Friday, June 26, 2015

Tim Hunt: What the Royal Society Said — Does Anyone Know What the Royal Society Is Talking About? Does the Royal Society Know What's It's Talking About?

Here' what Tim Hunt said while proposing a toast at a conference of science journalists in Korea:
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 criticise 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.
In response, here's what the Royal Society posted on the Web on June 9:
The Royal Society has acted to distance itself from reported comments by Sir Tim Hunt FRS about women in science made during an event at the World Conference of Science Journalists in Korea. The Royal Society believes ...
Fancy that, a society with beliefs. But what does it mean: that the members of the Royal Society are unanimous in their belief about a trivial passing event and that the Royal Society somehow knows this without polling its members. Or is it that the Royal Society contends that whatever it decrees as the belief of the Society must then be adopted as a matter of faith by all of its members?

But more importantly, if the Royal Society believed it must publicly distance itself from one of its members, aka fellows, should it not have said why? Well, apparently, the Society thinks not. What's more, the Society evidently felt free to rub salt into the wound, since on June 11 it posted this on the Web:
Sir Tim Hunt’s recent comments relating to women in science have no place in science. The Royal Society believes that too many talented individuals do not fulfill their scientific potential because of issues such as gender discrimination and the Society is committed to helping to put this right. ...

But as with the June 9 statement, no justification is offered for this direct denunciation of Professor Hunt. So we still don't know what the Royal Society is talking about. What we have is mere innuendo. According to the Society's statement, Professor Hunt's comments in Korea entail "issues" such as gender discrimination.

But when people talk about "issues" it is advisable to sniff the air for the scent of bovine excrement. By directly following a reference to Professor Hunt's comments in Korea by the statement of another one of the Societies "beliefs" (these really clever scientific fella's (are they all male?) must be telepathic. That's it. That's how the Society knows when its fellows share a belief unanimously) the Society created the impression that Professor Hunt's remarks militate against "talented individuals" not fulfilling their scientific potential "because of issues such as gender discrimination" blah, blah, blah.

Of course the implied connection has no logical validity whatever, which makes one wonder just how clever these Fellows of the Royal Society really are. And incidentally, doesn't the term "Fellow of the Royal Society" constitute an issue of gender discrimination. I mean shouldn't it be GGRS (Guys and Gals of the Royal Society). Jus' sayin'.

Anyhow, it seems clear that the Royal Society has libeled Professor, Sir Tim Hunt, FRS (or GGRS), Nobel Laureate, both directly and indirectly in its published pronouncements. Perhaps the Royal Society reached its beliefs about Professor Hunt's remarks while under a misapprehension about what he had said or about the context in which his remarks were made. But it is clear now that the Royal Society's statements about Professor Hunt are entirely unwarranted and unjust, and that it is, therefore, time for the Royal Society to make a public apology.

Related:

Daily Mail: A very flawed accuser: Investigation into the academic who hounded a Nobel Prize winning scientist out of his job reveals troubling questions about her testimony

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