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.

147 thoughts on “Tolerance and Tim Hunt

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  • Habbabkuk (la vita è bella)

    A noble post, with which I agree entirely. There have to be some limits to political correctness, surely? The problem is that once the bandwagon starts virtually everything can be criticised as being politically incorrect by one or the other bunch of self-appointed and self-important “activists”.

  • jjb

    It has to be noted that his possition on UCL of which he has resigned was Honorary. So no (direct) financial impact on him.

  • James Cranch

    1. I see no direct evidence of hounding, in the article linked to, or elsewhere. He did something obnoxious, and later resigned. The string of events between is yet to be told.

    2. His position was purely honorary: a fairly casual relationship with no financial import (and quite likely no benefits, or at least no benefits of financial value: it’s possible he had the use of an office.) That position was probably of use to UCL only insofar as he promoted UCL.

    From time to time we see sports stars having sponsorship contracts terminated when they say something unpleasant: this is significantly more benign, as the agreement here had no financial value and was terminated by him (and, in particular, with his consent).

  • craig Post author


    I presume that what has been lost is some input into UCL’s science programmes. That is a real loss.

    Mary, interesting his wife is a distinguished scientist. That tends to indicate his practice is different from his provocative expression.

  • James Cranch

    Craig, I’d be very surprised indeed if he had any input into the design of their programmes. It’s dull and time-consuming work, and so I’d expect the relevant committees will be staffed only by people with salaries.

    He may have given a lecture once a year or so, but it would be well within UCL’s rights to perceive that the damage caused was greater than the advantage. (Friends tell me he was not a great lecturer anyhow.)

  • ------------·´`·.¸¸.¸¸.··.¸¸Node

    If the media applied their own political correctness rules to their own treatment of Muslims, they would then have to hound themselves out of their own jobs.

  • Johnstone

    ‘Brilliant scientists – which those who are able to judge say Professor Hunt is, are sometimes not the best socially integrated of people’

    OK so why is that?

    ..due to the broken bonds between culture and nature, human and animal, reason and emotion, self and other that have come about due to a blind reverence towards the Cartesian model of knowledge.

  • ------------·´`·.¸¸.¸¸.··.¸¸Node

    The reason the media love to flex their muscles over political correctness is to establish for themselves the right to define acceptable opinion. This is a vast and under-rated power which enables them to better promote their own agenda and put discussion of certain subjects off limits.

  • Phil

    There was a fella who was a sandwich short of a picnic who had found himself a nice little niche walking around one of the London unis plugging stuff in, unplugging that stuff and moving it somewhere else. It was the only job he ever had, probably ever would, and looked settled in for a fairly happy job for life. He loved it and he was much liked. Perfect.

    Last year he got his first ever girlfriend. He never met her. She was an online girlfriend who would ask him for money and send him topless pictures. Unfortunately he was seen by a lecturer viewing an image on a uni pc. This lecturer was so offended she organized with s few colleagues to insist the uni enforce the letter of their rules. He was sacked.

    Of course he is no one so not worthy of the attentions of the establishment news nor the bloggers who spend their lives reacting to the establishment agenda (because really they want back in on a golden ticket of pious superiority).

    I have no pity left for the self serving privileged liberal classes. Fuck you Craig. Pretending you are too poor to pay your council tax. You have no idea.

  • James Cranch

    By the way, I sometimes feel bad about commenting on peoples’ posts only when I disagree with them. So let it be clear that I agree with most other things you’ve said lately. :-p

  • eddie-g

    I’m not sure this is as much an issue of tolerance, as it is proportionality.

    What he said was a crass and insulting generalisation. The mockery he has already received in response, and will continue to receive, should serve as adequate punishment. But an apology for it, by him and UCL, should have been sufficient to draw a line under the episode. The idea however that he is suddenly unfit to teach, or an unacceptable embarrassment to the university or whatever, that’s absurd.

    It also further suggests that one has to be a saint in all aspects of one’s life to hold down a position of importance. We all have our biases, we all have things we find difficult to put up with, yet if the standard for holding a job worth having is “unblemished record in every respect”, we might as well give up right now.

  • ------------·´`·.¸¸.¸¸.··.¸¸Node

    Phil : “I have no pity left for the self serving privileged liberal classes. Fuck you Craig. Pretending you are too poor to pay your council tax. You have no idea.”

    Would you say that if you met Craig in real life?

  • Phil

    “Would you say that if you met Craig in real life?”

    Possibly. Depends on the circumstances. If you are suggesting I never would, you are wrong.

    Don’t start getting all upset for Craig. He’s more than big enough to worry about insults from some no mark gob shite on the internet. He doesn’t need his fans to get all defensive for him again. Perhaps you might take up the points I make rather than start whining about tone.

  • Habbabkuk (la vita è bella)

    Well, I see that we are all more or less of a mind here – which is unusual but pleasing.

    And that (or perhaps because!)there have not been any O/Ts from the usual suspects – perhaps because the thread started before 11h00 and it is not yet clocking-on time for the most eminent of our diverters and have-funners.

    Plea to Craig, therefore – can we please have a new thread….SOON?

  • ------------·´`·.¸¸.¸¸.··.¸¸Node

    Phil : “Perhaps you might take up the points I make rather than start whining about tone.”

    It’s a shame about that bloke.
    I doubt your characterisation of Craig is accurate but neither of us really know.

  • Phil

    Oh no, the tone patrol are massing. He’s so rude! Why can’t he just be a little more pleasant?

    Sometimes the bullshit seeps into the brain until the stench just makes ya vomit. Craigs desperation to rejoin the ruling classes on a liberal do good ticket nauseates me. The entitlement of it! If you must elect yourselves leaders how about supporting someone who has not been complicit in the slaughter of empire. Let him work out his own guilt in private. And get a proper job.

  • Beth

    Is there no-one interested in TTIP — important threat to our country ( NHS, food safety, secret courts for big corporations to sue our governments etc.) They have tried to keep it as secret as possible and it seems to be working. No coverage on MSM.

  • ------------·´`·.¸¸.¸¸.··.¸¸Node

    You’re the one who keeps making Craig the topic so stop whining when someone replies.
    You make valid points, but you make the same ones too often.

  • Phil


    I am attacking Craig for his politics. Sure I acknowledge the personal cannot be separated from the political and so it gets messy.

    While we’re on the subject Node what do you think to Craig’s idea that the personal is nothing to do with political? That he can be good drinking chums with the oppressors and still fight for the oppressed. Personally I say this is the stuff that bends well meaning people into careerist compromisers.

  • craig Post author


    I said in my post it was nothing to do with his eminence, I would say the same for a waiter. Majid Ali was nobody famous. I strongly suspect I have been putting more time and effort into trying to help him than you have.

    I am very sorry for the man you write about. He was treated appallingly. You cannot criticise me for not blogging about people I have never heard of.

  • Phil


    Yes I am making Craig the topic. I think it is important.

    Hey, at least I am making my own argument about something relevant to us here rather than linking to other peoples opinions about Palestine or Ukraine ad fucking nauseum.

  • Phil


    You miss my point. Or perhaps diplomatically misrepresent.

    Either way I have a lathe waiting for me now. I’ll be back.

  • Macky

    Beth; “Is there no-one interested in TTIP”

    Sorry Beth, Craig obviously has far more important things to blog about !

  • craig Post author

    I confess I had not noticed a dearth of articles against TTIP on the web! There is a Youtube of me giving a short talk on the subject in St Andrews.

  • ------------·´`·.¸¸.¸¸.··.¸¸Node

    “While we’re on the subject Node what do you think to Craig’s idea that the personal is nothing to do with political? That he can be good drinking chums with the oppressors and still fight for the oppressed”

    I think we all have to make accommodations like that in real life. I have never met anybody anywhere any time who I totally agree with. Unless you are advocating I should have no friends at all, then it becomes a matter of where I draw the line. Should the position of that line be drawn purely on political opinions? Or can I include wit, artistry, knowledge, culture, charisma, compassion, skills, honesty, common background . . . . ? My choice of friends is based on a combination of all those and more, and I bet yours is too. My best friend’s opinions regularly make me wince, and I’ll tell him I wrote that here.

    As a matter of fact, now you’ve caused me to consider the matter, I would say that out of all the factors I mentioned above, political opinion is one if the least important to me. And finally, would your purist attitude to friends also apply to relatives? You would have me disown my mother.

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