Patterico's Pontifications

6/13/2015

The Nobel Laureate Scientist Is Not So Noble. But He’s Not Alone.

Filed under: General — Dana @ 6:02 pm



[guest post by Dana]

Recently, biochemist and Nobel Laureate Tim Hunt did the unimaginable: he accused girls of crying. In science labs, no less.

Hunt, who believes mixed gender labs are “disruptive”, had the unmitigated gall that is oh-so-typical of the patriarchy to claim this about females in the lab:

“Let me tell you about my trouble with girls,” Mr. Hunt said Monday at the World Conference of Science Journalists in South Korea. “Three things happen when they are in the lab: You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticize them they cry.”

Seriously?? Quick! Squish the man into a Petri dish because that seriously messed up chunk of bacteria needs to be cultured!

As you can imagine, outrage ensued. Misogynist, f***ing piece of garbage, and jackass sums up the criticism aimed at Hunt after the comments were made public. (Some women were more clever and wittier in their protest: “I am in the office, but I can’t do my science work as I saw a photograph of Tim Hunt and now I’m in love, dammit.”.)

But this is about way more than just an old man referring to “girls” in the lab as crybabies, or wanting segregated labs because sex.

As a result of the backlash, Hunt apologized, and said that:

he was just trying to be humorous. He told BBC radio on Wednesday that he was “really, really sorry I caused any offense”.

Then he added: “I did mean the part about having trouble with girls. … I have fallen in love with people in the lab and people in the lab have fallen in love with me and it’s very disruptive to the science because it’s terribly important that in a lab people are on a level playing field.”

“It’s terribly important that you can criticize people’s ideas without criticizing them and if they burst into tears, it means that you tend to hold back from getting at the absolute truth,” he said. “Science is about nothing but getting at the truth, and anything that gets in the way of that diminishes, in my experience, the science.”

It would appear that in this case, it was Hunt and his weakness for female colleagues that got in the way of science.

Hunt does acknowledge his weakness for falling in love with workplace colleagues, causing hurt and pain, and disrupting the work at hand. He also freely owns being a full-partaker and initiator of unwise relationships. Relationships that get in the way of science. Further, he is not saying “girls” are weak and inferior. He is not blaming them for the messy aftermaths per se. He is, however, using their emotional response to criticism from one they are (or were) romantically involved with as an excuse for his own inability to remain professional.

Which leads me to this: If Hunt was responsible for reviewing and assessing the professional performances of women he had been romantically involved with at the lab, he should have recused himself and handed the task over to someone else with equal professional stature. Human nature being the frail thing that it is, it seems foolish to expect a woman to be able to dispassionately and professionally receive criticism from the man that she she is either currently romantically involved with or who may have broken her heart. And equally, it seems foolish to expect a man to be able to objectively and and dispassionately assess the woman that he is currently romantically involved with or who may have broken his heart – and bruised his ego. People in situations like this are not typically models of self-discipline and emotional restraint. (Also, if I were another female scientist in the same lab and Hunt was both romantically involved with and reviewing a fellow scientist, I would not be quiet about it. She cries at criticism, so he holds back? Wrong!)

At this point, we can assume that all parties went into these relationships with eyes wide open. And if these relationships took place in the last 30 years or so, it would be ironic that women raised and educated on feminist theory, or at least influenced by it, did not know or care about the risk they were taking by getting involved with a man who was not only their superior, but who possessed a superior intellect and thus very likely also possessed a considerable ego. What did they think would happen?

(As an aside: I believe men and women are hardwired differently. As such, I don’t believe most women are able to compartmentalize in the way men can. Especially concerning matters of the heart. Because women aren’t men. And so what if the sexes are different and do not see things through the same lens, do not perceive things in the same light, do not react to stimuli in the same way, or do not think through an issue in like manner?)

So, yes, men and women do foolish and unwise things at work. What’s new? After all is said, the inevitable messy aftermath is left to contend with. Science labs are clearly no different than any other work place. So how to stop, or at least slow down, the Tim Hunts of the world from calling “girl” scientists crybabies and all that that infers in the bigger picture? Well, for starters, how about those “girl” scientists stop choosing to become romantically entangled with the Tim Hunts of the workplace who can make or break a young woman’s career? That just doesn’t seem like rocket science to me.

At the end of the day, Hunt’s apology simply wasn’t enough:

The Royal Society said it did not share Hunt’s views. It said in a statement that “too many talented individuals do not fulfil (sic) their scientific potential because of issues such as gender and the society is committed to helping to put this right.”

And he has since resigned his position as Honorary Professor with the UCL Faculty of Life Sciences.

–Dana

57 Responses to “The Nobel Laureate Scientist Is Not So Noble. But He’s Not Alone.”

  1. Hello.

    Yes, I know, this is a long post. I couldn’t help it, I was just so irritated by all parties involved.

    And after you’ve read about the professor, imagine what would have happened had he also been wearing a really tacky shirt when making his offending comments (or subsequent apology)!

    Dana (86e864)

  2. Each day we circle the drain a little faster. Last week there was a story in the Uk about a plus sized model who remarked that black men “fancied” her and often whistled as she walked by. ( Always a sure fire way to meet women/s)
    Of course, she was denounced as a rayciss and forced to apologize. For stating an actual fact.

    Gazzer (be559b)

  3. I’m snickering. Personally, I prefer the society of women to that of men in any and all situations, and I have known more than a few men “bosses” of “all girl bands” of lawyers and doctors. This guy is British, right? Yeah, mummy was the only woman who was “like a fellow” to him, I’d bet.

    nk (dbc370)

  4. Science is no longer about what you do, it’s about what you are caught doing. Wait, maybe that was about animal husbandry.

    felipe (56556d)

  5. Meanwhile, Irene Gallo continues to hold her job with MacMillan Publishing’s imprint “Tor” after calling approximately half her customers, and authors, “neo nazis” …

    Pouncer (ed0078)

  6. He resigned from his honorary post at University College London Thursday, in the wake of global criticism. His unfortunate comments at the conference in South Korea and afterwards suggest both TMI and a lack of an internal filter that may possibly be age related. Resigning from an “honorary post” at age 72 seems rather different that having “one’s career ruined as someone suggested on the other thread. He’s a Nobel Laureate in one of the few fields where winning a Nobel Prize actually still means something. But that doesn’t automatically immunize him from saying stupid stuff and getting called on it.

    elissa (09f5c7)

  7. And to think the cesspool is overflowing with these professor types.

    mg (31009b)

  8. i knew this girl once, she worked in a lab

    suffice to say it ended badly

    happyfeet (831175)

  9. i knew this lab once, she was a bitch

    we went to the park and played frisbee

    Gazzer (be559b)

  10. If someone can’t fulfill their scientific potential because of what Dr. Hunt says or thinks, they aren’t much of a scientist, or an adult.

    SGT Ted (9480f7)

  11. The Neo-Victorian women are on the march, demanding fainting couches.

    SGT Ted (9480f7)

  12. “Boo hoo my feelings are hurt. Now I’ll never cure cancer.” said no real scientists ever.

    SGT Ted (9480f7)

  13. Resigning from an “honorary post” at age 72 seems rather different that having “one’s career ruined as someone suggested on the other thread.

    You think the UK Secretary of State, along with the other ministers of the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills, are talking about giving Professor Hunt a raise?

    Let’s not pretend he isn’t the injured party.

    papertiger (c2d6da)

  14. As you can imagine, outrage ensued.

    And if such a reaction came from any woman who is and has been a big fan of the Clintons, who rationalized away the behavior of Billy and tolerates the devious enablers-r-us nature of Hillary, she needs to put a big sock in her mouth.

    Mark (a11af2)

  15. If, as many people say, we need more women (and men) to prepare for careers in the hard sciences then perhaps the elderly Nobel Laureate should avoid making comments that suggest labs and field work are simmering sex pits. Just saying.

    elissa (09f5c7)

  16. What the heck are girls doing in a lab or to a lab. The only lab they should be in is the kitchen getting breakfast lunch and dinner. Then while they’re up they can get me a Grant’s.

    Ray Syst (e70446)

  17. simmering sex pits That’s your formulation. Tim Hunt has zero control of your twists and turns in interpretation of his words. This is the exact reason there are such things as global warming, climate scientists. Because thermometers are open for interpretation.

    perhaps the elderly Nobel Laureate should avoid making comments that suggest labs and field work are simmering sex pits

    So the elderly are forbidden from mentioning women in the sciences under any circumstances, despite record of achievement, because why? Because they’re old?

    papertiger (c2d6da)

  18. ==So the elderly are forbidden from mentioning women in the sciences under any circumstances,==

    papertiger I said no such thing. Readers of this thread need only to look two comments up to see that you are making that up. It is not good blog sportsmanship to do that.

    elissa (09f5c7)

  19. baby you a song

    happyfeet (831175)

  20. Chanel No. 5 can’t hold a candle to formalin and acetone. And what nail polish can compete with iodine?

    nk (dbc370)

  21. c’mon now, clean break and go back to your corners…

    Colonel Haiku (2601c0)

  22. … need only to look two comments up to see … It is not good blog sportsmanship to do that.

    BUT! I am just following the rules of play you established four comments up when you re characterized Prof Plum’s offense to be “…suggest[ing -pt] labs and field work are simmering sex pits”

    You’ve been putting words in his mouth
    And worse ones.

    papertiger (c2d6da)

  23. Wait, actually, I saw an Untouchables episode where the bad guy made a perfume with bathtub vodkas and an aromatic hydrocarbon.

    nk (dbc370)

  24. At the end of the day, Hunt’s apology simply wasn’t enough:

    The Royal Society said it did not share Hunt’s views. It said in a statement that “too many talented individuals do not fulfil (sic) their scientific potential because of issues such as gender and the society is committed to helping to put this right.”

    And he has since resigned his position as Honorary Professor with the UCL Faculty of Life Sciences.

    thus proving his point that women can’t take criticism without throwing a fit…

    redc1c4 (4db2c8)

  25. Benzene?

    nk (dbc370)

  26. In the end, though, he has a Nobel and none of his critics do. He’ll find someone happy to have him.

    Kevin M (25bbee)

  27. In between the beginning of this thread and now the justice warriors pruned the #distractinglysexy of the several lady scientists who copped to Prof Hunt’s observation. Too many of the representative slice said crying was better than punching somebody or yelling. Now the hashtag has been cleared. Spic n span. Tight. Controlled.

    papertiger (c2d6da)

  28. Also there has been a marked increase in CNN, MSNBC, HUFFINGTON, GUARDIAN, AP, type links back to the hashtag.

    papertiger (c2d6da)

  29. papertiger –I am curious. Did you read the whole of Dana’s long, obviously well thought out, complex, and carefully crafted post? Did you actually avail yourself of the full explanation in order to understand the many aspects that make this entire episode both interesting and troubling? Did you click the links she posted that contain more of what Tim Hunt said–about himself? Or did you just skim it? I fail to see a preponderance of either victims or heroes here. I’m betting, though, that if you had a daughter training or working in the sciences that you’d be less cavalier about Hunt, and that she might well find his views of female scientists to be insulting and inappropriate.

    elissa (09f5c7)

  30. Big old skimmer here. So from your prod I went back and read Dana’s analysis..

    She’s putting words in Hunt’s mouth too.

    Unwise relationships, and romantically involved are the two phrases that jump out.

    Why does it have to be about sex?

    papertiger (c2d6da)

  31. So Dolezal who actually contributes nothing for the betterment of mankind let alone black people but who had presented herself as black, and that presentation played a role in her positions as president of the NAACP in Spokane, Washington, chair of Spokane’s Office of Police Ombudsman Commission, professor in the Africana Studies Program at Eastern Washington University, former education director of the Human Rights Education Institute, and licensed diversity trainer and consultant for human rights education and inclusivity in regional schools is rewarded with theses positions. I’d like to point out none of these titles are worth spit even if she were actually black.

    However, Dr. Tim Hunt, a degree I’m sure he actually earned and deserves, winner of a Nobe Prize for actual accomplishments in science looses his positions (yes, more than one) because he voiced the opinion that we all have seen to be true: women bring their emotions to work and they cry. Too bad for him the snowflakes in academia are unable to face their own frailties. Rather their own demons for then they’d have to admit they are no different than we and therefore no better either. That would just burst their world. Right on!

    Rev. Barack Hussein Hoagie (f4eb27)

  32. Let’s not pretend he isn’t the injured party.

    Some injuries are self inflicted.

    kishnevi (adea75)

  33. she might well find his views of female scientists to be insulting and inappropriate.

    On the other hand, she might like working with a Nobel Prize winner, as opposed to metrosexual underachievers.

    I’m not with you on this one, elissa.

    Maybe it’s because I’m older than he is or maybe its because my medical students, 60% of them female, seem to like my no bullshit approach to teaching but girls have to toughen up. No fainting couches in the lab.

    Two of my female students a few years ago invited me to a production of “Vagina Monologues” at the medical school they were putting on. I knew they were teasing me and I thanked them and declined.

    Both got married the following summer and invited me to the wedding.

    Mike K (90dfdc)

  34. “Both got married the following summer”

    Not to each other, thank god. To actual men. One a grad student at CalTech.

    Mike K (90dfdc)

  35. So, when are women going to actually get on board with this “equality” things, instead of demanding special treatment because they are women?

    SGT Ted (9480f7)

  36. #34: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA…………

    oh.

    wait….

    was that a serious question?

    nevah happen GI.

    redc1c4 (4db2c8)

  37. A key to being a good scientist is know when your results signify something generalizable or limited to specific conditions.

    While his experience is not isolated, neither is it generalizable to a significant percentage of such laboratory conditions.

    Of course, just how many is significant and what to do about it are questions for someone else to answer.

    MD in Philly (f9371b)

  38. MD. There’s big significant and little significant. Big significant doesn’t have to happen very often, or be potentially likely to happen very often to be A Problem.
    Funny how women want to be treated as strong and equal and powerful, and if they’re not treated that way, they’ll need a fainting couch.
    Plus, women should be in the Infantry.

    Richard Aubrey (f6d8de)

  39. Nowadays, MD in Philly, I’d be satisfied if the key to being a good scientist was limited to the science one studies, is actual science not politics and when wrong, for crissakes admit it and move on. Being in any way significant would just be a marvelous Plus.

    Hands Up, don’t pollute!

    Rev. Barack Hussein Hoagie (f4eb27)

  40. Imagine the scientific breakthroughs and amazing discoveries we are in for when we finally winnow down the universe of qualified and competent scientists to only those who follow the dictates of the social justice warriors.

    JVW (8278a3)

  41. Judging by the last couple decades, JVW, we’re already there.

    #BLACKHOAGIESCOUNT!

    Rev. Barack Hussein Hoagie (f4eb27)

  42. I feel sorry for Hunt and his wife, who is also a professor at the University of London. I don’t believe he should have been pressured to resign. He said something dumb, he apologized. That should have been enough. But this is the climate we live in. Institutions will protect their reputations lest it harm their image with patrons and big donors. Hunt really should have know better, but given his age and that he’s about as far away from liberal arts as one can get, he unknowingly hung himself. If you’re going to play around at work, keep your mouth shut and be discreet. But better to simply remain unquestionably professional, especially in a supervisory and adviser capacity. Here is an interview with ahint and his wife. It paints a sympathetic and likable duo. I hope they are able to quickly put this behind them and move on. But life doesn’t usually work out that neatly.

    Dana (99d96d)

  43. Institutions will protect their reputations lest it harm their image with patrons and big donors.

    It’s worse with UK universities, who only recently have had a tradition of heavy giving like Ivy League schools have had for generations. Oxford and Cambridge only have endowments between $7 and $8 billion, which is shockingly low relative to how long those institutions have been around and the number of incredibly successful people they have produced (by way of comparison, Duke has a $7 billion endowment and Notre Dame’s is $8 billion; Harvard is up to $36 billion at last count).

    No, the real problem is that UK universities still depend heavily upon government subsidies. In theory this should make them more able to block out the noise of activists who are demanding sacrifices to the social justice gods, but in reality it makes them all the more likely to roll over. Pity, that.

    JVW (8278a3)

  44. JVW,

    If they’ve done their homework, they know the playbook in this nascent stage of theirs. At all costs, protect the reputation, kowtow to the SJW’s, and then they’ll get their donations. And considering the slide of a once great Britain, that the activists rule isn’t really surprising.

    All in all, it’s a sad state of affairs.

    Dana (86e864)

  45. ==he apologized. That should have been enough. ==

    Dana, according to the CBS article I linked a couple days ago, Hunt apologized this week after telling a science conference in South Korea that the “trouble with girls” working in laboratories is that it leads to romantic entanglements and harms science. But according to that article Hunt has refused to back down from comments he made that mixed-gender science labs are “disruptive.”

    This may not accurately reflect the apology to which you refer, (which I have not seen in full except the part where he says he was “joking”) or there may have been subsequent apologies. But if what CBS reported is true, I think this may be a big part of the problem he had with the university where he taught.

    elissa (4e362a)

  46. If you’re going to play around at work, keep your mouth shut and be discreet.

    Play around at work? Surely you misspeak yourself. Prof Plum was at a dinner party in Korea, not at work.

    What this shows is that telling the truth about women when there are dirty minded bitches, who aren’t above slander, lies, and jumping on the bandwagon of mob rule, in the audience (which means the conditions are obsequious and perpetual) is a privilege afforded to absolutely nobody ever.

    I hope that Tim Hunt uses his remaining years to file defamation lawsuits against the ring leaders and hangers on of that mob of evil liars. Not to get rich. Just to bankrupt the scolds.

    papertiger (c2d6da)

  47. If you’re going to play around at work, keep your mouth shut and be discreet.

    Play around at work? Surely you misspeak yourself. Prof Plum was at a dinner party in Korea, not at work. There is absolutely zero evidence of any playing around at work either implied or actual.

    What this shows is that telling the truth about women when there are dirty minded bi+ches in the audience, who aren’t above slander, lies, and jumping on the bandwagon of mob rule, (which means the conditions are obsequious and perpetual) is a privilege afforded to absolutely nobody ever.

    I hope that Tim Hunt uses his remaining years to file defamation lawsuits against the ring leaders and hangers on of that mob of evil liars. Not to get rich. Not to fill his pocket or some half baked charity. Just to bankrupt the scolds. Because they deserve to be broken.

    papertiger (c2d6da)

  48. He said something dumb, he apologized.

    Why do you and others keep repeating that nonsense? he stated something he has experienced and observed. I experienced and observed the same things in my own work environment. Everything the man said occurs all the time and is demonstrably provable. Saying the obvious I neither dumb nor needs an apology. Dumb are the fools who made a big deal out of something they should be mature and experienced to realize is correct.

    What kind of world have we become where essentially saying “girls cry” is the kiss of death for a mans career?

    Attica!

    Rev. Barack Hussein Hoagie (f4eb27)

  49. Is that the overarching goal of science, to ensure there is a nice safe warm place for women to work free from ever hearing a discouraging word.

    Things sure have changed.

    papertiger (c2d6da)

  50. “Then he added: “I did mean the part about having trouble with girls. … I have fallen in love with people in the lab and people in the lab have fallen in love with me and it’s very disruptive to the science because it’s terribly important that in a lab people are on a level playing field.””

    Dana (99d96d)

  51. Surely you do not expect the fellas exhibiting outrageous outrage to actually read the good professor’s own spoken words, Dana!

    elissa (4e362a)

  52. == I experienced and observed the same things in my own work environment. Everything the man said occurs all the time and is demonstrably provable. ==

    Is there a Mrs. Rev. Hoagie, and does she know about this?? 🙂

    elissa (4e362a)

  53. Let me make it perfectly clear.

    You love your kids right? So of course that leads to fully partaking in unwise relationships with them, romantic involvement, playing around with them, not at work, which is alright as long as you keep it quiet.

    Prof Tim is being victimized by sick and twisted people’s interpretation of an off hand comment designed for entertainment value.

    papertiger (c2d6da)

  54. As a scientist, I understand that involuntary responses and subconsciousness causes passionate attraction – sometimes called ‘love” – and may be related to the immune system. As humans, we benefit by having a diverse gene pool. If this weren’t true, one disease could wipe us all out.

    From a dude’s perspective, much weight is given to appearance. Larger buttocks and hips could make childbirth easier and give a higher success rate. Women may also dress their best when they are at peak levels of fertility. So we must be careful.

    And if you enjoy a man’s smell, there’s a 98.3% chance that you’re gay.

    Colonel Haiku (2601c0)

  55. I have not a clue about the law.

    Crime or not.

    During rush hour in the right hand lane, cruising at the prevailing rate, Driver A is forced to break suddenly because a woman fake pushes a baby carriage in front of his oncoming vehicle,
    pulling it back out of harms way at the last instant.
    Driver A panic stomps on the brake and drifts ever so slightly into the left lane where he is struck from behind by Drive B, who is cruising at the prevailing rate in the right hand lane and observed what had transpired with the mother of the year and is in the process of a panic lane change.

    papertiger (c2d6da)

  56. I’m on my second Mrs. Rev. Hoagie, elissa. My first died of cancer in the nineties after 18 years. And the answer is yes, they both saw what went on around the restaurants as they frequently worked there. I don’t believe as a rational, mature adult these things don’t go on all over the place. However, because one sees this does not mean one needs participate. I hope you realize character, as they say, is doing the right thing even when no ne is watching. I really believe that to be true.

    We shall overcome!

    Rev. Barack Hussein Hoagie (f4eb27)

  57. And don’t call me Shirley, elissa.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ye7PIyIcCro

    West Side Story 1961 – “I feel pretty”

    Steve57 (48418e)


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