In a letter to the Times, Richard Dawkins protests.
Along with many others, I didn’t like Sir Tim Hunt’s joke, but ‘disproportionate’ would be a huge underestimate of the baying witch-hunt that it unleashed among our academic thought police: nothing less than a feeding frenzy of mob-rule self-righteousness.
Fortunately, I’ve also already written my reply. It’s a simple question.
If you’re one of those people who called this a “witch hunt”, an “Inquisition”, a “lynching” — what would you have people do differently when an esteemed senior scientist gets up to a lectern and says something sexist, or racist, or simply idiotic?
I’m also curious, and have an additional question. How should we reply when someone says something stupid in public about evolution? If a government official were to spout creationist nonsense, for instance, would a full-throated roar of disapproval from the electorate be appropriate, or would that fall into the category of “feeding frenzy of mob-rule self-righteousness”? Would you propose that after one thought-leader says “tut, tut”, the rest of us should withdraw to a decorous silence?
Sometimes, these lines are hard to draw, and where we draw them says a lot about the biases of the delineator.