Falling out of love with Professor Tim Hunt

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Is there something wrong with this world when one of our most gifted scientists is forced to resign from his work – work that could significantly benefit humanity – because he said something stupid and offensive?

Nobel laureate Tim Hunt is the next in a long list of scalps because he opened his mouth and said something stupid or contrary to politically correct orthodoxy.800px-Tim_Hunt_at_UCSF_05_2009_(4)

According to ‘the Guardian’: Tim Hunt has previously admitted his reputation for being a ‘chauvinist’. Furthermore, at the World Conference of Science Journalists in Seoul on 9 June, he said: “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.”

Like most scientists, I’ve never known medical specialists to be the most gifted in interpersonal relationships and social etiquette. But then again, that’s not what they specialise in, is it?

Of course, Professor Hunt’s immediate apology was not enough to hold back pressure that he fall on his sword.

The world is now worse off because one of its most gifted scientists cannot continue in his work, and how sad, that through trial by media, his offensive remarks carry more weight than his contributions to society in the field of biochemistry and cancer research.

  • Konstantin

    Professor Hunt is just one of many victims of social hypocrisy that is riding the wave, at the very least suspicious, non-governmental organizations which are for years in violation of human rights and dignity, all the while continuously implementing their “ideology” which often hurts the feelings of others but it’s still not publicly condemned.

  • When I read what Professor Hunt said, I lolled. And I am still chuckling. The same thing could be said of musicians, whether they will admit it or not.

  • Chooie

    “If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you.”

    ― Oscar Wilde

    • Konstantin

      I have never heard this quote from Oscar Wilde but I really liked it. In many ways it reflects the society in which we live. But this is in vain, there are few who truly listen to others and pay attention to their feelings.

  • Thataw

    Good article. We need to hear real people voices like this. we’ve heard too much voices of social hypocrites.

  • Thanks for your comments and words of encouragement.

    Interesting quote from Oscar Wilde!

  • Robyn

    So are you suggesting that we should accept men of intelligence are unable to understand when their language is offensive and discriminative to others?

    I am reminded of my own experience as a school girl in the sixties when entering a year 11maths class. There was one other girl and about 40 boys. ” What are you doing here? Girls don’t do maths at this level”. The teacher chose to ignore me the whole year, did not answer questions, and did not include us in any discussions. It was as if we didn’t exist.

    I stuck it out, (the family trait of stubbornness is useful at times), and managed to achieve, but certainly not as well as I should have.

    The world has moved on and perhaps Tim Hunt’s removal from the world of science will enable rather than hinder scientific advancement.

    • That’s such a ridiculous thing for a teacher to say 🙁

    • George

      So you played the victim all these years, expecting that everyone would feel sorry for you instead of taking your future into your own hands. Your comment just goes to show that there will always be someone ready to try and become a victim in order to advance themselves

  • Chooie

    Hey Robyn. If we followed your suggested standards there would probably be vacancies for at least half of all primary school teachers. But one cares if boys are offended and discriminated against by their female teachers touting the superiority of girls, and denigrating boys and masculinity.

    • Chooie – It’s wrong when a male teacher systematically denigrates girls and it’s wrong when a female teacher systematically denigrates boys. I care in both cases!
      Surely the consistent approach is to be calmly (not paranoid, and not over-reactive), but calmly clear about our expectations in both cases.

  • That is well put, Claire. I notice that there was a strong reaction from and a creative response by many female scientists against what he said. This is great, as it shows the free exchange of ideas getting somewhere close to the truth. But for him to lose his job seems out of all proportion.

  • There’s quite a good article following up on this in ‘the Guardian’:

    http://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/jun/13/tim-hunt-hung-out-to-dry-interview-mary-collins

    “What he said was wrong, he acknowledges, but the price he and his wife have had to pay for his mistakes has been extreme and unfair. “I have been hung out to dry,” says Hunt.

    His wife, Professor Mary Collins, one of Britain’s most senior immunologists, is similarly indignant. She believes that University College London – where both scientists had posts – has acted in “an utterly unacceptable” way in pressuring both researchers and in failing to support their causes.

    Certainly the speed of the dispatch of Hunt – who won the 2001 Nobel prize in physiology for his work on cell division – from his various academic posts is startling. In many cases this was done without him even being asked for his version of events, he says. The story shows, if nothing else, that the world of science can be every bit as brutal as that of politics.”