’s hear from them also, what’s obnoxious in stating that many women when criticised at work burst into tears — it’s a physiological fact.

  • David Colquhoun

    I’m afraid that you’ve been misinformed. Hunt has been retired for 5 years, and his job at UCL was purely token. He still had some advisory roles, but they are precisely the sort of roles that he should not be involved in with views like the those that he expressed. They are views that are unacceptable under the Equality Act 2010, and that is something that I’d expect you to support.

  • CanSpeccy

    @David Colquhoun

    Hunt has been retired for 5 years, and his job at UCL was purely token. He still had some advisory roles, but they are precisely the sort of roles that he should not be involved in with views like the those that he expressed. They are views that are unacceptable under the Equality Act 2010

    Do tell us, between complacent puffs on your pipe, in what way Tim Hunt’s 37 words are “unacceptable” under the Equality Act. And tell us also whether by “unacceptable under the Equality Act” you mean illegal, or that this form of words is just a handy way to smear a distinguished near-dead white European male.

  • CanSpeccy

    And while we’re waiting for DC’s explanation of the seemingly inexplicable, here are Professor Hunt’s words, which DC says should not be expressed by someone in the role of Nobel Prize winning scholar.

    Let me tell you about my trouble with girls … three things happen when they are in the lab … You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you and when you criticise them, they cry.

    So, um, is that the expression of what DC calls an “unacceptable view”, or is it merely the statement of a sociological reality.

    When people work in a lab together — remember a top-rank lab is the sort of place where people may work 12 hour days and seven day weeks — people of the opposite sex may fall in love. Jeeze, I know we’re all for buggery now, but can the fact of heterosexual interaction and its problems and complications not be acknowledged?

    Then the bit about girls crying. Well that’s a fact too, and for some elderly males trying to run an productive lab it makes keeping discipline difficult. Actually, it makes it difficult for anyone, male or female. That’s, presumably, why some girls do cry when they’re disciplined. Why cannot the fact be alluded to?

    Apparently because PC wankers spewing toxic fumes say so.

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