Yes, it’s the Daily Mail, but

The desperate reaction continues.

The Daily Mail did a piece exposing major holes in Connie St Louis’s CV, and Dawkins is claiming that that means Tim Hunt has been “the victim of an injustice.” Of course it doesn’t mean that. If St Louis were the sole source for the story of what Tim Hunt said, then the Mail piece would throw everything in doubt – but she’s not, so it doesn’t.

Richard Dawkins ‏@RichardDawkins 8 hours ago
Yes, it’s the Daily Mail, but it’s the most thorough account I’ve seen of the Tim Hunt affair. Detailed & convincing. … [Read more…]

Our support for women in science was and is the ultimate concern

The provost of UCL has issued a new statement.

Does he apologize and offer to reinstate Tim Hunt as an honorary professor?


UCL was the first University in England to admit women on equal terms to men. Equality between the sexes is one of our core values, yet this past fortnight our commitment to women and to women in science has been challenged, our reputation put under pressure and we have been part of an intense and uncomfortable media storm.

[Read more…]

Ethics in journalism


Charles Seife ‏@cgseife 6 hours ago
I asked EU official @marcinmonko if he was the source of #timhunt Times “transcript,” and if he was recording/taking notes. (1/2)

His full response: “The document that the Times refers to is an internal report, not a verbatim transcript.” (2/2) #timhunt

Not a verbatim transcipt.

Disparagement humor

Drop everything and read this: “Just” Joking? Sexist Talk in Science by Hilda Bastian. She’s a scientist and a cartoonist. She has a cartoon at the top of three guys indulging in a spot of sexist “banter” – it’s amusing that all three of them could be Richard Dawkins.

I want to talk about research and sexist jokes, and where that leads. It’s a response to a narrative about the Tim Hunt situation that goes something like this:

It was just a joke. An unfortunate turn of phrase. It’s not that big a deal. He’s a nice guy who’s nice to many women – he didn’t mean to belittle anybody. It’s not demeaning if you don’t intend it to be. He’s eminent as well as nice, so give him a break. Lighten up. What has the world come to? Over the top social media firestorms are a worse threat than thoughtless remarks. Academic freedom/democracy is at stake.

We’ve been seeing that narrative for two weeks, intensifying all the time, and it’s gone into high gear today thanks to the Times and the Daily Mail and their publication of breathless pieces saying “it turns out that Tim Hunt was joking and that changes everything!!!” We already knew he claimed he was joking (along with also saying he was serious about at least some of what he said), and it changes fucking nothing. [Read more…]


Damn, I thought I was going to be able to drop it now but nooooooo, there’s too much new nonsense flying around – all in aid of the important cause of Doing Nothing when a celebrity scientist says sexist things at a science conference because hey he was only joking. Sexist jokes are never in any way any kind of problem at all whatsoever, just as racist jokes are not, just as anti-Semitic jokes are not, just as homophobic jokes are not. Jokes cannot ever be a problem because they are meant to be funny? Can’t you crazy social-justice warrior prude witches get that through your crazy lynch-mob heads?

The Daily Mail does its more unbuttoned version of the Times story, with all caps and exclamation points.

Revealed: ‘Sexist’ Nobel winner went on to praise women scientists in SAME SPEECH, continuing after criticised comments by saying ‘Now seriously…’

The SAME SPEECH I tell you.

And he said “now seriously” which PROVES that he was joking before and if you are joking THAT MEANS YOU’RE NOT BEING SEXIST BECAUSE IT’S A JOKE. [Read more…]

Oh wait, it turns out he was joking!

You think it can’t get any more ridiculous, but it keeps doing exactly that.

This time? A “leaked” transcript of what Tim Hunt said at that conference in Korea supports his account that it was a joke, so it’s all good and he should be given all his honorary positions back. This is according to the Times, so I haven’t read the whole article because paywall. But even the first paragraph is absurd.

A leaked EU report has increased the pressure for Sir Tim Hunt to be reinstated to his academic positions after it revealed a markedly different account of his speech about the “trouble with girls” in science.

Has increased “the pressure”? What pressure? There are some aggrieved assholes complaining, but so what? Journalists do love those vague agent-free statements about bodiless “pressure” from no one in particular. [Read more…]

When we do make a noise

I missed one by Deborah Blum with a lot of important details. It was last Tuesday, so I was busy catching up after the conference.

(I know I’m posting a lot about this, but it has many parts, and also many conflicting accounts. Plus I get like a dog with a bone, and we already know that.)

Last week—along with science writers from more than forty countries—I flew to South Korea to participate in the 9th World Conference of Science Journalists. The conference had paired my lecture (Pulitzer Prize winner, 1992, beat reporting) with one by Sir Tim Hunt (Nobel Prize winner, 2001, Physiology or Medicine).

There’s one thing I didn’t know – that their lectures were paired.

Some media organizations have stepped in to defend Hunt’s comments, which he now claims were an attempt to be entertaining. As a co-panelist sitting next to him at the luncheon, I heard a different story. His speech, he told me, was rooted in “honesty,” not humor.

[Read more…]

It’s given us the names of some surprisingly backward people

I mentioned this public Facebook post by David Colquhoun from yesterday.

When the Hunt affair first came to light, my first reaction (June 10, below), was to describe it as a “disaster for the advancement of women”.

I was wrong.

Women have come out of the affair very well. The light-hearted ‪#‎distractinglsexy‬campaign was a good start. Now we are seeing a backlash, mainly from more-or-less old men who think that UCL was wrong to accept Hunt’s resignation. That has only prolonged the unpleasantness for Hunt, but at least it’s given us the names of some surprisingly backward people. [Read more…]

UCL reserves the right

I posted that absurd comment by the guy who drew up an even more absurd petition to rescue Tim Hunt from the consequences of his own actions, one Stephen Ballentyne, on Facebook. A journalist friend told me the reason people there are angry is that UCL sacked Hunt without hearing his side of the story, a denial of natural justice that I shouldn’t go along with.

Well that’s certainly not the only reason for many people, but leaving that aside – is there any truth in the claim? I don’t know what the normal procedure is with honorary positions, so I crowd-sourced it and a friend found several universities that frankly say they can withdraw honorary positions at will. Knowing this improved my Google-fu so I found the right page at UCL – the page for honorary professorships and similar academic titles.

At the bottom of the page:

Honorary associations of this type are not employment relationships and UCL reserves the right to withdraw honorary status from an individual at any time.

So that’s that issue settled.

Unless, that is, you agree that there’s some issue of “natural justice” here. I don’t. An honorary professorship is an honor given by UCL, and UCL clearly says in writing that it reserves the right to withdraw honorary status from an individual at any time. I think that means what it says.

More unreconstructed every day

The morning update. Dawkins is still raging at feminism, still whipping up hatred against women who object to Tim Hunt’s contemptuous remarks about women scientists.


Richard Dawkins ‏@RichardDawkins 8 hours ago
“The Modern Witch-hunt.” @TheTimes letter: “Competitive condemnation.” “Ugly race to condemn.” The wish “to be in the front row of the mob.”

Condemnation can be good. But Internet today makes it all too easy to whip up a baying mob & recapture the spirit of the playground bully.

The bully here is Tim Hunt. The bully here is Richard Dawkins with his 1.2 million followers. The bully here is the consortium of Famous Pale Male Scientists trying to defend their right to express their contempt for women as colleagues.