I wasn’t going to menshn this again, but…

I really was not planning to revisit the Tim Hunt debacle. I’ve already written a lengthy post about it (which led to quite a number of online debates and exchanges via Twitter, blog comments, and YouTube — some more ill-tempered than others). But my e-mail inbox filled up again yesterday afternoon with quite a number of messages pointing me to Louise Mensch‘s contributions to the story — of which I was more than aware — and, more importantly, alerting me to the fact that Evan Harris had weighed into the debate. (In case you were wondering about the title of this post, it was inspired by Mensch). Harris’ involvement had, for some reason, passed me by.

Evan Harris is someone for whom I have a great deal of respect. It was a great shame he lost his seat in parliament by such a small margin back in 2010 as he was a dedicated MP, the Lib Dems’ spokesman for science from 2005, and an extremely effective member of the Science and Technology Select Committee from 2003 until 2010. The scientific community in the UK owes him a debt of gratitude for his sterling work during that time. The fact that he’s a patron of the British Humanist Association also doesn’t hurt. (As this post might betray, I’m also a card-carrying member of the BHA).

So I was surprised to see that Evan had called Mensch’s version of the events “forensic” and that he adopted a position on the Hunt furore which was rather counter (to put it mildly) to that of Dorothy Bishop, David Colquhoun, and Sylvia McLain, all of whom Mensch criticises in her blog post (and all of whom I agree with on the matter of Hunt’s comments). Harris’ twitter timeline would also seem to imply that he is of the opinion that Hunt’s comments were merely a harmless/misjudged joke that was taken out of context and that the UCL and Royal Society overreacted:

The bit I find most perplexing and bizarre in all of this is that criticism of Hunt (and the loss of his honorary position at UCL) is interpreted so often in terms of infringement of free speech/academic freedom. I’ve posited the following scenario, which I’ve described in comments threads elsewhere, during various discussions with colleagues. I wonder what Harris’ (or, indeed, Mensch’s) response to the questions at the end might be?


I’m undergraduate admissions tutor for the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Nottingham. A couple of weeks ago I stood up in front of hundreds of potential applicants and their parents for two days running at our open days and gave talks about the teaching and research we do in the School and the various aspects of the physics courses available at Nottingham.

Let’s say that I made the following “gag” at some point during my open day talk (or, indeed, opened up with it):

“Let me tell you about my trouble with girls in physics courses. Three things happen when they are in the lab: you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticise them they cry. Perhaps we should make separate labs for boys and girls taking our courses?

Now, seriously, I’m impressed by the strides made by girls in our physics courses over the years I’ve been at Nottingham. Science needs women, and you should do science, despite all the obstacles, and despite monsters like me.”

Then, when asked by a student during the Q&A session at the end of my talk to clarify my comments, I say:

“I’m really sorry if I have caused any offence. I was only being honest.”.

Would my Head of School be justified in calling me into his office, explaining why my comments weren’t entirely appropriate for that audience, and asking me to stand down from the Admissions Tutor aspect of my job?

…or would that be a violation of my academic freedom?

Author: Philip Moriarty

Physicist. Rush fan. Father of three. (Not Rush fans. Yet.) Rants not restricted to the key of E minor...

116 thoughts on “I wasn’t going to menshn this again, but…”

  1. You say that the issue is so often presented as being about free speech. Is that right? Where? I dont think Louise Menschens free speech – her 2 posts are about evidence, accuracy, fairness, pre-judging.

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      1. If you are going to be this rude and sarcastic to a colleague at your own institution, who came here to comment following your request, then indeed there is no point debating this. I’m out.

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  2. Dr? Moriarty, you went so far as to make this up this evidently (to you) unutterable paragraph but never once paused to think, ‘wait a minute, I wouldn’t really say this, why in the world would anyone else?’…

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    1. In what sense did I make up the paragraph? Tim Hunt’s speech in South Korea is on the record — an exact transcript of that paragraph takes moments to find online. Given that you, like others, can’t seem to do the most rudimentary research for yourself, I’ll help you out.

      Here’s the text from Tim Hunt’s speech (which has been available for quite some time online):

      It’s strange that such a chauvinist monster like me has been asked to speak to women scientists. Let me tell you about my trouble with girls. Three things happen when they are in the lab: you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticize them they cry. Perhaps we should make separate labs for boys and girls?

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

      You can find this in multiple places online. Here’s just one: http://news.nationalpost.com/news/world/after-sexist-scientist-complained-about-girls-in-labs-he-said-now-seriously-science-needs-women-report

      Compare and contrast with my hypothetical paragraph above.

      It’s irksome when so many can’t spend even two minutes doing the most basic research and fact-checking.

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      1. That’s not a transcript. No transcript exist. It reflects people’s best recollections. The last sentence of your comment is, therefore, amusing.

        PS; I can say with certainty that the last bit isn’t quite accurate.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Suppose that, instead of the scenario you give, that one of the parents present at that Open Day had tweeted their interpretation of some unrecorded remarks you had made about the gender balance in physics labs. Suppose further that this had gone viral on Twitter, and the HR and Marketing departments of your university had panicked and ordered your Head of School to act swiftly to prevent ‘reputation damage’. Without any consultation with yourself you found yourself publicly removed from Admission Tutor responsibilities.

    I have no time for sexist comments but I do think there is an issue of process to be discussed here.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for a perceptive and well-motivated comment.

      I specifically did not build the subsequent online uproar into my hypothetical scenario because what I wanted to focus on was the issue of appropriate language vs academic freedom/freedom of speech.

      But to address your point. Any type of statement any of us makes in public (either online or via any other channel) can be picked up and communicated across the world. We have got to realise this. In the case above, I would have resigned from the admissions tutor role — which is not the same as resigning from my academic position at the University of Nottingham (another parallel with the Hunt case) — directly after making those statements. In fact, from a number of reports out there it would appear that this is what Tim Hunt did in any case. (We may find out more about the precise timeline this evening: http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/jul/09/tim-hunt-sexism-controversy-ucl-attempts-to-draw-a-line-under-saga)

      What sort of consultation would there be?

      HoS: “Jeez, Philip, that was a fairly dumb set of statements, wasn’t it?”

      PJM .”Yes, I know.” [Note that both Hunt and his wife have admitted that they thought the statements were “unbelievably stupid” and misjudged. http://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/jun/13/tim-hunt-hung-out-to-dry-interview-mary-collins%5D

      HoS. “Do you think it’s wise that you continue in the Admissions Tutor role?”

      PJM: “Um. No. Probably not”

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    2. Why are HR departments always blamed for this and are always apparently panicked by this sort of stuff. Dealing with this stuff is the HR day job. I’ve been handling this for 25 years and haven’t seen any panic yet, and that’s working internationally in private and public sectors. HR are usually the ones refereeing the bickering sides of a pointless argument, and have try to negotiate a truce. Like it or not public opinion has changed on what is acceptable and legislation has followed public opinion, HR is doing what the majority want them to do.

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  4. @Paul Matthews (July 9 2015 at 07:40 am)

    “If you are going to be this rude and sarcastic to a colleague at your own institution,…”

    Paul,

    Let’s just say that you haven’t been entirely blameless in that regard, have you? And what does the fact that you are also an academic at the University of Nottingham have to do with anything?

    Did you take the time to do a 30 second Google search to check your facts? No, demonstrably not.

    Did I provide you with a helpful link that included some key references which rebutted your point? Yes, I believe I did.

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  5. Thanks for this post – what I find so difficult about all this stuff Ms. Mensch is bringing up is the following
    1 – She is saying she has ‘the facts’ that no one else has. Well there are clearly two versions of how people REACTED to Tim Hunt’s speech but there are not really two different versions of things he said. He said those things, he said he said those things, he reiterated those things on BBC Radio 4, and in 2 Observer articles. He just said I said ‘but seriously’ which changes everything in Tim’s mind. This makes no sense if you look at it. He said those things, he has continuously said that he was making a joke. So we can go back and forth about was this a joke was this not a joke until the cows come home – it doesn’t really matter

    2 – Why doesn’t it matter. Let’s say it was a joke. But it is a sexist joke. It is the equivalent of saying – ‘ the trouble with X kind if people is that…. ‘ now list the stereotypes which people often use to deny X people jobs, to discriminate against X people who are ‘other’ in a community (as women are in STEM). This is not just ha ha women have different reproductive organs, which may or may not be funny (depending on your taste) this is ‘ha, ha, even though I am couching this as a joke on ME (‘I am a misogynist’) – he still references all of the old stereotypes of women – as a temptress, as too emotional to hold a job. This is a sexist joke – no matter what the intent – just because some people in the audience thought it was funny and some did not, does not make the words different – whatever order you think they should be put in.

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    1. just because some people in the audience thought it was funny and some did not, does not make the words different – whatever order you think they should be put in.

      Thanks, Sylvia. That’s it in a nutshell.

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    2. That’s all wrong, Sylvia. Tim Hunt never ‘said he said those things’, you made that up. the BBC have admitted they were wrong. The transcript, even the full transcript, is proven inaccurate by the recording. Your infamous blog provided the start of my reporting. You shamefully blogged about Hunt *before* the Today show. You prejudged him, and looking at Moriarty, who has done no “basic googling” or he’d know that his “transcript” is provably false, get reamed out by his own Nottingham colleagues here is wonderful.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Louise .. I think this ship has sailed … But this is the man’s interview in the Guardian
        http://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/jun/13/tim-hunt-hung-out-to-dry-interview-mary-collins

        Where he admits to saying what he did – so I don’t think I made it up

        I get you think that they are out of context … But my point 2 is how I feel – I did prejudge him, but I think my judgement stands … We’ve had this conversation , on Twitter – and we’re not going to convince each other …

        I think it’s important to remember in my blog that I only reacted to how I felt about what he said, free speech, and why I thought it was harmful – that’s all. I still believe that … You don’t agree with me and that’s ok. I don’t feel I have been proved wrong I think even if a joke it isn’t funny. It’s my reaction … That’s it … You have your reaction I have mine … We’re both entitled to each

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      2. Sylvia, Hunt only confirmed a partial account of his comments. He did not confirm that he made those comments in all seriousness as was originally reported. There is a big difference between making a joke and making a serious statement that men and women should work in different labs. In his apology Hunt confirmed that “the sentiments as interpreted have no place in modern science”: http://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/jun/13/tim-hunt-forced-to-resign

        I think we will all have different views on the subject. However, even if Hunt was the chauvinist pig that he was originally portrayed as I find it hard to understand how “one flippant statement made by a fool might make 51% of the population feel unwelcome in a profession which should be open to all”. Are women really that helpless and pathetic that they would be put off entering a career in science by the comments of one man? The women I know certainly aren’t. Surely this is just the type of stereotyping that we wish to avoid? It’s simply replacing sexism against women with sexism against men. Why should the reported views of one man be expected to represent the views of the entire male sex?

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      3. Hi Debbie,

        I don’t see it that way, which you know I think … I don’t think it’s a matter that women aren’t tough – I think this misses my point – I would imagine it would be more of a ‘why would I want to be around that crap’ … Also that was my worry

        also don’t think ‘all men think that’ – I’m not sure how my blog post gave you that impression, but it wasn’t what I intended … I also don’t know what Tim Hunt personally believes, that isn’t the point …

        but saying foolish things when you are in a position of power is damaging. .. Or at least I think so, hence the point of my blog … If you read my point 2 above that sums up my position.

        I do understand that you don’t agree with me, and I do respect that … But I think we’re never going to convince each other here so maybe we can just leave it ?

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        1. Sylvia, Hunt is not a position of power. He’s a retired scientist who just happened to serve on a few committees where he helped to promote the work of women and young scientists. If he was all powerful he would have been able to stop the media misreporting him. The people who wield the power are the press, and particularly the science journalists involved in this case, who have the power to destroy someone’s reputation with their false reporting. In your blog post you didn’t just speak for yourself. You claimed that Hunt’s remarks would make all women feel unwelcome in science. I would hope that most women would have more sense and good judgement than to be put off entering a career in science because of the misreported comments of one male scientist. I think it would be a very sad world indeed if men and women aren’t allowed to joke at each other’s expense.

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      4. Hi again Debbie

        No I said they might make people feel unwelcome (eg the quote you pulled from my blog above) – and that that is what worries me. That is my response and how I feel about it. I know you don’t agree, for the reasons you have reiterated here and that’s fine for you not to. But we are both entitled to our opinion I think.

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      5. Sylvia, ‘I think we can disagree’ is not an argument.

        If you think powerful people and figureheads can damage women’s career aspirations by the inhibitory effects of their thoughts, and if you and others as a group use the power of sympathetic media outlets to destroy the reputations of such people, regardless of their actual thought, speech and lifelong actions, it is clear who has caused greater damage to science.

        The less powerful don’t get to tell little untruths just to balance out the odds. Nor should the more ‘powerful’ feel an obligation to police their thoughts in front of them for the fear that they are many, well-connected, more politically correct and up-to-date.

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  6. Philip,

    It’s Marnie.

    I’ve been on Louise’s blog for the last few days.

    I really have to ask: why are people weighting so heavily Louise Mensch’s comments? OK, OK, she was an MP for several years. She graduated from Oxford a while back (but not in science or engineering.) She’s worked briefly as a marketing professional.

    However, I fail to see how this qualifies her to know much about the underlying problems with the Tim Hunt statements of the last month or so.

    Has she worked as a scientist?
    Has she worked as an engineer?
    Has she worked as a scientific journalist?
    Does she have a degree in science or engineering?
    Does she have a degree that qualifies her to know something about the history of gender bias in science and engineering?

    As far as I can tell, “none of the above” fits the bill.

    I’m not all that familiar with British politics, I have to say, but as a Canadian, it seems very chummy there, with people in an inner circle all chumming up together. So long as they’ve graduated from Cambridge or Oxford, they’re able to hold sway on anything they want, even if they are commenting on something that they know very little about.

    I put Dawkins, Mensch, and Stephen Ballentyne in this category. Many follow along, without stopping for a moment to consider if these people are perhaps commenting outside their area of expertise.

    Mensch has stood on her head to disparage UCL. In fact, I couldn’t have a better opinion of UCL after all of this, whereas, my opinion of Oxford has fallen considerably.

    Dawkins, of course, is famous, but it’s been a very long time since he’s been a research scientist. Furthermore, his all-day-every-day rants against anyone with even the slightest inkling toward a religious belief, get tired after a while.

    It’s odd that people in the UK hold the opinion of Dawkins and Mensch in such high regard on matters not related to their areas of expertise? Even the Guardian has repeatedly referred to Dawkins as some kind of authority on all things scientific.

    I should say that regarding the issue of freedom of speech, compared to the UK and the United States, in Canada, freedom of speech is not absolute. I suspect that if someone ended up in the Supreme Court in Canada arguing that in their position of authority over women, they should be able to say that women should be segregated in the workplace and that women cry all the time at work, the court would rule against them. It would probably be argued as being “unreasonable” and in the balance, an infringement on women.

    In any case, as a women engineer, I’m tired of hearing from Dawkins and Mensch about Tim Hunt’s freedom of speech, as if that is all that matters. What about my right, and the right of other women professionals, to be able to speak on issues of equal pay and promotion? Why is that of lesser importance? Why does Dawkins call women “baying witches” when they raise questions about gender equality?

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    1. One does not have to have any qualifications in science, engineering, science journalism or gender studies in order to look at evidence from multiple eye witnesses and determine whether the press reports of what someone said tallied with reality. If it’s reported in all seriousness that a 72-year-old scientist is advocating for single-sex laboratories in front of audience of science journalists including many women there can only be two possible explanations: (1) he is joking or (2) he’s mad. If the latter were the case he clearly would have been dropped long ago from any positions of responsibility. The only logical explanation therefore is that he must have been joking.

      Louise Mensch uncovered a lot of the contemporanous eye witness accounts and did all the fact checking that the journalists should have done in the first place before reporting on the story. If they’d done this in the first place there wouldn’t have been a story at all.

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  7. The saddest thing for Prof Hunt is that he now has a massive fan club amongst all those ranters against “PC gone mad”, feminism, women in general and “baying witches”. He is stuck with them, which I imagine is a cause for regret.

    I enjoyed your attempt to have a reasoned debate with Louise Mensch. Please don’t think that she is a credible speaker in the UK, she writes for the Sun which is the paper with young women’s breasts on page 3 beloved of builders. The only other thing I’ve seen her write about is how to put make up on, which I don’t diminish, but you know, is not really too taxing….

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    1. I’ve kind of wondered something similar. There’s no real evidence that Hunt isn’t a decent person who just said something stupid and sexist. He may have been trying to illustrate something, but it was still – IMO – inappropriate. He could have put his hands up and said “I apologise, it was a silly and inappropriate thing to say, and it does illustrate how we have to work harder to create an environment where all feel comfortable and work harder to be aware of – and overcome – our own biases”.

      Instead, we’re in a position where those who complained are being labelled as extreme and the real issues are being ignored. It’s very unfortunate, for everyone really.

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      1. Yes you are right. I understand from the piece Hunt and Collins did in the Observer that his wife was hoping if he resigned it would be all buried quickly to avoid any further embarrassment for them. In her place I would have advised him to face up to it and make an intelligent retraction. I do feel sorry for them both.

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    2. Jane,

      The Sun (Rupert Murdoch??) also has a dominant presence in Canada. On the lighter side, my cousin, with his Pierce Brosnan like good looks, once made the Sun page 3 as a “Sunshine Boy”. Alas, the Sun has really lowered the tenor of journalism in Canada for many middle class people, who are not all that aware that they are being fed junk.

      In that light, and in the face of the general terrible state of journalism, Connie St. Louis’ initial reporting of Hunt’s comments were particularly courageous. Perhaps she got the context not quite right, but who really goes to the trouble these days to triple verify a source? In this case, that is what St. Louise did. Other scientists at the meeting corroborated that it was an “awful joke.” Even Mary Collins, Hunts wife, admitted that Hunt is old school in his views on women, which is OK, but not as a decision maker on science funding and promotion.

      Someone really should tell Connie St. Louis the amazing favor she’s done for women in engineering and science. I feel like there is now some hope for my daughter.

      Regarding Louise, maybe she could write about the 1 minute makeup application in the car mirror while heading off to a design review. Alas, Cindy Crawford already wrote about it years ago. Not any new territory for Louise on that front. It’s sad to see someone with so much potential as a thoughtful politician turn into a pundit for tabloid journalism.

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    3. Jane,

      The saddest thing for Prof Hunt is that he now has a massive fan club amongst all those ranters against “PC gone mad”, feminism, women in general and “baying witches”.

      Precisely. “Look even a Nobel Laureate agrees with us. We were right all along”. This is also a major concern of mine and it’s what motivated this post: https://muircheartblog.wordpress.com/2015/06/17/sexism-murder-art-and-science/

      (Of course, Paul Nurse is also a Nobel Laureate… http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/science/science-news/11732143/Sir-Tim-Hunt-deserved-to-lose-his-job-over-chauvinist-comments-Nobel-Prize-winner-says.html )

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You know Philip that you in the above cited a misquote of Sir Paul Nurse so appalling that he wrote to the Telegraph to correct it? You know he went on the BBC to say ‘He should never have been sacked by University College, London’? I have the clip on my website. You could hear it if you did some “basic googling”

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        1. @LouiseMensch

          You know Philip that you in the above cited a misquote of Sir Paul Nurse so appalling that he wrote to the Telegraph to correct it? You know he went on the BBC to say ‘He should never have been sacked by University College, London’? I have the clip on my website. You could hear it if you did some “basic googling”

          And when did Nurse say that? Compare and contrast with the date of my comment and the blog post. Much as I’d like to get that time machine working, it’s not yet operational…

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  8. Hi Philip, as opposed to what you told me (on Twitter), in the post above you do *not* mention the fact that you are a diversity committee member at your university in addition to being an admissions tutor.

    Being on the diversity committee automatically makes you an interested party to a debate/question of sexism and language. Your mock talk to prospective students is therefore not one from an admissions tutor who independently weighed Hunt’s speech and found it wanting in acceptability, but rather a diversity committee member whose natural role consists of looking for sexism and stamping it out.

    David Colquhoun: Diversity committee
    Uta Frith: Diversity Committee Chairman
    Hee Youn Paik: Gender Equality minister
    Deborah Blum/Connie St Louis: Both, with currently active career interests in sexism and science
    Ivan Oransky: Vice Chair of programme committee of WCSJ

    Whatever you might say, it is hard to argue these were disinterested third-parties in their reaction.

    I don’t think Paul’s coming back to answer to your remarks.

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    1. Hi ATTP, That’s not what I am pointing out. Picture a conference attended by a good number of people from various backgrounds. If many people observing a speech or an event independently go ‘hey, that’s odd, that’s not a nice thing to say’, you can be reassured there was a (sexist/any other) signal, that something improper was said. If there are some people have the above reaction, and some others who just laugh at the joke, the signal is murkier. Take it one step further: what if the vast majority of people either laughed , or remained calm and only a handful of people took the joke seriously. Furthermore, what if you inquired and found out that the people who took offense were all diversity committee officers at their respective institutions?

      Regardless of the material under consideration, people who are on such committees are likely sensitized to issues of sexism and prevailing theories about how it occurs, and inhabit a different (or higher) plane of normative consciousness. While this may be a good thing in some situations, they may miss subtle humour or irony in others due to this reason.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. So, you seem to be suggesting being on a diversity committee makes one more aware of these issues. That would seem to be a good thing, to me at least. Are you suggesting that it’s not fair that people who are aware of these issues are now involving themselves in this debate, Do you think they have some kind of unfair advantage?

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      2. This is such a jackass comment. Do you really think that people who are aware of bias (gender or otherwise), whether they are on diversity committees or not, *miss* subtle humor and irony?

        Nope, we can actually follow “suble humor and Irony” and even not funny, not subtle stupidity such as “women should be segregated” “jokes”.

        I think this is one of the problems with a lot of old school dino-boy scientists. They actually spend a lot of time trying to convince themselves that the “little women” just can’t do the work, so don’t have to feel bad about hoarding research dollars, and saddling their wives, sisters, mothers and daughters with an unfair load of housework, childcare, early-childhood education, driving, home management, and scarcity of resources.

        Hey, better luck next time, “Shub Niggurath”.

        By the way, many of you dino-boy scientists seem to have a hard time understanding the “irony” of women scientist jokes.

        Just how is it that Dawkins got so worked up about #distractinglysexy and ended up shrieking about a Twitter storm of baying witches? Did he miss the subtle humor?

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      3. Oh, I see, you didn’t come to trade insults, not overt ones anyway.

        No wiggle room for you, Shub. Saying someone does not perceive irony and is humorless because they are aware of diversity issues is a form of insult. albeit an underhanded one.

        Hey, I found some poster art for you irony-perceptive-so above-the-board-intellectuals: Dino-Boy in the Lost Valley:

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      4. Shub,
        What you seem to be suggesting seems bizarre. If we were considering a situation where there were many acceptable scenarios, then maybe you’d have a point. However, we aren’t considering such a situation. We all, I think, regard diversity as important and something we should be striving for. Being aware of these issues is therefore an advantage, not something that means you might have a bias.

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    2. “Shub”,

      As I said on Twitter, I link directly to this post: https://muircheartblog.wordpress.com/2015/06/25/yes-were-all-individuals/ above, in which I explicitly point out that I’m a member of the School’s Diversity Committee. So I’m not hiding anything, if that’s what you’re getting at.

      But like “…and Then There’s Physics” points out, I really don’t see the point you’re trying to make. My stance on the Hunt case would be the same if I were a member of the Diversity Committee or not. In that sense, my membership of the Diversity Committee is irrelevant to the post above.

      As regards seeing it “through a prism”, Marnie makes some very good points. It’s surprising that you simply dismiss them as insults, particularly given that your argument seems to be that we should all be a little more willing to dismiss/overlook “robust” language.

      Can I assume that your answers to my questions at the foot of the post above are “No, you should not be asked to stand down from the Admissions Tutor role. You were perfectly within your right to make those stupid comments during your Open Day talk” and “Yes, this is an infringement of your academic freedom”?

      If, as I suspect, that’s indeed the case, let’s push the “gedankeneexperiment” a step further. What if the remarks I’d made had been racist and/or homophobic? “Let me tell you the problem with blacks in physics courses….Now, seriously…”

      Or am I not looking through the prism in the way you are…?

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  9. This is what I am pointing out:

    There is a controversy in which there is a great deal of sorting out what was really said by one person and text is presented by one side as being acceptable (because what appears to be off-colour humour is balanced or offset by some nice things said immediately afterward)

    There is a difference between:

    a) a person who observes the controversy and judges what was said to be unacceptable and uses his position as admissions tutor in an example to illustrate why this would be so

    and

    b) a person who perceives what was said in a certain way as a diversity member and presents them in the words of an admissions tutor in order to illustrate why

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    1. But I have pointed out a number of times now that even if I weren’t a member of the Diversity Committee, my opinion on Hunt’s comment would be *exactly the same*. My membership of the Diversity Committee is entirely irrelevant.

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  10. “Shub”,

    I’m not an admissions tutor or diversity committee member. I’m not really interested in your endless bifurcation and attempts to dismiss anyone, including Philip, when they point out that Hunt’s comments went over the edge, especially in the context of where he was speaking (it wasn’t in the men’s locker room.)

    He repeated the same stupid statements in the following days. He did not retract them or issue an unqualified apology. This is what he did:

    “Sir Tim then appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme admitting that he ‘did mean’ his comments and saying it was ‘terribly important’ to be able to criticise scientists without them bursting into tears. ”

    Really.

    Well, I think it is “terribly important” to be able to criticize scientists [and engineers] without them obfuscating and using their backroom social network to avoid actually doing something to improve.

    My husband was on the review committee for a very prominent electronics journal for a number of years. I got to see first hand the number of papers that got through that should have been rejected because somebody pulled strings or pressured the editors in one way or another.

    He also attended MIT and had a number of women classmates. He says he *never* saw them cry.

    So crying, if is does occasionally occur, is hardly ‘terribly important’, and the fact that Tim Hunt tried to use this to excuse his bad joke, in his statements to the press, just shows how far he is willing to go to obfuscate.

    Sorry, Science doesn’t need more political operators and obfuscating spokesmen. All those positions are full.

    Speaking of which, Shub, you seem like a bit of a political operator and obfuscator yourself.

    Like

  11. @Louise Mensch (July 16 2015)

    My apologies. I’ve only just now recovered your comment from the spam filter (which I really should check more often than I do) and approved it.

    Tim Hunt himself said that his comments had been accurately reported. Could you point out the inaccuracies in the quote I used? (I note that you posted on this subject again yesterday). Thanks.

    Like

  12. You said you would like to hear my answer to the questions at the end of this piece you wrote about Tim Hunt a while ago.

    This came after you asked me on twitter to justify my twitter comment

    “Moriarty just made up stuff & wallowed in it.”

    with regards to a YouTube video in which you discuss Tim Hunt, and I said:

    “@ 6:10 e.g. you say TH said “do we need women in labs” “do they do as well as men” not even remotely supported”

    To which you replied:

    “Fair point. That was not meant, of course, to be a direct quote – I was paraphrasing – but I can see why it could be taken as such.”

    I’m not sure what ‘paraphrasing’ means to most people here, to me, creating statements that have no prior basis in fact are ‘making things up’ and are not a creditable thing to do, especially as at the start of the video you profess having little recall about what Tim Hunt had actually said.

    I have to admit now you have drawn my attention this article from nearly two months ago and having read it and the comments, I find I remain in awe of how many scientists have come to this debate and shown so much conviction without any bother to show actual interest in facts or details.

    For instance, no one here seems to put any effort at all in criticising Louise Mensch’s article but rather seem to think that expressing doubts about her qualifications and the fact she criticizes some scientists as the only valuable things to highlight.

    You yourself express admiration for Evan Harris and follow this with surprise that he praises her analysis, you do this without showing the slightest indication you will ever dare to explore why he may have done this.

    Why not? Do you think Harris is wrong to praise her for any specific reason?

    Coming back to the questions. They aren’t really questions plural but rather two statements that offer the reader the choice of submitting to a single implicit philosophical belief that I’ll paraphrase as ‘Are you with us or against us?’ 😉

    The question(s) that come after your hypothetical

    “Would my Head of School be justified in calling me into his office, explaining why my comments weren’t entirely appropriate for that audience, and asking me to stand down from the Admissions Tutor aspect of my job?”

    This is a question that asks if you accept the world your head of department (and you?) represent. And the answer is easy. No.

    Followed by the second question

    “…or would that be a violation of my academic freedom?”

    IMO If you say No to the first question you logically have to say Yes to this one.

    How anyone is supposed to say the opposite puzzles me. To accept a person in authority could ‘explain’ back to you something he heard about you via whatever unexplained means, and then dismiss you without even offering to hear your explanation does not make him, or his world, sound very appealing at all.

    Although I’m beginning to gather it does to some.

    I can possibly understand your construction though, because that is what happened to Tim Hunt, UCL phoned his wife using her as a proxy to pass on the threat that he’d better resign his honorary role or get sacked.

    Like

    1. Thank you for commenting both here and at Twitter. Shame that you couldn’t do it without hiding behind a pseudonym, but then you’re not alone in that, are you? (See https://muircheartblog.wordpress.com/2015/09/04/we-are-anonymous-we-are-legion-we-are-mostly-harmful/)

      I’m not sure what ‘paraphrasing’ means to most people here, to me, creating statements that have no prior basis in fact are ‘making things up’ and are not a creditable thing to do, especially as at the start of the video you profess having little recall about what Tim Hunt had actually said.

      I’m using “paraphrase” in the sense of its standard, dictionary definition. Google can help out here if you need more information on the meaning of the term. It wasn’t meant to be a direct quote. Moreover, I said right at the start that it didn’t matter (nor does it still matter) whether what he said was a joke. This misses the point entirely.

      It’s also worth bearing this tweet in mind:

      Nonetheless, I think you’ll find that my recollection of the statements Hunt was reported as making was pretty accurate, notwithstanding my comment about not being able to repeat them verbatim. Did he say the three particular statements I attributed to him right at the start? I think that you’ll find that even Louise Mensch would have to agree that he did.

      Why not? Do you think Harris is wrong to praise her for any specific reason?

      There were clearly deficiencies in how Hunt’s comments were reported and Mensch, to her credit, tenaciously tracked these down. However, I was surprised (and remain surprised) to see Harris support Mensch’s criticism of Bishop et al. My key misgiving about Harris’ tweeted statements, however, is, as I said in the post,

      Harris’ twitter timeline would also seem to imply that he is of the opinion that Hunt’s comments were merely a harmless/misjudged joke that was taken out of context and that the UCL and Royal Society overreacted:

      …which brings me neatly on to your next, and final, point. This really is the nub of the matter and where we fundamentally disagree.

      “Would my Head of School be justified in calling me into his office, explaining why my comments weren’t entirely appropriate for that audience, and asking me to stand down from the Admissions Tutor aspect of my job?”

      This is a question that asks if you accept the world your head of department (and you?) represent. And the answer is easy. No.

      OK, let’s modify that scenario ever so slightly.

      Let’s replace “my trouble with girls” with similar ‘risque’ comments about gays, blacks, Jews, Irish, muslims or whatever particular social grouping you prefer to consider.

      What if I start my talk to applicants and parents by jokingly criticising any (or all) of those groups? What if I were to insult a disabled student with ‘misplaced’ humour? (Do a ‘Frankie Boyle’. for example, in the middle of a university admissions talk). Would that still be absolutely fine with you? It’s only a joke after all.

      Like

      1. You said:

        “Did he say the three particular statements I attributed to him right at the start? I think that you’ll find that even Louise Mensch would have to agree that he did.”

        Well no. No one has the definitive facts about his statement, however, as to speculating whatever Louise Mensch may agree to, luckily we don’t have to: I.e. we all can scroll up a bit and see her comment:

        “That’s not a transcript. No transcript exist. It reflects people’s best recollections. The last sentence of your comment is, therefore, amusing.”

        You said:

        “I’m using “paraphrase” in the sense of its standard, dictionary definition.”

        Okay, great, I think here on your blog is a good opportunity for you to illustrate how you managed to ‘paraphrase’ the claim that Tim Hunt asked:

        “do we need women in labs”

        or

        “do [women] do as well as men”

        From *the three particular statements* you think are indisputable.

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  13. [Edited 06:36 19 Sept. Clarified a number of responses]

    @tlitb

    Tim Hunt himself said that his statements were “accurately reported”. This is important and played a major role in how the debate unfolded.

    This statement from Mary Collins, Hunt’s wife, is also key.

    “It was an unbelievably stupid thing to say,” she says. “You can see why it could be taken as offensive if you didn’t know Tim. But really it was just part of his upbringing. He went to a single-sex school in the 1960s. Nevertheless he is not sexist. I am a feminist, and I would not have put up with him if he were sexist.”

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

    “It was an incredibly stupid thing to say”.

    My paraphrasing was indeed clumsy (much like Tim’s decision to open his speech with those statements above was ill-advised, as even his wife admits) and, as I told you via Twitter, I apologise for the inaccurate and hasty wording. However, to address the questions you asked:

    “Do we need women in labs?” is, I agree, very poorly worded. My intention here was “Do we need women in the same labs as men?” but you are quite correct to point out that the meaning is changed entirely without the “in the same labs as men”.

    “Do women do as well as men?”. This is in relation to the comments about women crying when they’re criticised. The bedrock of science is critique and criticism; science is organised skepticism. To suggest that women are not capable of taking criticism without crying is a statement on women’s capability to pursue a scientific career.

    And, again, just to be entirely clear on this, I am not suggesting that Tim is actually of that view.

    I note you ignored my question about changing “girls” in those statements/’jokes’ to another group such as gays, Jews, Irish etc… I’d appreciate it if you could address that question.

    And I’ll reiterate that it is beyond tiresome to find myself (for the nth time throughout this, and other, online debates) communicating with someone who hasn’t got the common courtesy to put their name to their comments and hides behind a pseudonym.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “I note you ignored my question about changing “girls” in those statements/’jokes’ to another group such as gays, Jews, Irish etc… I’d appreciate it if you could address that question.”

      Why should I arbitrarily change the word “girls” to some fantasy hate figure? Especially since you ignore the symmetry of the “boys” in there. Should I make up a paraphrase where Tim Hunt says he is prone to fall in love with “gays, Jews, Irish etc… “?

      I’m not adept at that sort of thing, why should I *add* speculation like that?
      I’m only going to rely on what is *actually* known about what he said then, and add to that the huge amount that has become known about the man himself; I.e. as you yourself quote above what his wife said about him, what numerous other women have testified, and what he has done in his work, it is now well known to everyone that Tim Hunt has a *proven* history of aiding women in STEM, and not a single tangible bit of evidence has emerged since to show that Tim Hunt ever actively harmed women in STEM.

      Like

      1. No, sorry, but I’m going to push you on this – that answer side-steps the question entirely, as you know full well.

        It’s not “speculation”, as you put it. It’s a key matter of principle.

        I am fully aware of Tim Hunt’s history with regarding to backing women in science, and have been from early on in this debacle. Athene Donald, for one, is someone I know quite well and she made the case very strongly that we should look at Tim’s history and not consider those statements out of context.

        But Tim’s “track record” is not the point, and never has been the point for me. The key thing is that those statements were simply inappropriate and even Hunt’s wife (and he himself) admit this.

        The fact that you clearly are uncomfortable with “girls” being replaced by, for example, “gays” in those statements speaks volumes. (And if you’re going to argue that you’re not uncomfortable, then why not give me a definitive answer to my question?!). What your reaction strongly suggests is that you think a joke about “girls” is fine in that context, but not a joke about gays/blacks/muslims/Irish/Jews etc…

        This means that, despite your claims about academic freedom, you see that there are limits in what I could say in my role as admissions tutor. That some language is clearly inappropriate?

        Right?

        It’s not speculation. It’s a hypothetical scenario and your response to it is very telling indeed.

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  14. “The fact that you clearly are uncomfortable with “girls” being replaced by, for example, “gays” in those statements speaks volumes.”

    Yes. Yes you are absolutely right. How did you know this?

    It’s uncanny. How do you do this without even knowing who I am?

    Amazing.

    To explain further to the audience: I have to admit I would also have been uncomfortable with the word “girls” being replaced only by any of these words

    ‘Llama’,
    ‘Piano’
    ‘Handbag’

    But only those words mind you.

    Any other word would have been fine.

    How Professor Moriarty knew that ‘gays’ was in my private list of uncomfortableness amazes me. I guess that comes with the training of being a diversity officer.

    Well done.

    You should take that act to the North Pier 😉

    Like

    1. That still doesn’t answer my question. And the fact that, as I’ve pointed out before (once or twice 😉 ), you’re ever-so-courageously posting comments from behind cover of a pseudonym of course means that, as you so correctly surmised, I have no idea of your background.

      So, I take it from your rather tortuous reply that you would be absolutely fine with an admissions tutor starting off a lecture/presentation to applicants and their parents with

      “The problem I have with blacks/gays/Irish/Jews doing physics…

      …but, joking aside”

      Yes?

      A straight answer would be helpful. But then, given that you haven’t got the backbone to post here under your own name, I suspect that’s asking a bit much.

      And I don’t “buy” that you don’t see the relevance of the question. You’re clearly not stupid.

      Like

  15. Philip

    You invited me to respond to your blog post on Twitter so I’ve accepted the challenge. I will split this response into two parts.

    First of all I think your analogy is somewhat misleading. The context in which Hunt’s toast was made is very different from your scenario, and you’ve missed out the opening remark. Let’s try looking at this from a slightly different perspective.

    You’re a diversity officer at a university. You have a long established track record of encouraging women at your university to pursue careers in science. Because of the good work you have done over the years you have been specially selected by your university to attend a conference in Korea with two of your female graduates who now hold senior scientific positions and who have been asked to present at the conference to showcase their work. You are also invited to make a presentation at the conference about your own work. While at the conference, at short notice, the organisers ask if you could possibly do a toast at a lunch hosted by a women’s science group. You are more used to talking about science, and you’re nervous at the prospect but you don’t want to upset anyone so you kindly agree.

    You know that toasts are normally supposed to be a little bit humorous so you do your best to inject a bit of your usual self-deprecatory ironic humour into your little speech. With a big smile on your face and a twinkle in your eyes you start off by saying “It’s strange that such a chauvinist monster like me has been asked to speak to women scientists.” Now it just so happens that you and your wife both met when you were lecturers at the same university so you decide to include a little personal anecdote in your speech: “Let me tell you about my trouble with girls. Three things happen when they work at universities: you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticise them they cry. Perhaps we should have separate universities for boys and girls?” As you’re talking you have a big smile on your face and that same little twinkle in your eye. Clearly you’re exaggerating for comic effect because you haven’t fallen in love with all your female colleagues and they haven’t all fallen in love with you. If you’d seriously reduced the entire female workforce at the university to tears every time you criticised them you wouldn’t still be working at 72 years of age and would have been sacked long ago. Then comes the serious part of the toast: “Now, seriously, I’m impressed by the economic development of Korea. And women scientists played, without doubt an important role in it. Science needs women, and you should do science, despite all the obstacles.” You then end the speech with another ironic joke: “Congratulations everybody, because I hope, I hope, I hope — I really hope — there is nothing holding you down, especially not monsters like me.” [I’ve adapted Tim Hunt’s comments here to include the actual closing quote from the recording.]

    You get a few laughs at the end of your speech and sit down to eat your lunch thinking nothing more of the matter. It’s only later that day that you realise you’re at the centre of a major controversy. Unknown to you, one of your fellow speakers at the conference didn’t realise you were joking. She thought you’d publicly admitted you were a chauvinist pig and that you were seriously suggesting that men and women should go to separate universities. Unfortunately rather than having a quiet word with you or the conference organisers she decides to publicly shame you on Twitter and she does this in collaboration with two of the very people who were on the programme committee and who had invited you to the conference. They misquote you and present your comments out of context to put you in the worst possible light. The rest, as they say, is history. Your reputation is in tatters, you’re forced to resign from your work as a diversity officer, and you’re now forever remembered as a sexist diversity officer even though you’ve demonstrated throughout your entire career that you’re not remotely sexist at all. Presumably you would think you had been treated fairly.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. What I’ve presented above is an alternative possible interpretation of events in Korea. The reality is that there is no full recording of what was said. We don’t have a video tape so that we can see the expressions on people’s faces. Different people have interpreted events in different ways, but many people have changed their views now that a fuller version of events has become known. Some people are still trying to claim that Hunt was deadly serious and that he pretended post hoc that he was joking to save his skin. However, the majority now recognise that he was attempting to be funny, even if not everyone realised that at the time. With the benefit of hindsight it was clearly not a good idea for him to joke in such an ironic self-deprecatory way, as this type of humour is easily misunderstood, and the comment about girls was perhaps not a good idea. However, punishment should be proportionate to the crime. Joking is not (yet) a crime in this country. I’ve sometimes made joking comments about men in my presentations. Should I now be banned from doing so in case some poor man takes offence? We have a presumption of innocence and you don’t a hang man when there is no majority verdict. Hunt rightly apologised, and that should have been the end of the matter. The Today programme clearly wasn’t his finest hour, but few people are likely to be at their best when they’re recording a statement at an airport when they’re about to catch a plane. Hunt probably didn’t have much of an idea at that stage of how the story had been reported. He did issue a proper public apology a few days later:

    http://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/jun/13/tim-hunt-forced-to-resign

    The question of freedom of speech is irrelevant. The main issue is about treating people kindly and giving an appropriate punishment which is in proportion to the “crime”. If an accusation is made against a person then they should have the right to defend themselves before any decisions are made. If people make a mistake then we should forgive them if it’s their first offence. We learn from our mistakes. People who wish to take to Twitter to complain should get their facts right first before doing so, and newspapers should check facts before publishing, and especially so when they are basing their stories solely on hearsay on Twitter. Newspapers should allow the accused the right to comment rather than relying solely on the version of events provided by the accuser. If individuals and newspapers get their facts wrong then they should issue public apologies.

    If the journalists at that conference in Korea really were interested in promoting women in science then, rather than making an enormous fuss about some silly joke, they should have focused instead on the wonderful work of the two women scientists funded by the ERC whose work Tim Hunt was promoting. Shamefully not one single journalist present at that conference wrote about their presentations.

    You seem to dispute Evan Harris’s assessment of Louise Mensch’s version of events. Perhaps you can enlighten us as to what factual errors she’s made in her reporting. While I don’t always agree with the adversarial style of her writing she has got all her facts right as far as I’m aware.

    Like

  17. “So, I take it from your rather tortuous reply that you would be absolutely fine with an admissions tutor starting off a lecture/presentation to applicants and their parents with
    “The problem I have with blacks/gays/Irish/Jews doing physics…
    …but, joking aside”
    Yes?”

    Yep. I now see I’m found out. You are right. That’s what all my prior statements here clearly add up to.

    I was pretty much screaming out my evil philosophy here.

    Also, before you ask, I would also like to have admitted to the record my clear implied desire that I’d be happy with kittens skewered on a kebab on a regular basis.

    I dunno why. It makes me laugh.

    Sorry. I’ll try to stop that.

    Laughing that is.

    Not the kittens. They deserve it.

    Like

  18. …and still no answer to my very simple question.

    You can obfuscate as much as you like — you’re clearly dodging the question. From behind cover of your pseudonym. Why not have just an ounce of intellectual courage in future and put your name to your comments?

    And if you think that my comments were anything to do with suggesting that you hold an “evil philosophy” then I take back my previous comment — perhaps you, rather remarkably, can’t see the relevance of comparing the “my trouble with girls” statements to similar statements made jokingly about other groups. It’s got nothing to do with a slur directed towards you! Think the logic through. It’s not very difficult.

    I don’t block anyone who comments here so feel free to continue to post. But until you do me the simple courtesy of addressing the question I asked, I will no longer respond.

    Like

  19. Answering to your hypothetical question:

    why complicate the matter? Your contention is that Hunt said something ‘inappropriate’ and you seek to illustrate, using a speech to prospective students as a setting. But a toast is structurally different from a speech made to youngsters. Even if you leave out Hunt’s specific formulation, any toast that has ironic humour would not translate well to immature, young adults at a course admissions pitch. That tells you more about the non-equivalence between different settings of public address, rather than the inappropriateness of the content of the address (speech) being a barrier in translating his speech to students.

    Hunt’s speech was made to journalism students (Blum and St Louis), established scientists, and journalists – a grown-up audience who can digest some irony and the use of apophasis as a rhetorical device in a light-hearted speech, that nevertheless contained some serious points, and ended on a ringing positive note.

    Have you never, ever in your life heard an ironic joke or comment that appears negative and politically incorrect but actually ends up being lifting and inspiring, made by a teacher or speaker?

    Hunt has some ideas about women, in science, and at the workplace. They are not like the ones you hold and may even appear heretical. Hunt’s ideas are definitely along orthodox lines. There is nothing to be done about it. It doesn’t mean he needs to be fired or have his Nobel taken away from him.

    Like

    1. It’s not “complicating” matters. It’s central to the argument.

      Why did Hunt’s wife describe his statements as “an unbelievably stupid thing to say”?

      Hunt has some ideas about women, in science, and at the workplace. They are not like the ones you hold and may even appear heretical.

      You entirely, utterly, and gobsmackingly miss the point. Why do you say that Hunt has “some ideas” about women?! I thought it had been well-established at this point that Tim Hunt was being self-deprecating. That his comments were a joke. And, right back at the start of all of this, my point was that even if the comments were a joke, they’re problematic.

      I’ll ask you again. Is it OK for me to stand up and jokingly/self-deprecatingly say this:

      “My problem with blacks and ethnic minorities in physics courses is that they just always seem to have a chip on their shoulder. But that’s because I’m an unreconstructed racist.

      Now, all joking aside…”

      Fine? Or not fine? I note that, like that other pseudonymous commenter above, you didn’t actually answer the question. It’s very simple. Yes or no? Is it fine to make those comments on the basis of race even as a self-deprecating joke?

      I’ll say it again. It’s not “complicating matters” to ask this question. It’s core to the entire debate.

      As regards being fired, he held an honorary position. The parallel with the admissions tutor case is very strong indeed. If I were to say something inappropriate as I describe above I could lose the admissions tutor role — some might also call it an “honorary” role — and still be employed by the University of Nottingham.

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      1. It is fine to say:

        “My problem with blacks and ethnic minorities in physics courses is that they just always seem to have a chip on their shoulder. But that’s because I’m an unreconstructed racist.
        Now, all joking aside…”

        in a toast, as part of a self-depracating joke

        How would it work in a speech to prospective students?

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      2. The quote you’ve given is not equivalent. If Hunt had married a black woman, then I think it would have been quite appropriate if he’d used the same format to make a joke about his wife. Would you be offended if he’d said “my trouble with blacks” is that they hog the bathroom, they drink too much wine, and they spend too much time on the computer.” ?

        Sophie Hannah makes the same point much better than I can in her comment on Athene Donald’s blog:

        http://occamstypewriter.org/athenedonald/2015/07/28/the-importance-of-evidence-the-need-for-just1action4wis/#comment-137207

        I really can’t understand why everyone is so keen to see the worst in people. If you want to advance the cause of women then surely the cause would be best served if we could have a more forgiving environment where people are given the benefit of the doubt and where we presume that people are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

        Like

  20. @shub niggurath

    [Christ, these childish pseudonyms are really getting on my fecking nerves now. Why are you all so bloody petrified of actually putting your real name to your comments? Spineless. Absolutely spineless behaviour.]

    Thanks for finally answering the question.

    “It is fine to say:”

    In your opinion. How about the opinion of your employer? And your audience? And your hosts?

    Are you speaking for everyone? How democratic of you.

    Like

    1. As admissions tutor, you are restricted in what you can say. In a toast as best man, for instance, you can say whatever you want (provided it’s funny).

      You put too much stock into your initial impression of what Hunt said and staked out a position on its basis. If you walk back and recalibrate, you will find that Hunt has some ideas about women in the workplace of science, stemming from his (a) impish, original thinking mind, (b) own personal experiences in a small group lab, (c) take on the modern orthodoxy of ‘subtle’ and overt bias impeding women in science. There is no sexism, or misogyny.

      you may not like (c) and certainly you are within your right to be upset at his choice of topic for a toast, but, if there is not sexism or discriminatory intent, you must conclude against condemnation.

      Remember, several people clapped, and laughed. They got what he wanted to say. Some didn’t.

      Like

  21. @DebbieKennett Sept 19 2015 at 9:48 pm

    Apologies for the somewhat strange commenting hierarchy in the default setting for this WordPress theme.There’s no “reply” button under your comment so please excuse the “@” approach.

    The quote is equivalent for the following reasons: it is given in a formal capacity to an audience where many will not have any idea of my detailed background. To place Tim’s comments in their full context requires knowledge of his history. Neither all of those at the conference in Korea, nor the applicants/parents in the admissions talk example know all of the details of the speaker’s background.

    Moreover, the analogy also works at the level of the admissions tutor role being an “additional” role within my academic job. I could lose that role and still retain my professorship. There’s an interesting parallel with Tim Hunt’s honorary professorship/membership of RS panel.

    more forgiving environment where people are given the benefit of the doubt and where we presume that people are presumed innocent until proven guilty

    .

    I agree entirely. While I remain of the opinion that what Tim said was ill-advised (and his wife went even further, calling his comments “unbelievably stupid”), it’s clear that there were many problems with how it was reported. Louse Mensch, to her credit, pursued this with remarkable and laudable tenacity. I have spoken with other colleagues who are very uncomfortable with the haste at which UCL reached their decision and I can understand entirely their discomfort.

    A key issue I have with Tim’s comments, however, is that they were used to bolster the vicious sexist culture that exists online. This is “collateral” damage and Tim obviously couldn’t be aware of this impact. It’s one of the reasons that I get so irritated by pseudonyms (see comments to ‘Shub Niggaruth’ above) — so much horrible sexist (and, indeed, misogynistic) abuse is flung out by cowards under cover of anonymity. See https://muircheartblog.wordpress.com/2015/06/17/sexism-murder-art-and-science/

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  22. Philip, my comments are a response to the title of a piece in the Telegraphy by Cathy Newman, which I perceive your argument / question ultimately to be a variant of. If that’s not the case, please do correct me.

    “You wouldn’t defend racism. So stop backing sexist scientist Tim Hunt”
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-politics/11708560/Jonathan-Dimbleby-UCL-resignation-Sir-Tim-Hunt-doesnt-deserve-this.html

    The objection that people would not substitute x with y in a (self deprecating) joke including the sentence “my trouble with x” is only relevant if x and y are truly equivalent. If people would hesitate to make the joke “my trouble with blacks” why should it follow they should also feel the same hesitation with a joke that includes “my trouble with girls”? Do you agree it is much easier for a stand-up comedian to come up with jokes stating out the reasons for “his trouble with girls” than “his trouble with blacks”?

    To give another example: suppose you wrote a blogpost titled “My trouble with Dutch people” and I objected to that saying you wouldn’t write a blogpost titled “My trouble with Black people”, do you think that objection is valid?

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    1. I really don’t see your point here, I’m afraid. The key issue here is that the joke was sexist in the particular context of careers in science. My point is that we take that same joke, **keep the context the same**, and change the group from “girls” to any other group. Strip the argument of its context, like you do, and of course it won’t make sense! Your comparison of ““My trouble with Dutch people” with “My trouble with Black people” is therefore a non-sequitur (which seem to be popping up with increasing regularity in this thread).

      Like

  23. Philip

    Your comment system does indeed seem to be rather confusing!

    You’re making a false analogy. Any speech has to be adapted to suit the audience. If you’re doing a formal talk to would-be students and their parents you have very specific information which you need to convey to them. The date will have been planned well in advance. You will presumably have prepared a powerpoint presentation as a prompt, and you will have rehearsed in advance what you’re going to say. No one would be expecting you to makes jokes at such an occasion.

    A lunch is an informal occasion. A toast is supposed to be humorous so you would expect the person to make a few jokes. There are even people who serve as professional toastmasters. It’s normally something you would have the chance to prepare in advance whereas Tim Hunt was asked to make the toast at short notice. You do not need to know Tim Hunt’s personal background to recognise the absurdity of taking his comments at face value. if he really did hold such extreme views do you not think we might have heard of them before now? Why would a conference programme committee invite a sexist speaker to such a conference in the first place? Yet, in the initial reporting of the affair, it was said that Hunt’s comments were made in all seriousness. That was what was so damaging and why there was such a strong reaction, and that is why he was forced to resign. Yet his accusers didn’t challenge him about his remarks at the time and one of them was even sitting on the same table as Hunt at the lunch. If it were me I would at least have asked a few basic questions such as how the proposal for segregated labs would stop people of the same sex falling in love in the lab. It was also even more shameful that the people who initially made the claims then tried to backtrack and make out that Hunt was only pretending to be joking to save his face. He was even credited with saying things that it is now proven he didn’t even say (eg, the comment about thanking the women for lunch which was actually made by a female Korean politician). Do you think that is a fair way to treat your invited guest and a fellow speaker? Sadly none of them have yet apologised to Hunt, If they’d done so this affair would have been over long ago and there would have been no hard feelings.

    I think there is general agreement that UCL acted too quickly but what is done is done. Yes it was only an honorary position but the UCL decision precipitated the decisions from all the other institutions. It’s the loss of his ERC role which is particularly damaging because he’d spent many years of his life inspiring young men and women to go into science. There’s also the damage to his reputation which is going to be very hard to reverse. He’s now forever tainted with the label of being that sexist Nobel prize winner even though in reality he’s nothing of the sort and has actively helped women scientists throughout his entire life.

    You claim that Hunt’s speech was used to “bolster the vicious sexist culture that exists online” yet all but one of your examples predate Hunt’s speech. The Milo/Grossman debate is a different subject altogether. Do you have any concrete examples to support this unsubstantiated claim? Clearly there are real problems with online behaviour and Twitter trolls but these problems affect people on all sides of any debate. Many of these accounts are bots. Others are real people who wish to retain their anonymity for a variety of reasons but you should not fall into the trap of stereotyping them all as cowards. Shub has revealed his identity to me and his reasons for using a pseudonym. Surely we should be trying to judge men and women on what they say and not on who they are. Aren’t these just the sort of prejudices that you’re trying to overcome in your role as a diversity officer?

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    1. Debbie,

      I’m in the middle of making dinner. I’ll respond to all of your comments either tonight or early tomorrow morning but for now, and on the subject of anonymity, see this: https://muircheartblog.wordpress.com/2015/09/04/we-are-anonymous-we-are-legion-we-are-mostly-harmful/ Note also the lengthy comments thread.

      Anonymity makes an incredibly strong contribution to the viciousness on the web. I remain utterly unconvinced that its virtues outweigh its contribution to this deeply nasty culture. As I say in that blog post, those commenting under cover of a pseudonym do not have to take responsibility for what they say — they can comment with impunity, very publicly.

      Yes, there are indeed cases where blogging is life threatening — this, for example, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/may/28/bangladeshi-blogger-ananya-azad-named-hitlist — but does this really apply to Shub and his ilk? Somehow, I doubt it. Most of the time it amounts to a simple lack of courtesy, openness, and honesty. Just why are “Shub” and so many others not willing to stand behind their comments?

      Note that I have debated with Shub throughout. I did not block him/her, as some bloggers do for anonymous comments. So I fully engage with the arguments of anon commenters. But I will continue to point out during those exchanges that anonymity intrinsically represents a lack of courtesy and too often is indicative of a lack of (intellectual) courage. See Julian Stirling’s three points here — https://muircheartblog.wordpress.com/2015/09/04/we-are-anonymous-we-are-legion-we-are-mostly-harmful/#comment-625 (Disclaimer: Julian had the misfortune of doing his PhD under my supervision).

      There’d be a heck of a lot less bullying and abuse on the web if those making those comments had to put their name to them. (And, yes, I realise entirely that technologically/technically that’s never going to happen. It’s the principle here that’s important).

      In terms of my role on the diversity committee, take a look at GamerGate and the more deeply sexist aspects of some of the “new atheism” communities (including thunderfoot, with whom I debated in that video; yet another tedious juvenile pseudonym). Anonymous attacks are absolutely rife in those communities. (By the way, and as I pointed out to Shub, I am not a “diversity officer”. I am a member, among many, of the School’s diversity committee due to my role as Admissions Tutor).

      There are quite a number of your points about Hunt with which I agree, and will respond in full later. On the matter of anonymity, however, I disagree entirely and fundamentally. Anon commenting doesn’t improve communication on the web — it too often debases it.

      Dammit, I think dinner’s burning…

      More later.

      Philip

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      1. I broadly agree with you on the subject of anonymity, and sockpuppetry is a particular problem. The subject of anonymity for peer review is a whole different debate altogether. However, on Twitter there are cases where anonymity is justified. It is not just cowards who resort to anonymity. There are some people who fear for their professional careers if they speak out against the prevailing viewpoint on certain subjects. I respect Shub’s reason’s for remaining anonymous. I’ve actually exchanged DMs on Twitter with a number of anonymous users who in all cases revealed their names to me voluntarily, and have their own reasons for doing so. Someone does not have to be anonymous to be a bully.

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    2. OK, disaster averted with dinner.

      I realised that I missed the point you were making re. diversity. The key issue is not that I give a damn about the identity/ethnicity of the person commenting — I couldn’t care less about this. As I said, I engage with the arguments in any case (unless it’s full-on abuse and even then I’ll tolerate quite a bit of that!).

      It’s the culture/mindset that is underpinned by anonymity that I am railing against. Hiding behind pseudonyms means that those commenting ultimately don’t take responsibility for what they say. By tolerating anonymity we normalise that culture.

      Philip

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      1. I want to say clearly that I think your false analogy is a great example of ageism and sexism. By effectively asking people to defend Sir Tim Hunt against an obviously false scenario you are being both ageist and sexist, and on balance, also racist. You are presuming his guilt based on his race and sex; you are being ageist; you defy due process; you haven’t done basic googling.

        You exemplify the reasons why the academic diversity industry is the contempt of the rest of the academic world.

        plus, your commenters have been overtly sexist towards me, and you have allowed it to sit there.

        To specify, you have allowed your commenters to say that because I have in the past written a blog on make-up (in a blog about fashion and make up) that I must therefore be stupid and unqualified to comment. I read English at Oxford and was admitted to Cambridge to read history at the same time (because I came third in the Peterhouse national history essay competition they were running, and they offered me a place). I went to Oxford. I have since written as a comment writer for every major newspaper in the country, as well as serving as an MP and running a property business and writing seventeen novels with some success.

        But my credentials are not relevant. I was able to prove with primary sources that Sir Tim Hunt was a) prejudged by McClain, Bishop, Colquhoun etc; b) Not a sexist and did not make a sexist joke c) lied about by the three main reporters (not a mistake – they lied) and finally d) misrepresented by the BBC misrepresented on the Today show for which they have apologized. That is why real academic heavyweights ranging from Prof. Nassim Taleb, of NYU (Black Swan), Prof. Dame Athene Donald, the President of the British Science Association and Master of Churchill, Cambridge, and Prof David Collum, Prof of Organic Chemistry at Cornell, amongst others, have praised my work. As tough as it may be not to have the backing of “Marnie Dunsmore” and a random from the Diversity Committee at Nottingham whose own colleagues are contemptuous of him, I shall struggle through.

        Your sexism revolts me. I shall not comment here further. You are everything you seek to oppose, like the pigs in 1984. I rejoice that Sir Tim Hunt has been nationally exonerated after my work and that your ilk have become an international laughing stock and a byword.

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    3. First, apologies for the weird commenting system. It’s not “mine”, as such — it’s associated with the WordPress theme I’m using. When I get a chance I’ll look into extending the number of levels of replies under a given comment.

      My sincere apologies also for the delay in getting back to you. Yesterday was the start of the new academic year here at Nottingham, so I was rather busy with other things. In any case, I wanted to mull over your thoughtful and well-balanced comment and respond in a rather less “knee-jerk” fashion than is sometimes — often? invariably? — the case with online exchanges.

      I’ll take your points one by one…

      1. “You’re making a false analogy….No one would be expecting you to makes jokes at such an occasion.”

      It’s intriguing that both you and Louise Mensch have made this claim. It’s unsupportable — as you might expect me to say! — for the following reasons.

      I regularly make jokes during my admissions tutor talk (although some might not think of them as such!) I also regularly criticise aspects of the university system including, in particular, the utter ludicrousness of league tables (schools/universities aren’t football teams) and the vacuity of the term “excellence”. (See, for example, https://muircheartblog.wordpress.com/2014/03/20/philip-moriarty-vacuity-excellence/ and https://muircheartblog.wordpress.com/2015/05/22/still-world-university-rankings-top-50-five-sure-fire-routes-successful-academic-management/) . In this sense, it is very much not a staid ‘corporate’ presentation.

      To a certain extent I am “selling” the School of Physics and Astronomy — although, as I tell the applicants and their parents, I aim to this in as honest a way as I can — so there needs to be some aspect of engaging, even entertaining, the audience. You’re more than welcome to attend one of the admissions talks I give if you need direct evidence of just how far off the mark you are with regard to the format of my, and many other, admissions tutor presentations!

      In addition, while I use PowerPoint — which is much maligned, for no good reason (https://www.timeshighereducation.com/opinion/in-praise-of-microsoft-powerpoint ) — I never, ever work from a “script” because this kills any spontaneity. Everything I say is unrehearsed in that sense and varies somewhat from day to day and audience to audience.

      Moreover, during our UCAS visit days I have lunch with the parents (while the applicants have lunch with postgraduate and undergraduate students from our School). This is very much an informal setting.

      The parallels go even further because, as I’ve said before, the admissions tutor role is an ‘honorary’ role, as such. I could lose that role and still remain a member of staff at the University of Nottingham (i.e. the admissions tutor role could in principle be removed from me without my also being fired from the job).

      So, far from being a false analogy, the parallels with the admissions tutor presentation are striking.

      2. “You do not need to know Tim Hunt’s personal background to recognise the absurdity of taking his comments at face value. if he really did hold such extreme views do you not think we might have heard of them before now? Why would a conference programme committee invite a sexist speaker to such a conference in the first place?”

      There’s no reason for us to debate this. We agree here. It’s clear now that Tim’s comments were meant as a self-deprecating joke and I have couched my criticism of what he said in those terms. At the start of that video I preface what I say with “Even if Tim was joking…”

      [Aside:: On the subject of that video, I’ve got to admit that it’s hardly my finest hour. There’s another interesting parallel here with the environment for Tim’s talk. I did that video/debate while sitting on my couch at home with a cup of tea in my hand, i.e. in a relaxed, informal setting. I knew that the video was being streamed and I knew that it would be uploaded to YouTube, and yet I simply did not choose my words with enough care and ended up “paraphrasing” Tim’s comments in ways which were misleading. Do I regret that video? Yes, definitely. I will never again get involved with one of those informal debate forums (sorry, fora) and will stick to Sixty Symbols (see http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/~ppzstm/pdfs/Moriarty_youtube.pdf) and Brady Haran’s other channels.

      That particular debate was also heated because — I’ll make no bones about it — I very much dislike (to understate the case) the stance/ideology of one of the contributors. I allowed my deep irritation with thunderfoot’s sexism (and his ill-formed arguments about genetic dimorphism and gender differences affecting ability in science) to get the better of me at times. ]

      But without knowing Tim’s full background it’s very easy to misinterpret that ‘joke’. “My trouble with girls” all too easily becomes “The trouble with girls”, as we’ve seen. You can argue that this is due to poor reporting — and, again, I’ll agree with you and Louise Mensch that there have been major deficiencies in the reporting — but, just as in the case of my example for the admissions tutor role, it was an exceptionally misjudged start to a talk about women in science.

      As I see it, there also seems to be some inconsistency in your arguments. You yourself have described the comments as ill-advised (echoing Tim’s wife on the matter: “unbelievably stupid”) yet you now seem to be arguing that due to the context/environment, they were fine. Am I missing something here?

      3. Yet, in the initial reporting of the affair, it was said that Hunt’s comments were made in all seriousness.

      Yes, I know. But that has not been my stance so I can’t really be held to account for those errors in reporting. As I’ve said throughout, the comments are damaging even when meant as a joke. Dorothy Bishop has written at length about this. See, for example: https://www.timeshighereducation.com/letters/nobel-laureates-joke-cannot-be-laughed-off .

      4. Do you think that is a fair way to treat your invited guest and a fellow speaker?

      But I would say it’s rather unfair of the speaker to kick off a talk to a conference about women in science with such misplaced remarks. Not only does it not reflect well on Tim, it does a major disservice to his track record of supporting women in science. (And I’d imagine this is one reason why Mary Collins described the comments as “unbelievably stupid”).

      5. You claim that Hunt’s speech was used to “bolster the vicious sexist culture that exists online” yet all but one of your examples predate Hunt’s speech. The Milo/Grossman debate is a different subject altogether. Do you have any concrete examples to support this unsubstantiated claim?

      I was surprised you asked this question, given that you discussed this aspect with Lenny Teytelman not so long ago: http://www.thespectroscope.com/read/goodbye-timhunt-discussion-by-lenny-teytelman-334 where Lenny provides a number of examples.

      Moreover, I don’t understand how you can claim that the Yiannopoulos/Grossman debate is a “different subject altogether”. It was prompted entirely by Tim’s comments and focussed on the question of women’s role in science. Hardly “a different subject altogether”. How often have you heard the term “feminazi” applied to those who have criticised Hunt’s comments? See http://www.endmisogyny.org/solidarity-with-dr-emily-grossman/

      (I am, of course, not arguing that this type of appalling abuse is restricted to what might be called the “right” of the political spectrum, as the vile treatment of Louise Mensch on Twitter yesterday with regard to #PigGate shows.)

      [Edit. Sept. 22 2015 at 16:59 — Note, in particular, the comment towards the bottom of that endmisogyny.org post which states “Don’t these women realise that all this whinging and seeking special treatment affirms the point the Nobel prize guy was making?”]

      6. Many of these accounts are bots. Others are real people who wish to retain their anonymity for a variety of reasons but you should not fall into the trap of stereotyping them all as cowards.

      How do you know that “Many of these accounts are bots”? I’d very much appreciate a link. What percentage are bots?

      I’ve addressed your points about anonymity in another comment. I have very little time indeed for the argument that “I’m afraid I’ll lose my job if I reveal my identity”. This simply backs up my point that all too often those who hide behind anonymity do so because they are fundamentally duplicitous and lack the backbone to stand behind what they say.

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      1. Philip

        Thank you for taking the time to reply to all my points so comprehensively. I don’t have time for an extended debate but your raised points that I thought need answering.

        1. Thanks for the clarification regarding the talks you make as admissions tutor. I’m afraid I still don’t accept your analogy. This is a talk that you have considerable time to prepare for and that you repeat year after year updated as appropriate, and perhaps with different jokes. A better analogy might be if you were asked to say a few words at your parents’ lunches at short notice.

        2. Thank you for your honesty about the video, and for accepting that you did somewhat misrepresent the situation. I’m not familiar with any of the other characters involved but clearly you’ve had a few fraught interactions before.

        I think Hunt was ill advised to try to use his ironic sense of humour in the toast. Clearly some people were offended, and if you say something that causes offence then in retrospect you would have to say that the comments were ill advised. I do not personally find his comments at all offensive, and can’t understand why some people think it’s such a big deal. I’ve joked in a talk before about men not being able to multitask. If making jokes about the opposite sex is such a big problem then all the men in my audience must clearly now be suffering from low self-esteem and lasting psychological damage as a result of my terrible sexist comment!

        3. Dorothy Bishop was one of a number of people who were campaigning for Hunt to be removed from his posts because of his “views”, and this was when the story first broke and it was reported that Hunt had made those comments in all seriousness. Her article in the Times Higher Education Supplement presents a somewhat distorted view of events. I agree with her that people need to have good judgement to sit on a diversity panel. In my view, having good judgement means not pre-judging people based on tweets and unverified newspaper reports, and presuming that people are innocent until proven guilty.

        4. You haven’t answered the question. This is the point that is of the most concern to me. If we were to continue with the analogy of you making a bad joke at a parents’ lunch do you think it would be acceptable if your colleagues who had invited you to the lunch published your bad joke on Twitter, and attributed comments to you that you didn’t make? Would you be happy if the newspapers all published a story about you being a sexist admissions officer without even bothering to contact you to find out your side of the story and to verify whether you actually were sexist? If we are to use the analogy appropriately then your Head of School would not call you into his office. He would ring up your wife and suggest that you resign. Do you think that is fair?

        Hunt received online abuse after his speech, but there was also the #distractinglysexy hashtag which was quite funny though it was PR-driven campaign. I don’t see how that can be construed as bolstering “the vicious sexist culture that exists online”.

        I discussed Gamergate with Lenny Teytelman but that’s a different issue altogether. There is a slight overlap because that was a similar case where I understand a woman made a false claim about a man which the press believed and they published the story without doing the necessary fact-checking. Some of the Gamergate people did seem to latch on to the Tim Hunt affair but I believe that was only a small subset. There are online bullies and trolls on all sides of any debate.

        The Yiannopoulos/Grossman debate was prompted by the Tim Hunt affair but they were mostly discussing sexism in science rather than what Hunt actually said. I thought that Grossman’s comments were far more sexist than anything Hunt said. She basically painted all young girls as poor weak sensitive souls, who are lacking in confidence and who are prone to crying. However, the online abuse she suffered as a consequence was inexcusable.

        6. I didn’t save screenshots but I reported several bots that were spewing out multiple tweets per second, many of which included the #TimHunt hashtag. It’s thought that 8.5% of Twitter accounts are run by bots though not all bots are necessarily malicious:

        http://www.techtimes.com/articles/12853/20140812/twitter-says-23-million-active-users-post-updates-automatically.htm

        There is a very powerful clique of science writers in the US who are effectively setting the agenda. I don’t know if you’re aware of the case of Bora Zivkovic which was a precursor to the Tim Hunt affair. Zivkovic has Asperger’s syndrome. He was falsely accused of sexual harassment and, as a consequence, he lost his job, and is now unemployable. See this article here and in particular the final comment from Zivkovic’s wife Catherine:

        https://nikitab.wordpress.com/2013/10/28/the-bora-controversy-and-american-values/

        The people who went after Zivkovic are the same people who went after Hunt. It’s therefore not surprising that some people choose to remain anonymous.

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  24. I don’t know, Debbie…. it appears you’re part of Tim Hunt’s “massive fan club” with your posts here. Of course, I agree with you, so I’m in the “PC gone mad” fan club as well.

    Philip, if really want to play the game of switching contexts, a more apt one would be to flip genders: “Let me tell you my trouble with boys: they pester you until you sleep with them, they have the emotional range of a squirrel and they leave the toilet seat up.”

    Sexist or truth? Or maybe both.

    I think much of this issue hinged on the fact that there is indeed some truth in what Tim Hunt said relating to emotions in the work place. When questioned the day after, he admitted that “emotional entanglements” complicate the work environment. To admit this is not sexism. Full stop. Tim Hunt did not place blame on either gender. Not in his joke and not in his comments the days after.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. First, here’s Stewart Lee on “political correctness gone mad” for your listening pleasure: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1IYx4Bc6_eE

      Second, I really don’t parse your argument about “switching contexts” at all. It’s a non-sequitur. Of course it would be entirely stupid of me to say something like that. Your comment reminds me of “The Sperminator’s” response, from this week’s Private Eye

      Third, a part of Tim’s joke was “and when you criticise them they cry.” This is beyond “emotional entanglements”. Perhaps in his experience, but not in mine (in 18 years of running a research group) and that of many others. Why did he mention this? Even in the context of a joke? Again, I’ll point to my alternative wording and ask if I’d made a similar joke about gays, Jews, Irish, blacks etc.. would it be entirely appropriate?

      If so, why did Tim Hunt’s wife, Mary Collins, describe what he said as “unbelievably stupid”?

      I also dislike absolutes in the context of discussions/debates about what are clearly deeply divisive and complicated issues — and we all tend to be guilty of them at times. This entire furore makes some aspects of quantum field theory look positively simple. Your “This is not sexism. Full stop” comment reminds me a lot of this classic quote from Mr. Partridge:

      “Those of you who know me from the world of sport will know that I like having a bit of a chat with brawny men on the rugby field and having a bit of a chat with the soft, fair, waif-like, moist creatures you find in ladies’ sports. Please don’t write in saying that’s sexist. It’s not.

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  25. Mr/Dr Moriarty
    First, you seem to have a chip on your shoulder w.r.t Milo Yiannopoulous/ Gamergate. GG has almost nothing do with #timhunt yet in your mind they are linked. You need to sort out the link, no one can help you there. Second, you have a problem with internet anonymity. Again, these are your problems. If people are anonymous/pseudonymous and support Tim Hunt, that makes them no more misogynist than Louise Mensch, Debbie Kennett, Athene Donald, Sophie Hannah, Richard Jowsey and Thomas Basboll who supported Tim Hunt with their real names.

    Your utter fear, prevarication and the weighing of every word in your mind, in your own imaginary scenario of addressing prospective students, reflects an entirely different transformation of university culture than the one you have in mind, namely the corporatization of academia. Corporations have long been rendered spineless, having been robbed of individuality and opinionated-ness, by corporate social responsibility, environmental consciousness, political correctness, and lately, by so-called social justice and gender politics mobbing. Corporations flex their knees to any prevailing sociopolitical winds and make the right noises because they figure it is cheaper to put out pretend displays of popular orthodox virtue and fly under the radar and be allowed to keep making money with minimum fuss. Public corporate morality is therefore not a product of the people who constitute the corporation but rather merely the strength and loudness of existing fashion of morality.

    Corporations are advised by PR mavens to adopt the ‘ARM’ route – apologize, reform, move on. For corporations, with bulky reputations, brand value capital and the potential harm from mis-steps, this certainly may be a suitable course of action in selected situations. But ‘ARM’ has become the de facto standard of expected behaviour for all circles, not with corporations alone, for any supposed public mis-step. Universities have certainly headed in this direction. The resulting homogenization of interaction is harmful.

    As a university academic, in a former age, you could have been expected to be unorthodox, thought-provoking, reflective, inspiring, and perhaps even a bit absent-minded. Instead you find yourself burdened with the injustices of society and the ravages of the war of the sexes and set out to do your part to make the world a better place, as you make your admissions pitch. This is corporate culture not academic culture. I expect academics to be either behind the times, or ahead of the times, at all times. Please don’t expect that all academics be cut of the same cloth as you imagine you are.

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    1. First, I see that you continue to choose to remain anonymous. It’s not the most compelling argument to accuse others of cowing to corporate culture from behind cover of a pseudonym. Have the basic decency and backbone to come out from under the parapet and I might take your chastisement just that little bit more seriously.

      As for my views on the corporatization of academia,try any of the following. And please do some research in future before you attribute views to me that I do not hold. Thank you.

      https://muircheartblog.wordpress.com/2015/05/22/still-world-university-rankings-top-50-five-sure-fire-routes-successful-academic-management/

      https://muircheartblog.wordpress.com/2014/03/20/philip-moriarty-vacuity-excellence/

      https://muircheartblog.wordpress.com/2015/03/17/philip-moriarty-leadership-in-academia/

      https://muircheartblog.wordpress.com/2014/06/11/philip-moriarty-academics-short-change-public/

      https://muircheartblog.wordpress.com/2013/12/06/philip-moriarty-the-spirit-crushing-impact-of-impact/

      https://www.timeshighereducation.com/the-use-of-raw-grant-income-performance-as-a-target-has-got-go-now

      https://www.timeshighereducation.com/features/work-and-other-labours-of-love/2004285.article?page=0%2C2

      When you’re finished with that lot, please get back to me and I’ll give you another set of links to my critiques of the corporate culture of universities.

      …actually, no, don’t get back to me. Unless, that is, you’re willing to put your head above the parapet.

      P.S. Keep an eye on tomorrow’s Times Higher. I’ve written an article on the problems with university marketing.

      P.P.S. I particularly liked this: “Corporations have long been rendered spineless…”. From someone who lacks the spine to put their name to their comments…

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  26. @Debbie Kennett (Sept. 23 2015 at 1:10 am)

    Thank you in turn for your responses. I too do not want to spend a great deal of time debating this, not least because it’s the start of the new academic year and lectures start next week. However, a number of your well-argued points deserve a response.

    1. “A better analogy might be if you were asked to say a few words at your parents’ lunches at short notice.”

    Indeed. And in that case it would be equally ill-advised to start my impromptu ‘speech’ with a joke along the lines of that Tim used. I think we agree on this?

    The problem is that for both Tim’s case and the admissions tutor analogy (another parallel!), the ‘environment’ straddles the formal/informal divide. No-one goes to a conference and treats an after-dinner/pre-lunch speech as appropriate for a talk along the lines of a “best man’s speech” at a wedding. The setting might be informal to an extent but it’s incorporated within a formal event.

    2. “…and can’t understand why some people think it’s such a big deal.”

    Tim’s comments/jokes are a “big deal” in the context of, for example, the gender disparity in terms of senior positions in, for example, physics (my field) and in the university context in general. Similarly, the Royal Society got a lot of opprobrium for this: http://blogs.royalsociety.org/in-verba/2014/09/24/gender-balance-among-university-research-fellows/

    This is the context in which some people thought it was “such a big deal”.

    4. You haven’t answered the question. This is the point that is of the most concern to me. If we were to continue with the analogy of you making a bad joke at a parents’ lunch do you think it would be acceptable if your colleagues who had invited you to the lunch published your bad joke on Twitter, and attributed comments to you that you didn’t make?

    You’re quite right, I didn’t answer the question. My apologies. I am glad that you are using the analogy I suggested because it’s particularly apposite. 😉

    As I’ve mentioned before, we live in a world where virtually instantaneous — although, of course, sub-luminal (!) — communication is the norm. I am fully aware that anything I say — including anything I say in undergraduate lectures — could find its way out into the big bad online world. So, yes, it would be perfectly acceptable to me for the bad joke to find its way out on Twitter. The blame lies with me for making that bad joke, not the people who tweet it.

    Attributing comments that I didn’t make is, however, of course unacceptable. As I’ve said above, I agree with you that flawed reporting has been an issue and could never be acceptable. In this sense, the treatment is unfair.

    However, the joke itself is the issue. We’re going round in circles now but Mary Collins said that it was “unbelievably stupid” for Tim to say what he said. I agree wholeheartedly with her. If it were me, and returning to that rather appropriate admissions tutor analogy, I’d apologise wholeheartedly for making such a stupid joke and voluntarily stand down from the admissions tutor role.

    5. “I don’t see how that can be construed as bolstering “the vicious sexist culture that exists online”.

    I’ll point you again to this: http://www.endmisogyny.org/solidarity-with-dr-emily-grossman/ and this quote: ““Don’t these women realise that all this whinging and seeking special treatment affirms the point the Nobel prize guy was making?” Similar comments were posted under that video and in a variety of channels.

    Again, I will stress that I am not for one second suggesting that Tim would be anything other than absolutely appalled and sickened by those comments. Of course he would. But the tenor of a lot of the online commentary was along the lines of “Look, even a Nobel Prize winner says that women aren’t really cut out for science”. Again, you could argue that this is because his joke was misinterpreted. And I will counter that by saying it was a really crap joke that could be too easily misinterpreted.

    We’re obviously going to have to agree to disagree on this!

    6. It’s thought that 8.5% of Twitter accounts are run by bots though not all bots are necessarily malicious.

    OK. That leaves 91.5% of that sickening abuse coming from non-bot channels, i.e. human detritus.

    It’s therefore not surprising that some people choose to remain anonymous

    No, it’s not surprising. It’s dispiriting and depressing. But not surprising. Anyone who criticises anyone else online, in a public forum, should have the courage of their convictions and put their name to their comments. You will not convince me that the vast majority of those “out there” who, like Shub Niggurath, are happy to criticise without revealing their own identity are anything more (less) than cowards.

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  27. You point to a handful of articles and blog posts where you decry the corporatization of university culture and assessment of academic worth. This means we are in agreement. You protest against it when the consequences of the administrative aspect of the phenomenon appear negative, remuneratively and academically, but play along when corporatized faux social virtues of the same establishment are in alignment with your own personal philosophy/prejudices. University College London has a campus in Qatar, pays its women employees at discriminatory rates and holds social gatherings at women-not-allowed clubs. Swirling rumours from reliable science journalists such as Ed Yong point to widespread, internalized misogyny on UCL campuses. Yet they successfully ‘greenwash’ed their structural sins by leading a sacrificial lamb called Tim Hunt to slaughter, on the cheap. It cost UCL Corporate nothing to kick Hunt and score brownie points. Had they been less of a corporation and more of an university, they would have waited till the end of the week, spoken to one of its eminent professors face to face, weighed its actions, and moved with deliberation. Instead they are a ‘we don’t want to send a wrong message’ virtue -signaling gaggle of stooges for popular prejudice. I may be wrong but I don’t believe you protested any of the former of UCL’s actions but you certainly experienced distress at Hunt’s speech, even though they are different facets of the same thing.

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    1. “You protest against it when the consequences of the administrative aspect of the phenomenon appear negative, remuneratively and academically,”

      Errm. What, precisely, do you mean by “remuneratively”? I decry a grant/university culture where we academics are encouraged to rip off the taxpayer. It’s got nothing to do with “remuneration” for academics — you clearly at best skim-read what I wrote.

      University College London has a campus in Qatar, pays its women employees at discriminatory rates and holds social gatherings at women-not-allowed clubs.

      And of course I decry this. Your point is…? When have I ever acted as a cheerleader for UCL?

      Your argument makes little sense. Two (or more) wrongs don’t make a right — UCL’s women-not-allowed club gatherings are reprehensible but Tim’s joke was inappropriate, misplaced, and, as Mary Collins described it, “unbelievably stupid”. I have asked you time and time again why she said this and received no response…

      (And by the way, I think if you do a word count on that “handful” of articles and blog posts, as you dismissively described them, you’ll find that there’s quite a substantial amount of material to wade through. As I said above, please do me the courtesy of taking the time to read it before you comment again. Thanks.).

      Like

  28. I will just respond briefly to a few points. The joke is not the issue. The issue is how we treat people with kindness and respect. It’s very easy to criticise people but we should remember that anyone who has to do public speaking and is in the spotlight is sometimes going to make a mistake, and say something wrong or say something that gets misinterpreted. You might like to read my comment on this Royal Society blog post to understand where I’m coming from:

    http://blogs.royalsociety.org/in-verba/2015/06/29/phoenix-not-dinosaur/#comment-2106319710

    If we are interested in helping women to get on in science do you not think we would set a better example by treating people who do go out of the way to give lectures, often in their own free time and at their own expense, a little bit of leeway? If someone repeatedly makes sexist jokes then clearly action needs to be taken but it’s a very different matter when it’s a first offence and when no sexism was intended. If I were a female starting out in science I would be discouraged from the idea of going into science not because of a joke told by a 72-year-old Nobel prize winner but because of the way that his fellow speakers and the press treated him. Who would want to be a Nobel-prize winning scientist if you’re going to be treated in such a disgraceful way for one minor episode in an otherwise long and blameless career?

    You are assuming a correlation between men telling jokes and gender disparities in the workplace but no such correlation exists. There are many reasons why men and women choose to study different subjects and to follow career paths, and there are plenty of issues that need to be addressed. To use another analogy, the field of childcare is dominated by women, and the ability to multi-task is very handy when you’re looking after young children. Using your logic I should not joke about men not being able to multi-task because it’s going to put them off from becoming childminders or primary school teachers.

    Hunt was not asking for women to have special treatment. He simply pointed out his own difficulties in dealing with women who cry when criticised, albeit in a jocular manner. In some ways I think it’s actually helpful that he raised the issue. If you identify a problem then you can address it. I do agree with the commenter that it is counterproductive when women whinge and seek special treatment. It is somewhat insulting as a woman to be told that you are such a pathetic victim that the only way you can ever achieve anything is by having extra help.

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    1. Very happy for you to have the last word on this, Debbie. It’s been a very useful exchange for me and you’ve certainly helped me revise my thinking on some aspects of the Tim Hunt case. Thanks for engaging with me.

      Best wishes,

      Philip

      Liked by 1 person

  29. You say you “dislike absolutes in the context of discussions/debates about what are clearly deeply divisive and complicated issues,” but you want to strip the context of his comments so that you can then turn them into an absolute so as to prove a point. But it doesn’t work that way. In humor, context is everything. And jokes rely on easily recognizable stereotypes: women crying, he being a chauvinist. This is why your rewriting of Hunt’s comments fail to prove your point.

    If his remarks were stupid, it’s because of the world we live in, and this is how things get blown out of proportion. Plus, there’s a mindset that tells us not only to apologize, but how to apologize. The evidence of that is here in this thread, spooning Tim Hunt the “intelligent response”:

    He could have put his hands up and said “I apologise, it was a silly and inappropriate thing to say, and it does illustrate how we have to work harder to create an environment where all feel comfortable and work harder to be aware of – and overcome – our own biases”.

    Tim Hunt did apologize. And it wasn’t good enough.

    The reason #TimHunt isn’t going to go away is because it is such a clear over-reaction to innocent remarks that were in-accurately reported and continue to be willfully misconstrued. Just because it is easy for some to misinterpret a joke “My trouble with girls” all too easily becomes “The trouble with girls”, doesn’t mean the issue lies with Tim Hunt. The person guilty of damaging generalizations may lie with those who can’t parse humor.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No, I don’t want to strip the context from the comments.

      At all.

      In any way.

      Just how you could come to that conclusion from reading anything I’ve written on this, I really don’t know. I’m beyond bemused at just how you managed to reach that conclusion.

      A core theme throughout my debate with Debbie Kennett was the context in which the remarks were made. The evidence is up there in the comments thread.

      What’s the point in debating if you’re simply going to ignore what’s actually been said?

      Like

  30. From above,

    You are not the first one to protest measures of cost-cutting, ranking and evaluation designed and pushed by administrations in the UK for assessing academic worth. My point is academics, such as yourself in your own quoted examples, decry the corporatization of universities when the phenomenon impacts promotion, pay increases and in the worst of cases, merely holding on to a job like the Grimms case. When faceless corporatism pushes senior honorary professors who lack a modicum of self-defense mechanism within the system to the curb, with the ostensible objective of reputation safeguarding, there is only silence. Not only is there a failure to recognize corporate behaviour in such para-cultural, politically correct PR whizbang actions, there is definite cheerleading. You can read your own initial blog post to sample a taste of your cheering of his downfall.

    To think that Hunt’s comments are harmful, even in their worst misrepresented form, due to what Anita Sarkeesian and Zoe Quinn had to say about feminism and supposed online abuse is just bizarre beyond words.

    Collins said Hunt’s comments were ‘unbelievably stupid’. I hesitate to dislodge the last vestiges of your delusions in believing that supports only your interpretation of that comment. But I would say the same about Hunt too. There is a time and place to be spontaneous, witty and charming, and playfully heretical in promoting the cause of women in science. A deadly spiders’ nest of vindictive, resentful, politically correct journalists who double up as born-again genderoids in their spare time (of which they have a lot) is not a place to do it. You make iffy jokes in the company of people you trust.

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    1. (Again. And again. And again.)^n

      Slurs and criticism slung out from behind your anonymous cover. Again. Let me put this as clearly and as bluntly as I can: I have zero respect for gutless people like you.

      I have engaged with you throughout this, against my better judgement, because the substance of your arguments of course matter. So I have responded to each of your repetitive points time and time again. There is absolutely no point in us continuing this. It’s a waste of our time. I’m sure we can both agree on that?

      You are a coward. Plain and simple. If you’re going to criticise me do it on an open, honest, and transparent footing. Just like I say in this article (which I mentioned in our exchange yesterday): https://www.timeshighereducation.com/opinion/words-fail-us-university-marketing-speak

      Be honest. Above all, be honest.

      Like

  31. I’m a bit surprised that this conversation is still going on. Let me add a few points in summary, under my own name. 🙂

    Fact: Most people in the discussion were not there. AFAIK there is no audio or even video record. All pundits are basing their take on hearsay.

    Fact: Tim Hunt is not stupid, doesn’t have a misogynist reputation, was invited to a conference on women in science, and knew this.

    Fact: Many women have stood up for Sir Tim in the subsequent discussion.

    Fact: The original tweets were out of context; it became clear only later that it was intended as a joke.

    Fact: Some of those who deliberately quoted him out of context have, let us say, a questionable relationship with truth even concerning themselves.

    Fact: Hunt lost some “guest scientist” or whatever positions based on a tweet, before being consulted, when it was still not clear it was intended to be a joke.

    As should be well known, the only valid type of reasoning is Bayesian. We need to determine whether Sir Tim’s joke should substantially revise our opinion of him, in light of other facts known about him (prior information).

    My conclusion: At worst, it was a joke which didn’t work. Every comedian has experienced something like this. AFAIK, there is no certainty about how the joke went over with the majority of the audience at the time.

    To me, the key is the “But seriously” bit. Whether or not the joke didn’t work, or was perhaps in bad taste, or whatever, it is clear that he was not expressing his own views in the joke, but rather the opposite. And it was “his trouble”, not “the trouble”. Crucial difference.

    I would see it on a par with, say, greeting some new postdocs and saying something like “OK, now that you’ve sold your soul to the devil, now get to work. But seriously,…”. Even if there are valid and serious and necessary discussions about the exploitation of cheap labour in the form of underpaid researchers on short-term contracts, I could see this sort of joke happening. Just by making the joke itself it is clear that the speaker holds the opposite view. Sort of like a Jewish comedian telling Jewish jokes.

    As to Sir Tim’s apology and his wife’s statements: In light of the reaction, was there any choice at all but to react like this if they wanted to avoid being lynched?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Phillip.

      The conversation started up again last week and led to perhaps the most productive debate on the subject I’ve had to date, i.e. my exchange with Debbie Kennett. (It’s unfortunately interspersed with rather less insightful contributions from others but that’s the nature of the beast…)

      I’ve said just about everything I want to say on this matter (and that’s been already rather too much — see above) but I’ll just briefly reply to say that:

      (i) Tim Hunt himself said that his comments had been quite accurately reported;

      (ii) I have no disagreement with your comments about Tim’s character;

      (iii) The initial reporting was indeed flawed. Much as I dislike Louise Mench’s politics/ideology (and her cloying sycophancy to some, “My Lord”) she deserves credit for investigating the reporting so tenaciously.

      (iv) My stance has always been that even if it’s a joke, it’s inappropriate. I’m not going to rehash my arguments again — they’re “up there”!

      (v) It was indeed a joke that didn’t work. And I will say it again. If I had made that inappropriate joke in the context of an admissions tutor talk, I would have voluntarily stepped down from the role.

      What we say matters — it can influence others and/or change the perception of us/our institution. This is why I get so irritated by the spineless anonymity of ‘Shub Niggurath’ and his/her ilk who have not got the backbone to stand behind what they say.

      All the best,

      Philip

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  32. Dr Moriarty

    You say:

    [1] “Tim Hunt himself said that his comments had been quite accurately reported”

    This is what he fully said.

    ‘…what was intended as a sort of light-hearted, ironic comment apparently was interpreted deadly seriously by my audience. But what I said was quite accurately reported.’

    I take it to mean what words were reported were accurate, and no one who did the initial report made up anything but the intention and tone were not.

    We now know that even the former is not true. Numerous media reports *and the original sources* – Blum, St Louis and Oransky – misreported not only the tone, intent, audience reaction and reception, length of speech, but his very words.

    You acknowledge this yourself. You say Louise Mensch deserves credit. Why does she deserve credit if not for clearly laying out, with evidence, that this happened?

    In summary, you misuse the accuracy quote.

    [2] You repeatedly refer to Collins’ comments re: “unbelievably stupid” in support in characterizing your view.

    This is what she said:

    “It was an unbelievably stupid thing to say,” she says. “You can see why it could be taken as offensive if you didn’t know Tim. But really it was just part of his upbringing. He went to a single-sex school in the 1960s. Nevertheless he is not sexist. I am a feminist, and I would not have put up with him if he were sexist.”

    If you are willing to use her “unbelievably stupid” comment, you should also accept her judgment that he is not “sexist”.

    It was an unbelievably stupid thing to say for not having judging the people and the setting when he was saying it.

    If Hunt is not a misogynist or sexist, then all that remains is what he said makes people in today’s era of gender bias awareness uncomfortable. They interpret his comment in the light of their experiences and what fads they’ve picked reflexively and slam him or feel angry. While understandable to some degree, people’s comments should be judged, first, in the context they were being made, and only then in any context of your own choosing. You have failed at this.

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    1. [1] Compare and contrast.

      Here’s what I said: “Even Tim Hunt says that his comments were quite accurately reported”

      Here’s what Tim Hunt said: ” But what I said was quite accurately reported.”

      I repeat verbatim what Hunt said and I’m still accused of misusing the quote.

      Riiiiight.

      And before you mention context, your points about context have been addressed time and time again above (and elsewhere). Perhaps, however, and like @I’mADebatin’ over at Twitter, you ‘read’ posts, articles and papers by doing keyword searches to find what you’re looking for? This is the only explanation I can find for having to repeat myself so many times.

      [2] “If you are willing to use her “unbelievably stupid” comment, you should also accept her judgment that he is not “sexist”.”

      Do you actually read anything? Anything at all?

      Look at point (ii) in my previous reply (to Phillip Helbig; nice to be able to put a proper name to a commenter):

      “(ii) I have no disagreement with your comments about Tim’s character”

      Please take the time to read what’s been written. It’s rather important.

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      1. That’s false. If you wrote “Here is an unrepresentative part of what Sir Tim Hunt said, leaving out what he also said in the same moment wherein he made it clear his intent was to satirize sexism with irony” then you would have been accurate.

        As it is, you are simply being both a coward and a liar. To quote your reply to Shub “we can agree on that”?

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  33. If you accept Debbie Kennett, Louise Mensch and Helbig’s points, all you have left is your inappropriately used analogy of an admissions tutor speech and his snap judgment. An admissions tutor who also is on a diversity committee.

    You did not repeat what Hunt said ‘verbatim’. You left out the part that came before his sentence, the part that qualifies his ‘But…’

    Right.

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    1. First, the analogy is far from inappropriate for all of the reasons I discussed at length above. We are never going to agree on this so it’s pointless you wasting your time (and my time) here.

      Second, I (and a number of others) have also explained that the fact that I’m a member of the diversity committee **as a result of my admissions tutor role** has got absolutely no bearing on this. If you weren’t hiding behind your anonymous cover, we could discuss, for example, if your inability to grasp this is because you’re not familiar with the UK higher education system. You’ll never stop hiding, however, so, thankfully, we won’t be able to have that discussion.

      Third, I think you’ll find that “quite accurately reported” is a verbatim quote of, errm, “quite accurately reported.” Context described at length above which, like the joint admissions tutor-diversity committee thing, you just ignore.

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  34. @LouiseMensch

    That’s false. If you wrote “Here is an unrepresentative part of what Sir Tim Hunt said, leaving out what he also said in the same moment wherein he made it clear his intent was to satirize sexism with irony” then you would have been accurate.

    I have stated my position with regard to the joke character of Tim’s comments multiple times in this thread, Louise.

    As I’ve discussed with Debbie Kennett, Mary Collins herself described the comments as “unbelievably stupid”. It was a misplaced joke and unless one was aware of Tim’s history then it was a joke that was exceptionally easy to misinterpret.

    If I made that or a similar joke as part of the admissions tutor talk, I would have stood down from the role. You may not feel that the admissions tutor analogy is appropriate — we’re just going to have to agree to disagree on that, for all of the reasons I have outlined (and repeated) at length in the thread above.

    When slurs and name-calling came from someone who isn’t posting anonymously, like yourself, then I’m more than happy to let them pass. You’re more than welcome to that opinion of me but I must admit that it’s rather amusing to be preached down to by the author of the classic tweet described here:

    http://blogs.new.spectator.co.uk/2015/08/louise-mensch-adds-yet-another-twitter-gaffe-to-her-list/

    (Please excuse that rather ugly succession of prepositions in the preceding sentence.)

    Nonetheless, at least you stand behind what you say. What I find despicable are slurs and name-calling from someone who is too spineless to put their name to their comments (i.e. ‘Shub Niggurath’ and his/her ilk).

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  35. @Louise Mensch

    I want to say clearly that I think your false analogy is a great example of ageism and sexism. By effectively asking people to defend Sir Tim Hunt against an obviously false scenario you are being both ageist and sexist, and on balance, also racist. You are presuming his guilt based on his race and sex; you are being ageist; you defy due process; you haven’t done basic googling.

    In what sense is it ageist and sexist? It’s not at all an obviously false scenario — it’s entirely appropriate and works on very many levels. Let’s say that I too had a similar relationship to that which Tim had and that I was alluding to that relationship in my admissions tutor scenario. Is the entire audience meant to be aware of that and “parse” my joke accordingly?

    I’ll ask again. Why did Mary Collins call Tim’s comments “unbelievably stupid”.

    What do you mean by “I am presuming his guilt”? Indeed, what, precisely, do you mean by “guilt”? Are you suggesting that he wasn’t guilty of misplaced and rather inappropriate comments? If so, please explain Mary Collins’ statement.

    I have said time and again that even if it’s a joke it’s a misplaced and entirely inappropriate joke. There is absolutely nothing racist or sexist in what I have written or in my interpretation of Tim’s comments. And in no sense am I being ageist. Indeed, I have said before on a number of occasions that Tim’s age has got nothing to do with this situation.

    You are, however, absolutely correct to point out that there were major deficiencies in the reporting of Tim’s words (and I have pointed this out above). Your tenacity in this has been laudable. However, Tim himself said that his words had been “quite accurately reported”. Are you now saying that his opening “My trouble with girls…” statements were inaccurately reported, in terms of the words he used? (I am well aware of the context — this is not the issue in this particular thread. See my exchanges with Debbie Kennett above). If so, which particular words are you quibbling with?

    Like

  36. @Louise Mensch

    plus, your commenters have been overtly sexist towards me, and you have allowed it to sit there.

    Sorry, Louise, but I do not moderate or censor comments. Everything, unless it’s clearly spam (“What a great blog you write. I learning lots here. Please follow back” etc…) is posted. Nor do I block commenters. (Even those who can’t summon up the basic courage and decency to post under their own name — “Shug Niggurath” et al.).

    I find it rather surprising that someone who has argued vociferously for freedom of speech and for robust views not to be censored (see https://twitter.com/louisemensch/status/553028352182059008 ) is now asking me to censor a thread.

    (By the way, I’m fully with you on the utter nonsense that is religious mythology: https://muircheart.wordpress.com/2015/06/25/yes-were-all-individuals/ )

    Your sexism revolts me. I shall not comment here further. You are everything you seek to oppose, like the pigs in 1984. I rejoice that Sir Tim Hunt has been nationally exonerated after my work and that your ilk have become an international laughing stock and a byword.

    I find this an absolutely remarkable assertion, Louise. I do not censor. I do not remove comments. That does not mean that I am sexist — that’s a complete non sequitur of an argument. It beggars belief that someone who argues so loudly in favour of freedom of speech (and the freedom to insult anyone she likes — see above) is asking me to censor comments at this blog.

    I have never censored or removed comments for any online discussion. Nor will I ever do this.

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  37. @Louise Mensch

    “No it isn’t. Shub’s right, and you not declaring your interest is a nice proof that he’s right.”

    As I’ve explained to “Shub”, my position would be exactly the same regardless of my membership of the diversity committee. It’s not a very difficult concept and I find it rather perplexing that neither you nor Shub seem to be able to grasp it.

    And, as I also explained to Shub, I directly linked to a post which pointed out that I was a member of the diversity committee. So, in that sense, I did “declare my interest” (whatever the hell that means!)

    (I must admit that it’s refreshing to exchange comments on this topic with someone who has the basic decency to put their name to their posts here.)

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  38. Hunt made a joke which didn’t work, this was repeated out of context by a person with a demonstrated lack of truthfulness, and ties to Hunt were severed based on a tweet even though he apologized as soon as he could. The consensus among enlightened individuals seems to be that Hunt was justly punished.

    Imagine, then, that someone who is an alleged expert on gender in an official capacity at the Institute of Physics made similar comments, or worse comments, specifically “women don’t understand science”, this was not a joke, it was reported in the proper context by reliable media, and instead of apologizing the slander is repeated. Surely this should call for a punishment worse than that carried out on Sir Tim.

    As telescoper reports, this has actually happened and documentation is easy to find on the web. Where are the calls for resignation from all posts?

    Could it be (perish the thought) that retribution is lacking because the stupid individual in question is a woman?

    Discuss.

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    1. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3285892/Women-emotional-understand-fracking-don-t-understand-facts-says-woman-scientist-paid-fracking-lobby.html

      Not only does she insult women, but claims that people who don’t agree with the political position she is being paid as a lobbyist to promote disagree with her because they don’t understand the science behind it.

      It’s like someone being paid by the tobacco lobby saying that people opposed to smoking in public areas don’t understand the science. And if more women than men are opposed, then because fewer women understand the science.

      Come on, folks, where is the outrage in cyberspace? Do you really think that a man could have got away with such bullshit?

      Like

      1. Indeed. But where are the cries for her resignation? Could it be, perish the thought, sexism which caused Sir Tim to be despised yet people are hardly even discussing this (much crasser) case, much less campaigning for her resignation. Since the blog owner was a particularly enthusiastic supporter of criticizing Hunt, I would expect him to at least weigh in here. OK, maybe he’s busy. I’ll wait.

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      2. “Since the blog owner was a particularly enthusiastic supporter of criticizing Hunt, I would expect him to at least weigh in here. OK, maybe he’s busy. I’ll wait.”

        Yes, he’s busy. It’s term time. He’s teaching. He has 40 pieces of coursework to mark by the end of the week. He’s also undergrad admissions tutor and the University of Nottingham is completely revamping its admissions systems. He is otherwise occupied at present.

        Peter Coles described the interview to which you refer as “an excruciating car crash” (see https://telescoper.wordpress.com/2015/10/24/fracking-gender-and-the-need-for-open-science/ ). That sums up my view. She has been criticised heavily for those comments, and rightly so.

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      3. Just to be clear, I wasn’t being cynical when I mentioned that you might be busy. A couple of days ago, when I didn’t respond to a comment on a comment on a comment on a post on another blog, someone exasperated “he must be busy”. Most of us do do other things.

        Yes, there has been some criticism, but any consequences?

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      4. Phillip,

        Thanks for the clarification. It’s a bit hectic at the moment. I have about four blog posts that I’d like to write (including something on our recent beamtime at the Diamond synchrotron — “Bitten By The Beamtime Bug”) but I just don’t have time at the moment to write them. Note the date of the post above — July 8. Similarly, the original post to which I refer above was in mid-June — outside the exam marking season (for me at least) and thus rather less busy.

        Philip

        Like

  39. I’m a woman and, in the context of a short toast to colleagues used to the vagaries of lab life, can easily imagine saying something like: ‘My trouble with guys is that you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticize them they shout. But seriously, I hope you won’t let a romantic snowflake like me …’ I cannot, however, imagine making the same joke in the context of an admissions speech. Context is as important as the actual words. It’s absurd to imagine otherwise. Several others on this response stream have pointed this out, and I agree with them. Your Head of School point, is therefore of no relevance either.

    Like

    1. I agree entirely — context is everything. And I’ve stated and restated (and re-re-restated) that point so many times above and in other threads.

      The problem is that this wasn’t “just” a matey informal toast to colleagues. It was a toast/short speech in the context of an international conference. It’s not akin to a best man’s speech at a wedding. In that context, the joke is misplaced and, as Mary Collins put it, “unbelievably stupid”.

      So, yes, context is everything.

      As I’ve discussed with Debbie Kennett at length in the thread above, the analogy with the admissions tutor case works exceptionally well. (Moreover, it’s an “honorary role” in the sense that I could lose my admissions tutor role and still retain my job. The parallels are rather strong and certainly far from irrelevant). For example, I spend a lot of time chatting with the parents of applicants over lunch during our open days. It’s a similarly “informal” setting but placed within the context of a very formal process. If you agree that the joke would be misplaced in the admissions tutor context, why is it that you disagree that Hunt’s joke was misplaced? (And moreover, as I’ve been discussing with Thomas Basboll, there are aspects of those 39 words which are claimed (at least by Thomas) to not be meant as a joke but rather as a candid view of relationships in the lab).

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      1. I followed some of the links from this thread and similar posts on other blogs. I have come to the conclusion that Hunt’s remarks were in a situation more akin to an informal toast, or even a celebrity roast, than an admissions speech.

        It also seems to me that Hunt’s remarks were deliberately misrepresented by people who had an agenda. When this is pointed out, it’s “don’t pick on a Black woman or you are both a misogynist and a racist”. Again, even if he were guilty as charged, cutting ties on him based on a tweet (later shown to be a distortion and from a notoriously unreliable source) without even speaking with him is just wrong. I don’t want to live in a society where people who have time to think of new hashtags decide over the lives of others.

        Folks, it was a joke which, at worst, didn’t work with part of the audience. Who hasn’t had such an experience? For the really dim-witted, he even added the “but seriously”, to make it blindingly obvious that this was a joke.

        And comparing him to Geoff Marcy and/or other Nobel Prize winners who have made stupid remarks both makes Hunt out to be worse than he is and trivializes the true transgressions of the likes of Marcy.

        It also seems to me that some of Hunt’s critics leaned so far out of the window that they now can’t get back in, so are hanging on by their fingernails, trying to save face, so that they don’t fall to the ground.

        And whatever happened to Bayesian statistics?

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        1. Sorry, Phillip, but we’re just going to have to agree to disagree on this. We’ve been round the houses too many times. Tim Hunt’s “joke” was buttock-clenchingly cringeworthy in front of any audience, even for an informal toast. To parse it correctly you need to be familiar with his background, for one thing. Second, it remains unclear as to which bits he was simply “being honest” and which is a “reductio ad absurdum”. The bit about crying under criticism is just bizarre.

          I’ve said this before so many times, but why did Mary Collins describe the “joke” as “unbelievably stupid”? And why did Colin Blakemore, who as you know resigned from his position at the ABSW due to the deficiencies in reporting, still describe the “joke” as “appalling”?

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      2. “Sorry, Phillip, but we’re just going to have to agree to disagree on this.”

        I agree. 🙂 Perhaps we can agree on two things, though: First, when someone faces some sort of consequences for some action, it should not be based merely on a tweet. There needs to be a proper investigation, and the accused needs to be heard, and eye- or ear-witnesses as well. This is standard practice in civilized societies in the justice system. We do want to avoid hashtag lynching. Second, Marcy was orders of magnitude worse than Hunt.

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