Tim Hunt: ‘I’ve been hung out to dry. They haven’t even bothered to ask for my side of affairs’

Jun 15, 2015

by Robin McKie

As jokes go, Sir Tim Hunt’s brief standup routine about women in science last week must rank as one of the worst acts of academic self-harm in history. As he reveals to the Observer, reaction to his remarks about the alleged lachrymose tendencies of female researchers has virtually finished off the 72-year-old Nobel laureate’s career as a senior scientific adviser.

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.


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370 comments on “Tim Hunt: ‘I’ve been hung out to dry. They haven’t even bothered to ask for my side of affairs’

  • If somebody makes an, in your eyes, bad joke, what do you do as a civilised person? Don’t laugh and continue with your business. But apparently some people with power have nothing else to do. It’s a shame. Mr Hunt has my full support.



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  • His behaviour was totally unacceptable and deluded at the time BUT he had a perfect opportunity to rectify it and he blew it! His apology COULD have saved him but in his arrogance he merely said it was a joke but he meant it! At the point when he could have redeemed himself he dug himself even further in. If he’d said the same about black person or a gay person he’d have been out on his ear.

    If he is too unstable to control his emotions when working in mixed labs than it’s his problem not the women’s! If he’s so easily distracted from science by a lab coat (hardly Victoria’s Secret) he really does need to seek therapy.

    If it had been a Muslim man arguing for segregation due to the distracting influence of women there’d have been major outcry here. So anyone thinking he’s got a point might like to bear in mind that his arguments are the self same ones used by radical Islamists to keep women out of the workplace, the public sphere and shrouded in the all encompassing burkha.

    He left the institutions he worked for with no choice as equal opportunities employers. He should realise that if you behave in an unacceptable manner you lose your job. Even Jeremy Clarkson understood that. If he’d been allowed to stay what sort of message would it send to every female scientist still doing productive work. Or to young girls considering scientific careers.

    He made his little joke now he’s hearing lots of women telling jokes about him.



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  • He had an opportunity to apologise. He stated it was a Joke but he really meant it. That was when he lost everything.

    If he really meant it and he can’t control his emotions around women he really shouldn’t be in a lab he got what he deserved.



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  • 4
    aroundtown says:

    This one has been bothering me lately. Is this what has come down the road in our supposed growth and tolerance in this modern world. By every measure his female colleagues found no glaring sexist position within the man and yet the media, as usual in their feeding frenzy, dismantled the man with great pleasure it would seem. The institutions that should have had some measure of backbone to examine his record went along with the crowd and threw him under the bus as well. Talk about being thin skinned. Clearly the path was to obliterate the man for what service I don’t know, who gets the medal for destroying this mans character?



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  • 5
    aroundtown says:

    I am not trying to pick a fight Alice but I would offer this – a lot of our behavior is unacceptable generally, but most would like some consideration of our weaknesses when we falter, as we often times do. I am not going to throw stones for unacceptable behavior because I have been knee-deep in it more times than I can count. I think he should have been aware of a potential shit-storm since they pop-up quite regularly these days but, from my knowledge of the incident the reaction to it was massively over the top. I don’t expect you to agree but I wanted to throw out my opinion all the same.



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  • It’s not a witch-hunt, as some have suggested. He’s a man in a senior public position who made some very stupid remarks in a public forum. Now he’s whingeing because he was called up on it.

    If Hunt thinks that there was something wrong about his enforced resignation then he should take legal advice. If he accepts that it was his own fault then he should reflect on the attitudes he holds which led to his remarks.



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  • 7
    aroundtown says:

    I would offer this too, I wouldn’t want to be the arbiter of truth for an incident like this, would you? I know I wouldn’t want to step into that arena since the road goes both ways in that regard and inspection of “everyone’s bona fides” is open to inquiry if that were the fact. I throw out opinions regularly, but man how I wish I could take a few back in light of realities that slap me in the face later.

    Mistakes are large part of my makeup in the main unfortunately but I have a lot of company in that distinction so I don’t suffer to greatly over it. I just try to do better next time and not make as much of a fool of myself in the next go around.



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  • He isn’t the first to be taken down by Twitter, and he won’t be the last. This is not about sexism or religion. This is about the damning power of real-time courts of public opinion. It moves too fast for anyone to even try for damage control.

    Thirty years ago, that remark would have crawled into the public spotlight via newspapers, then follow-up would have allowed him to give his side. That is a thing of the past.



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  • I agree but he had the chance to apologise. And had he said it really had been a bad joke everyone would have said ok.

    But he reiterated that he believed what he said.

    Segregated workplaces? You really think that’s an ok attitude for anyone to have? It could never work if people were working equally.



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  • Actually it IS about sexism. It’s the argument used by Islamic extremists to justify keeping women in the home. Segregated workplaces are impossible,e if people are doing the same job.

    Distracting men is the argument used to cover women in burkhas as well.

    Why make exceptions for unacceptable attitudes just because he’s a scientist.

    If he’d been allowed to stay what sorts of messages would that send.



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  • Why make exceptions for unacceptable attitudes just because he’s a
    scientist.

    For the record, I have a low tolerance for sexism. Hell, Marilyn French’s The Woman’s Room is my ‘bible.’

    In this case, though, these are the factors I am taking into account:

    He’s a nerd. Have you heard nerds try to be funny? They can’t do
    it.
    His wife is a feminist. I rather think there would have been
    waves sooner.
    His female students and co-workers have come to his defense.
    And, finally, my original point: modern-day media moves way too
    fast. And sensationalism sells.



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  • Alice. If you were his media adviser, how would you do a resurrection. Given he has had this sexist position for all of his life, and who knows how many female careers have been the collateral damage of that workplace view, can he be taken down from the cross, die for 3 days and come back to life.

    I suspect it also reflects the view of his age group. (Melvin?) I can remember back in the 70’s in my workplace, similar attitudes were common. The views will die out through natural attrition, but it would be preferable if people who hold these views, were educated in ways so that they sincerely understood, that decisions based on sex, (and lots of other prejudicial criteria) are no longer acceptable.



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  • Agreed. It’s a case of twitter mob rule. UCL reacted far too quickly.

    As you said, several female scientists have since come to his defence, including those that worked with him. And he apparently met his feminist wife when directing her biochemistry studies at Cambridge University.

    And there was this interview on Today with Prof Dame Valerie Beral, director of Oxford University’s Cancer Epidemiology Unit. She said “he’s a very kind and very eccentric, unworldly sort of man”, and that his comments have been misinterpreted. She also said “women are too concerned about the way they are perceived rather than the way their science is perceived” and they “find the lab environment difficult to cope with emotionally” And she wasn’t trying to make an amusing comment at a conference either. Hopefully the twitter mob won’t call for her resignation?



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  • I don’t know how I’d resurrect his career as I’m coming from the side of the women who haven’t got on because of the deeply held sexism of men like him. He had his chance to apologise and was too arrogant.

    I think the greater good is served by sending out a strong message that such behaviour is unacceptable.

    Being old is no excuse. If you’re told behaviour is unacceptable you learn. A male scientist friend of mine who is 58 said he should be removed and apologised to me on behalf of all male scientists for this k@@@head as he called him.

    You have to call out bad behaviour otherwise it won’t disappear.



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  • The story shows, if nothing else, that the world of science can be every bit as brutal as that of politics.

    The “brutal”-ity is entirely due to politics and has nothing to do with science.



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  • But the way they are perceived impacts on the way their science is perceived. That holds them back. That’s why it’s important!



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  • I can honestly say I’ve never found a lab environment difficult to cope with emotionally. Nor have any of the women I’ve worked with.

    What sort of delicate flowers does she work with ffs.



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  • Er no Vicki, it was the same argument. That people’s work should be judged on its merits. Not judged by perceptions about religion or gender.

    If women, or believers, are perceived in a certain way and that impacts on the way their work is perceived than that is wrong. We know sex effects perceptions of scientific work because research has shown it to be true. Likewise race. The argument on the other thread was against people suggesting that belief should join that in being used to judge people’s work.



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  • 25
    aroundtown says:

    I rarely, if ever, step into this kind of discussion since you can see the results that might occur, someone will be offended that you haven’t take their position in totality and respect seems to go out the window at that point. It suggests you’ve struck a nerve that was better left alone. Often time it’s a no go zone, and a no win situation when it comes to discussing sexual identity and practice. With that said I would offer this – the laws of attraction and desire for sexual congress between men and women, and all the other possibilities, has been going on for a very long time, and a clear playing field has yet to be established, and in my opinion it will remain that way. However you want to get your freak on should be fine and not mentally disturbing to anyone, but that is not the case unfortunately and we still have to fight for the rights of everyone in that regard. For me it’s pretty simple – get your inner Bonobo going and have fun, but that is far from mainstream thinking around the world.

    I think that some of the problems that can skew attitudes and establish conflict would be an example like this – a women protesting that she wants to be taken seriously and not seen as a sex object, but misses the problem of presenting herself in fish-net stockings and mini-skirt with a blouse that has to be glued on to avoid a mishap or slip, while wearing 4 inch heals. To me the effort and dress style was meant to elicit a response?, a sexual one perhaps? Maybe she is just being edgy fashionable while working out equations of some merit, who knows maybe that’s the case, but I would likely miss her intent, and others would likely miss it too.

    I also see men doing the same thing, but for reasons that escape common sense, they are judged in a different light as regards their posturing (don’t know why that is really). Their fancy polished cars, fine dress, and perfume suggest they seeking to elicit a response also. Again that is how my perceptions are skewed in initially evaluating the situation and again I don’t think I would be alone in that regard.

    I have no problem separating the examples above, and consider “the person” in all their intricate form, so I would never establish an absolute judgement on anyone, be they male or female, but I would be the exception and not the rule with my perceptions and view. Just because someone is sexual at one juncture doesn’t mean that is the totality of who they are and they should be respected, without establishing a negative opinion of their demeanor. I do not feel that your sexuality defines who you are, it is only a part of who you are. I also strongly support the proposition that no mean no and that is one rule that needs to be chiseled into granite for clarity. Primitive sexual actions against someone without their consent is rape, and it is a vile condition that deserves to always remain criminal.

    But with all this said and done the following might be acceptable in light of present day misfires on the sexual front and it’s this – you damn near have to have a full time attorney in tow for either party so as to not make a mistake that could put you behind bars for the rest of your life. Nowadays it might be good to sit down and draw up an agreement and video tape it to insure your intent was clear before you hit the sheets. I am sure this sounds silly but is it really?

    To wrap this book up I would offer the following opinion. To think that sex isn’t a part of our fabric in our daily enterprise doesn’t make sense to me since it stands there in lock-step prevalence alongside food, as pertains to our greatest desires generally. Civilized behavior and expected rules are essential between the sexes as we try to contain our urges in an advanced society and conform to the suggested norms, but these boundaries are tested at every level by pretty much everyone and the picture is still pretty foggy to me from where I’m standing. To stay within the post I would say this man got caught up in some of our sexual dilemma generally and the effect was immediate for him.



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  • 26
    aroundtown says:

    Very astute observation Vicki. Third times the charm I guess, trying to get this response in the right order was a bit of a frustration.



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  • That people’s work should be judged on its merits. Not judged by
    perceptions about religion or gender.

    What about Hunt’s work? If I thought he genuinely meant what he said, I would be first in line to kick the bugger out the door. But given the context, I really think he was trying to be personable with an audience. He did a really crappy job of it, but do we throw out someone with his level of knowledge because he sucks in a social setting? Seems to me, he’s got the brain to figure out what he did wrong (he’s said as much) and move on.



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  • Hahaha!! That was some serious platitudinous pussyfooting!

    But I don’t think he was posturing at all. I rather think he’s a bit of a social oaf, with his mouth full of his foot right now.

    But I do agree with Alice on one important (to me) point: careers that have traditionally been male are slowly changing, and the perceptions need to change as well. In management, the same actions that label men as ‘leaders’ will label women as ‘dragonladies.’



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  • 29
    aroundtown says:

    Glad you got a laugh out of it, I was concerned someone might actually be offended. I am all for women’s rights and I hope we can get to the point were it’s not even an issue, the same with equal pay for all.

    I won’t be around to see any of the needed changes but a day where your sexuality is moot, and women and men are equal status regardless of their position will be a fine day indeed.



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  • 30
    aroundtown says:

    I would add this – My freaking dissertation is what Las Vegas would have call making your point the hard way. Far to long but there were some bits that have some applicability, that may only be my interpretation though and that’s cool. It always gets to me when our lowest common denominator base level emotions get taken out for a walk and people freakout. We all have the ability/propensity to falter but the extremes of response are varying widely these days. Just my two cents from a complicated monkey.



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  • Women’s rights? How about we stay equal rights and not put one sex above another within the law?

    In the UK and i’m sure the US too, women have exactly the same rights as men do, they do not need ‘Women’s rights’. Do we really need one law for women and another for men?

    What we need is parity, parity in the courts where men receive more severe punishments for the same crime, are more likely to receive jail time for the same crime.



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  • 32
    aroundtown says:

    @ veggiemanuk

    I’ve gotten way too involved in this thread but I wanted to touch on your observation. I think suffragettes and all of the other women who have struggled for equilibrium would take issue, you have to start someplace and that track was laid quite some time ago. Women have paid a bitter price and they are still short of relief in the main, regardless of protection laws that are supposedly meant to protect/serve them are regards equality. I would give them what they deserve “women’s rights”. That’s just how I see it and hope no offense is taken.



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  • I usually don’t comment on these kinds of arguments because I think they are pointless. People get way too upset about some dumb joke and then some apology that doesn’t satisfy the PC police as being the right kind of apology. But I saw some comments that I had to reply to:

    Women’s rights? How about we stay equal rights and not put one sex above another within the law?

    The reason we need to talk about “women’s rights” is the same we need to talk about “black rights” or “gay rights” because at least in the US those groups have been treated very unjustly over history. To have people be equal you need to recognize and do something about the fact that some people currently aren’t treated equally. Women still get payed less to do the same work as men for example (and this data is adjusted for factors such as women taking more time out to raise kids). Gays can be legally fired in many US states just for being honest about who they like to sleep with. And blacks… do I even have to say it but for starters they can still get shot just for giving the wrong look to someone.

    In the UK and i’m sure the US too, women have exactly the same rights as men do, they do not need ‘Women’s rights’. Do we really need one law for women and another for men?

    No, they don’t. For one thing there is the economic disparity I mentioned. For another there are constant assaults on the rights of women to reproductive choice in the US. Abortion is still technically legal in all 50 states but many state legislatures have passed laws that make it almost impossible for women in certain states to find a clinic that is not over a days drive away and that is affordable and doesn’t require insane waiting periods while you get un-necessary tests and lectures forced on you by the government.



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  • Maybe that was an observation based on his own personal experience. Who cares? Why the fuss! Supposing he had said that his experience over the years had taught him that male workers tend to be less reasonable and competent than females? Would that have gotten him into trouble? Or would that have made him the new darling of the feminists?

    What am I not getting? Tell me, my friends, and don’t pull any punches.



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  • Nope. He was nailed to the cross. And there is none of this “three-day” christian redemption nonsense. Today’s woman has no need for forgiveness.
    Hung out to dry. Indeed. His dessicated corpse will eventually break free of it, the nails will rust, and the corpse will be trampled upon by dozens of asses (dare I say “she-asses”?) until he becomes just more dust in this academic Jerusalem. Good riddance.
    But why has no one attempted to take back his Nobel prize yet? And presumably the $million or so that goes with it.
    Alice- are you game for this?



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  • I didn’t know about the segregation comment. That wasn’t right. I stand by what I said above, however. (“Why all the fuss!”)
    Mark my words, all you righteous people: one of these days you are going to find yourselves in this guy’s shoes; you’ll make an off the cuff remark and get fired. Then you’ll know what it’s like to be on the other side and facing a humorless, angry mob – with their final interpretation (their own) of your remarks, and their condemnation, and their judgment—implacable as a sales tax.
    Quickness to condemn, by the way, is the absolute mark of the psychotic.
    That aside, I think his comments were dumb and he deserves to be reproached.



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  • There is subtle difference Vicki, but before I outline it I’ll point out Hunts work still stands. Cells still divide in the way he says despite the fact he’s massively deluded about reality outside of science. But as I said, there is a subtle difference!

    The problem is his comments referred directly to the workplace! They suggested the exclusion of one group, because segregation is totally impractical in most areas, especially science with its need to collaborate.

    His comments made massive negative generalisations about 50% of the population in his particular workplace. Generalisations, whether he meant them or not, would exclude women from science if taken seriously. Just because men don’t want them there. And they were from a man who would have had influence on who worked in his labs.

    The organisations that employ need to attract in the best in their fields. That means they need to be striving for equality.

    If he’d made those comments about women drivers, or women walking about the streets., or women getting in his way shopping for shoes when he was out his opinions would still have even iffy , but there would have been no real harm. He’d still be in his job.

    Vikki if an Imam had said the same thing would you have been as forgiving? If all his female flock had said he was a nice bloke really.



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  • the perceptions need to change as well.

    How do you know what men’s “perceptions” of these female leaders are? Have you discussed this with men? Have you heard comments that suggest to you that this is the case? Is this a real observation based on your experience or is it just something that sounds like the right thing to say?

    By the way, I used the words “platitudinous” and “pussyfooting” in an earlier thread that I believe you took part in. Copy-cat. (Just kidding.)

    Are you the Vicki that ordered The Iceman Cometh? (I am always getting mixed up.)



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  • I got it last night, and will probably start it this evening.

    BTW, I read Before Breakfast, and this seems like the appropriate thread to point out my sympathies are with the wife. She may lack diplomacy, but everything she said was true: he had every opportunity growing up, and a great education and what did he do with it?

    {{eyes narrowing}} That is, unless you think the wife should have been some kind of Tammy Wynette Stand By Your Man?



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  • As I see it, he’s just another victim of mob justice — led, or at least fed by the media and crowds of self-appointed “social-justice” advocates (the irony …), thin-skinned feminists, and gutless university administrators that live in fear bad publicity. He’s guilty of mildly politically incorrect humour (and MAYBE opinions), and not being especially savy of the media — but after all, nothing else he’s ever done has been of much interest to them, so that last one is kind of understandable. I feel very sorry for the guy.



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  • The organisations that employ need to attract in the best in their
    fields. That means they need to be striving for equality.

    That could be taken two ways: ‘equality’ through a quota system, or hiring based on ability. The latter seems to be the most beneficial, but does not necessarily equate to gender parity in the workplace.



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  • It’s perhaps worth noting that Sir Tim Hunt is still an Emeritus Scientist at the Crick Institute

    http://www.crick.ac.uk/research/a-z-researchers/emeritus-scientists/tim-hunt/

    who don’t appear to be withdrawing this honour

    http://www.crick.ac.uk/news/news-archive/2015/06/10/response-to-tim-hunts-comments/

    He is also still an Honorary Fellow at Clare College Cambridge

    http://www.clare.cam.ac.uk/Emeritus-Honorary-and-Foundation-Fellows/

    He also still and FRS and has his Nobel Prize. So his career is not completely destroyed although I can well imagine
    that he feels like it has.

    Michael



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  • Roedy
    Jun 16, 2015 at 4:10 am

    In terms of harm done, this was popcorn compared with all the actual sexual discrimination in the world This is political correctness run rampant.

    I agree. It is typical media hype and bluster about some trivial joke – which as the facts come out seem to be based on objective observations.

    It is quite proper to discuss lab/office politics and the effects of relationships between staff, although I would not agree with his suggestion of sex-segregated labs.

    There is probably going to be some sex-discrimination in astronaut selection for missions to Mars, as recent research indicates women are more prone to cancer from radiation in space! Women have a higher incidence of radiation induced cancers and reach maximal safety levels much earlier than men, although men run a higher risk of sterility.
    I wonder how that will go down with the media ideologues?



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  • I think perhaps he was just trying to be cool and ironic; but he did it in the wrong way in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    And when your plane goes into a nosedive it’s handy to be able to discern as much.



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  • bonnie
    Jun 16, 2015 at 7:36 am

    A perspective:

    There were some very telling WW2 RAF stories about women employed delivering new spitfires and bombers from the factories to the combat units.

    Apparently, despite have more flying hours than many combat pilots, women spitfire delivery fliers were not allowed live ammunition.

    There was also a rather amusing tale when one WRAF officer delivered a large new bomber flying solo without a co-pilot or crew, the incredulous shower at the combat runway, would not believe her when she reported in as delivery pilot, and went off to search the plane for the “real” pilot!



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  • veggiemanuk
    Jun 15, 2015 at 6:08 pm

    I wonder, if this study, Women benefit from working in woman-dominated teams had been about men, by a male lead researcher, would he have been dismissed as quickly as Tim Hunt?

    Meanwhile – other news!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-33144636
    US First Lady Michelle Obama has told pupils at a girls’ school in east London that education is the “ultimate key” to their success.

    Mrs Obama, wife of President Barack, told pupils at Mulberry School for Girls their “amazing education” gave them all they needed to succeed.

    She also launched the Let Girls Learn initiative to boost education globally for adolescent girls.

    Mrs Obama told pupils at the school in Tower Hamlets, east London, the world needed “more girls like you to lead our parliaments, our courtrooms and universities”.

    Giving a speech at the school, she said: “With an education from this amazing school you all have everything, everything you need to rise above all of the noise and fulfil every last one of your dreams.



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  • ‘Women still get payed less to do the same work as men for example
    (and this data is adjusted for factors such as women taking more time
    out to raise kids).’

    If we are talking about the 77 cents to the dollar that women earn compared to men, then bare in mind that this is based on men and women in full time employment.

    According to 2010 figures, women make up 46.7% of the US labor force, of that, 26.6% work part time (so not included in the averaging of wages) compared to 13.4% of men.

    49.3% of this gap is due to women not working in the same industries as men.

    44.4% of women are likely to work in just 20 Industries compared to 34.8% for men.

    On average, full time women work between 22 and 47 minutes less per day than do men.

    Women are also less likely to be unemployed and when they are, they are unemployed for less time.

    Explaining the gender wage gap

    Women’s Employment During the Recovery



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  • Thin skinned or just fed up of aged sexists thinking they can keep women in their places.

    Little bit of politically incorrect humour or something that negatively impacts on the lives of 50% of the population. The just a joke you’re too thin skinned defence for unacceptable attitudes.

    Would you feel as sorry for him if he’d suggested black people should work in separate labs?

    Or that gay people should be segregated lest they they fall in love with him?

    Are the imams that use exactly the same arguments to keep women out of the workplace and covered in burkhas also just guilty of a little bit of politically incorrect humour? Or the Islamic students that used exactly the same arguments to hold a segregated meeting in London?

    The guy made a mistake. I feel sorry for him for that initial mistake. We all make mistakes and in part his was the last straw that broke a very fed up camels back. But when you make a mistake you do something about it. What did he do?

    His first brilliant opportunity to rectify it came when he was contacted by journalists. He could have saved himself by admitting he’d been a bit of a K@@@. Saying it was bad joke and of course he didn’t mean it. He chose not to. He made it worse by saying he did mean it. A mistake is one thing. Thinking like he does is another.

    He’s just been handed another opportunity in the Guardian to say that what he’d said was unacceptable, to apologise properly. And perhaps to ask for help from his ex employers in getting up to speed with the 21st century.

    Instead he chose to engage in a pathetic ‘poor little me whinge and whine. Ooh look what the nasty people have done to me.. Let’s blame UCL for not babying me and letting me behave as I wish’. Which again has just made it worse.

    His employers have codes of behaviour. Whilst employed by them he broke those codes. What exactly did he expect?



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  • He made an off the cuff remark in a speech people were paying him to make. Surely some preparation for his fat fee would have been in order.? Preparation that might have included some acknowledgement that it’s a speech to a group of women scientists and engineers who’ve probably has to fight sexism all their working lives? A bit of research and thinking perhaps?

    It’s what he did after is the problem. He’s been given several opportunities to rectify the remark. But when first contacted by journalists he said he meant it.

    He’s had a chance to redeem himself in the above article but instead chooses to blame his employer for expecting him to stick to their codes of conduct when representing them.

    There are codes of conduct in most workplaces. He chose to ignore his and pays the consequences. If he really feels hard done by he can take them all to tribunals.



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  • Vicki I’m not sure how anything I suggested led you to believe I’m in favour of a quota system.

    I know UCL it has a brilliant reputation. It was one of the first universities to admit women on merit. It works hard to maintain its reputation and it works hard to attract the best students and researchers.

    When I said it doesn’t want to put off the best by being seen as sexist that is exactly what I meant. It doesn’t want to put off good women students and researchers. It would rather have an A A A girl than a C C D boy because the AAA girl has decided to go somewhere where elderly bloke won’t have their opinions of her work coloured by stereotypes that she’s going to burst into tears. It doesn’t have quotas.

    UCL asks for high grades and the only way it drops those are when students clearly come from such disadvantaged backgrounds that make them equivalent.

    So it’s women who are good and want to be treated equally that will be put of by Tim Hunt. They will go somewhere where they are treated the same way as their male colleagues! For what they produce nothing else.



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  • Sexism is never silly dearie. It’s offensive and demeaning and should be called out to prevent those who think it silly becoming even bigger idiots.

    Good old Tim had opportunities to dig himself free. But he didn’t.



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  • It’s not a trivial joke if you’ve been at the receiving end if those attitudes for most of your life.

    But it wasn’t just one mistaken attempt at humour that’s hung Tim Hunt out to dry. He could have redeemed himself on several occasions afterwards when contacted by journalists. Including the above guardian article where he pulls the tearful poor little me stunt. He choose not to.

    He could have issued a statement distancing himself from that attitude. He chose instead to say he meant it. There’s making a mistake and being an all out arrogant idiot.

    The institutions employing him have codes of conduct for employees when they’re representing them. Clearly he did not stick to those codes of conduct and is paying the price. If he feels he has an issue he should take them to an industrial tribunal instead of getting all tearful in the Guardian, like some too notch female scientists.

    Did you catch this a few years ago. A lot of Tim’s arguments match the Muslim students.

    https://www.richarddawkins.net/2013/04/sexual-apartheid-in-university-college-london-w-spanish-and-polish-translations/



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  • Veggiemsnuk that’s because currently equal rights mainly means getting rights for women to make them equal. With occasional getting rights for men.

    And sexism is rife in science.



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  • everything she said was true

    No, not Tally Wynette. And not a murderess, either. Is there nothing in-between?
    I will have to re-read it but although his life was a disaster, she made life or recovery impossible, tortured him, drove him to despair and suicide. (Ever heard of alcoholism, by the way? or mental illness? or compassion for human weakness?)
    His life was a disaster, yes, but that is no way to relate to someone you supposedly love. What she did was a form of murder. Unrelenting!
    The message (as I see it) is simply this: human beings are fragile, can only take so much abuse. They are breakable.
    I do see your point, however; he must have been a great disappointment to her.



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  • Oh there’s nothing like a bit of silly “sexism” to bring out the Withfinder Generals.

    Has this really been the witch-hunt which a number of people have claimed?

    What happened when Tim Hunt made his remarks was that people who heard about them were generally rather gobsmacked. The idea that a senior, and apparently respected, scientist should consider female scientists to be a bunch of silly girlies struck them as remarkable; so they remarked on it. And thanks to social media, there were soon vast numbers of people who knew about his attitudes and were mocking them. It wasn’t mob rule which did for Hunt, it was transparency. After making his remarks, he could neither deny nor hide what he felt about his female colleagues.

    I suspect that what panicked UCL into instant action was the fear that, unless they did something to deal with the situation very quickly, people might start to ponder on the fact that the senior reaches of British science are rather full of ageing male scientists educated in single-sex schools who went the Oxbridge route. And they might start to wonder whether Sir Tim, far from being a maverick eccentric, was actually quite typical of the type in his attitudes.



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  • I agree sexism is never silly. As a matter of fact I am in favour the emancipation of the whole of humanity without distinction of race or sex. So you can’t call me sexist or racist.

    I don’t think what he said was meant to be sexist, nor was it IMO. It was meant to be humorous, an ice-breaker, but no, the humourless hounds got after him, for what were, admittedly, somewhat silly remarks. Hardly a hanging crime IMV.



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  • Alice
    Jun 16, 2015 at 12:57 pm

    And sexism is rife in science.

    Really??? Your evidence is????

    I know that there are disproportionately high numbers of men in university science and engineering courses, and disproportionately high numbers of women on language courses, but that seems to be driven by biology and mental development.

    http://www.pbs.org/parents/parenting/raising-girls/body-image-identity/understanding-girls-brains/
    Research about the brain has found subtle but significant biological differences between male and female brains. Among the findings:

    Male brains are six to ten percent bigger, on average, than female brains.

    *Female brains have more synapses (connections) than male brains.

    Females have a bigger connecting area (the corpus callosum) between the two hemispheres of the brain. They tend to use both sides of the brain for a particular task more frequently than do males.

    Differences begin before birth.

    Girls and boys appear to have different developmental timelines, due in part to the differences in their brains. “For example,” Deak notes, “most girls are born with language processing neurons on both sides of the brain, but most males have them only on the right side.” As a result, girls often become earlier readers than boys and begin the writing process sooner. Many girls have less spatial awareness than boys but, at the same time, develop fine motor skills earlier than many boys. Most boys, however, tend to be more attracted to spatial tasks (such as playing with Legos) than most girls.

    Most girls can (and will!) talk about emotion more easily than boys.
    Most girls’ and boys’ brains are wired to process the connection between language and emotion differently. Because of this, according to Deak, many girls may have an easier time talking about their feelings than many boys. In addition, female brains tend to focus a bit better on details, so that girls can express their emotions at considerable length. Girls (particularly pre-pubescent ones) also have greater sensitivity to noise and tone of voice. As a result, some girls may hear yelling when there is only firmness in an adult’s voice, or take feedback on their work as negative criticism, even when it’s constructive.



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  • 65
    nomorewoo says:

    Mentioning someone like Tim Hunt in the same breath as Islamic extremists is precisely the untethering from any sense of proportion, indeed from reality itself, which has infected the mindset at sites such as “Free Thought” Blogs and now appears to be seeping into this site as well.

    Meanwhile the truly massive violations of Human Rights of human females around the world go unaddressed by precisely those who launch into unhinged histrionics at every water cooler office gossip ready tidbit politically incorrect transgression du jour.



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  • We no longer live in a world where sexism, racism, homophobia and the rest are the norm and can pass completely unchallenged. That is without a doubt a good thing. But I fear we are in danger of swopping one set of unkindness and prejudice and dogmatism for another.

    Humans are fallible beings. We get confused, we feel uncomfortable, we get nervous, we get tired, we get jet-lagged, we get hold of the wrong end of the stick, we get distracted, we misread situations, we get stressed. We are not always at the top of our form, we don’t always have our best possible answer ready to go, we sometimes blurt out stupid stuff that doesn’t even reflect our true views (or at least, not in the nuanced, thoughtful way they deserve). We say stuff because we think it will sound witty and are then haunted by the embarrassment for years to come because actually it just sounded naff. We get out of our depth and flounder like mad and just make things worse. We make mistakes, sometimes really quite gruesome ones. We all do these things at some time – it doesn’t matter who we are or how senior or how respected or how well paid or anything else. We all, at some stage of our lives, do or say something toe-curlingly stupid that is in no way a fair reflection of our characters as a whole.

    None of these things makes us inherently bad or fundamentally irredeemable. None of them means we have nothing more to give. None of them means we’re no use to the world (or our workplace) any more. None of them justifies our being subjected to massive abuse and barracking, or having our achievements and strengths written off out of hand. None of them justifies mass shunning, or trial by Twitter.

    It is both sad and ironic that, just as the world has started getting really touchy about people being judged and looked down on, it has become so viciously judgemental. How many of us stop to check out all sides of a story before rushing to condemn? How many of us genuinely try to understand the other person’s point of view before writing them off? In the world of the internet, we smell blood and that’s it: we metaphorically tear our victim to pieces.

    Has anyone here read Life and Death in Shanghai? It’s an autobiographical account of the persecution of one woman who found herself on the wrong side of China’s Cultural Revolution. It’s many years since I read it (too many years – it’s a wonderful book), but the Tim Hunt episode isn’t the first time I’ve been reminded of it in recent years. The public, hostile, vicious abuse of colleagues who had fallen short of the required ideological standards was a feature of life in certain countries behind the Iron Curtain too. It’s hardly an example we should be seeking to emulate. By all means let’s try to create a kinder world; but let’s not kid ourselves that that’s what we’re doing when we’re indulging in unkindness ourselves.



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  • I’m amazed at what women have managed to achieve over the centuries despite their tiny brains.

    I thought Alan was pushing it with that comment about male brains being 6-10% bigger. But at least he linked to his source. Now here you are claiming female brains are tiny! – where did you get your info?



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  • But Tim Hunt has had opportunities to apologise. He could have rectified the situation.

    And don’t forget, what Tim Hunt was saying boils done to women are to girly for science. Isn’t that persecution of a far more pernicious form?

    Uhttp://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jun/10/tim-hunt-women-scientists-nobel-prizewinner



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  • Bull@@@. At no point did I compare Tim Hunt to Islamic extremists. What I did do was point out that the arguments he used – that women are just too distracting to men to be in the same workplace – is exactly the same argument used by some more conservative Islamists to justify keeping women out of the workplace.

    It was certainly the argument used by student Islamist groups to host segregated talks in various universities around the UK. Women and men distract each other therefore the koran suggests they be separated. How is that different to Tim Hunts comments precisely?

    It was similar to the arguments used for segregation in schools involved in the Trojan Horse scandal in Birmingham. Girls and boys distract each other therefore they must sit apart. How does that differ from Tim a Hunts women and men distract each other therefore segregated labs are better.

    And after all of those arguments were put forward by Islamists there were plenty on this site pointing out that men should learn to control themselves rather than suggesting segregation.

    Now instead of being hysterically disingenuous can you point out the specific distinctions between Tim Hunt calling for segregated workplaces because women are too distracting and Muslim students saying the same? Cos I’m struggling.

    And can you point out how women being too distracting to poor old Tim Hunt is any different to women being too distracting to various imams? Who use that very point to suggest the burkha rather than a separate lab as a solution?



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  • Ooh dear I’ve not heard the massive human rights abuses of women meaning we should ignore sexism at home argument for a while.

    It’s possible to be concerned with both you know. And possible to be involved in both as well.

    Let’s broaden that argument shall we. Lets ignore a broken arm because of the massive problems with ebola or AIDs in the third world. Don’t have histrionics about it there are worse things happening.

    Let’s not report our stolen car because somebody has been murdered.

    Let’s not bother with racist jokes or racial discrimination in employment. After all they’re not being lynched.

    Or why bother legalising gay marriage and giving them equality when there gay men are being pushed off buildings by IS. Hey why get hysterical about equality here when it’s worse elsewhere. Why the histrionic fight to legalise same sex marriage when you’re not being murdered!

    We’re not as bad as some people so put with it is not good argument nomorewoo.

    So ponder on the above and tell me why we should ignore sexism that effects our working lives?



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  • I’m not suggesting he’s handled this well, Alice. He hasn’t. PR is clearly not his thing.

    However, read the OP on this thread and you’ll find female colleagues coming to his defence and saying that they have never found him sexist in the workplace. Here’s one:

    “Tim taught me as an undergraduate and I have known him for years,”
    she told the Observer. “It is quite clear to me that he is not a
    sexist in any way.”

    Here’s another:

    Hunt was also supported by Dame Athene Donald, professor of
    experimental physics at Cambridge, who described Hunt’s sacking from
    the ERC as hugely sad.

    “During the time I worked with him he was always immensely supportive
    of the ERC’s work around gender equality.”

    If it later transpires that actually this is just the latest in a line of transgressions, then that would of course change matters. But so far I have seen no evidence that he has ever actually behaved in a sexist way towards his students or colleagues. So far I have seen nothing to suggest that this was anything but a stupid, out-of-character, totally inappropriate remark for which he certainly deserved to be reprimanded, but that could easily have been dealt with by far less sweeping measures under the UCL disciplinary procedure: e.g. a disciplinary interview resulting in a formal warning logged in his personnel file that any recurrence would lead to dismissal; the obligation to work with the UCL PR team to draft an appropriate statement to the press, etc. UCL could also have issued its own official statement saying it totally distanced itself from his remarks and had taken steps to deal with them under its disciplinary procedure, and wholeheartedly welcomed female science students, etc.

    I see no reason to write someone off for what appears to be a first offence. It was a gaffe, and a gaffe badly handled at that. But we are still talking about a man being hounded out of a long and highly successful career for a momentary lapse in ideological purity, and that’s not something I feel at all comfortable with.



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  • Ewan
    Jun 16, 2015 at 1:41 pm

    Oh there’s nothing like a bit of silly “sexism” to bring out the Witchfinder Generals.

    Has this really been the witch-hunt which a number of people have claimed?

    Yep! While some of his comments were ill-advised, he is actually much better informed on the subject, than his knee-jerk critics.

    What happened when Tim Hunt made his remarks was that people who heard about them were generally rather gobsmacked.

    That is a normal ideologist reaction to gosip! The gob-smacked don’t like what he said so he is wrong!

    The idea that a senior, and apparently respected, scientist should consider female scientists to be a bunch of silly girlies struck them as remarkable; so they remarked on it.

    Perhaps you could point out where in his comments he used the term “silly girlies”! I don’t recall seeing it!
    I do recall comments on the different emotional reactions and mental responses of male and female workers. – But that’s science! You can’t expect the media know-it-all politically correct, to understand topics like mental development or psychology!

    And thanks to social media, there were soon vast numbers of people who knew about his attitudes and were mocking them.

    Its not unusual for the media-fed ignorant to be whipped into a frenzy by tabloid gossip!

    Perhaps some of them should have learned to control their emotional reactions and study some of the science I linked earlier!

    It wasn’t mob rule which did for Hunt, it was transparency.

    I think it was “politically correct” science-ignorant administrators, of the “quota mentality”, bowing to media hype.
    I think Hunt was intimidated, and simply not experienced at handling media science illiterates who have no respect for science or scientists.



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  • Tim Hunt must have taught thousand of female undergrads and post grads. Two friends have spoken out. That doesn’t seem to bode well for him.

    I agree 100% that it would have been far far better to have worked with UCLs PR team and come up with a solution and I don’t know why he didn’t

    It would have been better if after that it was made clear that he was on a warning not to make sexist comments in future.

    He did need to be called out on his behavior.

    But I’m also suspicious that that didn’t happen and surprised at the speed at which both institutions ditched him. And in doing is also lost his wife. Which did make me wonder if he was already on those warnings. It is not normal to sack straight away without hearing his side.

    Plus he had opportunities after the initial gaffe to redeem himself. He actually made it worse.

    His career in science was already over in the real sense of the word. He was an honorary professor after all.



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  • Alice:

    And don’t forget, what Tim Hunt was saying boils done to women are to girly for science. Isn’t that persecution of a far more pernicious form?

    Umm no, he didn’t say that. And it was intended to be humorous, or at least an ice-breaker, considering the conference he was addressing. In a court of law, intentions are always a pertinent factor. I agree with what Brian Cox has said, – a complete overreaction by UCL.

    It would be interesting to know what else he said at that conference.



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  • Alice
    Jun 16, 2015 at 12:54 pm

    He could have issued a statement distancing himself from that attitude. He chose instead to say he meant it.

    That’s the thing about scientists quoting well evidenced information!
    They do mean it, even if some of the audience do not like it!

    There’s making a mistake and being an all out arrogant idiot.

    Or perhaps he is just an informed scientist making objective observations, who is out of touch with the culture of political correctness!

    Did you catch this a few years ago. A lot of Tim’s arguments match the Muslim students.

    Funny you should mention comparisons!
    Michelle Obama has just been congratulating aspiring girls in a single sex girls school, where most seem to be wearing head coverings for some reason!

    https://www.richarddawkins.net/2015/06/tim-hunt-ive-been-hung-out-to-dry-they-havent-even-bothered-to-ask-for-my-side-of-affairs/#li-comment-181105



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  • But Tim Hunt has had opportunities to apologise. He could have rectified the situation.

    So you keep saying. From the Guardian link above it’s clear that he wasn’t given a lot of time for apologies. His wife was told by UCL, while he was still on the plane back from the conference, that he should resign or be sacked.

    And don’t forget, what Tim Hunt was saying boils done to women are to girly for science.

    Perhaps, and there were plenty of apt responses from women scientists and others ridiculing him for it. He should have been reprimanded for his remarks, not sacked.

    And BTW, you never did tell us if you think Prof Dame Valerie Beral should resign. Remember, she is the director of Oxford University’s Cancer Epidemiology Unit who not only defended Tim Hunt but went on to say on national radio:

    women are too concerned about the way they are perceived rather than the way their science is perceived.

    AND

    women find the lab environment difficult to cope with emotionally .



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  • Well, it’s two more than his detractors have been able to come up with! If two supporters are insufficient to vouch for his good character in this respect, what should we read into the complete absence (so far, at least) of anyone reporting they’d felt discriminated against by him?

    As for why he didn’t work with the PR team, again, the OP makes it clear that the whole thing engulfed him before he even knew what was happening. Once it was clear what was happening (and therefore that there was a PR crisis that could have done with expert input), UCL unceremoniously dumped him and working with its PR team was no longer an option.

    I quite agree that he should have been warned about the consequences of any further sexist comments in future, and thought I’d at least implied that in my earlier post.

    As for your suggestion that he might have had previous warnings and that this might account for UCL’s hastiness, if that were to prove to be the case it would certainly change matters, as I said before; but right now it is pure speculation, and ungenerous speculation at that. UCL’s hastiness can be equally explained as a panicky reaction to a huge Twitter storm. I don’t know whether you’ve ever been on the receiving end of the kind of massive Twitter attack we’re talking about here, but I have a close friend who has been, and when it happens it is totally overwhelming. Not easy to think straight in those circumstances, whether you’re UCL or Tim Hunt or anyone else.



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  • @ OP – 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.

    There seems to be a dichotomy between those who make and quote objective observations, and quote science, and those who lap up gossip in media hype and wearing ideolog interpretation spectacles.

    I seem to belong with the science school of thought, shared by Hunt’s wife, female colleagues, and Brian Cox.



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  • Intentions are pertinent. It’s intentions rather than the initial gaffe that’s the problem.

    A bad joke could have been rectified the following day when the Today programme asked for a statement. An ‘ooh sh@@ that’s not what I meant, I don’t think that really, I was poking fun at the dinosaurs but I’m not good at jokes’ would have been brilliant!!

    Instead Tim Hunt used that opportunity to make it worse by actually stating he did think that. Whereas, before it could have been a crap joke that people were absolutely gobsmacked to hear in 2015 became an actual attitude.

    He could have asked UCLs PR dept to help him draft a joint statement apologising. He could have used the Guardian article to apologise, take responsibility for what he said and explain what he meant instead of getting emotional and blaming his employers. That didn’t go down well.

    I think everyone would have preferred a unqualified apology with help from UCL. Tim Hunt chose instead to clarify that he meant what he’d said.

    The fact UCL got rid so quickly without offering help and the fact so few of the thousands of women he must have come taught have come out in support is also making me suspicious.



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  • Marktony
    Jun 16, 2015 at 4:11 pm
    Prof Dame Valerie Beral

    “women are too concerned about the way they are perceived rather than the way their science is perceived.

    AND

    women find the lab environment difficult to cope with emotionally

    Strange how this “awful” – “politically incorrect”, sciency stuff, quoted by scientists, sounds just like the link I put on earlier referencing female psychology and mental development!

    http://www.pbs.org/parents/parenting/raising-girls/body-image-identity/understanding-girls-brains/
    Girls (particularly pre-pubescent ones) also have greater sensitivity to noise and tone of voice. As a result, some girls may hear yelling when there is only firmness in an adult’s voice, or take feedback on their work as negative criticism, even when it’s constructive.



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  • I think she needs a reality check. Women find labs emotionally difficult!

    Try medicine. That’s emotionally difficult – telling someone they’ve got terminal cancer, or they’re going blind or their child had just died. Making snap decisions without the luxury of getting it wrong or having time to think out your practical strategy. Thousands of women do medicine very effectively.

    Try the police force. Telling a parent that you’ve found a body that’s likely to be their missing child. Or making the snap decision about whether the guy running away from you into the crowd is doing so because he’s nicked a couple of books from WH Smiths or he’s carrying a bomb. Thousands of women do that.

    Or the armed forces, or nursing or…. Any one of he emotionally difficult jobs that women do every day very effectively.

    Science is essential to society. Scientist invariably very clever, but emotionally difficult it ain’t.

    I suspect she means they are fed up with sexism but that’s a different matter. That’s not finding it emotionally difficult that’s getting angry.

    Should she be sacked? It’s not up to me. But I do think somebody should point out she’s talking nonsense.



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  • The evidence says he made an unacceptable comment. A comment clearly in breach of his contract with UCL. It was witnessed by several people who were so shocked they passed it on. He’s not actually denied making the comment. So that seems to be fact!

    The following day he reiterated that comment on radio 4. That was his free choice, it that was a fact witnessed by many people.

    Of the thousands of women he must have taught and worked with just two seem to support him. Though that might change.

    That’s not media hype that’s a reporting of facts.

    If UCL have unfairly dismissed him he has recourse to industrial tribunals. That’s also fact.

    Oh and evidence if sexism I’m science was requested by you earlier.

    http://www.pnas.org/content/109/41/16474.abstract
    http://sciencecareers.sciencemag.org/career_magazine/previous_issues/articles/2015_06_04/caredit.a1500145

    There’s more on sites like everyday sexism but you’ll have to hunt yourself.



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  • I’ve already asked that question several times and apart from one hysterical response accusing me of comparing Hunt is Islamic extremists I’ve had no reply.

    But I can guess because previous threads have dealt with very similar arguments about women being too distracting and therefore needing to be segregated. They’ve been made by Muslims. I can tell you the reaction did seem to have been somewhat different to the reaction to a Tim Hunt.

    I’ve also asked how his argument differs from those. But again only relieved a hysterical response about human rights abuses against women elsewhere.



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  • Alan4discussion yet more of your interesting gobbets about how women are different. This time from a parenting website no less.

    Now tell me do you how do you get round the problem that Dame Valerie must also have a tiny and hysterical brain? Rendering her comments meaningless. How can you agree with her whilst agreeing that as a woman she’s hysterical?

    Note the comments at the bottom though. Not an absolute difference.

    I’ve found some research you’d just love
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=LS37SNYjg8w



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  • Alice
    Jun 16, 2015 at 4:44 pm

    The evidence says he made an unacceptable comment.

    Would that be “unacceptable to the politically correct”, unacceptable in your opinion, or in some way inaccurate?
    The evidence says his quotes about psychology in the lab, were accurate, but that an opinion on segregation offered as a solution was his own.

    Of the thousands of women he must have taught and worked with just two seem to support him. Though that might change.

    It seems that at present no actual witnesses from this labs are against him, but you have apparently made up your mind on this by way of cognitive bias and wish-thinking about what might happen!

    Oh and evidence if sexism I’m science was requested by you earlier.

    sciencecareers.sciencemag.org/career_magazine/previous_issues

    This is supposed to “evidence” of widespread sexism in science”????

    @ your link* The deleted Ask Alice post offering advice to “Bothered,” a female postdoc whose male adviser “won’t stop looking down my shirt,”*

    Some woman wears an open top shirt to work, and complains on a blog that she thinks here supervisor is looking down it????

    Pleeeease … This is a science site where we know what evidence is!



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  • Alice
    Jun 16, 2015 at 5:00 pm

    Alan4discussion yet more of your interesting gobbets about how women are different. This time from a parenting website no less.

    Anyone seeking actual scientific research can look up the papers which confirm this summary.

    Are you denying this well supported science on mental development and neuroscience, because it conflicts with some ideological views?

    Women ARE different, but I suppose it requires scientific objective observation skills, or a knowledge of biology to notice.



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  • A comment clearly in breach of his contract with UCL.

    I thought it was an honorary position. Did he have a contract? Have you seen it? I don’t think UCL is legally required to give a reason to terminate an honorary position.

    Of the thousands of women he must have taught and worked with just two seem to support him.

    Just two were quoted in the Guardian article. Don’t you think it is a bit presumptuous to assume the rest don’t support him.

    If UCL have unfairly dismissed him he has recourse to industrial tribunals. That’s also fact.

    I don’t think so, if it’s an honorary position.



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  • Ewan
    Jun 16, 2015 at 2:19 pm

    http://www.pbs.org/parents/parenting/raising-girls/body-image-identity/understanding-girls-brains/

    I’m amazed at what women have managed to achieve over the centuries despite their tiny brains. Well done them!

    That parenting link covers the basic mental development from birth to adulthood, which has made up part of the psychology element of education courses for primary school teachers for decades.

    Do you have a problem understanding it?



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  • I’m sat on the fence with this, I see (kind of) both sides. As a young female researcher in science, I took his comments tongue in cheek and found the hilarious side of it – that he could be so hot I could not possibly continue with my work and I must make him fall in love with me. However in terms of keeping pace with the 21st century/social media etc… all members of the scientific community, the academic community even, know that institutions and organisations are really trying their utmost to acknowledge women in science. They are trying to make STEM subjects more accessible to women and young girls. So why on earth he’d make that comment and not expect some kind of backlash is beyond me. People make mistakes, I could say something just as controversial tomorrow but the difference is, he’s in the (scientific) public eye. Just like Watson and his black/Africans are “genetically” the least smart of all. He should count his lucky stars he hasn’t had to sell his Nobel prize for food (yet). For him to feel regret or sorry for himself he had to be ridiculed publicly, but I guarantee he will think next time before he makes such comments so public. We’re human, we do most of the time learn from our mistakes. The person I feel sorry for is his wife and no not because she’s female, but because she’s obviously having to deal with the backlash too.



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  • 95
    ad nauseam says:

    Well, if people want society to move away from using “sexist” language, some punishments like this may help curb that behavior.

    Treat it as if it had been a “racist” comment. Or…admit you don’t want to take the necessary steps to really weed out supposed sexists. (Of course you may have a different definition of sexism)

    Too bad both sexes tend to not agree on what is sexist though…and both sides think they are the “rational” ones…ha



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  • I completely agree with Alice on everything that she has said so far.

    On the natural attrition thing, the sexist view is only degrading “naturally” because of pressures like these. Therefore, we must continue to apply such pressures to this despicable behavior. Richard Dawkins calls out for the ridicule of religious people and not to tip toe around politely. You could just as well argue that the atheist movement is growing slowly, so we should just leave it alone, it will develop on its own. Why must we be polite to this sexist and blame it on his age or how he was brought up? He got what he deserved.



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  • If he would have said the same thing about men, he would not be the feminist’s new darling. Feminism wants to empower women so that both sexes are equal. If he had said the same comments about men, he would have been called out on it as well.
    And why all the fuss? Because comments like that can be seen as something small alone, but comments like that happen everyday all the time and they need to be stopped. If he would have apologized for it in some way, this story would be a lot different.
    Also, you probably wouldn’t be asking, “why all the fuss?” if he had made the comments about Blacks, Asians, or any other minority.



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  • Daniela
    Jun 16, 2015 at 6:06 pm

    On the natural attrition thing, the sexist view is only degrading “naturally” because of pressures like these. Therefore, we must continue to apply such pressures to this despicable behavior.

    Perhaps you would like to explain what aspects of “this despicable behaviour”, are not honest objective reports of events in lab politics, or are explanations of psychology which are scientifically inaccurate.

    BTW: Scientifically accurate material, is derived from evidence based research papers, not chat-rooms, blogs, letters to newspapers, or stuff Alice has made up!



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  • Now instead of being hysterically disingenuous can you point out the specific distinctions between Tim Hunt calling for segregated workplaces because women are too distracting and Muslim students saying the same? Cos I’m struggling.

    LIKE



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  • 102
    aroundtown says:

    It has been interesting to see this thread play-out. You could almost study it as pertains to our emotions and biases generally on the pretty prickly subject of sexism and equality . Parts of it seem to mirror the bygone days of the Roman empire where the people put their thumbs down requiring an effective kill, while others are fairly benign suggesting a minimal flutter to the social fabric which requires little more than caution in the future to insure needed change takes place. The left, right, and center proposition as regards this asserted human failing of Tim Hunt is somewhat astounding as to how wide the perceptions are within a limited group discussion like this one here. If I had to use an example to make a point it would be similar to a court proceeding where the defense and prosecuting attorneys are at odds regarding the punishment the defendant should face, the defense wants probation and the prosecuting attorney wants the death penalty. Just an observation so don’t let it rattle your cage to severely, it’s just an opinion of a middle of the road monkey.

    I will say this and it might shock some here but I went out of my way to do a web search to see what the response had been from the religious community regarding the offenses of Tim Hunt and to my astonishment the amount I could glean was pretty minimal and fairly centered which took me aback somewhat, I expected to see a fairly decided collective voice of decent but it wasn’t there. Makes me wonder if we give them ammunition against us for being too strident in requiring more than a pound of flesh when we seek to level the playing field. Don’t hold it against me, it was simply a test. I wanted to measure the results for a small private experiment. I will admit the sampling was very small in ascertaining a view of a situation like this one but, the results were not what I expected they might be. Maybe someone else can do the same and refute my results/conclusions.



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  • @OP 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.

    It seems Hunt’s greatest error, is explained in the Dunning-Kruger effect of over-estimating the level of understanding of scientific comments, and constructive approaches to looking at evidence, in the wider world:-

    Meanwhile, people with true ability tended to underestimate their relative competence. Roughly, participants who found tasks to be easy erroneously assumed, to some extent, that the tasks must also be easy for others.

    Phoning his wife to demand his resignation while he was still on the aeroplane flying home, before consulting him, is simply inexcusable procedural illiteracy!



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  • Great post @aroundtown. Especially this – “Makes me wonder if we give them ammunition against us for being too strident in requiring more than a pound of flesh when we seek to level the playing field”.



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  • 106
    aroundtown says:

    Stating it crudely, the University seemed to adopt the frenzied torch and pitchfork moment to take down the ogre amongst them, or maybe they simply didn’t want to stand up to the slightest breeze of a social injustice issue within their ranks? Looks like they took a little from both camps this time around.



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  • I think you’ve made my case. Your reaction comes across as absurdly disproportionate … the only person whose life has really been negatively impacted by Dr. Hunt’s comments is his own. If he were truly so set against women in science, he probably wouldn’t have married who he did … and I bet there is a laboratory-love-story there (or something similar). I grew up in a time when women were commonly only paid a fraction of what a man made for exactly the same job … that’s a real women’s rights issue … I just can’t get worked up over a mere half-serious remark from a reputidly good man.



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  • My friend Dan Finke says it best: “The problem with Nobel Laurette male scientists is that when you criticize them they cry.”



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  • Your reaction comes across as absurdly disproportionate … the only person whose life has really been negatively impacted by Dr. Hunt’s comments is his own.

    No actually. Over his career, with his attitude to women in the workplace / laboratory, it means that whether consciously or unconsciously, Hunt has restricted the activity of women. Could it be that a major breakthrough in cancer was stopped, because an up and coming graduate was put off by his sexist attitude. A female Nobel Prize? We will never know. But Hunt is not the victim here. He just reflects what I suspect is his age groups mentality in relation to the sexes, something that seems to fit with your own age related thinking.

    p.s. I am older that you and I have had to change this way of thinking through an act of intellectual audit, which proved to me that these attitudes are wrong. Hunt can do that too. So can you.



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  • David,

    I don’t get upset about minutia. It doesn’t follow that I have dark attitudes that I need to change (I may or may not). As for Tim Hunt, I don’t know him personally. I only know what I’ve read about the comments of his (close) collegues, who were defending him last I read. Maybe there is more to the story than I’m aware, but until I am aware I think it only fair to give him the benefit of the doubt.

    I’ll assume from your confidence you are significantly older than I am — but you can’t really know for sure can you? You can surmise I’m probably human from an online comment (for now), but not too much else!



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  • Some things I have learned today from reading these exchanges:

    Scientists are unworldly and precious flowers, and a little workplace sexual tension would be absolutely devastating to their productivity.

    Making a couple of sexist comments makes you a sexist.

    That only two out of thousands of former students and subordinates spoke up for him is damning; that none of the thousands spoke against him is irrelevant.

    Freedom of speech is alright as long as we’re all in agreement as to what we are and are not allowed to say.

    You can sack someone for discrimination over the course of a sterling career, without trial or hearing, simply based on an attitude/opinion they have expressed on not less than two occasions.
    There is no need whatsoever to do any bloody work and dig up some actual facts, i.e. some actual people who were actually discriminated against. We know that victims exist, because anyone capable of expressing those opinions is clearly guilty of acting them out (in the manner we interpret they would surely be acted out).



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  • 114
    aroundtown says:

    I thought I would inject something into this thread to highlight the fact that men and women scientist can indeed work together to accomplish fantastic goals with enduring cooperation between themselves. I thought it would not only educate but inspire as well.

    The link I am providing is to the New Horizons mission and they have put together a fantastic video presentation that is somewhat long at 58:33 minutes but the program is quite detailed and provides ample proof of an integrated team of men and women scientists who have been together at the task for many years and they are finally approaching their goal that will provide new insights that we didn’t have before. It’s very exciting stuff. Just click on the large panel upper-left to start the video and enjoy the journey. I don’t think you will be disappointed.

    To the mod’s I hope I haven’t stepped out of bounds, it seemed applicable in relation to men and women scientists in the work place. If not please send it to the bin. Thanks

    http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/index.php



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  • Why shouldn’t a woman be a pilot for Christ’s sake? Wow! A woman pilot! Who would have thought it! Give me a break. And your article does not express a new perspective. It would be in Pakistan, however (I think.) What’s your point? Every sensible person already knows that a woman can man an aircraft (No pun intended—part of the language.) How long are you going to keep BRAGGING about what women can do? It’s getting tired.
    Sorry if I sound a touch aggressive; I don’t mean any disrespect; just my forceful way of speaking.



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  • You have a point, Daniela. Perhaps I need to reflect a bit more. Thank you. Seriously. And you too, Alice and LaurieB. (if you’re reading this). What’s with Hunt?

    I was just thinking: my late father (who was a very fine, brilliant man, and did not have a prejudiced or biased bone in his body) would never, ever, ever had made such remarks and acted like that. Sometimes when I engage in comparisons of this kind (which are not “odious”) defects of character become more clearly defined. It’s a good way for me to gain perspective and clarity.

    (He expressed great concern from time to time about some of my attitudes, to be quite honest.)



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  • I say a lot of asinine things. That was one of them.

    However, there are some men who aren’t real feminists; they just want to please women. MLK once said that there are people who do the right things for the wrong reasons. I would add that many people say the right things for the wrong reasons.

    I never say the right thing for the wrong reason. That is because I am not pusillanimous. (Nice word, huh?)



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  • It should be a joke among women and men – that’s the appropriate response to a risible opinion. And that’s assuming it was an actual opinion. If it was a joke, then all it deserved was an awkward silence from the audience, as a 72-year-old man made a fool of himself in an after-dinner speech.

    I have a problem with stifling (or punishing) speech. Treating women and men equally is a moral imperative, not tied to any factual claim of their abilities or characteristics. If what Hunt joked about women is true, so what? I suspect it is true, in some facile way – with opposite sexes in a lab, there is undoubtedly more likelihood of love developing, and women do cry more readily than men, on average. But the real reason we should treat men and women equally is because they are sentient individuals, with aspirations and capabilities that are not constrained by their membership of a group. The moral imperative is to consider each person on their specific, individual merit.

    To punish someone for making a generic statement about women, true or false, is to suggest that such statements are central to the moral issue of how we treat people. It’s making it seem like whether women cry more easily than men is somehow a relevant issue.



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  • 120
    Lorenzo says:

    A couple of weeks ago, when discussing a completely unrelated matter with a friend of mine, she asked “why should we tolerate stupidity?“.
    We both agreed that, as a general rule, we really shouldn’t. Even (and especially) when it comes from Nobel laureates.

    Brief historical interjection: the “women fall in love and cry” prejudice (which is not a joke) is older than freaking christianity. You find traces of it in Virgil’s works, when he sings the adventures of Camilla, who’s slayed because she fell in love with a warrior with a particularly shiny armor.
    So, please, in ~2100 years and surely more we’ve had enough of this rubbish. Especially from people who are supposedly educated well enough to hold a slightly more advanced cultural kernel than the one of Virgil’s. Hunt should have really known better.

    That said, and unlike concerning some questionable shirt, I think the strong reaction in this case is justified: the scientific community does have an issue with women and that issue is rooted in prejudices such as those in Hunt’s opening sentence (not only those, though). Consequences of those prejudices are very not a joke: frozen or delayed career advancements, lower salaries and demotivation. Which are beyond unfair when humanity is concerned and cause a massive brain hemorrhage. This is unjust toward the human kind and hinders science’s progress (shall I quote Mrs. Noether’s Theorem, upon which just about the whole field of Mechanics, in all its flavors, is founded?).
    So… no, not really: if you happen to think that “women fall in love and cry” is joke material you’re unfit for whatever position involves evaluating the work of researchers or students. No matter how many Nobel prizes you won. This is not “revenge”, it’s common sense.



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  • Alice
    Jun 15, 2015 at 6:34 pm

    Er no Vicki, it was the same argument. That people’s work should be judged on its merits. Not judged by perceptions about religion or gender.

    Of course when the religious thinking or gender have actual physical effects on the aptitude for particular jobs, denying the science and the “perceptions” of the science while pretending they are prejudice, makes no useful contribution to managing or understanding the issues.

    If women, or believers, are perceived in a certain way and that impacts on the way their work is perceived than that is wrong. We know sex effects perceptions of scientific work because research has shown it to be true.

    .. . . and as my links show, sex also affects how mental development patterns affect aptitudes.

    Tim Hunt said he was sorry about people being upset about his comments, but pointed out that they were accurate.
    Scientists do not recant science, to appease those whose noise levels appear to be inversely proportional to their understanding of the subject.

    As on this earlier discussion, you are making dogmatic statements and wild assertions, in denial of science, such as applauding the pseudo-science of Templeton sponsored apologists, while demonstrating that you do not understand even the basic scientific issues.

    https://www.richarddawkins.net/2015/06/can-you-be-a-scientist-and-have-religious-faith/#li-comment-180971

    Nobody is supporting sexism in the work place, but militant feminists do their cause no good, when they erroneously make knee-jerk false allegations about scientific statements, bringing their anti-science arguments to the level of anti-vaxers, AGW deniers, and YECs.



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  • Michael G
    Jun 17, 2015 at 4:22 am

    I have a problem with stifling (or punishing) speech. Treating women and men equally is a moral imperative, not tied to any factual claim of their abilities or characteristics.

    Equality of opportunity based on ability, is properly regarded as a right, as is equal treatment of citizens by the state.

    However in academic circles in particular, (though probably not in tabloid comics), the scientific opinion of a Nobel Laureate is NOT equivalent to that of an opinionated scientific illiterate, or some dogmatic, politically correct, ideologist!



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  • aroundtown
    Jun 16, 2015 at 7:11 pm

    Stating it crudely, the University seemed to adopt the frenzied torch and pitchfork moment

    As in many large organisations, there are some people in administration who are far removed from reality, who think they have answers to issues where in reality, they don’t even know what the questions are, or what procedures competent people would take to resolve them!
    It would be interesting to know what were the subject area backgrounds of the people who took the decision to demand his resignation.
    They do not appear to have any comprehension of the sciences of psychology, or mental development, and don’t seem aware of the requirements of employment law incorporated into procedures or codes of conduct.



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  • Alice
    Jun 15, 2015 at 5:11 pm

    huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/10/tim-hunt-female-scientists_n_7553992.html

    Ah! So some women scientists can make flippant comments on blogs as a knee-jerk response to media articles!!

    Who would have thunk it???



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  • 125
    bonnie says:

    “I’m not going to be ignored, Dan” – excuse me for a moment –

    A (not new) perspective, is revealed at bottom of my article, as it pertains to a meme on this thread.



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  • @Alice

    Veggiemsnuk that’s because currently equal rights mainly means getting
    rights for women to make them equal. With occasional getting rights
    for men.

    Can you point me to any right that a man has that women do not? Where are all these Man rights that you speak of?



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  • if you happen to think that “women fall in love and cry” is joke material you’re unfit for whatever position involves evaluating the work of researchers or students. No matter how many Nobel prizes you won. This is not “revenge”, it’s common sense.

    Shall we then, go on a witch hunt (no pun intended) and root out everyone in the sciences who has ever made a remark that does not meet your standards? Shall we call this the Lorenzo Thought Police?

    Besides, women do indeed fall in love and they do indeed cry, just like men.



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  • About a year and a half ago, there was the gender segregation incident at UCL, where an Islamic group hosted a debate on its premises with seating segregated by gender. The response from Dawkins, Brian Cox, Nick Cohen and many others was pretty clear: sex segregation has no place in British universities. Dawkins called for ‘heads to roll’, for people to defend ‘liberal values’ and ‘enlightenment thinking’. The group was banned from UCL and the decision was applauded by many including Dawkins.

    Indeed, Dawkins has previously taken a hard line stance against gender segregation as evidenced by his Twitter feed.
    https://twitter.com/search?q=segregation%20from%3ARichardDawkins&src=typd&lang=en

    Now, a scientist calls for gender segregated labs, he is criticised for it, resigns from his honorary position and yet now people such as Dawkins are calling it a case of the PC brigade initiating a witch hunt, and calling for Hunt’s reinstatement.



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  • Daniela
    Jun 16, 2015 at 6:26 pm

    Also, you probably wouldn’t be asking, “why all the fuss?” if he had made the comments about Blacks, Asians, or any other minority.

    Actually there was media abuse of a primary school head teacher, who asked some petty “politically correct” clerk in an education department, “not to send her any more black supply teachers who could not speak English”!

    Ignoring the issues of language capability, the politically correct bureaucrats, with help from some councillors, had the head suspended, while the “racism” was investigated. – It was also released to the press, where the hype-artists had a field day!

    It seems common, that any mention of reality issues related to race, religion, or sexuality to the politically correct, produces a totally irrational ideological knee-jerk reaction.



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  • Al
    Jun 17, 2015 at 8:18 am

    Now, a scientist calls for gender segregated labs, he is criticised for it, resigns from his honorary position and yet now people such as Dawkins are calling it a case of the PC brigade initiating a witch hunt, and calling for Hunt’s reinstatement.

    There is a difference between making a suggestion in a discussion and actually putting the idea into practise.

    I don’t recall anyone on this site agreeing with his segregation suggestion, although as I pointed out in my earlier comment there is a link to feminist aspirations being applauded in a segregated girls school where head coverings are common.



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  • Marktony
    Jun 16, 2015 at 2:49 pm

    I thought Alan was pushing it with that comment about male brains being 6-10% bigger. But at least he linked to his source.

    These scientists really are lacking training in political correctness!

    First telling us that male and female brains develop differently through childhood: – Next they will be making “sexist remarks” that mature males on average are physically bigger than females, and also making “racist remarks” that on average Caucasians are physically bigger than Japanese! 🙂

    Now [Ewan} here you are claiming female brains are tiny! – where did you get your info?

    I suspect reading contrarian views into my link, using faith-interpretation-blinkers. – Although that is just inspired speculation, so Ewan can answer for himself!!

    Strangely, Alice – with a similar background of Catholic thought, made the same non-sequitur assertion in response to this link!



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  • 132
    raul.chirea says:

    That means that only a man who can control his emotions could work in a lab. As if working in a lab has something to do with the person’s emotions and nothing to do with one’s ability to do science.

    [Slightly edited by moderator to bring within Terms of Use]



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  • Dan,
    I’m not criticizing “darling of the feminists”. I was amused by the imagery. I wonder what a “darling of the feminist” would be like. Please present a list of characteristics forthwith.

    Then I wondered why more men don’t attempt to display those features (whatever they are) because I think there would be substantial rewards for them if they did. Maybe this is what’s going on with the young men now-a-days. They know that young women won’t put up with control freaks (to their credit).

    I never understood what the payoff was for men who vociferously defend the old sexist status quo. Does it increase their fitness? It seems like those tough old bastards who want to keep women in their places (barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen rattling those pots and pans) would only attract Phyllis Schlafly clones to join in the reproduction game with them. I suppose if that’s what they want then they get what they deserve.



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  • veggie,

    Something that feminists are happy to fight for is maternity leave. (In the US we have to battle for these benefits) If women get maternity leave then men should be granted the same right. Good for women and men and their children too.

    From Wiki: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parental_leave

    Paid parental leave has been available as a legal right and/or governmental program for many years, in one form or another. In 2014, the International Labor Organization reviewed parental leave policies in 185 countries and territories, and found that all countries except two (the United States of America and Papua New Guinea) have laws mandating leave; laws vary in whether leave is paid by the employer or through social security.[2]



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  • 135
    raul.chirea says:

    It is obvious that Tim Hunt’s joke is a subtle criticism on women. He was trying to suggest to women to abstain to cry when they are criticized over a scientific matter. And, yes, this is a fact Women tend to cry much more than men when criticized. We all know this from home, parents or spouses. And it’s terribly annoying and distracting at workplace.
    Firing a man just because he expressed a criticism on women (even unfounded) it’s just unacceptable. Since when criticism towards women only is the same with sexism ? If this would be true it means that women are unbelievable sexist because they are constantly criticizing men.



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  • LaurieB
    Jun 17, 2015 at 10:08 am

    I never understood what the payoff was for men who vociferously defend the old sexist status quo.

    I’m uncertain where these sexist men are located (apart from obvious places like Saudi Arabia), although there seem to some feminists who can see them all over the place without any actual evidence of discriminatory activities.

    Does it increase their fitness? It seems like those tough old bastards who want to keep women in their places (barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen rattling those pots and pans)

    I thought this discussion was about the employment of women scientists in labs, staff politics, and staff relationships, with nothing to do with kitchens!



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  • LaurieB
    Jun 17, 2015 at 10:39 am

    Something that feminists are happy to fight for is maternity leave.

    My wife had maternity leave 30 years ago in England.

    Carry on the good fight in the US if you still need to!

    I also had some parental leave when we had the twins.



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  • I think good guides would be would this comment have been offensive if made about a black or gay person.

    Is it rude? Would it be said about a man.

    What context was it said in.



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  • I think it’s generally realised that there are barriers to women succeeding in science in the UK.

    There are two main responses which can be made to this. You can say that this is because women aren’t naturally suited to science (for instance, with their smaller brains and aural sensitivity to men speaking firmly) so their lack of success is to be expected and so nothing needs to be done about it.

    Or you can think that women might benefit from support to overcome those barriers so that both men and women in science are working on an equal petri dish. And there are a large number of current initiatives aimed at doing just that.

    The trouble with Tim Hunt’s comments is that they suggest that he is firmly in the former camp. He sees his female colleagues as “girls”, he seems to find their presence in the lab as troublesome and – possibly worst of all – he seems to blame them for any difficulties that arise; even for him falling in love with them!?

    Such attitudes are wholly outdated. Women are perfectly capable of being effective scientists and those who see it as the career for them should be allowed and encouraged to get on with it.



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  • Alan

    I am aware of the discrepancy in social safety net benefits between US and Europe. I only know that because I’ve lived abroad and traveled. I’ll venture to say that most Americans are in the dark about it though. If they get their “news” from the idiot level nightly news or FOX network then you will be shocked at their ignorant statements on the subject. Even the financially comfortable class here live in fear of layoffs, college tuition debt, medical expense debt and other disasters that could wipe out a lifetime of hard work and frugality. From our perspective our European friends appear to be oddly unconcerned over things like illness, job loss and approaching retirement. They can’t figure out why we have an undercurrent of panic when any of the previous topics come up between us. For just a quick example, my husband will retire four years from now. He will have social security payments and full health care at that time but because I am six years younger than him, I will have no health care insurance during those six years and that’s at a time when I may need it the most in my life. Don’t even get me started on this. 🙁



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  • 143
    Lorenzo says:

    Shall we then, go on a witch hunt (no pun intended) and root out everyone in the sciences who has ever made a remark that does not meet your standards?

    Do you realize that I’ve said that I don’t like tea and you concluded that I will never ever drink any fluid at all (metaphor)?
    What I’m saying is: if you happen to have a bias which is proven to be pernicious, perhaps you shouldn’t be called to judge on matters where that bias may express itself. A fitting example is: would you accept a judge who is an outspoken racist? I would not: racism, when it belongs to judges, tends to send incarcerate more people of the group discriminated against. And that’s pernicious to a fair society.
    While a career delay or a lower salary aren’t as dramatic as detention, and perhaps they aren’t as destructive as years in prison, they have a large impact on a life. Not to mention the extreme unfairness.

    Besides, women do indeed fall in love and they do indeed cry, just like men.

    Don’t play dumb: the fact that men do fall in love at times has never been used to discriminate against them -curiously, it has been used (and it’s currently used) to get back at women, who are guilty of being, say, “distractingly sexy”. As for the teary bit: in some part of the world, a man who cries easily and, in general, doesn’t hide his emotions must still face some “jokes” about him being not so masculine after all… as if masculinity had anything to do with being an insensible dickhead.



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  • Alan,

    I’m uncertain where these sexist men are located

    Are you requesting a list of names and addresses? I don’t have one prepared at the moment but if I ever do compile one (don’t hold your breath waiting) I will have no choice but to put my own two grandfathers, my uncles and my own father at the top of the list. If I took on this depressing task I’d need enough paper to go around the world ten times or enough to go to the moon and back. A more depressing endeavor I can’t conceive of at the present time.

    I thought this discussion was about the employment of women scientists in labs, staff politics, and staff relationships, with nothing to do with kitchens!

    Yes, yes, the point is well taken. Kitchens…labs…tom-AYE-tow…tom-AHH-tow



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  • LaurieB
    Jun 17, 2015 at 2:08 pm

    I will have no health care insurance during those six years and that’s at a time when I may need it the most in my life.

    If you have been following RDFS for some time, you may have seen me put on this link before for the benefit of Americans who are not aware of their exploitation by the medical and insurance industries. !

    http://thesocietypages.org/graphicsociology/2011/04/26/cost-of-health-care-by-country-national-geographic/

    BTW: I have some understanding of US systems, from reading, and from my daughter who spent a year working for a Wall Street law firm specialising in doctor defence.



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  • I suspect reading contrarian views into my link, using faith-interpretation-blinkers.

    I suspect he was putting words into your mouth, as the Mods seemed to imply re Alice’s comment. The implication is that men’s brains (Ewan’s included) are on average about 8% bigger than tiny, so Ewan should be “praising” both men and women for their achievements.

    BTW, a Guardian article yesterday included backing for Tim Hunt from another woman who did research in his lab. She said:

    “Tim is one of the most enthusiastic people in science and backs up his enthusiasm with concrete advice and support. He has continued to advise on my career in science editing whenever I have asked for help.”

    So far as I know all the women that have direct experience of working with him, and have commented, have been very positive.



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  • Al
    Jun 17, 2015 at 8:18 am
    …he is criticised for it, resigns from his honorary position…

    He didn’t just resign, he was forced to resign. Not for discriminating against women, either – there is no record of him acting improperly at all, as far as I am aware. He pointed out some facts about working in labs with women, and made them into a very bad joke which was received frostily. That should have been the end of it. A highly respected 72yo man makes a bad after-dinner joke, and gets criticised and ridiculed on the internet for it. That’s the way it should be. Say something foolishly offensive, have it refuted, look like an idiot.



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  • Thank you for that. Yes, all we are asking for is that equal petri dish. It’s as simple as that.

    Of course, women should have an equal petri dish in the sense of having equality of education and opportunity in STEM fields. Women have suffered dreadfully from sexist discrimination, past and present, that requires remediation through affirmative action in recruiting, training, mentoring and motivation. Men must learn to listen attentively to women, evaluate research on gender-neutral peer review standards, and proactively encourage, support and promote women on their merits

    But Tim Hunt (and his wife) should still have their jobs. Tim Hunt committed a misdemeanor, he uttered a short tasteless “joke” with anachronistic sexist overtones. But he did not commit a crime. At the end of the day, any human endeavor in any field boils down to achievement not a strip search to determine gender. Tim Hunt is an achiever who has been honored with a Nobel Laureate for brilliant research that makes the brightest of the rest of us appear brain dead by comparison. A rational civilized society does not disgrace and decapitate the high achievers who have built it for committing minor offenses against the ideological hysteria raging at the moment.

    I suspect University College London made a simple cost-benefit calculation that the old man’s best work was behind him, his usefulness was spent; and that throwing him under the bus would satiate the mad dogs nipping at his heels while preserving the politically correct reputation of the institution. Ungrateful. Cruel Cowardly. Shameful.



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  • It’s as simple as that

    Who will win the “Darling of the Feminists” award?

    Is there bias and discrimination against good female scientists trying to advance themselves? Is this a “general realization”? Or does it just sound like the right thing to say? Where is your evidence? Maybe things are worse in Great Britain or wherever you live but I don’t think there are any significant barriers here in the U.S. I know a woman who is a geologist. She thinks that that’s a bunch of horse shit…er, manure. She never encountered any resistance of that kind. She worked her ass off, is smart as hell, and is now gainfully employed.



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  • Sorry, my dear. I didn’t read your article carefully. Nor did I think through my comment very carefully. My apologies.
    I wish people would stop ignoring me, by the way. What is it, envy? (I am not referring to this site,—I mean in general.)
    Meme. Are you using that word correctly?
    -Dan the gifted curmudgeon who is under-appreciated and misunderstood



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  • I will be very interested to hear what you think she should have done
    differently.

    I have to read it again. I will get back to you on that, if I can. (Where do you live, England?) Maybe there is no answer to your question and O’Neill was simply depicting a tragic situation, the ugliness and misery of life.

    I wish I could tell you about my sister and what she went through dealing with an embezzling psychopath ex-husband from hell. Makes me wonder about your question. But I don’t think the two situations are the same.



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  • […] keep women in their places […]

    A darling of the feminists is someone who tends to agree with a woman about what she considers sexist, but only because he is afraid of her. Or because he, like a little puppy dog, wants to be stroked. That’s my definition.

    The opposite of that is not a sexist; it is a person who thinks for himself and is, hopefully (but not necessarily), enlightened, progressive and just.

    You tend to think in terms of opposite, polarities, as far as this matter is concerned. I wasn’t setting up or implying the division that you presented in your reply.

    -Dan the great man



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  • LaurieB. I can only relate my own experience.

    Then I wondered why more men don’t attempt to display those features (whatever they are) because I think there would be substantial rewards for them if they did.

    I did. Going back to the late 70’s. Law enforcement. Women were there to look after babies and search women. Just at the start of equality. None of the men wanted to work with the women. Over a 5 year period, I had 4 women partners in a row. During that period, not one physical confrontation. Women calm violent situations. Our partnership productivity stats were the highest in the office. The men in the office derided me. Accused me of just wanting to “Get in their pants”. No defence was adequate or available back them.

    I never understood what the payoff was for men who vociferously defend the old sexist status quo.

    To belong. To be able to sit at the men’s camp fire. To be a warrior. To fit in. To scratch their balls and fart. To beat their chest and relate conquests and fantasies.

    Held this attitude over a 31 year career. Shortly before I retired, I was taken to coffee by 7 women in the office and awarded the title of “Honourary Women” as a mark of the mutual respect. And no guys. I am not gay. I’m so straight, the military use me to sight in their laser beams. Football. Motorcyle racing. All the blokey things. Just couldn’t see the point of trashing 51% of the planets population.



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  • Of course, women should have an equal petri dish in the sense of having equality of education and opportunity in STEM fields. Women have suffered dreadfully from sexist discrimination, past and present, that requires remediation through affirmative action in recruiting, training, mentoring and motivation. Men must learn to listen attentively to women, evaluate research on gender-neutral peer review standards, and proactively encourage, support and promote women on their merits

    It would have been a storm in a tea-cup had this simply been a matter of a joke. But it wasn’t. As Alice has pointed out, when given the opportunity, Tim Hunt didn’t repudiate the attitudes expressed in the joke. On the contrary, he said that he meant what he had said about “girls” in the lab being trouble.

    Not much sign there of affirmative action, attentive listening or proactive encouragement. On the contrary…



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  • But that is still not making women equal, to make women equal would require men to be more equal, which they are not.

    Again, give me a single right that men have that women do not.



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  • Women will never be equal until men stop thinking like men. That requires an act of intellectual will by all men to override a few million years of evolution, but it must be done. What was fine for hunters and gatherers, is not fine in 2015.



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  • Ewan
    Jun 17, 2015 at 2:01 pm

    I think it’s generally realised that there are barriers to women succeeding in science in the UK.

    There are two main responses which can be made to this. You can say that this is because women aren’t naturally suited to science (for instance, with their smaller brains and aural sensitivity to men speaking firmly) so their lack of success is to be expected and so nothing needs to be done about it.

    While women who do have an aptitude for science, should be able to pursue that career, as many (like Hunt’s distinguished wife and the ladies I work with in university laboratories) do in the UK. The recognition of differences of mental development, aptitudes and capabilities means the there is a diversity of talents appropriate to types of jobs.

    There is no merit in ideological quota thinkers, pushing people into jobs where they lack aptitude, simply because the ideology says we are all unipersons with equal capabilities at everything!
    Abundant evidence says we are not!

    Or you can think that women might benefit from support to overcome those barriers so that both men and women in science are working on an equal petri dish.

    If there are places where the barriers are simply bigotry, removing the barriers is reasonable.
    If the barriers are the natural biology of diversity of mental development and aptitudes, using quotas as a measuring tool would be political correctness at its most stupid and destructive!

    And there are a large number of current initiatives aimed at doing just that.

    One area where improvements can be made for both sexes, is avoiding the copying of ideological faith-thinking and the “circular reasoning with retrospective rationalisations”, which is so disabling in understanding and interpreting science.

    Let’s hope that the initiatives are being directed by people who competently recognise biological realities, and not by ideological, politically correct, fundamentalists, who fail at reasoning, and who see only the preconceptions they want to see, while disregarding the evidence!



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  • Ewan
    Jun 18, 2015 at 2:02 am Tim Hunt didn’t repudiate the attitudes expressed in the joke.

    “Attitudes”? – No! Understanding more like it.

    On the contrary, he said that he meant what he had said about “girls” in the lab being trouble.

    My wife who is now retired goes to “girls nights out” with her university colleagues and retired colleagues.
    They have no trouble with the word.
    It is also quite common for elderly gentlemen to refer to younger women as “girls”. Most of them find it flattering!

    Not much sign there of affirmative action, attentive listening or proactive encouragement. On the contrary…

    Why should distinguished scientists be interested in pandering to the ignorant politically correct, who are disputing the factually correct?

    On the contrary…

    The politically correct need to be firmly told to get their heads out of their ideology and into the real world!



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  • Melvin
    Jun 17, 2015 at 9:07 pm

    Men must learn to listen attentively to women, evaluate research on gender-neutral peer review standards,

    Is there any evidence that scientific bodies conducting peer-reviews, are even slightly interested in the gender of the authors of papers or of research teams?

    There seem to be people who have demonstrated a lack of capability in reading and understanding scientific articles, shouting about it, but that is not evidence of any bigoted discrimination on the part of scientific bodies.

    and proactively encourage, support and promote women on their merits

    I thought in UK universities that had been happening for years!
    Tim Hunt’s colleagues and students, seem to be confirming his support and encouragement over the years.



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  • Women will never be equal until men stop thinking like men.

    So, just how should men think then?

    Women think like women do, should they change the way they think too?

    By the way, women are not equal, there are physical differences after all.

    But Women DO have equal rights to men, so in the eyes of the law, women are equal to men.



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  • So, just how should men think then?

    When you are interacting, it is one human being to another. Nothing else matters. That goes for men and women. Loose the stone age brain.

    By the way, women are not equal, there are physical differences after all.

    Yep. But in the workplace, they don’t matter. Do you have women in your army, navy and airforce?

    But Women DO have equal rights to men, so in the eyes of the law, women are equal to men.

    And like a lot of the law, the application falls short of the intent. We’ve had equality laws for years in the free western world. In Australia, women still earn less for the same work as men. Women are grossly under representative the moment you move past middle management. Women are grossly under represented in Parliament. The Australian government ministry has just got its second women???? 22 men and 1 women. (Of course they are the conservatives. The little women should be home, pregnant and barefoot in the kitchen.) Appealing to the law is no defence to reality.

    I don’t know if you are a man Veggie, but if you are, you display all of the attributes of the problem. Every item you listed is why women still are second class systems. Time for a re-education camp.



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  • David R Allen
    Jun 18, 2015 at 6:53 am

    By the way, women are not equal, there are physical differences after all.

    Yep. But in the workplace, they don’t matter. Do you have women in your army, navy and airforce?

    But Women DO have equal rights to men, so in the eyes of the law, women are equal to men.

    We need to remember that the topic is Tim Hunt at an English university.
    I have no doubt there is discrimination in industries and the science and social responsibilities, are a mess in the USA and in other geographical locations.

    And like a lot of the law, the application falls short of the intent.

    English universities go to great lengths to ensure a lack of racial or sexual discrimination in students’ exam work.

    Anonymous marking with the examiners only having an ID number on the answer paper, means that no race , sex, or star student in lectures, is given biased marking.

    There are considerable gender biases between subject areas which appear to be related to mental aptitudes based on mental development.
    As I mentioned earlier, women are in the majority on language and language related courses, while men predominate in engineering and science.
    There may be some cultural elements in this, but there is undoubtedly a developmental difference in mental development from birth.
    It is very noticeable that girls in primary school learn to read at an earlier age, and grow and mature quicker than boys.

    This has been established by decades of research, and is usually obvious to those who deal with school classes grouped by age.

    We’ve had equality laws for years in the free western world. In Australia, women still earn less for the same work as men. Women are grossly under representative the moment you move past middle management.

    For senior posts where the extent of experience matters, considerable numbers of women, drop back from the competition to raise families.
    The heavy work-load and long hours of such top jobs can also be a deterrent to women with children.

    Women are grossly under represented in Parliament.

    You quote Australia, but in the UK there are significant numbers of women in parliament, although Northern, Scottish, or Northern Irish MPs need to live in London through the week, and often have political work to do in their constituencies at weekends.

    http://www.parliament.uk/education/about-your-parliament/introduction/women-in-politics/
    Nearly a quarter of MPs in the House of Commons today are women and female members of the House of Lords make up about a fifth of the total membership.

    There are plenty of places where bigoted discrimination is rife, but I think feminists targeting ill-informed abuse at people like Tim who have actively supported the advance many of female science students, is a counter productive, and a diversionary smoke screen.
    Ideology obscures real issues, and undermines the cause of those who are working constructively give those with the talents opportunities to exercise them.



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  • Alan4discussion

    It is also quite common for elderly gentlemen to refer to younger women as “girls”. Most of them find it flattering!

    What if elderly gentlemen refer to black guys as “boys”. Will most of them find it flattering?



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  • It is also quite common for elderly gentlemen to refer to younger women as “girls”. Most of them find it flattering!

    Perhaps the elderly gentlemen should check the appropriate definition of “girl” in the Merriam Webster dictionary.

    sometimes offensive : a single or married woman of any age



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  • I tend to take a measured stance between Alan4 and Ewan in the debate. Certainly there has been gross discrimination against women not just in STEM fields, but in Academia, business, the professions. Until the late 60s, early 70s women’s place was in the home, mandated to performing the subservient role of homemaker, wife and mother. The women’s movement, the one or two child or even childless marriage, combined with the necessity for two-incomes to support families, have liberated women into mainstream opportunities previously granted mostly to men.

    Moreover the old boys club though aging still influences gender bias in hiring and promotion. Consistent with many other observers of the scene, I note the tendency of men to “talk over” women in meetings, ignore or downplay their good suggestions, or even adopt them then take the credit.
    Women labor against a persisting legacy of discrimination and bias in the workplace. Men and women alike must be conscious of sexist disparities and work to correct them.

    The need to level the playing field between the sexes sadly, perhaps inevitably, has been corrupted by ideologies which swing the pendulum in the opposite direction. Radical feminism has poisoned the current atmosphere by stereotyping men as pretentious tyrants suppressing the natural genius and virtue of women. Tim Hunt is a case in point. A lifetime of copious brilliant achievements in his field has been expunged in favor of having an old man, purged in a cultural revolution, forced to his knees in the public square with a sign hung from his neck that reads, I AM A SEXIST PIG.



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  • UCL’s Equalities and Diversity Strategy 2011- 2014 (which can be found online) makes for an interesting read given the Tim Hunt furore.

    Its ethos gives a hint as to why the College’s response was so speedy.

    UCL has been committed to inclusivity and diversity since its inception in 1826, when it became the first English University to admit students regardless of their religion. It was also the first to admit men and women on an equal basis.

    The University is committed to developing and maintaining an institution where staff and students from all backgrounds can flourish, and so we recognise the importance of taking a proactive stance in creating equality of opportunity and promoting diversity.

    And from its current Equality Objectives:

    To ensure firm, visible leadership and commitment on equalities and diversity from the university’s most senior figures.

    To recruit and retain more female staff and students into Science, Engineering and Technology (SET) disciplines.

    I don’t think Sir Tim was really on-message.



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  • LaurieB
    Jun 18, 2015 at 11:10 am

    What if elderly gentlemen refer to black guys as “boys”. Will most of them find it flattering?

    Probably not – especially in the southern US.

    It is probably a regional use of language.

    As I said earlier:

    “My wife who is now retired goes to a “girls nights out” with her university colleagues and retired colleagues.”

    . . . . With me often being given a message “from the girls”, to pass on about the time and venue where they are meeting.



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  • 170
    bonnie says:

    “girls nights out”…they’ve no problem with the word

    Because they “own” the word / phrase, as do other folk with whatever name. Self-preservation, an unwritten law of “we can say it, but no one else”.



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  • Ewan:

    To ensure firm, visible leadership and commitment on equalities and diversity from the university’s most senior figures.

    To recruit and retain more female staff and students into Science, Engineering and Technology (SET) disciplines.

    I don’t think Sir Tim was really on-message.

    Nor would it seem is the RCC. A female Pope Ewan ? Go on – why not ?



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  • Its ethos gives a hint as to why the College’s response was so speedy.

    “Ethos” is an ambiguous word which lends itself to both positive and negative interpretations applied to the Tim Hunt episode. Admitting qualified students pursuant to a policy of promoting a diverse student body is commendable. Purging high-achieving research scientists from faculty for uttering a brief “joke” offensive to the progressive administration sends the wrong message. One elderly genius momentarily expressing the stereotypes and prejudices of his youth represents no threat to the popular mission statement of UCL. As long as he does not discriminate against female students, fulfills his teaching obligations, behaves professionally, refrains from abusive language, and maintains congenial impartiality regardless of gender, this isolated faux pas should be forgiven.

    When “ethos” grades into political correctness, a “speedy response” takes on the color of hysteria and reflexive reprisal. In Tim Hunt’s case, our attention is diverted from the primacy of scholarly achievement combined with a distinguished career as the core ethic of academic institutions. Instead the spotlight inadvertently falls on what amounts to the Admissions Office where applicants are broken down like so many digits on the basis of gender, race, ethnicity and socioeconomic class.



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  • Is there any evidence that scientific bodies conducting peer-reviews, are even slightly interested in the gender of the authors of papers or of research teams?

    Yup.



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  • Yep. But in the workplace, they don’t matter. Do you have women in your army, navy and airforce?

    In your army, do women fight on the front line? Not in the British army yet. Women may be on the front line but not in a close combat role – that may change in 2016. But if they are allowed, it is likely that the combat fitness test will be less stringent for women. Take a look at the men vs women scoring for the US marines combat fitness test.

    Another obvious one is professional sports. The pay is much higher in the English premier league than in the top women’s leagues. But you won’t find many women players calling for an end to segregated leagues – I wonder why?



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  • Looks like Nature isn’t on Tim Hunt’s side.

    All involved in science should condemn the comments, which suggested that single-sex labs might be preferable because “girls” tend to fall in love with their male colleagues and cry when criticized.

    Whether or not the reaction has been fair, his comments and attitudes have become shorthand for the dismaying extent to which sexism still pervades science, and serve as a prompt to discuss the problem.

    The challenge and the consequences of the lack of women in research — especially at senior levels — are expressed in many ways, with worrying persistence. Evidence suggests that too many women encounter patronizing attitudes or harassment in research contexts — whether at work, at academic conferences or in the field. Recent evidence, such as studies of mock hiring exercises, and analysis of grant success rates, authorship assignment and citation counts, suggests that discrimination against women runs deep in the psyches of both genders.

    The problem is serious and long-standing.

    They should know.



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  • Well maybe a few priests first, then a bishop or two before the cardinals and the Holiness herself ? Since you are so in favour of women’s equality, as I am, and have stated, perhaps you could speak out against the evident misogyny of the church to which you adhere ! Holy Jo, and the RCC, won’t mind, he’s even anti fossil fuel now !

    They should know

    Indeed they should.



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  • Ewan
    Jun 18, 2015 at 3:05 pm

    Is there any evidence that scientific bodies conducting peer-reviews, are even slightly interested in the gender of the authors of papers or of research teams?

    Yup.

    While the phrasing does look like inappropriate sexist comment, the other comment might explain the exasperation of the reviewer.

    the only other comments were that the study was “methodologically weak” and “has fundamental flaws and weaknesses that cannot be adequately addressed by mere revision of the manuscript, however extensive.”

    So it appears to be a very poor study unfit for publication, where the authors have nit picked the reviewer’s foolish comments in response to the criticism of their work and then complained about the tone!

    As there is an appeal there should be further information on this later. It would also be interesting to know the topic of the study, and if there were gender related aspects to this, which could have formed a basis for the comments.

    So far there is just a newspaper article which contains none of the substance of the study in question.



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  • It’s a very fine line between making people “conscious of sexist disparities and work to correct them” and “radical feminism.” Is it radical to point out a sexist comment? How else would one become aware? You made some good points, especially about the tendency to talk over women (and not just in meetings). We shouldn’t have to scream to be heard. Unfortunately, sexism won’t die out with the old guys. That is, unless I’m the only one who sees buxom blondes in impossibly high heals selling cars and the news on television. Humans have few instincts, but sex is one of them, and it boils down to reconciling our baser instincts with our evolved intelligence.

    For the record, I strongly disagree with Hunt’s punishment-I do not think he was intentionally being sexist. And that, to me, is at the core of this particular issue.



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  • So the editorial in Nature does not agree with Tim Hunt’s comments, in fact they find them very wrong. But then most here also don’t agree with Tim Hunt’s comments. The question is, should he have been forced to resign. It seems Nature is staying neutral:

    “Whether or not the reaction has been fair,…”



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  • Vicki:

    For the record, I strongly disagree with Hunt’s punishment-I do not think he was intentionally being sexist. And that, to me, is at the core of this particular issue.

    Spot on !



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  • Ewan
    Jun 18, 2015 at 3:13 pm

    Looks like Nature isn’t on Tim Hunt’s side.

    it looks like even they have a “politically correct quota minded” editor with an opinion promoting political correctness rather than any scientific analysis or evidence based proposals.

    Perhaps the best comment from the Nature site evaluating this article is here:-

    @link Imposing quota, within a scientific journal, based on anything other than the quality or significance of the science is extreme and insane.The arguments in this editorial are unscientific and contain no objectivity. The tone and style is authoritarian, moralistic, dogmatic and self-righteous. The title reflects that of an editorial during culture revolution or a fringe leftist propaganda publication. It’s utterly disappointing that such a mainstream publication is so extreme. What has happened to science?

    The article you link is quota ideology, not science!

    Science is about the quality of the work on its merits regardless of gender. Not about some arbitrary pseudo-balance of contributors.



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  • Science is about the quality of the work on its merits regardless of gender. Not about some arbitrary pseudo-balance of contributors.

    Alan4 goes to the bottom line of the issue.

    Perhaps no one wants to touch the third rail, but there is an outstanding question about the disposition or predisposition of women to undertake certain work. For reasons that are not yet clear, there are jobs that women with few exceptions will not do. Consider the so-called trades with virtually all-male membership: plumber, electrician, auto mechanic, carpenter (the multiple construction trades in general). The dismissive
    college educated may sniff at these occupations but I wonder if the scarcity of women in hands-on mechanical trades may not provide a clue for the paucity of women entering STEM fields. Nitty-gritty technical work holds little allure for females perhaps suggesting less aptitude for technical or mechanical innovation, or at least less interest in mechanical challenges. Indeed the inventors of machines throughout history from the loom to the cotton gin; from the telegraph/telephone to the computer; from trains, planes and automobiles have all been men. I can’t remember a feminist proposing a female equivalent to the Wright brothers (sisters?) or Thomas Edison.

    There is nothing defective, nothing “wrong” about the female brain compared to the male brain. The range of cognitive skill measured by the “g-loaded” composite score of an IQ test battery shows no significant differences. The abstract reasoning skills required for math and science are equal. Nonetheless I speculate that the pool of women predisposed to implement these skills and pursue their development and expression at the highest levels of achievement in STEM fields is much smaller than the pool of men so disposed.

    With more women graduating with university degrees than men in general and more and more with degrees in STEM fields, we may well see this gap closing over the next 20 years. Nothing should stand in the way of women developing their interests and talents in science to the highest levels of complexity. But we should not demand that equality of opportunity result in equality of outcome.



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  • But we should not demand that equality of opportunity result in equality of outcome.

    But demanding equality of opportunity would be a start. Along with the recognition that it’s not always found in science.

    Evidence suggests that too many women encounter patronizing attitudes or harassment in research contexts — whether at work, at academic conferences or in the field. Recent evidence, such as studies of mock hiring exercises, and analysis of grant success rates, authorship assignment and citation counts, suggests that discrimination against women runs deep in the psyches of both genders.



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  • 184
    aroundtown says:

    This Tread is useful in two ways, not only does it address the supposed failings of Tim Hunt, it also shines a light on the personal moral high ground we can assume when we compute social missteps through our internal barometers when we judge someone other than ourselves.

    I adopted a tool from my guitar playing community that applies to situations like this one – perform within you abilities, don’t play above or below your skill level, and attempt to stay “right sized” with your playing. May sound goofy but it applies to other areas as well, and you see it as it plays out with social interactions too, especially with the religious. The point is, you often see the religious assuming the moral high ground as regards our actions in life, but on close examination they provide ample proof of individual failure to meet all of the criteria of their good books direction. Ironically the bible says you are flawed and unworthy, a sinner, but there in nothing quite so wondrous to see as a christian when they try to put you in the deepest pit of hell for failing to measure up.

    The lesson I mentioned above has one other distinction that cuts to the chase – just because you may not be able to play like Eric Clapton, David Gilmour, insert your pinnacle player of choice, your right sized abilities should not be mocked, but this happens all the time when some hot-shit player thinks he’s so good that you should bow down to his magnificence, just goofy but it’s common place in actual fact. Compassion for unequal performance is waxed-over all the time, or judged harshly as failure and error, and that serves no one in my opinion. For extreme example just take a look at the Hollywood crowd when they laud accolades and trophies onto their hero’s and showcase the event when they place them on a pedestal, high above the rest, for all to see.

    I would suggest that everybody starts somewhere before they attain expert level as regards any endeavor, and that includes social interaction tools/abilities, but judging those below you on the success scale of social interaction supremacy, once you’ve attained fairly high ability, often suggests that you may not be taking into account your failures as you climbed to the top of that mountain of supposed rightness in it all.

    Regarding Tim Hunt within this framework would suggest that he is certainly in possession of some of our human frailties, and capable of a social faux pas just like anyone else, but because of his station and success in academia he is judged in totality due to that distinction, and the view of the man outside of that station of academic master isn’t applied as regards his run of the mill common human failure potential.

    At this point I think it should be obvious that I do not suffer the Dunning-Kruger effect, and this is just the opinion of a back bencher who sees some applicability as pertains to this discussion and thread. Just two cents from a complicated monkey really.



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  • Melvin
    Jun 18, 2015 at 5:34 pm

    Science is about the quality of the work on its merits regardless of gender. Not about some arbitrary pseudo-balance of contributors.

    Alan4 goes to the bottom line of the issue.

    Perhaps no one wants to touch the third rail, but there is an outstanding question about the disposition or predisposition of women to undertake certain work. For reasons that are not yet clear, there are jobs that women with few exceptions will not do. Consider the so-called trades with virtually all-male membership: plumber, electrician, auto mechanic, carpenter (the multiple construction trades in general).

    In an earlier comment I mentioned the disparity in the numbers enrolling for university courses across different subjects. The ones you mention are indeed noteworthy.

    I can only offer my personal observations on a limited sample the M/F numbers on registers as I have only worked for two universities, but gender concentrations in subjects selected by personal choice and previous academic qualifications, has been fairly consistent over many years.

    Nonetheless I speculate that the pool of women predisposed to implement these skills and pursue their development and expression at the highest levels of achievement in STEM fields is much smaller than the pool of men so disposed.

    It is no more use pretending that women are being discouraged from taking technical subjects, than it is to pretend men are being discouraged from taking languages or nursing. There are gender differences and gender preferences.

    There are of course some highly skilled women in the minorities on these courses, and I have seen no evidence anyone is discouraging them.

    But we should not demand that equality of opportunity result in equality of outcome.

    I think the “quota mentality”, is already building up a track record of unfortunate and unproductive appointments, in selecting less than the best available candidates.
    Political correctness in place of forward vision, seems to manifest its self especially in unimaginative employees in administrative positions.

    The dismissive college educated may sniff at these occupations but I wonder if the scarcity of women in hands-on mechanical trades may not provide a clue for the paucity of women entering STEM fields.

    I don’t think there is a problem with the “college educated”, although the university built environment, and mechanical/electrical engineering faculties, are distinctly male dominated as far as student numbers go.



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  • 186
    aroundtown says:

    ‘I’ve been hung out to dry. They haven’t even bothered to ask for my side of affairs’

    For clarity as concerns my post above. In my opinion the reason many haven’t bothered to see his side of the affairs is due to them utilizing their personal prism perspective that matches their side of affairs first, only then does the recipient receive judgement. Personal bias is certainly going to be involved, and the measure and opinions may not be centered as is fairly apparent.



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  • LaurieB:

    How about “lady”? (They were having this discussion in the Seventies: have we made no progress?)
    Sexist too?
    My definition of a lady: she does everything a woman does.—But she does it with a little more style.
    I defined “darling of the feminists” for you. (It’s somewhere up there.) There are a lot of them on this thread.



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  • Not sure about the flattering part but it’s quite common where I live for a man in his fifties to refer to a guy who’s say.. 25,26,27 as a boy. 25 just isn’t a grown man to them.



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  • Bonnie:

    Man 1: “You are doing one hell of a wonderful job, Bonnie. I am so very glad you are on our team. You are a brilliant girl!”

    Man 2: “Will you stop complaining, you silly little girl!”

    Two sentences. Both more or less offensive (depending on your point of view). But the top one is clearly less offensive.—Perhaps many would take no offense at all.

    My point: context is important. The meaning of words are defined through context and other elements associated with speaking (tone of voice, for example). We mustn’t get too caught up with the words themselves.

    Why do I have to be so smart? It’s lonely at the top.



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  • I do not think he was intentionally being sexist. And that, to me, is
    at the core of this particular issue.

    Spot off – about this (pasted above): unintentional sexism is worse than intentional sexism.
    I have always been very critical of many feminists, but a fact is a fact.
    Vicki, have you read Ibsen?



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  • Good point, Ryan. I try to remind people of the importance of context and discourage rigid fixations with words. (I seldom succeed.) We all need to be a little more sensible, don’t you think? I thought we were finished with all this crap about lady vs woman, etc. Can’t we move on to higher ground? It’s boring. Too many boring zombies getting hurt feelings. Just be good at what you do, women, and yes, assert yourselves when you need to; don’t take any lip from anyone.—But you’ll be fine. This is 2015.

    I know a woman who is a geologist and geographer. She never encountered any resistance of the kind I have been hearing about on this and other threads. She was determined, worked her ass off, is smart as hell, and is now gainfully employed. The exception proves the rule, but I don’t think that hers is an exceptional case. Could be wrong. I’ve been wrong before . . . Once—a long time ago.



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  • This is an interesting piece of research which suggests one way in which women are discriminated against in science.

    And, of course, the discrimination identified affects the equality of opportunity rather than the equality of outcome.



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  • Hi Ewan, I think you’ve spoken very well on this subject. I’m also curious though of your views on women and the Catholic church. Should women be allowed to be priest? Will there ever be a female Pope?

    To be honest, I feel a little bit like a jerk for asking the question since your heart is in the right place in regards to this topic. But considering the nature of this website and your beliefs I think it’s a interesting and worth while question.



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  • A female Pope? Why not? Women can pretend to be holy just as well as men.

    “Evidence suggests that too many women encounter patronizing attitudes or harassment in research contexts.”

    Convince me that this evidence is worthy of my respect and I will then acknowledge that this particular member’s heart (and mind) is in the right place.

    I could just as easily say: “evidence suggests the opposite.” Both statements are undeserving of any real attention. Btw, there might BE evidence of these attitudes.—I just want to know how something like this is established. I am not asking for proof; if this claim about evidence is based on someone’s observations and real experience presented in the form of a sincere narrative then that would illicit respect. Personal experience will do. But just saying that there is evidence will not suffice. I am skeptical.

    I have said this before and I will say it again: there are all too many men who like to say that so and so is a sexist or that this and that is sexist.–But they are having some kind of knee-jerk reaction. They just want to please women, out of fear, or for some other reason. (Guilt? Who knows.) This is my observation. Hell, I do it myself sometimes; I often find myself apologizing for remarks that I meant.

    -Dan the gadfly



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  • Do I fit in this category.

    They just want to please women, out of fear, or for some other reason. (Guilt? Who knows.)

    See my post above at this reference, and judge my motives.

    David R Allen Jun 18, 2015 at 12:04 am.



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  • I have read Ibsen-A Doll’s House was pretty astounding for that time.

    …unintentional sexism is worse than intentional sexism…

    Maybe how one handles it defines the difference between feminism and radical feminism.



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  • Dan
    Jun 19, 2015 at 3:32 am

    “Evidence suggests that too many women encounter patronizing attitudes or harassment in research contexts.”

    I could just as easily say: “evidence suggests the opposite.” Both statements are undeserving of any real attention. Btw, there might BE evidence of these attitudes.—

    It is interesting that on analysis of this link which Ewan posted as evidence of sexual discrimination, it could be equally interpreted as over sensitive people, tone trolling (about a silly poorly phrased remark) as a denial response to damning criticism of poor work.

    https://www.richarddawkins.net/2015/06/tim-hunt-ive-been-hung-out-to-dry-they-havent-even-bothered-to-ask-for-my-side-of-affairs/#li-comment-181389

    I have said this before and I will say it again: there are all too many men who like to say that so and so is a sexist or that this and that is sexist.–But they are having some kind of knee-jerk reaction. They just want to please women, out of fear, or for some other reason.

    There is considerable evidence on this thread of knee-jerk reactions, totally misreading “offensive scientific facts and evidence”, which challenge ideological cognitive biases.

    Ideologies are very much about pandering to group-think.

    There is a massive difference between having opportunities impartially open to everyone to make the best use of their capabilities, and deciding by circular thinking, that we are all unipersons, so sex related, age-related, and race related quotas must be forced into specialist workforces or publications.



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  • Alan,

    I think it is worth posting here this paragraph from your link above just so people can see it here.

    Differences begin before birth.
    JoAnn Deak, Ph.D., an expert on brain research, reports that the differences in male and female brains start in the womb. “Many female brains have more neurons in certain areas than male brains, as a result of having more estrogen bathe them during fetal development. A hormonal/chemical wash (estrogen for girls, testosterone for boys) actually enhances certain parts of the brain and changes them structurally before birth. Therefore, each of us is born with different hard wiring.”

    It is the Hard Wiring which is most important here I think.



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  • Vicki
    Jun 19, 2015 at 4:20 am

    unintentional sexism is worse than intentional sexism

    Maybe how one handles it defines the difference between feminism and radical feminism.

    Very much so: – particularly when initially establishing if there is any sexism at all, if the matter is trivial or serious in its implications, or if information is simply inconvenient facts which are distasteful to radical ideologies.



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  • Ewan
    Jun 19, 2015 at 1:54 am

    This is an interesting piece of research which suggests one way in which women are discriminated against in science.

    And, of course, the discrimination identified affects the equality of opportunity rather than the equality of outcome.

    This is an American study, which does indicate bias in the US process used.

    @link – Despite efforts to recruit and retain more women, a stark gender disparity persists within academic science. Abundant research has demonstrated gender bias in many demographic groups, but has yet to experimentally investigate whether science faculty exhibit a bias against female students that could contribute to the gender disparity in academic science.

    There can of course be many other reasons for disparity of numbers selected for posts – such as the gender balance of numbers and quality of applications.

    In a randomized double-blind study (n = 127), science faculty from research-intensive universities rated the application materials of a student—who was randomly assigned either a male or female name—for a laboratory manager position. Faculty participants rated the male applicant as significantly more competent and hireable than the (identical) female applicant. These participants also selected a higher starting salary and offered more career mentoring to the male applicant.

    In UK equal opportunity employers, (as for university exams) applications are identified by code numbers, so that short-listing staff do not see a name which is indicative of gender or race.

    The gender of the faculty participants did not affect responses, such that female and male faculty were equally likely to exhibit bias against the female student.

    If there are common perceptions by both male and female members of the selection panel, perhaps they do have an experience based understanding of sexual differences effects on scientific and management work.

    It does seem a bit of a strange uncharacteristic appointment, that students would be appointed directly to team management positions, without prior experience of that type of responsibility.



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  • 204
    Pinball1970 says:

    Much ado about nothing

    He should have stayed in his post and said I am just a bit of a dinosaur sorry.

    so am I, it’s an occupational hazard of being born in the 1960s and does not mean I hate, want to demine, rape, coerce, bully or leer at women in the work place.

    It just means having grown up in a house full of women (as he has) one notices trends and should report on them fully without fear of being called a sexist.



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  • bonnie
    Jun 19, 2015 at 8:15 am

    This time round, RD is “outspoken”, not “controvers-i-al”.

    I think it was a mistake for Tim Hunt to allow himself to be forced into resigning. Had he resisted, the ideological shower would have had to face facts and opposition before proceeding.

    They are probably going to discover that flack can fly in more than one direction, as some science and procedure illiterates discovered, when they had a pop at me on an unrelated matter some years ago!
    (The main instigator was forced into retirement, as it had not occurred to him, that making up incompetent crap on the record, about people who actually know the subject and can quote relevant documents, is likely to produce a damning response! – The bureaucrat who initially covered up for him, was less than happy when I suggested to his new boss {dealing with consequential bottom in the country standards} , the idea of looking into the matter where his old boss had carried the can for him while he kept his head down!)



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  • Because they “own” the word / phrase, as do other folk with whatever
    name. Self-preservation, an unwritten law of “we can say it, but no
    one else”.

    Sorry, again, my abrasive Scottish friend, although your brand of subtlety, your cryptic utterances, and obscure references, do not lend themselves to email or posted comments. Was this meant ironically? I thought it implied the premise that certain words – in this case “girl” – were okay for women to use, but not okay for others to use.

    What does this mean?



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  • “outspoken”, not “controvers-i-al”.

    Many feminists do not like or appreciate distinctions of this kind, are way too quick to condemn from without,—and that gives the rest of them (us) a bad name. Quickness to condemn, as I have remarked elsewhere, is the absolute mark of the psychotic – and of a commonplace mind. (Have I misunderstood something again?)

    Take the next step and substitute the word “sexist” for “controversial.”



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  • It seems the informed science community is bringing informed scientific opinion to the fore in contrast to the superficial twitterings which knee-jerked into “offended by facts” mode!

    http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/jun/19/tim-hunt-the-victim-of-self-righteous-feeding-frenzy-says-richard-dawkins
    In his letter to the Times, Dawkins said: “Along with many others, I didn’t like Sir Tim Hunt’s joke, but ‘disproportionate’ would be a huge underestimate of the baying witch-hunt that it unleashed among our academic thought police: nothing less than a feeding frenzy of mob-rule self-righteousness.”

    Others to come to Hunt’s defence have included the mayor of London, Boris Johnson, who called for his reinstatement, and television physicist Professor Brian Cox, who said the remarks had been “very ill-advised” but that the response – which also saw him give up a position at the Royal Society – had been “disproportionate”.

    Mind – I have to say, it’s not often that I agree with Boris!!



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  • We all remember the sexist scenes depicted in all their excruciating glory from movies of the 50s and 60s…”Whats a pretty girl like you doing on this island gathering bugs to look at under a microscope. Don’t you want to get married and have kids like a normal woman?”

    Thanks to cultural evolution times have changed. A revolution in social consciousness elevating gender equality into a public priority has played out over the last 50 years, making sexual discrimination and harassment universally condemned and official management intolerant of behavior that could even appear as justifiable grounds for accusations and legal action. Of course there will be incidents of unwelcome advances, hostile work environments, and sexually “inappropriate behavior”, but fewer and fewer men inclined to take liberties will be fool enough to play Russian roulette with five bullets in the chamber. Human resources departments have undertaken remarkable, sometimes extraordinary efforts to recruit, hire and promote women. The 21st century has developed into the first golden age for women in the workplace; in business and the professions.

    Nonetheless when we talk about Science, and the men and women who pursue careers in STEM fields, it’s important to recognize not only unique challenges to cognitive ability but also to sustained enterprise driven by work ethic that stand between an individual and high-level achievement.

    To be sure, large cohorts with adequate technical scientific education can get a “job” in a lab, or otherwise demonstrating aptitude, can become remarkably competent from on-the-job training in performing skilled tasks. But Science is not easy, and arguably much more intellectually challenging than other fields. The serious talented woman committed to practicing science passionately for the long term would not be deterred by the kinds of piddling incidents and obstacles discussed on this thread. Like anyone she will suffer slights and resistance to her aspirations form many sources, some of them obviously or subtly interpreted as “sexist” because she is necessarily a woman and the alleged perpetrator is necessarily a man. If she cannot stay the course, do her work, overcome setbacks, and pursue her ambitious research – publishing findings requisite for earning peer recognition, then she just doesn’t have the fire in the belly that the discipline demands.



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  • Others to come to Hunt’s defence have included the mayor of London, Boris Johnson, who called for his reinstatement, and television physicist Professor Brian Cox…

    …not to mention Katie Hopkins.



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  • If she cannot…overcome setbacks…then she just doesn’t have the fire in the belly that the discipline demands.

    So the “harrassment in research contexts” which many women in science face according to the recent Nature editorial is something they should simply put up with?



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  • 214
    aroundtown says:

    We do not operate in a vacuum and clearly interaction between us, men and women, men and men, women and women, results in an exchange of ideals and possibly argument, but there in lies the potential for forward movement. I have yet to see a perfect social fabric as concerns anyone, or any culture.

    They do not have to simply put up with anything, it is just forward momentum that is being hashed out which will provide new distinctions and norms in the coming days, as is the process that continues daily since time immemorial. The weight and measure of it all, so to speak.



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  • googly-moogly

    By the way, I’m still smarting for being called a mensa boy; it’s mensa MAN if you don’t mind.

    (I wanted to conclude this comment with a smiley face, but the great genius doesn’t know how.)



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  • So the “harrassment in research contexts” which many women in science face according to the recent Nature editorial is something they should simply put up with?

    Nonsense. I didn’t say that. You’re putting words in my mouth contrived to appear as if I’m contradicting an authority on the matter expressed in an editorial from Nature, something you happened to read in a magazine.

    To the contrary, if a woman feels she is being subject to harrassment in research contexts, she can file a complaint against the perpetrator(s) with responsible management -name names, provide detailed accounts and timelines, enlist witnesses. 99+% of the time, institutions or businesses will intervene as needed to order the offender to cease and desist immediately and/or take further disciplinary action up to and including termination. If she believes informed management has failed to respond adequately, she may file a civil suit, and if she makes her case, rake them over the coals.

    Unfortunately, anyone bullied in the workplace by peers; exploited or abused by superiors then blowing the whistle on misconduct may be subject to retaliation, demotion or firing. But anyone includes men and women alike. Fortunately, there is often recourse for this contingency.

    Harassment based on gender, especially sexual harassment, exposes perpetrators and any organization that harbors, ignores or protects them to the high risk of exorbitantly expensive consequences.

    As for taking disappointment, responsibility for mistakes and poor performance, occasional ridicule, personality conflicts, slights and putdowns -even those tinged with prejudice – we all came equipped with an evolved defense mechanism. It’s called a backbone.



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  • So the “harrassment in research contexts” which many women in science face according to the recent Nature editorial is something they should simply put up with?

    Nonsense. I didn’t say that. You’re putting words in my mouth contrived to appear as if I’m contradicting an authority on the matter expressed in an editorial from Nature…

    You dismissed such harrassment earlier when you stated:

    The serious talented woman committed to practicing science passionately for the long term would not be deterred by the kinds of piddling incidents and obstacles discussed on this thread.



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  • Melvin
    Jun 19, 2015 at 5:48 pm

    Harassment based on gender, especially sexual harassment, exposes perpetrators and any organization that harbors, ignores or protects them to the high risk of exorbitantly expensive consequences.

    Indeed so!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-33201010

    A woman who claimed Jehovah’s Witness elders failed to protect her from sex abuse carried out by a paedophile has won a £275,000 payout.

    The woman, now in her 20s, alleges she was abused as a child in Loughborough by ministerial servant Peter Stewart.

    She had argued at London’s High Court that he used his role to abuse her.

    A judge ruled the organisation was liable for the abuse because it failed to take “safeguarding steps” after Stewart admitted abusing another child.

    Mr Justice Globe said he was “satisfied” the defendants should be “held responsible” for the abuse, which took place between 1989 and 1994.

    It is the first civil case in the UK of historical sexual abuse brought against the Christian-based religious movement.

    The organisation – which accepted that Stewart, who died before facing justice, sexually abused the claimant – said it was “disappointed” with the decision and would appeal.

    The victim said: “The procedures the Jehovah’s Witnesses follow for dealing with child sexual abuse are the same as it was when I was abused.

    Even having a ministerial servant sent to prison was not enough of an incentive for them to implement change. This sends a clear message about the importance Jehovah’s Witnesses place on child protection.”

    Unlike scientific thinking, which up-dates its work in the light of new evidence, some dogmatic organisations have fixed ideas which don’t change!



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  • 221
    Lorenzo says:

    If she cannot stay the course, do her work, overcome setbacks, and pursue her ambitious research – publishing findings requisite for earning peer recognition, then she just doesn’t have the fire in the belly that the discipline demands.

    Leaving aside the fact that this kind of reasoning is one of the worst slippery slopes in history, you may be right in stating that “if they drop out they didn’t have the right stuff” if the starting conditions were equal. Are they equal? Three years ago, they were not:
    http://www.pnas.org/content/109/41/16474.full
    I don’t think that it got fixed in three years.



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  • 222
    Lorenzo says:

    So what?

    Note: the article is accessible only to the paying customers of the newspaper, thus I couldn’t read it if not by title. The question, though, is valid: so what?



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  • What I’ve said all along: the bigger, more insidious issue here is the ease with which social media convenes its Court of Public Opinion.

    Mark my words: this issue will only get worse. It will reach a point where no one will say anything to anyone in public. The train of political correctness has jumped the tracks.



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  • 224
    aroundtown says:

    There is something important going on here as concerns Tim Hunt, as we, here and elsewhere, discuss this situation. It seems to have blossomed into frenzied camps either for or against the man, and there in lies the interest for me regarding this situation and others, that highlight our propensity to add more than is necessary when we examine/judge certain issues and events, and the aftermath. Many scientific endeavors benefit from our ability to closely examine a subject, but when applied to other areas of our lives the outcome/benefit can be questionable.

    For me it mirrors a condition that I comment on from time to time, our ability to over-complicate and expound on a subject, and it can show up pretty often after we’ve applied multiple interpretations that has the potential to steer discussion away from the basic event. I’m as guilty as anyone in that regard, but I’m not alone. I will provide an analogy from the past to exemplify my point, and just as crudely, here it is again – one can fart, and that is a simple event that happens with regularity, but there does exist the possibility to over-speculate and apply potential variables that could be in play, i.e. wind, atomization, humidity, diet, chemical interaction, temperature, olfactory performance, the list goes on and on, but sometimes it should be sufficient to simply say it’s a fart and move on. We can run the science but sometimes the saying is applicable – just because we can, doesn’t mean we should. It depends in my opinion, and discernment is required. To some degree the Tim Hunt event could have been reduced to a simpler distinction and inquiry, but the event grew disproportionately away from basics from my observation, and that matches this potential we have to overcomplicate things.

    It should be obvious that we have extremely complicated minds which allows us to take leaps in mental process, but it can install a detriment. The possibility exists for us to be pushed off course due to the numerous bandages of bias we’ve applied in our examination. If we exclude reasonable speculation, that ends up in providing the opportunity to push the basics to the background, as that seems to have taken place for Tim Hunt. We often times make things harder than they need to be, that is what I am trying to spit out, just saying….. But I am well aware that my proposition would gain little traction. It’s just not in us to make quick course corrections generally. Were human after all, and that is a constant in all of this.

    To conclude, albeit with obvious difficulty, is this – the actual picture of any situation (this one included) can get fairly blurry once a dump truck load of additional overlays have been heaped upon the event, and you have a much harder time staying closer to actualities at that point. I think that is what has happened for Sir Tim Hunt.



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  • 225
    aroundtown says:

    You wouldn’t see this going down if it involved the average joe-schmoe, just doesn’t happen. No fun taking down a peon, so you rarely see it happen. I remember a George Carlin comedy routine where someone tells him there’s been a huge disaster and thousand of people were killed so he asks very excitedly where, they tell him in India I think, and he exclaims no interest at that point because it isn’t close enough to enjoy. Very weird but uncomfortably close to the truth I think.

    There is something very morbid about us, and there exists an overblown interest in seeing our fellow man/woman fall to ruin, and the news media quantifies that proposition. Seems we like pain and suffering, so they provide the meat to satisfy a tigers hunger so to speak, for a profit, but we are the ones that lap it up. They couldn’t exist is that were not the case. Hope we grow away from that distinction someday, I am pretty sure we will all benefit from the change.

    But please don’t assume that I see benefit in the media, they are generally a worthless biased source as concerns most anything, don’t think for a minute that there is truth in the product, as you will certainly be disappointed.



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  • Thanks Alan4 for your support.

    Ewan: By all means, please quote me but interpret what I say in context; in relation to the topic.

    The serious talented woman committed to practicing science passionately for the long term would not be deterred by the kinds of piddling incidents and obstacles discussed on this thread.

    What kind of person, who happens to be female, would be deterred from an abiding love of science fortified by years of interest, study, purpose and practice; give it all up in a moment, upon hearing Tim Hunt’s “joke.” I never implied that egregious cases of persistent gender harassment and discrimination might not compel the rare individual trapped in pathological circumstances to throw in the towel. A handful of hyper-sensitive women with mixed performance reviews and other preoccupations might opt out of programs or careers because of real or imagined male rejection, abuse and hostility. We all appreciate that the system was an old boys club and still claims a large majority of male members. Countering this fact of life, is a revolutionary ethic that not only admits talented female candidates on an equal basis with men, but also proactively recruits and encourages them, readily assigning male (and female mentors where practical) to gifted students. Tenuous evidence cited from the linked feminist study infers gender bias from pen-and-paper hypothetical “tests” without examining a single case of actual discrimination against a real person.

    If clarification of the contemporary system can help resolve the discouragement-of-women-in- science issue, the pool of promising scientists in academia, the professions and business comprise a highly competitive cognitive elite. Make no mistake, those who achieve at the higher levels are head and shoulders above the garden variety “outstanding student.” Do you believe for a moment that a genius in math, physics or molecular biology would be intimidated by peers in the lab or even a brilliant professor at the podium from skyrocketing into the stratosphere on her own merits?



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  • What kind of person, who happens to be female, would be deterred from an abiding love of science fortified by years of interest, study, purpose and practice; give it all up in a moment, upon hearing Tim Hunt’s “joke.”

    Probably no one for that one joke. But given enough of “Tim Hunt’s Little Jokes” and she will quit. With words to the effect, “I don’t have to put up with this @#$%”. Like drops of water on a sandstone boulder, sooner or later, it will be eroded to nothing and be gone.

    Guys. This type of thinking is no longer acceptable in 2015. Your arguments are dated. Tim Hunt was wrong. I feel sorry for him but it was self inflicted. His demise will have a flow on effect in scientific circles around the world. It will lessen this archaic attitude.

    When in the presence of another human being in a professional setting, that is the only criteria. This is another human being. All are judgements are no longer valid. Sex. Race. Looks. Quirks. Choice of food. Religion. Et Al. Get your eyes down your microscope and get on with your work.



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  • A number of Tim Hunt’s supporters see his resignation as the result of mob rule and a witch hunt. I think that shows a misunderstanding of how social media works.

    It wasn’t a mob which reacted to his comments; it was a very large number of individuals. The reaction of those individuals was generally astonishment that such a respected figure should express such outdated views. And the response of many of them was to ridicule those views.

    That’s what did for Tim Hunt. Very few people called actually for his resignation but a large number of people ridiculed him. And in the face of such mockery he found it impossible to sustain his position. Some of his supporters see this as “cruel”; but ridicule is often the best weapon in such circumstances and, of course, it’s the weapon Richard Dawkins likes to adopt with regard to religion.



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  • Vicki Jun 19, 2015 at 7:12 pm

    “Mark my words: this issue will only get worse. It will reach a point where no one will say anything to anyone in public. The train of political correctness has jumped the tracks.”

    Vicki, I love you! (Not romantically – as a fellow Dawkins site member.)

    (I looked up the expression “jumped the tracks.” What does it mean?)



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  • Melvin

    “Like anyone she will suffer slights and resistance to her aspirations form many sources, some of them obviously or subtly interpreted as “sexist” because she is necessarily a woman and the alleged perpetrator is necessarily a man.”

    Melvin, you’re right. I agree with you. We agree on this; how come we couldn’t agree about the real-ideal question? How could you be so sensible on this issue and so stubborn and intransigent on the other? (Kidding)
    (I am assuming that this is you and not another member named Melvin. It is possible that there are two Melvins.) Btw, I asked a pertinent question a few days ago: if no one had heard Hunt’s remarks would they still be offensive?
    I am, by the way, me and not some other member named Dan.
    And there is unfair conduct toward everyone, Lorenzo. People (men and women) who are better at things and smarter, more able, more gifted, tend to be treated with contempt and derision, arouse envy and hostility. This is true across the board.
    And I know this from bitter experience.



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  • 233
    aroundtown says:

    I thought this god fellow was suppose to have created a perfect creation in Adam, you know in his image, then he somehow misplaces the recipe when it comes to Eve’s creation, if I were a woman I would be pissed off right there. The creator of heaven and earth can’t keep his hands on a recipe card? But the funniest part is the horse-shit apple episode where it all went off the rails supposedly. You would think a perfect creation and it’s progeny would be able to duck and dodge a little better, but as usual the human condition always looks pretty much the same for a very good reason, were nothing more than primates who have glorified ourselves as we painted a grand picture of our dominance while installing rules and laws to make sure it all belongs to us. I sincerely hope a whale doesn’t contemplate the idea that it’s free, or anything else for that matter, how outlandish that would be, for a whale or other animals to think they have a right to peaceful coexistence on this freaking ball. Silly, but then again, so are most of our actions, same goes with a lot of our rules where “everything” is for our pleasure and gain.

    Ancient comedy at best I’m afraid. The glaring one for me is he can supposedly find you a job, help you to not fall off a ladder while your painting the eaves, or maybe even find you a really good parking space, but when it comes to the big ones he’s always out of town, out to lunch, out of the freaking celestial office, even as a tornado rips a 9 month old child out of her mothers hands. Just pathetic really. This guy should have been out on his all powerful celestial ass ages ago, but as Stafford noted, humans become reliant on a crutch, even the crazy superstitious ones.

    I stated an opinion that won’t gain any traction but it’s pretty simple. We love ourselves some drama and it really matters very little which corridor it takes as long as we can fill our baskets to overflowing. That is what took him down – Humans needing a drama fix. Tim Hunt I am sure knows what took him down but we don’t dare utter some truths out loud, it upsets the monkeys, err… I meant to say glorious humans.

    I would add this – we have bigger fish to fry than this Tim Hunt problem and waiting for a god to fix things will be the greatest folly imaginable. We had better get to it soon.



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  • Ewan:

    Interesting spin you put on this.

    A “very large number of individuals” reacting to Hunt’s statement by calling for–and getting–his resignation so quickly is mob rule.

    He didn’t resign because he found it “impossible to sustain his position.” He was given the ultimatum of resigning or being fired.

    Funny thing about true diversity: by its very definition it goes in all directions, not just the direction in which you want it to go. The world would be a pretty boring place if we all thought and acted alike, as it seems some want to happen.



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  • Probably no one for that one joke. But given enough of “Tim Hunt’s
    Little Jokes” and she will quit.

    I agree!

    My issue is not what he said, but how it was handled. He’s no intellectual slouch. Why the hell couldn’t the powers that be sit him down and explain to him why his comments were wrong? Then he could issue a public apology (which I understand he’s done), and he walks away with a better understanding of sexism in the workplace.

    To quote another doctor (Dr. Smith): the administrators at the university are “spineless jellyfish.”



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  • Vicki
    Jun 20, 2015 at 5:05 am

    Funny thing about true diversity: by its very definition it goes in all directions, not just the direction in which you want it to go. The world would be a pretty boring place if we all thought and acted alike, as it seems some want to happen.

    A point which seems to be being missed, is that in SELECTING research scientists, the SELECTION is being done to pick out the best specialists in the VERY TOP EDGE of the aptitude distribution bell-curve, where the selectors are looking a skills record, qualifications, aptitude, and emotional suitability, for the type of work, and cooperation with colleagues.
    In the study Ewan linked, they were looking for an even higher standard of a research team manager! It is an area where ideological biases are a severe disability, and an area which needs to be devoid of creationists, quacks, anti-vaxers, ideological political correctness, disruptive individuals, and any anti-science or pseudo-science thinking which lacks objectivity and methodology.

    Are the selectors going to be discriminating in their choices looking for research and leadership skills? You bet they are!
    The question is whether there is any prejudiced biased discrimination, and to evaluate that it is necessary to accurately assess and understand the the distribution of aptitudes in the population from which applicants are being selected along with their previous career experience.

    Ideologists indulging in the determined hammering of square pegs into round holes, while in denial of biology, is not going to make any constructive contribution to maximising equality of opportunity.



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  • Vicki
    Jun 20, 2015 at 5:32 am

    To quote another doctor (Dr. Smith): the administrators at the university are “spineless jellyfish.”

    In the realms of political correctness, the spineless jellyfish often spin their standing as demonstrating “leadership skills”, by the turncoat option of presenting running away from a charging mob, as “leading the charge” against their own team on some trumped-up issue!

    It’s what happens when the “politically correct” are appointed to senior positions!



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  • 240
    Lorenzo says:

    And there is unfair conduct toward everyone, Lorenzo. People (men and women) who are better at things and smarter, more able, more gifted, tend to be treated with contempt and derision, arouse envy and hostility. This is true across the board.

    Did you bother to look at least at the pictures of the link I posted?
    While it’s true that life isn’t always simple, fair and comfortable, it is also true that the amount of complicatedness, unfairness and discomfort isn’t evenly distributed. That is the problem at hand when it comes to discrimination.

    A society that doesn’t grant each and every one of its members, regardless of any further attributes, the very same opportunities is not fair. If we allow the random chance of being born a particular way or in a particular place to make any difference in the possible outcomes your life can have, then we’re not living in a just society.
    We’re not there yet. It has been even measured how much we aren’t there yet, when it comes to gender (see above for one of those measurements).



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  • 241
    Lorenzo says:

    What kind of person, who happens to be female, would be deterred from an abiding love of science fortified by years of interest, study, purpose and practice; give it all up in a moment, upon hearing Tim Hunt’s “joke.”

    As David R Allen already told you, it’s not that one “joke”, is those many “jokes” which are repeated constantly from the moment that little girl becomes interested in microscopes when she’s 6.
    Also, those outings don’t stay jokes, they become actions and they lead to discrimination. A tendency which is documented. See above.



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  • It’s what happens when the “politically correct” are appointed to
    senior positions!

    Because they, in turn, are afraid of being “hung out to dry.” The slippery slope of mob rule at it’s finest!



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  • 243
    Lorenzo says:

    Why the hell couldn’t the powers that be sit him down and explain to him why his comments were wrong?

    Those comments are around since ~2100 years at least. The first documented occurrence I’m aware of is from Virgil, the Latin poet. I think that’s long enough to expect every decently educated person to have updated to a more recent view?

    Then he could issue a public apology (which I understand he’s done)

    As far as I know, he apologized for the offense but added that he meant the content. I mean that’s okay, it’s his opinion with which a big part of the western world doesn’t agree any longer (I hope), but he’s entitled to have it. Since those opinions are rooted in prejudices which are proven to be pernicious to a fair society, though, I think it has been more than justified to reevaluate his positions where he might have stumbled upon those prejudices.

    He’s still more than welcome explaining the rest of us how the cell cycle is regulated: the positions he had to resign from were more honorary than academic.



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  • Vicki
    Jun 20, 2015 at 5:05 am

    Ewan:

    Interesting spin you put on this.

    A “very large number of individuals” reacting to Hunt’s statement by calling for–and getting–his resignation so quickly is mob rule.

    Of course it was NOT a “very large number of individuals” reacting to Hunt’s statement.
    It was a very large number of people with very little understanding of the subject or context, reacting to sensationalised reporting of Hunt’s statement! – The easily manipulated tabloid/twitterers’ yahoos’ chorus!



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  • A “very large number of individuals” reacting to Hunt’s statement by calling for–and getting–his resignation so quickly is mob rule.

    But few of those reacting called for Hunt’s resignation. The majority simply expressed astonishment and/or ridicule at his views.

    He had the opportunity to stand by, explain and evidence his expressed views. Instead, he chose to resign. It seems to me that he didn’t feel it was possible to sustain his position. If he felt confident of it, he could have called UCL’s bluff and then sought legal redress if they subsequently fired him. He didn’t.



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  • It was a very large number of people with very little understanding of the subject or context…

    A significant number of those responding were women working in science who had a very clear understanding of both the subject and the context.



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  • It’s what happens when the “politically correct” are appointed to senior positions!

    Those in senior positions at UCL have a long history of political correctness. It was the first English University to admit students regardless of their religion back in 1826 and it was also the first to admit men and women on an equal basis.

    “The University is committed to developing and maintaining an institution where staff and students from all backgrounds can flourish.” What a bunch of spineless jellyfish.



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  • Ewan

    It seems to me you are taking some liberties at re-interpreting the entire incident.

    I understand frustration with sexism–I live it every day. The points you’ve attempted to make throughout this thread have centered on sexism in the realm of science. It is much more pervasive than that.

    My point throughout this thread has been it (sexism) will not be corrected by eliminating its sources, but instead by educating them.



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  • My point throughout this thread has been it (sexism) will not be corrected by eliminating its sources, but instead by educating them.

    The trouble is that Tim Hunt, in his senior position at UCL, was one of those charged with doing the educating.



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  • If he requires to be educated on these issues then perhaps he shouldn’t be in a position where he is required to do the educating.



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  • Perhaps. The way I see it, we evolve intellectually every single day. I don’t think there’s a cut-off point based on one’s position.

    Hunt’s position as a scientist is unquestionable. His position as a human in a civilized society is where we run into some grey areas. Do we abandon him, or do we work with him? WWJD? 🙂



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  • WWJD?

    I suppose he might suggest that Tim Hunt – like Abraham at a similar advanced age – leave his ancestral home, travel to a distant land and found a great race.

    (Though I would suggest that he take very great care if a modern version of the Hagar situation arose…)



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  • Here’s some interesting food for thought: more than two and a half millenia ago, the Buddha resisted allowing women into the order because he knew it would be too distracting for the male monks. Eventually, he conceded. He realized the distraction was a demon the males would need to confront, and penalizing the women benefited no one. He was a pretty smart guy.



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  • One thing I find it disappointing on this thread, is despite links provided, there is very little rational discussion of the issue Tim Hunt raised –
    namely the gender mix in student groups and workforces of technical subjects.

    http://ftp.iza.org/dp7207.pdf

    page 5.
    While there is a lack of evidence showing benefits from single-sex education, there is a small literature showing that the proportion of females in a classroom has an effect on educational and economic outcomes.

    Lavy and Schlosser (2011) show that, as the proportion of females in a classroom increases, the cognitive outcomes of both males and females improve. Schneeweis and Zweimuller (2012) show that, when a female studies in a class with a higher proportion of females, she is more likely to choose to study in a technical school later on. Individuals attributes such as willingness to behave competitively or to take risks also affect outcomes; for example, math test scores are shown to be ináuenced by competitive behavior (Niederle and Vesterlund, 2010).

    Moreover, a growing recent literature explores how competitive and risk-taking attributes vary in response to cultural factors. Gneezy et. al. (2009) show that females in matrilineal societies are more likely to compete than males in that society, and compete as much as men in a patriarchal society. Booth and Nolen (2012a, 2012b) show that all-female environments make females more competitive and less risk averse.

    When considering this literature alongside the research on single-sex education, the following questions arise:

    Is completely gender-segregated education taking things too far, perhaps increasing gender stereotyping and legitimizing institutional sexism? Might single-sex classes within a coeducational environment be a useful alternative way forward? Would single-sex classes in the technical subjects benefit women without adversely affecting men?



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  • Ewan
    Jun 20, 2015 at 7:34 am

    If he requires to be educated on these issues then perhaps he shouldn’t be in a position where he is required to do the educating.

    . . . and if it is his critics who need educating, perhaps they should make a start on catching up on the monumental gap between their perceptions of scientific work, and those of a Nobel science Laureate!

    Maybe this comment will help them find some starting points!

    https://www.richarddawkins.net/2015/06/tim-hunt-ive-been-hung-out-to-dry-they-havent-even-bothered-to-ask-for-my-side-of-affairs/#li-comment-181540



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  • …and if it is his critics who need educating, perhaps they should make a start on catching up on the monumental gap between their perceptions of scientific work, and those of a Nobel science Laureate!

    Joint Nobel prize winners Edvald and May-Britt Moser have suggested that the criticism of Hunt was justified. “Hunt’s statements point to attitudes that contribute to the continuation of inequality between the genders in science.”



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  • Ewan
    Jun 20, 2015 at 9:36 am

    and if it is his critics who need educating, perhaps they should make a start on catching up on the monumental gap between their perceptions of scientific work, and those of a Nobel science Laureate!

    Joint Nobel prize winners Edvald and May-Britt Moser have suggested that the criticism of Hunt was justified. “Hunt’s statements point to attitudes that contribute to the continuation of inequality between the genders in science.”

    I see you have cherry picked a minority of two from ten! http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3132413/Eight-Nobel-prize-winners-attack-lynch-mob-forced-sexism-row-professor-Sir-Tim-Hunt-job.html

    The EVIDENCE points to differences of aptitudes. emotional responses and gender responses to gender mixes, as my comment below shows, – contributing to disparity in numbers, so perhaps when the superficial thinkers have stopped bandying around personal opinions and ideology, they may eventually get around to discussing the real issues which exist in the physical world.

    As I say earlier, I am disappointed at the lack of discussion of the scientific and management issues, and I see you continue the trend of ignoring those.



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  • 260
    Lorenzo says:

    Alan, from the very document you linked:

    The positive benefits of single-sex education is only present for females and seems to be
    driven by the reduction of stereotype threat
    . Females in all female courses are more likely
    to attend classes and females who are more likely to do poorly, those with lower IQs, benefit
    more from being assigned to an all-female class. Therefore, other mechanisms that also aim
    to reduce the effect of stereotype threat to females studying economics in a coeducational
    institution may be able to produce the same positive effect as single-sex education for females.

    It’s the last paragraph of their conclusions. And it’s basically what “detractors” of Hunt’s latest joke have been stating, after all: the problem is elsewhere -and, at the end of the day, it’s with the joke’s background: the stereotyping, which in the case at hand is thousands of years old.

    There’s no award nor title on this planet that can protect us from our own implicit biases. There’s only the constant, painstaking use of our cerebral cortex -thinking twice before speaking.



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  • I thought that what this thread could do with right now is another partisan post 🙂 so with that in mind here goes. (I haven’t read all of the comments here so apologies beforehand if this has already been said).

    Firstly, to those who support the dismissal of the professor, as readers of this site and as people who believe in the principles behind it I urge you to reconsider. Free speech is not conditional, predicated on whether we like it or agree with it. If it were it would not be free. “I disagree with what you say and I will try to have you fired for saying it” doesn’t carry quite the same gravitas.

    Free speech has limits, but these are necessarily as broad as possible and generally rest on preventing physical violence and other harm to the community. They do not and should not be decided on whether the speech causes offence. This means that people are allowed to say things in public that others find sexist, misogynistic, racist, homophobic. We, for our part, are allowed to disagree. We are allowed to protest peacefully, up to and including launching a Twitter war against such speech. We are not and should not be allowed to press for the punishment of others for expressing their thoughts. Thoughtcrime is not yet a crime, and if you believe it should be I have a book by George Orwell which should set you straight on the matter.

    In summary it matters not whether you agree or disagree with the Professor, whether you think his remarks were inoffensive or outrageous, or whether he apologized or not. He is allowed to speak his mind and we, regardless of any other thoughts on the matter should support that right as it is one of the foundations of a just society.



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  • Lorenzo
    Jun 20, 2015 at 10:19 am

    It’s the last paragraph of their conclusions. And it’s basically what “detractors” of Hunt’s latest joke have been stating,

    Not really! The detractors have been criticising him for raising the topic at all. The evidence suggests that in science and technology classes, the gender balance can have a marked effect on female (and male) performance, and on choices to continue these subjects at higher levels.

    @ my earlier post: – Schneeweis and Zweimuller (2012) show that, when a female studies in a class with a higher proportion of females, she is more likely to choose to study in a technical school later on.

    It is a topic for academic discussion, without ignorant media sensationalist input, and without biased stereotypes distracting from a competent analysis which permits the optimising of opportunities for females with scientific aptitudes.



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  • …which permits the optimising of opportunities for females with scientific aptitudes.

    I don’t think that’s really a priority for Hunt.

    In an interview last year, he was asked “In your opinion, why are women still under-represented in senior positions in academia and funding bodies?”

    He replied that he wasn’t sure that that there was a problem. He admitted that the inequalities between men and women at the higher end of science were quite staggering but then added “Is this actually a bad thing? It is not immediately obvious for me… is this bad for women?”



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  • Ewan
    Jun 20, 2015 at 11:14 am

    He admitted that the inequalities between men and women at the higher end of science were quite staggering

    Nobody is disputing that there are disparities of numbers. The question is, is this a matter of differences in aptitude and aspirations, or are there cultural trends and bigotry involved in the situation. There is probably some of each as my link suggested, but denial of neither is unhelpful.

    but then added “Is this actually a bad thing? It is not immediately obvious for me… is this bad for women?”

    It would be very bad for the women involved and for the performance of the science, if women were pushed into jobs or courses to fill quotas, rather than because they were motivated, productive, and the best candidates to fill them.

    It’s remarkable how “speciesism” blocks promotion based on numbers of criminals apprehended, with statistics clearly showing the absence of police dogs who manage to become chief constables! 🙂

    …which permits the optimising of opportunities for females with scientific aptitudes.

    I don’t think that’s really a priority for Hunt.

    His actions in supporting female colleagues over the years, as witnessed by those female colleagues, says otherwise!



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  • 266
    Lorenzo says:

    Not really! The detractors have been criticising him for raising the topic at all.

    Actually, the most noticeable public reaction to Hunt’s comment was mockery from women in science. As far as I know. And it all concentrated on the opening “joke”, which is not an issue raiser but part of the issue itself.

    The news is always reported as “then he went on saying that his solution would be single sex laboratories”, with a therefore implied between the joke and the proposed solution. I didn’t comment on his solution, since his premise is frankly beyond any rational defense…

    ~~~

    Schneeweis and Zweimueller […]

    That study is within a context: Austria. I don’t really know enough about the Austrian situation, but I know very well the situation in the neighboring Bavaria, Germany. And, if the two are similar, that “higher fraction” might mean “more than 2” for a scientific Gymnasium. That “higher” must be quantified.
    Also, there seems to be an assumption of linearity of the dependence which is unwarranted. Furthermore, the study you linked doesn’t detect any effect of sex segregation on women propensity to choose STEM careers.

    …But that all is beside the point, since the sex segregation that was put forward by Hunt is in laboratories and not in high school classrooms.
    If the general report of the news is accurate (a transcript would help here), it would seem that Hunt conclusion is predicated on nothing else than the fact that “women fall in love and cry”, making it a Victorian solution predicated on a stereotype which is thousands of years old.



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  • Nobody is disputing that there are disparities of numbers.

    It’s good to see that Richard Dawkins considers that women should be positively encouraged to go into science.

    Young woman at Doctor Who Cares asked me whether she should go into science. Yes yes yes yes YESS. Please do. We need more women scientists.



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  • The comments on this thread all convey validity from the point of view they are presented. Perhaps our collective failure to communicate derives from the inability to hold two opposing views, actually ambiguous tentative views, in mind at the same time without feeling we are compromising our integrity.

    For example, someone had the temerity to point out that Tim Hunt’s joke made an accurate observation. Young(er) men and women do fall in love in work settings. Women do cry more frequently and easier than men. It’s a psychological-physiological fact. Office (laboratory) romances do raise ethical issues and disruptive conflict, especially those between superiors and subordinates. Others emphasized that the joke and the attitudes behind it were “out of date” implying that Hunt had no right to perpetuate false stereotypes rather than criticizing him for unjustly condescending to the entire female population.

    I would reiterate my view that women should have equal opportunity with men backed with social, financial, mentoring and empathetic support to pursue any field of their choice, including STEM fields. The mandate is consistent with the dynamic of the modern civil rights, human rights and specifically the women’s right movement. Anything less than than assuring equal rights, dignity and opportunity for all people not only harms individuals and stigmatized groups but retards social and economic progress as well. At the same time I continue to evaluate evidence that suggests an effect of significant gender differences based on biological factors -anatomical, physiological, hormonal, neurological and psychological. These differences are not manifested in differential performance on IQ tests but in dispositions to take interest in various fields of human activity. Men are drawn much more than women to mechanical projects and inventions inclusive of electronics. No one knows why on average women are not attracted to “work,” parsed in its broadest sense, readily- sometimes ardently- undertaken by men. As speculated before, differential dispositions to mechanical projects may influence disparities between male-female participation in STEM fields.

    Though I appreciate aroundtown’s musings on the proclivities of the human mind and defects of human nature, the current gender conflict has been shaped largely by the women’s social movement sometimes radicalized- I would say corrupted- by toxic versions of extreme feminism. Radical feminism, in its western pseudo-intellectual manifestation, which obsesses on universal male guilt for the crime of rape and the ridiculously inflated concept of “rape apologists” calls for the extirpation of all “sexism’ in thought, word or deed from society. I infer from third-wave feminist “women’s studies” and street activism that they are beguiled by a Utopian political fantasy to overthrow intractably corrupt male leadership, the Patriarchy, and install morally superior women, a Matriarchy, in its place.

    As for Tim Hunt: The joke didn’t get him. T’was ideology killed the beast.



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  • 272
    Lorenzo says:

    Alan, what’s the point of that link?

    a) When it comes to sheer size, sperm whales put us all to shame. Or, for something less exotic, what about the Neanderthals?
    b) But it’s synapses that counts, and since women have more then men history is upside down as to who should make the deciding stuff since millennia.
    c) Anyone who has ever dealt with computers at a more than basic level can tell you that it’s not the processor, it’s not the amount of RAM but its the system bus that makes the difference. Women have more, so see above about history being upside down since millennia.

    I’m familiar with the anatomical differences between the male brain and the female brain and, frankly, I’d swap any second if I could. It just sounds like a better piece of hardware.

    Little note on the “expressing feelings more”… that needs substantiating: an unambiguous scale has to be set and an intercultural assessment must be carried out. Since then, I just don’t see why a better emotional fulfillment should make science difficult to anyone, or relate to anything other than a bonus in empathy and a better social life.

    P.S.: The next time I read again something about risk-taking and competitiveness of the individual I’m gonna eat the poster’s heart.

    ~~~

    Leaving cheap sarcasm aside for a second: a slightly different brain layout (usually, for the best, I may add again) does not immediately translate to women allegedly less interested in science than men. Conceivably, there might be some hardwired difference in interests between women and men, but that cannot be assumed. Especially because we still have to deal with this sort of crappy situation: http://www.pnas.org/content/109/41/16474.full

    We may reopen the argument about “natural” tastes of women and men, once we got rid of the disparity in the starting conditions and in recognition of the work. If, then, disparity in number will persist we may look for difference in the hardwired tastes and inclinations. As for now, I’d say it’s not very useful but, most of all, it’s impossible because of that big fat background. Let’s get rid of it first, shall we?
    Sadly, in the process of getting rid of it, some Nobel laureate who’s not more up to date than Virgil when it comes to stereotyping women may have to step out of the way.



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  • 273
    Lorenzo says:

    Women do cry more frequently and easier than men.

    So what?
    Besides, that Huntian crying was not general, not even restricted to the workplace, but in response to criticism. And that seems to be just a lazy sentence of the eye-meter at best -but, more probably, it’s just that ancient stereotype at work.

    At the same time I continue to evaluate evidence that suggests an effect of significant gender differences based on biological factors -anatomical, physiological, hormonal, neurological and psychological. […] Men are drawn much more than women to mechanical projects and inventions inclusive of electronics.

    Can you please come out with a research article that comes to such conclusions and demonstrates that it’s not just a cultural feature, please? So we know that we’re talking about facts and not assumptions that fit comfortably onto someone’s cognitive bias.



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  • Lorenzo
    Jun 20, 2015 at 5:17 pm

    Alan, what’s the point of that link?

    The point is that there are wiring differences in brains.

    BTW; “Male” and “female brains”, are not necessarily matched to male and female bodies. It is a matter of the effects of hormones during development.

    There have been similar ideological calls to “fix” the imagined problems of infant school boys learning to read at a later age than girls.

    Girls develop quicker and mature earlier. (Chimps develop even faster, so this is not a measure of overall performance!)

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/parents/learning_development_girls_boys/

    It is often assumed that girls and boys are hard-wired from birth to develop in different ways. But scientific studies have actually found that there are more similarities than differences when it comes to how girls and boys develop mentally and how they learn new skills.

    But, on the whole, girls are more likely to be talkative, self-motivated and able to empathise with others – and more likely to have better verbal skills, which help them with reading and writing.

    .Boys, on the other hand, are more likely to be impulsive, competitive and less able to empathise with others. However, they tend to develop superior spatial skills which help with maths and science. Mental rotation of an object or image is a good example of a spatial skill – it gives you the ability to interpret graphs, maps and technical drawings.

    It’s widely agreed that girls generally start talking earlier than boys, and use more complex vocabulary. When they start school, most girls have slightly better verbal skills than boys – on average, they are a month or two ahead.

    .As they progress through primary school, girls continue to outperform boys when it comes to verbal skills. By the time children leave primary school, girls are about a year ahead with reading and the gap is even bigger for writing. However, boys are roughly level with girls when it comes to attainment in maths at primary school.

    In recent years, girls have consistently been outshining boys in most subjects at GCSE level. Education experts believe this could be down to the element of coursework involved. Girls, on the whole, prefer continuous assessment and outperform boys in this area of the exam.

    The gap in attainment at the age of 16, has led some teachers to believe that single-sex lessons in core subject are the way forward when it comes to motivating male students and improving boys’ grades. They argue that boys, for instance, feel less demoralised in subjects like literacy when there are no female students in the classroom to compete with.

    Others believe that girls and boys thrive best when the opposite sex is taken out of the equation completely – and advocate a single-sex environment, especially at secondary school level.

    These are subjects for educational debate, NOT taboo subjects to be hidden in some politically correct closet!

    Girls mature quicker and learn faster in some subjects, up to the age of about 16.



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  • Lorenzo
    Jun 20, 2015 at 5:17 pm

    Conceivably, there might be some hardwired difference in interests between women and men, but that cannot be assumed.

    I thought one of my earlier links outlined this.

    Especially because we still have to deal with this sort of crappy situation:

    ??????

    @ link – pnas.org/content/109/41/16474.full
    Some research suggests that these lifestyle choices (whether free or constrained) likely contribute to the gender imbalance (9⇓–11), but because the majority of these studies are correlational, whether lifestyle factors are solely or primarily responsible remains unclear. Still, some researchers have argued that women’s preference for nonscience disciplines and their tendency to take on a disproportionate amount of child- and family-care are the primary causes of the gender disparity in science (9⇓–11), and that it “is not caused by discrimination in these domains” (10). This assertion has received substantial attention and generated significant debate among the scientific community, leading some to conclude that gender discrimination indeed does not exist nor contribute to the gender disparity within academic science.

    Despite this controversy, experimental research testing for the presence and magnitude of gender discrimination in the biological and physical sciences has yet to be conducted.

    This link basically repeats what I said in earlier comments.



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  • 276
    aroundtown says:

    I will give an opinion for you to mull over Lorenzo. I have watched this thread to the point of amusement as regards the twists and turns, as every conceivable opinion that has been thrown into the ring but, there is one thing I haven’t seen creep to the fore with any degree of force. There seems to be one trait that is in operation, affecting not only this event/situation/, but many others when we try to assume “fact” – the situation where people have forgotten their history and subsequently attempt to rehashed an event/situation to come to conclusions that were suppose to have been set in stone at an earlier date.

    The one that I am wanting to bring to your attention is the woman’s movement of my day (the 60’s), and an institution that was carrying the banner for women at that time called the NOW movement. It was quite intense and many younger people today likely wouldn’t be aware of the frenzied, and dare I say potentially violent, marches to the Capital steps where the message on women’s rights was not simply asked for, it was a vociferous demand to be taken seriously and implemented.

    I want to point out just one feature of those days as concerns that time and movement, and I will try to sufficiently paint the picture for you, and others as well. You would see women on caterpillar tractors, or sitting in the cab of Semi trucks, and the jest was this – a women (just short of a pugilist contest) could do any damn thing that a man could do and they should be considered as an equal in every regard, so enough with this shit of putting us women up on a pedestal thinking were made of glass – hope that picture is clear. Now we fast forward 50 years and we are discussing the tearing factor of the women affected by Tim Hunts error, and the subsequent responses of women here on this thread have been confusing for me to say the least. Back in my day, the idea was forwarded that women were just as thick skinned as any man could be, and if you disagreed there was a possibility that you might get your ass kicked, and with some authority I would add. My how things EVOLVE over time in relation to a lot of things apparently.

    The thread count does support my observations though over on another thread, what are we at now 273 post assessing this calamity, but the concern on the other matter is still limping along with minimal interest. It reminds me of that line in Star Trek 4, and please be aware that I am posting and pasting this from another site called Wikia I think, and here it is – Spock’s mother enters and reminds Spock that as he is half-Human, he has feelings, and the computer is aware of this. Spock says he must go to Earth with the others and offer testimony because he was there when the events occurred. Amanda asks if the good of the many outweighs the good of the one and Spock says it does. Amanda then says that it was a mistake by his flawed, feeling, Human friends for them to sacrifice their futures because they believed that the good of the one, Spock, was more important to them. Spock says that Humans make illogical decisions. Amanda smiles and agrees.

    So here we are facing possible human extinction – the most bitter ejection/rejection you can muster, but we are falling all over ourselves for Mr. Tim Hunt it would seem. We clearly make illogical decisions and I concur with Amanda on her point.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Organization_for_Women



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  • 277
    aroundtown says:

    Focus, focus, could somebody please tell me why we can’t get the damn picture a little clearer for everyone to see? Beats me, maybe the camera is broken? Then again, I guess it could be the operator? Just guessing really, but yes, the picture is still pretty blurry all around.



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  • Firstly. Greetings and salutations to all Citizens of Planet Earth on this your Solstice. May your rational mind continue to sift the evidence and come to better than random judgements over the next year.

    I’m over this Tim Hunt tome.

    Yes. Anatomically men and women are different. But the difference is that of mostly overlapping bell curves. So what. What was the point of the fight to free slaves. To gain the vote for women. Women’s rights and more recently, the oppression of people due to sexual orientation. It is that as a Citizen of Planet Earth, you should have equality at all times, in whatever you are doing. When one Citizen interacts with another Citizen, the only thing that matters is mutual respect. Anything else is an expression of prejudice with all of its adverse consequences. Your gender. So what. Your sexual orientation. So what. The colour of your skin. So What. The size of your bank balance. So what. The piece of ground you happen to born on. So what. The queen of England and I are just Citizens. Bill Gates and I are equals. On and on. You join the dots.

    If your interaction with another Citizen is coloured by anything other than this innate equality, you do wrong. You sin. You are acting in a less that rational way. Tim Hunt was wrong. Those in this thread that point to anatomical differences between men and women in support of Hunt are wrong. It is irrelevant.



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  • Aroundtown: I think the issue that disturbs people here is the persistence of low female participation in STEM fields, shrinking to single digits at the upper levels of achievement. Lorenzo and perhaps Ewan seem inclined to characterize this intractability as a epiphenomenon of male dominated culture. The view appeals to common sense if you postulate that the male and female brain are virtually equal not just in IQ but in all functional aspects.

    I have incurred criticism by proposing that while equivalent in IQ, male and female brains on average may effectively focus with variable overlap on projects favoring different cognitive skills. The heresy lies in suggesting that disparities between men and women entering STEM fields may be attributed partially to differential biological and evolutionary factors affecting orientation to mechanical challenges and projects. Despite significant inputs from women – the overwhelming array of machinery and physical infrastructure; the scientific and technological discoveries that constitute what we call civilization have been “man made.”

    None of the speculations imply that women are condemned by biology to remain mired in a fixed orientation which prevents advancement in STEM fields in the future with achievements at the highest level of innovation.



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  • None of the speculations imply that women are condemned by biology to remain mired in a fixed orientation which prevents advancement in STEM fields

    Exactly. The fact that some men use these biological differences as justification of a decision, is the crucial factor in this whole debate. It doesn’t matter what our biological differences are. It is never a justification for a decision that involves the imposition of inequality between two human beings. This is what Tim Hunt doesn’t get.



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  • 282
    aroundtown says:

    Melvin,

    If only we could bring your distinctions to fruition in the main and drink deep from both wells. If only. We would certainly be the better for it. Men and Women achieving in harmony with proposed disparities push out of frame and rejected.



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  • When one Citizen interacts with another Citizen, the only thing that matters is mutual respect. Anything else is an expression of prejudice with all of its adverse consequences.

    Tim Hunt was wrong and he apologized for the situation. I stand shoulder to shoulder with David R Allen in demanding mutual respect for all human beings. It is now time for UCL to admit wrongful termination of Tim Hunt; to apologize, and offer the distinguished gentleman reinstatement.

    (I doubt if either party wants to have anything further to do with the other. Still UCL should make the gesture whatever the pain and humiliation).



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  • This is what Tim Hunt doesn’t get.

    I’m not so sure about that. In a recent interview reflecting on the furore, he stated:

    “My comments have brought to the surface the anger and frustration of a great many women in science whose careers have been blighted by chauvinism and discrimination. If any good is to come from this miserable affair, it should be that the scientific community starts to acknowledge this anger, recognise the problem and move a lot faster to remove the remaining barriers.”

    He seems to recognise that there have been, and still are, significant inequalities in the treatment of women in science.



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  • While I hope it is sincere, my cynicism smells a media minder. The text is too perfect.

    And like a lot of public people who see the error of their ways….. after they get caught. You actually have to get it, years before, so you don’t perpetuate the mistake throughout your life. Yes, he’s so old that he comes from an era where his views were the accepted norm. There was a time when it was considered the norm that women couldn’t vote. But times change. I suspect some of the commentators in here are still reflecting past values. But those views are no longer the accepted norm.

    I’ll welcome this mea culpa, but reserve judgement till the sincerity gene can be analyzed in the petri dish.



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  • 286
    Lorenzo says:

    If I got the gist here: I don’t think anyone here is “protecting” women from the evil Hunt patriarch -who’s not evil an not a patriarch. Women didn’t need protecting at all: they mocked the man into resigning from his honorary posts.
    The discussion is circling around the question “did Hunt do right in resigning?”, an then we have the two proverbial parties throwing stuff at each other. But it’s okay: we’re humans, we like this kind of stuff. I’m having kinda fun.
    Besides, topics which ultimately relate to social fairness are of great interest, if we want to avoid driving ourselves to extinction.

    From what I saw here, whereas nobody actually think that women need protection, there’s a faction who thinks Hunt does. And in the process we’re reading some really amazing stuff… the “most amusing” one you can find below, from Melvin, who seems to think that since throughout recorded history men did the most inventing (?) then it must be natural, because female and male brain can be told apart… yeah.



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  • 287
    Lorenzo says:

    Alan,

    The point is that there are wiring differences in brains.

    Nobody is denying that. Perhaps I can say the statement is somewhat inaccurate and I’d use “morphological differences”, since we’re still far from figuring out the human connectome (there’s a project currently active working on that).
    The rest of the connections made by the web article you posted, frankly, could use a bit more substantiation, especially when relating them to biology rather than culture. The article doesn’t bother with sources, it just arguments from the authority of “an expert”… Ironically, I am biologically incapable of accepting an argument from authority, especially when it doesn’t conform to my cognitive biases.

    This link basically repeats what I said in earlier comments.

    Except that you forgot the opening phrase of that paragraph, which is in open contrast to the spirit of what you and others have been posting (adjacently to my posts, I didn’t read the whole of what you posted in response to others): “With evidence suggesting that biological sex differences in inherent aptitude for math and science are small or nonexistent (6⇓–8), the efforts of many researchers and academic leaders to identify causes of the science gender disparity have focused instead on the life choices that may compete with women’s pursuit of the most demanding positions. Some research […]

    The crappy situation I was talking about is the subject of the article, which is the remarkable disparity in treatment of women and men when it comes to assessing competence, providing mentoring and compiling the paycheck. And that ain’t biology, that’s culture. And it must be corrected, regardless of biology.



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  • Melvin
    Jun 21, 2015 at 1:15 am

    (I doubt if either party wants to have anything further to do with the other. Still UCL should make the gesture whatever the pain and humiliation).

    If Tim Hunt’s wife, ex-colleagues and female ex-students, along with other leading scientists, who are actually interested in promoting science, decide there are better places to work on science than UCL, UCL may well find themselves very short on those who DO science, and abundantly supplied with applications from ideologists who shout about it!

    There is negligible evidence that the low numbers of women in UK university research in stem areas, is attributable to prejudice, and abundant evidence of the need for research into the effects on efficiency and harmonious working, of single sex or mixed sex teams of researchers and student classes.

    The actual evidence, indicates the lower numbers are attributable to social factors and biological differences.
    It does not take a genius to work out, that in these fast advancing subjects, if some one takes five or ten years out of senior positions to raise children, they come back five or ten years out of date in regard to hands-on experience and active mental participation in working at the frontiers of the research, so need to restart catching up.

    causes of the science gender disparity have focused instead on the life choices that may compete with women’s pursuit of the most demanding positions.

    The crappy situation I was talking about is the subject of the article, which is the remarkable disparity in treatment of women and men when it comes to assessing competence, providing mentoring and compiling the paycheck. And that ain’t biology, that’s culture.

    These are the SOCIAL factors mentioned.

    They are a consequence of restarting near the bottom of the ladder – possible part-time while caring for children! !



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  • 289
    Lorenzo says:

    Despite significant inputs from women – the overwhelming array of machinery and physical infrastructure; the scientific and technological discoveries that constitute what we call civilization have been “man made.”

    And this has surely nothing to do with a male dominated culture (or, rather, ~5000 years of recorded history of it, to be precise). It surely must have to do with the morphological difference between women’s and men’s brain, must it not(1)? Come on, please. You find the same pseudo reasoning when some male imbecile tries to justify forbidding women to drive.
    Women, in western cultures only, have been allowed to benefit from higher education only in the most recent years: this masks any possible effect that biology may have.

    (1)The heresy lies in suggesting that disparities between men and women entering STEM fields may be attributed partially to differential biological and evolutionary factors affecting orientation to mechanical challenges and projects.

    This is an assumption you are making which is totally unwarranted. And, as a conjecture, lacks any evidence in its favor. Starting from the very basic aspects, such as assessing the extent of the role culture plays in determining what a gender is supposed to like and not(2).
    Furthermore, we have research assessing that “biological sex differences in inherent aptitude for math and science are small or nonexistent (6⇓–8)”, despite those morphological differences so often brought to the party -which, I remind you, can’t be just assumed to relate to arbitrary aspects before they are thoroughly investigated.

    On the other hand, we have solid evidence that women in science have it significantly harder than male colleagues (I got bored of posting the same reference over and over again, find a previous post of mine which contains it and read it). And, as I just told Alan, that is really not biology.

    But that is all beside the point, as you yourself acknowledge in your last sentence and as David R Allen very clearly puts above:

    It doesn’t matter what our biological differences are. It is never a justification for a decision that involves the imposition of inequality between two human beings.

    (2) Anecdote: if men outperform women in spatial reasoning, how come that traditionally women are the ones who sew? It seems to me that sewing is an activity which demands very good spatial reasoning to be performed properly. But, despite that, whenever I pick up needle an thread I always hear “you are a man and you sew?!”. Never underestimate the power of cultural idiosyncrasies.



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  • Australia has just recently had a spate of highly qualified female doctors and surgeons reveal horrendous sexists and chauvinist behaviour by senior people in their professions. The reports were across specialties, and usually involved the senior male members harassing or abusing younger vulnerable female doctors. One quote.

    A senior surgeon who attracted several complaints over comments that women in her field should protect their careers by “complying with requests” for sex is standing by the remark.

    And another.

    The past week a whirlwind of attention has been thrust upon women like me. Dr Gabrielle McMullin sparked controversy by saying that women in surgery would be better off accepting the sexual advances of surgeons they are training under than to complain, or risk irreparable damage to their career.

    And more.

    The comments have enraged the medical community, and one doctor, Ashleigh Witt, is worried she might lose her job after publicly exposing the profession that she says runs by the tagline “keep your mouth shut and you’ll be fine”.

    There is more, but this is a representative sample of what has been happening in Australia. Maybe attitudes like Hunt are more common than we would like to imagine. And one to finish.

    Five days after Sydney surgeon Dr McMullin said Dr Tan’s career had been ruined by a sexual harassment case she won against a fellow neurosurgeon in 2008, and that “realistically” she would have been better off giving him “a blow job”, Dr Tan said Dr McMullin had exposed a genuine dilemma for female doctors who regularly endure sexist behaviour.



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  • 291
    Lorenzo says:

    There is negligible evidence that the low numbers of women in UK university research in stem areas, is attributable to prejudice

    Was this evidence looked for?

    and abundant evidence of the need for research into the effects on efficiency and harmonious working, of single sex or mixed sex teams of researchers and student classes.

    There’s that study you linked which, frankly, concludes that sex segregation is substantially irrelevant in classrooms… Besides, sex segregation is flawed in the first place since human sexuality is very, very far to be a white-and-black phenomenon -that is, we’re very much not all straight. If anything, that study shows that by decreasing the stereotyping does help.

    It does not take a genius to work out, that in these fast advancing subjects, if some one takes five or ten years out of senior positions to raise children, they come back five or ten years out of date in regard to hands-on experience and active mental participation in working at the frontiers of the research, so need to restart catching up.

    Alan, come back to your senses!
    Maternity leaves are never that long for starters and, even if they were, the presence of a child usually is linked to the presence of a partner with whom the burden of rearing her can (and should!) be shared -at least long enough to read the articles! Or it can be shared with grandparents! Or children can be parked in freakin’ nurseries!
    What it should not take a genius to work out is that the arrival of a child really should not be used to justify any career setback for women. Men can and should collaborate to the rearing of that child for starters and, if they really can’t, there’s a smorgasbord of alternative arrangement that can be thought of. They must be implemented though, and that is a job for Community in the first place.

    ~~~

    Since there’s been an update:

    These are the SOCIAL factors mentioned.

    Yes, discrimination is a social phenomenon. And one we must correct -before assessing how much biology comes into question, since it’s not only deeply unjust but also a background.



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  • Men can and should collaborate to the rearing of that child for
    starters and, if they really can’t, there’s a smorgasbord of
    alternative arrangement that can be thought of. They must be
    implemented though, and that is a job for Community in the first place.

    Absolutely on the money! Society right now is geared for a two-parent home, where one parent is employed full-time and the other is the caregiver. The demographics have been shifting away from that for about the last 50 years. It is past time for society to catch up.



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  • Maybe attitudes like Hunt are more common than we would like to
    imagine. And one to finish.

    Sex is a human instinct. It will endure. The attitudes are common, but I do not think will ever be eradicated. It comes down to humans reconciling their instincts with their evolved thinking, and those who understand that are responsible for addressing the outdated attitudes as they occur. And they will occur.



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  • Vicki
    Jun 21, 2015 at 6:42 am

    *Men can and should collaborate to the rearing of that child for starters and, if they really can’t, there’s a smorgasbord of alternative arrangement that can be thought of. They must be implemented though, and that is a job for Community in the first place.

    Absolutely on the money! Society right now is geared for a two-parent home, where one parent is employed full-time and the other is the caregiver.

    . . . . and any other system is denying the bonding of mothers with their babies while expecting society to take over financial responsibility for raising their children (in addition to schooling).

    The idea that women can take maternity leave and continue with highly competitive careers without detriment to the mothers or the children, is pure wish-thinking!

    Looking after young children is very demanding – as I know as a participating father of twins.

    The demographics have been shifting away from that for about the last 50 years. It is past time for society to catch up.

    The demographics for rich women shifted over a century ago, with wet nurses, nannies, child minders, and boarding schools employed to take over parental responsibilities.
    These systems all work on the basis that some highly paid individuals can afford out of their incomes, to pay low rates of pay to child minders to raise their children for them, while they earn their higher salaries or simply socialise.

    This is NOT liberating women. This is establishing privilege for rich women at the expense of other women.

    There is no way that everybody can find money from their wages to pay somebody else wages as a surrogate parent to bring up their children. The whole concept is flawed and based on the neglect of poor children with poor women on low pay, being used to bring up the children of richer families.
    Poor women may look for parity with the privileges of rich women, but it is not going to happen in the real world.

    Of course state crèches have been established in some centralist regimes, but the evidence is that these are poor substitutes for caring families.

    Women as work-slaves in families who need two incomes just to survive is not “liberation”.

    If couples decide to have careers rather than children – fair enough, but the bonding of babies to mothers and vice-versa IS biological!



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  • The demographics of the rich are so small, they don’t even factor in, IMO.

    Paying someone else to raise one’s children is virtually the only option for a career-minded mother in today’s society. That is my point.

    The options need to expand–because a career-minded mother of a young child, even with a spouse, cannot do it alone. Look around at the latch-key kids for proof of that.

    Yet, if a woman puts her career on hold for those crucial first five years of a child’s life, it is questionable–to say the lease–if her career will be there once her child enters school. Thus her choice becomes career or motherhood.



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  • 297
    Lorenzo says:

    The idea that women can take maternity leave and continue with highly competitive careers without detriment to the mothers or the children, is pure wish-thinking!

    You mean that is something that doesn’t conform to your (rather outdated) outlook on the world. And, curiously enough for a poster who usually links, you did not do this time… but how could you?
    I can report many examples of women in science, starting from the Rector of the University I attend, who were able to have children and succeed in their field -and reach considerable heights. I could also bring myself to the party, after all.

    This goes to demonstrate that, with the proper social infrastructure in place, women and men have the exact same potential in succeeding at the sciences as men do. Without damaging parenting or anything else. Full stop.
    Implying that women’s place is at home raising children is just utter, utter nonsense -it’s actually biblical thinking, in your case covered by a thin veneer of cheap biology-: child rearing is an activity that can and should be shared by both parents and an infrastructure that supports them by allowing them to retain their jobs is conceivable -as an example, let me bring University Bayreuth, where a nursery for young children is present inside the campus, it’s substantially free of charge and is available to both student and professor mothers.

    On a related note: I think you wildly misunderstood Vicky’s remark about the social shift. What was being meant (Vicky, correct me if I’m wrong, please) is that the social paradigm is shifting from a family template where the man provides “the bread” and the woman tends to the house to a reality where both parents work and the share the child rearing -not necessarily with hired personnel, but among themselves or with the help of other family members, such as grandparents.

    P.S.: scientific research has nothing to do with competitivity, it’s mostly about sharing data and conclusions. Competition, here, has been imported from distasteful economic doctrines and is, in the end, ideological crap. It may be made real, but it’s done so artificially and at the benefit of nobody. The sooner we get rid of it, the better. And thank me that I didn’t eat your heart as promised for bringing it out ;).



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  • Ha! My only correction would be the spelling of my name. The rest was summed up nicely.

    Another option is utilizing flex-time more efficiently. There are many areas in the workplace that are not rigidly dependent on specific hours. The ability to shift a workday around a child’s schedule would go far towards success in combining career and child-rearing.



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  • 299
    Lorenzo says:

    Yeah but… As a general principle, using sex as currency for career advancement for careers where sex doesn’t matter is not a practice I would recommend. I mean, perhaps among porn actresses and actors may be conceivable but among surgeons? I don’t think so.

    What is morally outrageous is the implicit blackmail “you give me what I want and I do you a favor (or, worse, I give you what you deserve) or you are screwed”. And that’s another aspect of sexism, rooted in the cultural tendency of some men to see women as sexual objects rather than peers… Another heritage of the last two or more millennia we should really eradicate as soon as possible.



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  • It is morally outrageous. But because sex is a biological instinct, I don’t think it will ever be eradicated. At best, it will be an ongoing case-by-case battle of instinct vs. civilized behavior. And the best tool we as a society have is case-by-case education.

    I cringe a little bit to put it that way, because it borders on moral conformity. A little too Orwellian for my blood.



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  • 301
    Lorenzo says:

    I apologize for misspelling your name, Vicki… I also checked! It’s really time to pay a visit to my eye doctor.

    And thank you for mentioning the flexible time approach… which may be even a necessity for some kind of scientific research. I mean, it can make it easier for everybody working on the project, not only those who need to look after children, in certain contexts.
    Anyway, the viable alternative are really many -and it would be about time to have them implemented on a continental scale. Both in the EU and the USA.



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  • 302
    Lorenzo says:

    But because sex is a biological instinct, I don’t think it will ever be eradicated.

    Well, eradicating sex is, I concur, impossible. Also, it would make life very boring… Eradicating the usage of it as a currency where it shouldn’t matter and/or fulcrum for blackmail can be eradicated, I think, and it must be. Through education.



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  • Lol…re-reading my post, I should probably word that differently: Because sex is a biological instinct, I don’t think its influence will ever be eradicated in the workplace.



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  • 304
    Lorenzo says:

    Ah, that!
    I’m sure I mentioned this before but… among the many purposes of our cerebral cortex, there’s also the “sphincter’s role” when it comes to any kind of need and urge. Which is means to delay them when their satisfaction is possible.
    You may be right that the role of sex in the workplace will probably never go to zero but, really, I think humans can educate themselves arbitrarily well to postpone it until the work is over and all the lab personnel is chatting in front of a beer. After all, when you’re in a lab, you often have to manage objects and instruments which are orders of magnitude more capricious than any human at any age can be 😉 : you really don’t have brain resources to think about sex, too. The only urge that, at the end, breaks through is hunger.



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  • Lorenzo
    Jun 21, 2015 at 6:30 am

    Alan, come back to your senses!

    My senses are fully functioning as an experienced father and grandfather, who has been there and done the child-care work.

    Maternity leaves are never that long for starters and, even if they were, the presence of a child usually is linked to the presence of a partner with whom the burden of rearing her can (and should!) be shared

    So being kept awake at night by babies can down-grade the career prospects of both partners! (We are talking about demanding top jobs here – not just 9 – 5 routine work, or part-time jobs.)

    Young children bond with their mothers and will seek them in preference to anyone else. Dads and grandparents are fine for a while, but those in the early years they need mum!

    -at least long enough to read the articles! Or it can be shared with grandparents! Or children can be parked in freakin’ nurseries!

    Indeed – children CAN be dumped on anyone else who will take over parental responsibility!

    What it should not take a genius to work out is that the arrival of a child really should not be used to justify any career setback for women.

    That is ideology, not responsible parenting!

    . . . . Providing the interests of a career are put as priorities ahead of the interests of the child, and the individuals concerned value their career image ahead of their time for family activities.

    Women can either take time out to be with their babies or they can keep up-to date in rapidly advancing competitive studies, but they don’t have enough hours in a day for both in heavily demanding top position careers!
    As with top athletics, if you sit out for a few laps, you are no longer up with the leaders, and if you sit out for a few seasons, you are no longer match-fit at a top competitive level.
    (Reality sucks!!! when compared to ideological visions!)



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  • Lorenzo has brought up many points worthy of consideration. (For the record, I did not put forward “an assumption that is unwarranted” on the topic. I put forward a hypothesis based on probable cause that is open to testing and debate.) Still I believe that dismissing the possibility that bio-neurological differences between men and women, generating weighted differences in cognitive preferences for undertaking projects in STEM fields, cannot be reduced to mere cultural factors stretching back millennia and scores of millennia.

    The discovery of finely crafted stone arrowheads in Sibudu Cave in South Africa, containing residues of glue and blood, shocked the archaeological establishment when they were dated to 64,000 years ago pushing the invention of the bow and arrow back 20,000 years. Modern male hunters had invented a complex “composite tool” that could kill game at a distance, imparting a significant advantage for species survival. Fast forward to 1879 when Thomas Edison and his staff-colleagues invented the first practical electric incandescent light bulb. The men eagerly tested thousands of materials to find a filament that would sustain a prolonged glow without burning up. “Cultural features” alone seems insufficient to explain the profusion and proliferation of male inventions and discoveries over the eons. Doubtlessly women made some significant contributions, recorded in the history of science and technology, but it is not unfair to assess these contributions collectively, with few exceptions, as subsidiary, scant and minor.

    I will not reiterate my positive position for encouraging, preparing, mentoring, recruiting, hiring and promoting women in STEM fields. I will not deny that discrimination and harassment still operate in academia and the professions though such deplorable behavior becomes less frequent or effective with each passing year; with each passing decade. But if we believe that women failed to invent the bow and arrow, the rocket engine and brain surgery, or more recently the electronic computer merely because men got in their way, we are looking at history through an ideological lens that filters out reality.

    (Sex in the workplace, pregnancy and child care raise other issues worthy of discussion.)



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  • Lorenzo
    Jun 21, 2015 at 8:48 am

    The idea that women can take maternity leave and continue with highly competitive careers without detriment to the mothers or the children, is pure wish-thinking!

    You mean that is something that doesn’t conform to your (rather outdated) outlook on the world.

    No! It’s called realistically timetabling your commitments and work-load!

    This goes to demonstrate that, with the proper social infrastructure in place, women and men have the exact same potential in succeeding at the sciences as men do.

    This “proper infrastructure” to take over parental responsibilities, does rather look like begging the question of where the child-rearing effort and finance comes from, and who pays for it!

    Without damaging parenting or anything else. Full stop.

    I think the ideological full stop, came before the thinking process started!

    I know that time given to supporting my children, took time from my competitive position in advancing a career.

    Implying that women’s place is at home raising children is just utter, utter nonsense

    Unless you happen to be a young child, deprived of a career orientated mother’s care and attention.

    I take the view that careers are to earn a living to support families as key parts of society, rather than the reverse position of sacrificing the quality of family life in the interests of careers.
    Those who have quality input into families, will still see returns on that, long after they have retired from careers – unless of course they have worked themselves into early graves by stressed overloading of their commitments!



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  • Unless you happen to be a young child, deprived of a career orientated mother’s care and attention.

    As a father who looked after our children from their very early days while their mother continued her fairly high-powered work in Science, I have to say that this didn’t represent a deprivation for our children, Alan. They got all the care and attention they needed.



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  • Ewan
    Jun 21, 2015 at 2:02 pm

    Unless you happen to be a young child, deprived of a career orientated mother’s care and attention.

    As a father who looked after our children from their very early days while their mother continued her fairly high-powered work in Science, I have to say that this didn’t represent a deprivation for our children, Alan. They got all the care and attention they needed.

    Once children reach around school age, I don’t think it matters too much which partner takes on primary childcare responsibilities.
    Young babies definitely need their mothers.

    Raising children requires a massive commitment of time and money if it is to be done well, so it is unrealistic for parents to pretend that this time is available for the children, and it can at the same time be sold to an employer.
    One or other or both jobs, are going to suffer!

    Children are not just some minor inconvenience which get in the way of careers or social aspirations!
    They should be a lifetime commitment!



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  • Vicki
    Jun 21, 2015 at 8:22 am

    The demographics of the rich are so small, they don’t even factor in, IMO.

    i don’t think that makes economic sense!

    Paying someone else to raise one’s children is virtually the only option for a career-minded mother in today’s society. That is my point.

    It is not possible for a working mother on a basic wage to pay someone else on the same basic wage to bring up her child for her! Only the rich who have a substantially greater pay cheques can pay someone else, and still have an income left to pay their bills.

    The options need to expand–because a career-minded mother of a young child, even with a spouse, cannot do it alone. Look around at the latch-key kids for proof of that.

    Precisely!

    Yet, if a woman puts her career on hold for those crucial first five years of a child’s life, it is questionable–to say the least–if her career will be there once her child enters school. Thus her choice becomes career or motherhood.

    That may well be why potential mothers avoid fast advancing subjects like IT, engineering, and science, and choose ones like language or office work, which use their superior female verbal skills, and do not become out of date so quickly.



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  • 311
    Lorenzo says:

    In response of various posts of yours:

    That is ideology, not responsible parenting!
    I think the ideological full stop, came before the thinking process started!

    Maybe. It’s still better than mangling science (or selling personal observation as such) to foster some biblical family template and justify social inequality. Which have absolutely no bases to stand on: child rearing among humans has always been shared by the community -and it still is. Have you ever wondered what a kindergarten is? Or what a primary school is? It’s communal, shared child rearing. Something that has been going on since ever. No need for mothers to be stuck at home for years waiting for their husbands.
    Breastfeeding over, a child can be safely separated from the mother, temporarily, and left to bond and play with her peers under the watchful eye of a qualified adult. Or just given to grandparents. There’s also indication that such an early introduction in a social context is beneficial to the child: while high quality day care doesn’t harm the child, preschool, everything that starts from the age of 3, is acknowledge as a valuable experience.

    Women can either take time out to be with their babies or they can keep up-to date in rapidly advancing competitive studies, but they don’t have enough hours in a day for both in heavily demanding top position careers!

    Perhaps you need some explaining on how an experiment evolves, since you plainly don’t have a clue about how big science project evolve.
    Once an experiment gets the funding -usually, the one providing the funding for big experiments is either the State or the EU, in the EU- it is assigned a time span in which it has to developed from scratch. That means you have to study the principles you want to use to do the measure, optimize it (assuming you didn’t get it wrong), build a prototype, confirm that it works, build the real deal and then run it. This cycle doesn’t take up months, but years -ironically, the order of magnitude is the same you wrongly assigned to maternity leaves: 5-10 years. So, even if someone wanted a maternity leave that long she would miss out one experiment -but, of course, if she’s part of the collaboration she would still read the mail, the internal notes and the articles produced. And she could review those articles.

    Now, starting such an experiment may sound like a race but it’s really not. You’re navigating by sight and most of the time you don’t know where you’re going to end up. Competition within the collaboration is virtually nonexistent, competition outside of it rarely happens and it’s usually more a race than true competition because, for how groundbreaking your experiment is, you still need someone at the other end of the world confirming your results.

    Such an environment is more than compatible with child rearing, provided there’s an adequate infrastructure in support. That infrastructure must be created by the Community -some universities, such as that of Bayreuth, do have a nursery within the campus to provide that support to women studying, teaching or working there.

    But beyond and besides all of this: the fact that a researcher has an uterus and she may decide to use it one day cannot justify a disparity in retribution -a disparity which is measured at the same level of credentials and for the same position. There’s no reasonable argument in favor of this. Not one. The work of a woman and the same work of a man have the same value.

    This “proper infrastructure” to take over parental responsibilities, does rather look like begging the question of where the child-rearing effort and finance comes from, and who pays for it!

    Easy answer here: the Community. Distributed and communal child rearing is already well established -read: preschooling and mass schooling. The infrastructure to support parents comes mainly in two forms: parental leaves, from whatever career, for the very early childhood and then high quality location where the child can spend the the time while waiting for the parent to comesback from work -or even in the breaks, if the facility is located close to the workplace. It’s called welfare state, my dear, and it’s still a staple of a fair society.

    As for the “parental responsibility” part: parent’s responsibility is to provide their children with the best formative and educational environment possible, as well as their love and care. From the moment that a parent is, likely, not qualified to teach everything to her child, the first part is delegated. A quality choice is, in the end, nothing less than an act of love and care. As well as the play in the evening and the good night story -and night after night reassuring the baby because she’s afraid of the dark.
    Oh, by the way, the night time reassuring can also be shared between the parents and it’s not a requirement for the mother to do that, if breastfeeding is not involved.

    Unless you happen to be a young child, deprived of a career orientated mother’s care and attention.

    Let’s stay factual and let’s not bother with pathetic argumentation, shall we? Nobody is talking about neglecting children here: what’s being proposed are arrangements and facilities that make a productive career possible while being beneficial (or at least neutral) for the children.

    I take the view that careers are to earn a living to support families as key parts of society, rather than the reverse position of sacrificing the quality of family life in the interests of careers.

    Who does the science doesn’t to it for the money (1). You can earn more by being a nanny, ironically, if you fish the right family. Those who do science do it as a choice of life. That choice is useful to the community, thus it’s valued and (sometimes) decently remunerated.
    What’s being advocated here is that there need not be a conflict between a career in science and having a happy family life. And what I’m desperately trying to get through is that this is possible with the proper infrastructure as support, both for women and men.
    Having to choose between having a child and doing the science should not happen. It is possible, without harming anyone, through a multitude of methods.

    (1) And that should teach the worshipers of competition that there are other motivations at work when it comes to humanity push toward innovation and discovery. But that’s another story.



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  • 312
    Lorenzo says:

    You may claim you’re not assuming but putting forward an hypothesis, and yet you treat it as an assumption:

    Modern male hunters had invented a complex “composite tool” that could kill game at a distance

    Who told you it was a man who made it? Not DNA, because at 60+ thousands years in age DNA is long gone. Has this progenitor of arrow and bow been found with a male hunter’s skeleton in the act of making them? I doubt it. Has this artifact even found near a man’s skeleton? Given how you relay the news, it doesn’t seem it has.

    So you’re assuming it was a male invention based on the alleged higher occurrence of inventions by men of which we have recorded history. But recorded history doesn’t extends for more than 5000 years into the past, at which points agricultural mega-tribes were already a thing and they were already shaped as a strict patriarchal society which already denied access to higher education to women (actually, access to education was denied to whole social strata at that time).

    Therefore, once again, when treated as an assumption (as you do throughout your discourse) it’s unwarranted. Research is needed. But you’re not getting any answers until you have a vast cultural background noise -both from external sources and from your own, well evident, bias in considering women intrinsically less inventive than men. First, get rid of the background, then make the measure if you want to prove yourself. Otherwise we’re just making noise.



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  • 313
    Lorenzo says:

    In this discussion, a lot has been said. Some of the things that came out may sound reasonable, other fly right in the face of the concept of a fair society. All in all, a lot of speech production.
    But we didn’t listen to much. I’d like us all to stop and listen to women in science explaining their predicament. It may help understand why Hunt’s outings have given rise to such an avalanche of ridicule which lead to his resignation.

    https://youtu.be/fL6aCNXvYCo



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  • But because sex is a biological instinct, I don’t think it will ever be eradicated.

    There’s a time and a place for sex but that time and place is not in the workplace. At work, we are, or should behave like gender neutral automatons. As Vicki says, sex is a very powerful instinctive drive. So it is incumbent on all in the workplace to suppress this most powerful of instincts. Not all people can do this, but they should try, and there should be management encouragement for this to be the nature of the workplace.

    The Time and the Place varies with societies and personal makeup. If you are down at the pub after a hard day at work splitting the atom, and if the parties to the conversation are consenting adults, who are both consenting, then go for it. But if the answer is “NO” then that is the end of it.

    I suspect this is more a men’s problem. I suspect the biological nature of the male of the species, to get a “Shot Away” at every available opportunity is a powerful driver. Affairs? There are plenty of animal analogues that illustrate this principle. The male has to be ready at short notice to get it on, and get away quick smart. Premature ejaculation may be the norm. But I am digressing. My runaway brain gets off the leash.

    So Vicki and Lorenzo. We are sexual beings, but in the modern world, we are required to keep primitive instincts suppressed until the appropriate time. Tim Hunt couldn’t separate the two.



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  • Lorenzo
    Jun 21, 2015 at 6:17 pm

    There’s also indication that such an early introduction in a social context is beneficial to the child: while high quality day care doesn’t harm the child, preschool, everything that starts from the age of 3, is acknowledge as a valuable experience.

    High quality childcare is expensive, child minding is cheaper – but a poor substitute.

    Even at 3 the best situations are where the mothers accompany to children to toddler groups and playgroups, but fathers (as I have done) take turn once they have become familiar with the surroundings.

    Women can either take time out to be with their babies or they can keep up-to date in rapidly advancing competitive studies, but they don’t have enough hours in a day for both in heavily demanding top position careers!

    Perhaps you need some explaining on how an experiment evolves, since you plainly don’t have a clue about how big science project evolve.
    Once an experiment gets the funding -usually, the one providing the funding for big experiments is either the State or the EU, in the EU- it is assigned a time span in which it has to developed from scratch. That means you have to study the principles you want to use to do the measure, optimize it (assuming you didn’t get it wrong), build a prototype, confirm that it works, build the real deal and then run it. This cycle doesn’t take up months, but years -ironically, the order of magnitude is the same you wrongly assigned to maternity leaves: 5-10 years. So, even if someone wanted a maternity leave that long she would miss out one experiment -but, of course, if she’s part of the collaboration she would still read the mail, the internal notes and the articles produced. And she could review those articles.

    .. and nobody discovers they are pregnant in the middle of a project?

    Now, starting such an experiment may sound like a race but it’s really not. You’re navigating by sight and most of the time you don’t know where you’re going to end up. Competition within the collaboration is virtually nonexistent, competition outside of it rarely happens and it’s usually more a race than true competition because, for how groundbreaking your experiment is, you still need someone at the other end of the world confirming your results.

    and prototypes involving large number of employees, are not designed and built by competing contractors? We were talking about careers in science and technology, not little niches in university departments.

    Such an environment is more than compatible with child rearing, provided there’s an adequate infrastructure in support. That infrastructure must be created by the Community -some universities, such as that of Bayreuth, do have a nursery within the campus to provide that support to women studying, teaching or working there.

    Child support costs money! It is payment in kind.

    But beyond and besides all of this: the fact that a researcher has an uterus and she may decide to use it one day cannot justify a disparity in retribution -a disparity which is measured at the same level of credentials and for the same position. There’s no reasonable argument in favor of this. Not one. The work of a woman and the same work of a man have the same value.

    I think one of the main commercial concerns is losing team members from senior positions in the middle of a project.

    This “proper infrastructure” to take over parental responsibilities, does rather look like begging the question of where the child-rear