• Let Hunt and Singer keep their jobs

    Two weeks ago, Nobel prize winner Tim Hunt made the news with this statement:

    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.

    For the sake of the argument, let’s say this was a sexist remark, and Hunt lost it’s job for it. (Some may say he quit, but for anyone with a brain it’s quite obvious he resigned due to pressure.)

    Go figure: he made a bad joke and he was out of a job when that joke/opinion doesn’t obstruct his ability to do said job. Why is the Royal Society policing their employees’ opinions? What do they care? Do they include litmus tests on their application forms?

    While the fire was still smoking from the witch-Hunt, Peter Singer was disinvited from a philosophy gathering for his views for infanticide.

    Then on, some started calling for his head at Princeton for holding these opinions.

    You know what? I’m not a fan of Philosophy myself, and I don’t agree on much with Singer: I think his views on infanticide are awful and, worse, I can’t barely stand his promotion of vegetarianism, a deceptive ideology very close to misanthropy.

    All in all, I think Singer holds anti-Humanistic views that I can’t endorse. Nevertheless, I’m not afraid of him having such opinions or making them known, because I’m not afraid of dissenting views because I happen to value my critical thinking abilities so I’m quite confident I can assess his thoughts on my own and make my own mind — and isn’t that what Philosophy faculties are for, anyway?

    One of the things I dislike about Singer —and most of the veg activists, for that matter— is the morally superior narrative he uses for his agenda (and, actually, his lecture’s title on the philosophy panel was ‘Do vegans save the world?‘). So I find it ironically depressing that he could lose his job thanks to equally self-righteous people.

    Call me old fashioned, but I’m not into people losing their jobs and having their livelihood threatened just because they hold opinions I strongly disagree with!

    (images: Wikipedia)

    Category: Philosophy


    Article by: Ðavid A. Osorio S

    Skeptic | Blogger | Fact-checker
    • sombodysdad

      If Hunt was canned for that joke then his employers are a joke. Politacal correctness is a pimple on the ass of progress.

      Singer is another story and personally I say he shouldn’t be given a platform, ever. I was once a “militant” vegetarian but then came to realize that people have to make their own choices, yes free will, and set out caring for myself and providing information if anyone asked.

    • “Sir Tim held an honorary position at UCL. He was not, and never has been, employed by UCL at any stage of his career and did not receive a salary from UCL.”

      Seems fair to say that in this particular case no one’s livelihood is being threatened.

      • Agreed: his livelihood isn’t being threatened, but it would be naive of us to think this is the last time a scientist with an unpopular opinion will make sure others know about it.

    • Hunt believes labs should be segregated and described this issue as a problem “with girls”. This is not a joke, it is what he believes. He has said so repeatedly. There is no place for this attitude in any modern professional research setting. The ugly, vociferous nature of the social media storm changes nothing about this.

      • I don’t see what’s the whole issue with the “girls” comment. I’m always talking about “boys” and “girls” meaning men and women. (Maybe this is cultural? I don’t take any offense when someone says I’m a “boy”, why would I? Where’s the lack of respect when using such terms?).

        About the sex-apartheid labs: he can think whatever he wants but he’s not getting his way (and I think that’s the point).

        As far as I understand it, his job consists of evidence (of what you can prove), not ideas… unlike politicians’. Can we state withouth a shred of doubt that his thoughts get in the way of getting his job done correctly?

        You say “there is no place for this attitude in any modern professional research setting” and I can’t help thinking you’re right on this one but what will happen when the PC police is the one calling the shots (well, they’re already doing it in some places – remember Matt Taylor)?

        I guess I can sum up my comment with a question: where do you draw the line? How do you define which thoughts are “not nice, but acceptable enough” for people working in a lab to have?

        • In a professional settings, it is never appropriate to refer to adults as “girls”. In other settings, particular with people you know, it might be fine. But just as much the point is that the issue isn’t a “women’s” or “men’s” issue. It’s a people issue. So when you call it one or the other, you’re loading it with bias against that gender. It’s both inaccurate and sexist to do.

          Bear in mind his job was not merely conducting or overseeing research. His was a leadership position. A position of authority and power; Of influence. His attitudes affect more than his own thoughts, they can hurt dozens or thousands of people who arehave beenwill be subordinate to him, or suffer under the atmosphere he uses his clout and power to create.

          How do you define which thoughts are “not nice, but acceptable enough” for people working in a lab to have?

          The institution has goals. It can ask itself, does this person act more to promote those goals, or do they overall inhibit them? They made their choice on that. I would have made the same one. I would not permit any person to work for me that alienates, intimidates, or demeans half the pool of talent.

          • Would you be ok with just a demotion? Stripping him out of power and authority and having him just conduct and oversee research?

          • Wallace Prism

            He also referred to “boys” in his speech.

      • Shatterface

        Hunt’s female colleagues came out in support of him.

        The ‘outrage’ came from people who have never worked with him and who’s knowledge of Hunt’s views come nth hand from the kind of Twitter hate-mob who would happily curb-stomp a septegenatariam if they were capable of lacing up their own boots.

      • Wallace Prism

        Bit late to the party, but couldn’t let this scurrilous comment stand uncorrected. You don’t have to go far, just to Rebecca Bradley’s blog, to see a more illucidating angle.

        ++ quote ++

        “According to The Times, a report of the event by a European Commission
        official who was at the lunch was suppressed by the commission.

        He wrote: ‘This is the transcript of Sir Tim Hunt’s speech, or rather a
        toast, as precise as I can recall it: ‘It’s strange that such a
        chauvinist monster like me has been asked to speak to women scientists.
        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. Perhaps we should make
        separate labs for boys and girls?’

        According to the official, Sir Tim immediately said after: ‘Now
        seriously, I’m impressed by the economic development of Korea. And women
        scientists played, without doubt an important role in it. Science needs
        women and you should do science despite all the obstacles, and despite
        monsters like me.’

        A journalist also claimed at the time that Sir Tim had had ‘thanked the
        women for making lunch’. But in the report, the official said this
        categorically did not happen.”

        ++ quote++

        The ugly, vociferous media storm appears to have taken some people in.

    • Shatterface

      The irony is that some of those who have attacked Hunt have literally been crying about what he said.