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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  • ------------·´`·.¸¸.¸¸.··.¸¸Node

    Clarification. 2nd sentence should read :

    “I have never met anybody anywhere any time who I totally agree with politically“.

  • Beth

    Thanks for replies about TTIP. I didn’t intend to make criticism of the blog as such. I’m just really concerned about making sure that after all the support we have given them that the SNP don’t let us down. Why didn’t the SNP MEP turn up for the vote that they eventually cancelled ? How can we make sure he is there the next time ?

  • Mary

    Beth – my comment 9th June.

    38 Degrees are doing sterling work.

    They later said:

    38 Degrees members have helped plunge TTIP’s future into chaos. Our MEPs were meant to have a series of votes on the deal today. But when it looked like they might vote in favour of scrapping some of the worst parts of the deal, the president of the European Parliament cancelled the vote. [1] This is huge!

    Here’s what Green MEP Keith Taylor had to say:
    “The decision to cancel the vote on TTIP stinks of
    political parties in the European Parliament running scared
    of the huge public opposition to TTIP.” [2]

    etc etc

    Note 1

    Note 2

  • craig Post author

    Sorry to hear of Christopher Lee passing. Been entertaining me my whole life. Love The Wicker Man. His wartime exploits were amazing, according to Fitzroy Maclean.

  • vronsky

    I haven’t seen a full transcript of what Hunt said, but all of the published paraphrases seem like innocuous humour to me. I can remember one tutor complaining of ‘fair speechless glances’ among his students.

  • Republicofscotland

    “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”.”


    Are you under the weather,feeling okay?

    I only ask old boy because for once I agree with you,I must say a establishment mouthpiece like you calling for a rethink on political correctness is unheard of.

  • Ba'al Zevul

    Oh, FFS. Prolefeed story. Illustrative of the continuing erosion of reality. Dunno about love being a bar to science, though…can think of several wives who got faculty jobs because hubby was already there And worked in the same lab. It’s an opinion. Entitlement to that should never be in question.

    Forgive me, though, if I drag Mr bleeding Blair in again: this is relevant, and goes to the same civil liberties address:–making-holocaust-denial-illegal-would-be-your-biggest-mistake-since-iraq-10309651.html

    Getting just a tad pissed off already with the telling-me-what-to-think industry. ‘You can have free speech as long as I agree with you’ seems to be the message. Glad you resist that on this blog, anyway.

  • Republicofscotland

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

    What’s the rush Habby old chap,embarrassed by your first comment,have you realised that you’ve vastly over reached your remit.

  • Ba'al Zevul

    ‘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.

    Hippy. It’s much more because most academic scientists inevitably become narrow specialists, and their topic of choice (whether they like it or not, if they’re any good) becomes, effectively an obsession. You don’t arrive at specific insights otherwise, and the general insights have mostly been done. They’re often pretty crap at admin, too. As to the “Cartesian model of knowledge” if you knows a better ‘ole, let’s be seeing it. Living in a yurt and chanting to your dreamcatcher doesn’t design a decent wind turbine

    One of the many good reasons for choosing science, incidentally, can be that you really don’t do people. Correlation doesn’t imply causation, but…

  • CanSpeccy

    His joke was offensive

    Really? God, you have to be a pathetic human being to take offense at such an inconsequential remark.

    Tim Hunt is a bit of a twit and a dinosaur.

    Yeah, right. A Nobel Prize winning twit.

    As for dinosaur, is that not an agist remark? Some idiots would feel justified in taking violent offense at it. The man is 72 years old. Why should he not display the culture and ideology of his own generation?

    Pretty clearly the political correctness evoked by this incident is a socially induced mental disease.

  • Republicofscotland

    The axis of evil,Washingto Westminster,Riyadh and Tel-Aviv,must be getting ready to invade a country,the old WMD’s in terrorist hands bullsh*t is back,or did it ever go away.

    According to Australian reports,that statement right there is a sure sign its a load of tosh, the Aussie puppet Abbott,is a five eyes yes man.

    The Isis militant group has seized enough radioactive material from government facilities to suggest it has the capacity to build a large and devastating “dirty” bomb, according to Australian intelligence reports.

    Isis declared its ambition to develop weapons of mass destruction in the most recent edition of its propaganda magazine Dabiq, and Indian defence officials have previously warned of the possibility the militants could acquire a nuclear weapon from Pakistan.

    According to the Australian foreign minister, Julie Bishop, Nato has expressed deep concerns about the materials seized by Isis from research centres and hospitals that would normally only be available to governments.

  • Republicofscotland

    Israel testing dirty bombs under the guise of self-defence.

    And if you believe that you’ll believe anything.

    Israel built and exploded so-called “dirty bombs,” explosives laced with nuclear material, to examine how such explosions would affect the country if it were to be attacked by the crude radioactive weapons, the Haaretz daily newspaper reported Monday.

    Israeli defense officials and scientists refused to comment on the report when reached by The Associated Press. However, Israel has what is widely considered to be an extensive nuclear weapons programme that it has never declared.

    The Haaretz report, which included photographs, said the project conducted 20 detonations with explosives laced with a radioactive substance. Mini-drones measured radiation levels and sensors logged the force of the explosions, Haaretz reported.

  • Phil


    Sure it’s a matter of degree. I didn’t mean that we should only tolerate like minded people. I mean that tolerating some people is unnacceptable.

    Where you draw the line is the question. For me this depends on many things, such as the offensiveness of the held politics but more importantly what the person does with these politics. Someone with power should be tolerated far less than someone without.

    Laws are all very good but they are pretty abstract to those that will never be prosecuted. Peer pressure, shaming someone to their face, refusing their kindness are powerful game changers. The bubble people can exist in is perpetuated by chin chin old boy you’re a good egg deep down. Fuck that. You should try confronting politicians personally and uncomprmisingly. They friggin hate it. Really hate it. Their bubble is burst for a second. The look on that UKIP MPs face confronted by protesters at Westminster tube a couple of weeks ago – did you see his face? Happens every time. Well, most of the time.

    To just ignore offensive politics of the powerful, out of hours, is a huge problem. This is how the boys clubs, the in crowds, rally around to compromise and cruelty. e.g. Kennedy keeping stum about blantantly forged dossiers and being best friends with Alaistair Campbell. That’s it. He chickened out, he blew his moment and by failing to break a confidence became an enabler of war. He chose the club. As an aside you got to speculate that such dissonence may well have contributed to his drinking himself to death.

    So no I don’t mean smack your cousin for making a racist joke, I mean do not, for one second, let oppressors think they are anything else.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    The things is, Hunt’s comments were very ill judged – as I think he himself now understands. If there really were a level playing field in the sciences and in society, they wouldn’t have mattered. But it’s not (yet) a level playing field, not even in the sciences and so his comments do matter because they are reflective of a structural inequality that persists. I’m not bothered about political correctness but I am bothered about structural inequality, where some people get the breaks/the jobs/ the pay and others do not, and where the reasons they do not are based on anything other than the quality of their work.

    His comments reinforce the idea, and maybe the reality, of the dominant male, with all these women just falling head-over-heels in love with him and then being tossed aside. It reduces women scientists to soap opera figures. It makes the lab seem like a ‘Carry On’ film. I realise he made the comments in jest. Nonetheless, they were reflective of an underlying view – he admits that he did mean what he said.

    Well, perhaps, then, all men should be banished from labs because they tempt women? Or is it just Eve who is responsible for… everything? I don’t think he should be hounded though. There is too much of that already – a Star Chamber dynamic – and it tends to be a substitute for addressing the real, structural issues. I’d like to see people address the structural issues.

  • Herbie

    “You should try confronting politicians personally and uncomprmisingly. They friggin hate it. Really hate it. Their bubble is burst for a second. The look on that UKIP MPs face confronted by protesters at Westminster tube a couple of weeks ago – did you see his face? Happens every time.”

    That’s because contemporary politics takes place in media. That’s the forum.

    Grunts aren’t supposed to get a look in, unless they’re officially sanctioned grunts.

    This is the very same media, by the way, that has force fed identity politics down the throats of the population over the past forty odd years or so, at the expense of economic analysis.

  • Republicofscotland

    The snoopers are collecting data from your devices, we are under surveillance your rights are being stealthly diminished.

    Evidence that rogue mobile phone towers, which can listen in on people’s calls without their knowledge, are being operated in the UK.

    IMSI catchers, also known as Stingrays, mimic mobile phone masts and trick phones into logging on.

    The controversial surveillance technology is used by police agencies worldwide to target the communications of criminals.

    However, Stingrays also collect the data of all other phones in the area, meaning innocent people’s communications are spied on.

    “With IMSI catchers, it’s very difficult for them to be used in a targeted manner,” Eric King, deputy director of Privacy International, told Sky News.

  • Laguerre

    As already mentioned, Hunt was not in post at UCL; he had an honorary professorship, and it was that from which he resigned. He is 72 and therefore retired, probably before retiring at 65 became optional in British universities.

    When he worked, he was not at UCL, but rather at the London Research Institute of the Cancer Research Fund. I should think the position at UCL was post-retirement.

    So, his resignation is not too big a loss – I’m sure someone else will offer him another similar position. He must be useful as an elder counsellor to have on board.

    It was a poorly thought out joke though. Sounds as though it went down like a lead balloon. I would have thought he should have known that you don’t tell such a difficult to understand joke in a foreign country where the sense of humour is different. Or maybe the Koreans didn’t understand it at all, and it was only the westerners in the audience for whom it went down like a lead balloon.

  • Herbie

    How do you know it’s a structural inequality, rather than a naturally occurring gender difference?

  • Habbabkuk (la vita è bella)


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

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

    Well, Macky, if you feel that the lack of discussion of the TTIP on here is a pity, why don’t you kick off such a discussion?

    That would provide you with a more rewarding task than merely coming on here from time to time to diss the blog owner, surely?

    But perhaps you aren’t up to it…..?

  • CanSpeccy

    Hunt’s comments were very ill judged… If there really were a level playing field in the sciences and in society, they wouldn’t have mattered. But it’s not (yet) a level playing field, not even in the sciences …

    So Hunt’s remarks were ill judged because there is not a level playing field in the sciences and in society …

    Well, leaving aside the levelness of the playing field in society, what evidence is there of unlevelness of the playing field in the sciences? In the UK 55% of university grads are female, and they predominate in medicine and the biological sciences (Professor Hunt’s area of expertise). So actually any unlevelness of the playing field seems to be to the disadvantage of men, at least in Professor Hunt’s area of expertise.

    But what has that got to do with the propriety of his remarks?

    They preceded, and provided rationalization for, his stated preference for single sex labs.

    Probably he was joking, but before dismissing his remarks as a feeble attempt at wit, one might consider this: what if there had been some pretty young women in the basement of the Cavendish Lab to which J.D. Watson and Francis Crick were banished because of their incessant and loud conversation, which was an annoyance to other scientists. Would the girls have hastened their discovery of the structure of DNA, or might it have entirely distracted them?

    Clearly, there are profound differences in the ambience of single-sex and mixed workplaces. It is quite natural and quite proper for a scientist to wonder, and talk about, how this affects intellectual productivity.

  • Habbabkuk (la vita è bella)


    “I only ask old boy because for once I agree with you,I must say a establishment mouthpiece like you calling for a rethink on political correctness is unheard of.”

    But surely you know that political correctness is left-wing?

    Or are you stupid?

  • Habbabkuk (la vita è bella)


    Well, the thread remained sane and on-topic until 15h32 when school finished and RepublicOfEverythingUnderTheSun got back home.

    New thread please, you know it’ll annoy him.


  • Johnstone

    Ba’al Zevul
    -You don’t arrive at specific insights otherwise-

    This statement beggers belief you really believe that any specialty of any kind in any field exists in a vacuum?

    You can build the most efficient wind turbine on the planet but if you cite them on the flow country, for example, predicted carbon savings due to wind energy generation will be wiped out by the destruction of a natural carbon sink for perpetuity.

  • Herbie

    “But surely you know that political correctness is left-wing?”

    Certainly used to be, though I’d say it has found utility amongst a much broader spectrum of elite opinion.

    The curious transformation of those such as Kelvin MacKenzie and Garry Bushell, for example, relates.

  • Herbie

    There’s some evidence that boys do better in mixed environments whilst girls do better in single sex environments.

    A feminist told me that.

    Could be cobblers.

    The argument seems to be that boys up their game in the presence of females, whilst girls lower their game in the presence of males.

  • CanSpeccy

    @ Mackky:

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

    Political correctness is a most important topic and well deserving of discussion. The furore over some slight witticism by an aging professor confirms the seeming insanity of those who are most under the influence of this malign social phenomenon.

    But while the mass of politically correct simpletons are deserving of sympathy for their strangely warped thinking, one can have nothing but contempt for those who deliberately propagate the politically correct memes as a means to control political debate and social development.

    Essentially, all political correctness consists in hate speech dressed up as anti-hate speech, anti-racism, anti-sexism, etc., etc.

    People love to hate and when poltical correctness is propagated by those in authority, e.g., arse-hole politicians, stupid policemen, dim-wit school teachers, etc. the less intelligent members of society go to it with enthusiasm: hounding, bullying and intimidating anyone foolish enough or brazen enough to talk in a sensible way about things that the political class wish no one to think clearly about.

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