Saturday, 13 June 2015

What a Silly Old Hunt that Professor is

Sir Tim Hunt contemplating unemployment

If you are not aware of the story I am about to pontificate sagely upon, I suggest you read this brief article for context.

I don't know whether my readers have taken note of the media storm concerning the British Nobel Laureate, Sir Tim Hunt. He gave a talk at a Korean scientific conference and made an impression unrelated to his undoubted and customary wisdom. Apparently, he made a few disparaging remarks about women in science and stated that women should stay out of the lab because they distract the men. The subsequent reaction was incandescent. He has been pilloried and has had to resign his position at an English University. His particular field will be poorer as a consequence, but only the scientific community will weep. Certainly not the journalists, for they will have moved on to the next big and 'important' thing (Kardashian's big, fat, arse). Should we judge brilliant, but 'mad', professors by our  mortal standards?  Probably, but generally their remarks do not attract attention outside the hallowed and cloistered halls of acadaemia. In mitigation, he was expressing a free opinion in a supposed free society. Really, should we give a shit about whether anyone found his remarks offensive? These sort of sentiments are expressed in labs (and offices) all over the world, often tongue in cheek. His greatest mistake was exposing his wit to the awaiting Press. Like sharks, they are always on the prowl for a great story. To be fair Flaxen, sharks eat aquatic prey and lack the higher brain functions to pursue a story which makes great copy. Also computers will not work in the salty sea. And another thing, sharks lack opposable fins- tis hard to hold a pencil under these circumstances. The paper would get wet and disintegrate. Totally an unrealistic proposition; I've digressed and accordingly, feel, suitably chastened.

Sir Hunt is a typical and marvellous example of the 'Great British Eccentric'- long may they reign. It is not as if he was thinking of a political career. A world run by Professors would be a dismal and surreal place, indeed; I prophesise a very short reign. Where this sort of behaviour is deemed detrimental is in the political arena, especially if it becomes manifest to the media. Being careful with your words makes you a 'good' politician, apparently; at least in today's rampant PC environment. Although most regard politicians as useless, self-serving and ineffectual. However, If a politician aspires to appear 'great' they should perfect their oration. In a thousand years time, the only politicians to be remembered will be Churchill and Hitler* (Blair who?). Both were great orators, but both were flawed human beings whose political errors were legion. To gain true perspective we need to have been there. Posterity makes saints and monsters depending on chance and military dominance. And let's face it, where do you ever see the super smart entering politics? The only exception is Enoch Powell and look what happened to him. We are supposedly more sophisticated and politically savvy than those long gone and less easily fooled by the spoken word. Not everyone, of course, that would be just silly. Most folk couldn't distinguish between a Nazi and a Communist even if he burnt their collective farm down to the ground.

In my experience, scientists are incredibly un-PC. They are the master of off colour jokes especially relating to their profession and everything else for that matter.  Most, unless they are brilliant, or photogenic, are not thrust onto the public stage to express an opinion. Usually, when this happens, the smarter the scientist, the stranger the utterance. Scientists are not used to the media, and unlike politicians, tend to tell the truth; this pleases no one, especially the media. Luckily for everyone, editing makes for an easy conscience and viewing. Who will know the difference?   

If you want a laugh, read this: Arse

My Research Assistant: Now you know why I don't get much work done these days 

*Once again, I feel constrained to make a comment. Frankly, with the audience I attract I shouldn't have to do this sort of thing and it goes against the grain-  don't worry, I don't intend to make a habit of it. I am right wing by natural persuasion but I am not a fascist. Therefore, the comment should in no way be seen as hero worship or endorsement of the general policies of Sir Winston Churchill.  


  1. Personally (and not being either scientific or medical) I strongly believe Hunt was right in what he said.

  2. Oddly if he was a politician or ball kicker, he wouldn't be censured half as much.

  3. I was a pretty decent lab technician in the pharmaceutical industry. Hunt is dead right. Women in the lab caused me nothing but trouble - bullying, incompetent, tempting.... I'm now a gardener.
    Arse to it all.

    1. Andy, my assistant in the lab is a gorgeous Latino woman. She is my 'work wife' and makes sure I don't wear my lab coat inside out and turn up to teaching assignments with my fly zip undone. Tis true she is a wonderful distraction- frankly I can't stop looking at her cleavage and bum. Perhaps I'll go blind.

    2. Not if you stop when you need glasses :-)

  4. "Scientists are not used to the media, and unlike politicians, tend to tell the truth; this pleases no one, especially the media. "

    On the contrary, it pleases me greatly!