Friday, June 19, 2015

Tim Hunt and the Political Correctness Scam

Political correctness is nothing more than a demand for blind, stupid, unthinking obedience to the whims of others.  Here's proof.

Amidst all the inane yammering over the various transexual and transracial fiascos of the day, case of Tim Hunt has been largely ignored, at least in America.  Tim Hunt, a brilliant English biochemist who has among his many honors the 2001 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, happened, during a talk in South Korea, to say the following: "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 (sic) them, they cry."

These lines were immediately circulated on social media, and in short order the feminist thought police were screaming shrilly for his head.  Always politically correct, academia complied, and despite his immediate groveling apologies, Hunt has been forced to resign from a number of positions.  The careers of both Hunt and his wife, Mary Collins, also a scientist, are in tatters.

This is the real face of the left and the true nature of political correctness.  One toes the line, or else.  Brilliance, dedication, hard work, and achievement count for nothing.  Obedience is the sole value for the politically correct left.

Do I exaggerate?  Well, consider this: everything Tim Hunt said in these comments is absolutely true. And if "but it's true!" can't be a defense, then political correctness is indeed nothing more than a demand for blind, stupid, unthinking obedience to the whims of others.

First, consider that Tim Hunt was addressing human problems that arise in the course of research work, that is, things that interfere with careful, objective thought.  One of the most powerful features of the human condition is sexuality -- our attraction to, 96.6% of the time, members of the opposite sex.  (Actually, if you read the link carefully you'll realize it's 97.3% of the time, but why quibble over something likely not within a 95% confidence interval.)  Thus his first two comments seem right on target -- it would certainly make sense that office (or lab) love affairs can be a source of distraction, a real problem.  It is certainly true that human sexuality -- which is overwhelmingly heterosexual -- is a powerful force and in work environments can be an unwelcome distraction.  It would be absolutely crazy to deny this. Yet for being so politically incorrect as to point it out, Hunt is crucified.

Then what about "when you criticize them, they cry?"  Look, everyone knows that women are far more prone to crying than men.  In the course of teaching thousands of undergraduate and graduate students (I once tried counting, and some years ago was certainly over 2,000) I have never once seen a male student cry, anywhere, for any reason.  On the other hand, it is not at all rare to have a female student cry in my office... usually with fairly good reason, but sometimes over small things.  Similarly, my ex-wife Johanna told me that many times her female doctoral students burst into tears over their dissertations... so far as I could tell, it happened yearly; female hysterics seemed to be a regular job hazard for her.  It's quite clear that women and men are not the same emotionally, and yes, sometimes women cry or otherwise go to pieces emotionally, and sometimes very inappropriately and unprofessionally.  Tim Hunt is exactly right about this, and the feminists and their politically correctly emasculated lapdog men hate him for pointing out this truth.  Yet the irony is that, in other contexts, feminists themselves point it out too, and trumpet it as a virtue of women.  We've all heard feminists claim that politics would be different with more women in power, because women bring bring a different perspective, and in particular more sensitivity and empathy.  Of course.  That's why they cry more.  Feminists themselves recognize this.

One of the clearest instances of this I've seen was some years back at a Southern Ecomonics Association panel on "feminist economics."  The panelists, all women and all self-described feminists, unanimously agreed that "feminist economics" (there's a reason I put this term in quotation marks) is different from regular (male) economics because women are more caring and sensitive and emotional and nurturing and such.  The panel proceeded to jump to various confused conclusions, for which audience member Deidre (then Donald) McCloskey took them to task, but the important point for our purposes is that feminists readily acknowledge the emotional, intellectual, and biological differences between men and women... if and when it suits their purposes.  But if anyone else, like poor Tim Hunt, points them out at any other time, there'll be hell to pay, especially if such inconvenient truths poke holes in feminists' claims of women being at least equal to men in every way.  (Equal?  I have run zillions of races in distances from 1 mile to 100 miles... in every one of them there was a separate division for female competitors.  Since the "first place" woman rarely finishes in even the top ten if there's a big field, I can only surmise that this is because being female is a handicap in running.  Feminists never complain about this unequal treatment, so I concur they agree being female is a handicap.  Women just aren't as good in most sports, in general, and we all know this.)

So there's the scam of political correctness.  Feminists know women are different from men, and in some respects inferior.  They know that they are, in general, more emotional than men.  I suspect that in some ways women are superior to men, but I cannot think of any feminist argument to this effect, other than their intermittent claims to superior empathy and emotionalism.  (Incidentally, it should be noted that in some circumstances being more emotional is an asset and in others, a weakness.)

So the Hunt fiasco is a case study in the intellectual bankruptcy of political correctness, a poster girl for such bankruptcy.  Two brilliant scientists, whose work quite literally advances human life, are brought down because one of them failed to to grovel sufficiently at an ideological idol.  Political correctness is indeed nothing but a religious doctrine -- irrational, incoherent, and rather easily punctured.  Those who fail to obey are branded as heretics and immolated, crucified, or ostracized.  That's today's left for you.

But think carefully about it, it gets worse.  PC leftists, including feminists, are loathe to criticize Islam and even Islamic fundamentalists.  Sam Harris and John Pepple repeatedly document this so I won't bother to do so here.  (For example, in Moral Landscapes Harris recounts his debate with a feminist who went so far as to say it is acceptable that a man throw acid in a woman's face in matters of honor, since that's the culture of some traditional Islamic societies.  Or see an example from Pepple here. )  The conclusion is obvious.  Vicious and utterly anti-female Moslem fundamentalists are exempted from PC criticism, while a poor sap like Tim Hunt has his name and career destroyed for a few random inadvertent comments that happen to be true.  I suppose there many reasons for this, but one very important one is that when challenged, Moslem fundies do their damnedest to kill you, while Tim Hunt collapsed like a wet noodle.  The difference between the two is that Tim Hunt, even though he is right and seems to basically a very decent man, has no moral clarity and thus feels uncertain and is easily intimidated.  The Moslem fundmentalists, on the other hand, have a kind of moral clarity about them.  Their ideas are flawed and evil, but they have a deep belief in them and in their own actions in service of these beliefs, and so they are not easily intimidated at all.

So what of the advocates of political correctness, do they have any confidence or clarity in their moral vision?  Certainly not -- that's why they capitulate to Moslem fundamentalists.  Had Tim Hunt let them have it with a strong, confident, rational defense of his comments, one which pointed out that they are both true and of trivial importance, I suspect the PC mob would not have succeeded in lynching him.  They would have been the ones intimidated.  For political correctness really is a scam; save for a few poor crazies, no one really believes in its values.

There's a lesson here.  Western Civilization seems to be undergoing something of a moral-intellectual crisis, in thanks largely to the leftists who have seized the reins.  But I predict that this will be a passing thing, and that when the West regains its moral clarity, it will overwhelm the rest of the world.  And that will be a good thing for everyone, because it will overwhelm the world in the service of one of its greatest discoveries -- individualism and individual rights.

I am a woman working in science, and I disagree very strongly with you.
First, what is your source that political correctness was an invention of stalinists? Throughout my youth in communist Bulgaria, I never came across the term or the concept, neither have I encountered it in Russian sources. At my Department, women were routinely discriminated against during the communist era, as well as after it. When a female won for the first time the position of assistant professor, the Head of the Department, according to eyewitnesses, got drunk and told that this was "the beginning of the end of the Department".
Tim Hunt violated not political correctness but basic human decency and behavior rules that are the glue of any remotely civilized society (in fact, of any society; even social animals have some etiquette). BTW, by doing this he revealed a severe intellectual deficit, presumably age-related. In hierarchical systems such as science, it is important not to allow aging people (who naturally occupy the top) to cling to their positions indefinitely while developing dementia. In my country, a person over 68 cannot occupy any leadership post in academia - in fact, cannot have full-time professor job. This is for a reason. Tim Hunt is 72.
He may be a brilliant researcher but his words expose him as a jerk, and I am very sorry for all who have been under his power through the years, expecially (but not only) the females.
Let's dissect his statement:

"Let me tell you about my trouble with girls..." - mention the patronizing reference to adult women as "girls"; and why does he think that people would be interested in his trouble with half the mankind? (Personally, I'd prefer to hear about the trouble "girls" had with him.)

"...three things happen when they are in the lab..." - I see hear a clear implication that they shouldn't be in the lab, and if they are, whatever happens, is their faught. Quite like the Islamists who blame rape victims for arousing their attackers. A former boss of mine also thought that "girls" shouldn't be in the lab, and openly discriminated against them at interviews, telling (female) members of the jury: "Do you want us to appoint another woman, to give birth and take maternity leaves?" So he appointed men who were (1) incompetent and (2) problematic in other respect (one turned out to be alcoholic and psychopath, and another one was broadcasted by national media as homo-pedophile).

"...You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you..." - again, always the woman is to blame, even if a male has so little self-control that lets love to a colleague distract him at his workplace. A director of a renowned European orchestra once explained why he didn't want any women: "If they are beautiful, they distract the (male) musicians, and if they are plain, they annoy me." Female applicants always wondered how they were recognized at castings and, despite playing behind a curtain, were left out to the advantage of not so competent men. This was until a janitor whispered in the ear of an applicant: "Take out your shoes!" If a woman wears shoes, even without heels, she can be recognized by her steps.

"...and when you criticise them, they cry..." - contrary to what your experience, mine is that, while indeed males cry much more rarely than females, adults of either sex rarely cry in public for trivial reasons. So, to me, here we have a creep who abused his leadership position to pump his ego by emotionally abusing his subordinates. Females were broken by his "criticism" to the point of crying, while males took it more stoically but were also damaged, eaten from inside. As I said, I am sorry for all who have been subordinates to Hunt, and I am glad that he is now kicked out. Better late than never! Hopefully, other jerks will learn not to be such jerks at their workplace... or at least, not brag about it in public.

The good news is that science and university education are steadily being feminized, as should be expected for any field requiring high skills and much work while offering little pay. So leadership positions are more and more often occupied by women. Our current Head of the Department is a female. She has many flaws, but at least doesn't slap her subordinates in the face for being female, and doesn't appoint alcoholics, psychopaths and pedophiles just to have males around.

As for the Western civilization as a whole... to me, its decline is partly a problem of men's roles and responsibilities. The traditional roles of men are: (1) to fight in wars, and to provide for their families by (2) marrying their children's mothers and (3) working hard. Today's Western countries are not ready for war even if they should defend their borders, men are increasingly reluctant to marry, and too often become "stay at home dads", leaving their partner as the only breadwinner.
You can read here about the contributions of female scientists to the achievement for which Hunt shared Nobel prize with two male scientists:
Some of these women worked together with Hunt. I wonder, how they felt when they read his speech how bad it is to have "girls" in the lab.
A scientist writes in his blog (
"I happened to met Tim Hunt earlier this year at a meeting of young Indian investigators held in Kashmir... a session towards the end of the meeting [was] held to allow women to discuss the challenges they have faced building their scientific careers in India. During this session (in which I was seated next to Hunt) several brave young women stood up in front of a room of senior Indian and international scientists and recounted the specific ways in which their careers have been held back because of their gender. The stories they told were horrible, and it was clear from the reaction of women in the room that these were not isolated incidents. If any of the scientists in positions of power in the room (including Hunt) were not already aware of the harassment many women in science face, and the myriad obstacles that can prevent them from achieving a high level of success, there is no way that could have emerged not understanding. When I am thinking about what happened here, I am not thinking about how Twitter hordes brought down a good man because he had a bad day. I am instead thinking about what it says to the women in that room in Kashmir that this leading man of science – who it was clear everybody at the meeting revered – had listened to their stories and absorbed nothing. It is unconscionable that, barely a month after listening to a women moved to tears as she recounted a sexual assault from a senior colleague and how hard it was for her to regain her career, Hunt would choose to mock women in science as teary love interests."
Thanks for your comments, Maya. You have a quite a lot to say on this, so if you would like to do a guest post, or posts, on Unforeseen Contingencies, contact me directly. (If you don't know how, leave a note here.)

I will briefly address some of your comments.

First, regarding origins of "political correctness..." Censorship & thought-policing are thousands of years old, but I do think the Soviets have a good claim to being the inventors of the modern variant. The purging of those who espoused any line that deviated from the official party line is well known. But Marx himself denied that "bourgeois liberalism" was real freedom, and called for the suppression of those without proper "class consciousness." As you point out, the Soviets enforced this over dimensions different from what today's radical left & progressives do, and (so far) in different ways, but it's all thought-policing. I believe (but am uncertain) that the second figure in the picture I posted is Herbert Marcuse, a member of the Frankfurt School who seems very influential in western academia. Marcuse did indeed make arguments for political correctness, and was a proponent of what's sometimes called "cultural Marxism." I have a difficult time understanding how anyone can fall for "political correctness," but this account makes sense to me.

What is your evidence that Tim Hunt suffers from dementia? And if Hunt does have this medical condition, this is a crazy way of treating him. If it is simply a matter that he's no longer productive and due for retirement, this is also a crazy way of addressing the matter. And if you agree he's a brilliant researcher but a jerk, well, then are you suggesting jerks are to be deprived of careers even when accomplished and brilliant? That's my original complaint.

Your second set of comments mostly refers to unfair treatment of women. I fully agree that women have tended to be discriminated against, and that this is wrong. I was careful not to say otherwise, because I know it's true. But that isn't the issue here. The question isn't whether women deserve fair treatment, it's whether we'll have free speech or not.

I won't comment on your points in the third and fourth comments (at least not now) because I am unfamiliar with these claims. But one is a claim about the unfairness of the Nobel Committee (easy to believe) that isn't relevant to my points. The other is about alleged comments ignored by Hunt -- that is, more evidence that's he's a jerk. He may well be. Or maybe he's being slandered. But even jerks should have free speech, and so far as I can tell the only reason given for purging him was his "three problems" statement, not evidence of some systematic problems and abuses.

BTW, when I say "thanks for your comments" I do mean it. Your comments are adding value.
Re one more of your points: you write As for the Western civilization as a whole... to me, its decline is partly a problem of men's roles and responsibilities. The traditional roles of men are: (1) to fight in wars, and to provide for their families by (2) marrying their children's mothers and (3) working hard. Today's Western countries are not ready for war even if they should defend their borders, men are increasingly reluctant to marry, and too often become "stay at home dads", leaving their partner as the only breadwinner.

I agree, very strongly. But why these trends? I don't have a full answer, but I think it has a great deal to do with post-modernism (the cultural marxism I mentioned previously s a part of that movement). IMO today's political correctness is a manifestation of these intellectual trends. So is radical feminism (a.k.a. "gender feminism").

And just to make certain I'm being clear, complete respect for the rights of women -- rights rights as understand in classical liberalism, rights equal to and the same as those of men -- is something entirely distinct from all that. As I have said in other contexts, these rights are not negotiable.
Thank you!
I did not imply that the Nobel Committee had been unjust in this particular case. Modern scientific discoveries are typically accumulated work of several teams over the years, and teams themselves are often large. The Nobel prize cannot be given to all who have made substantial contributions to the achievement.
I've read elsewhere (in Bukovsky) that Herbert Marcuse developed the theory of political correctness, but I did not recognize him in the photo.

There must be some careers for jerks of course, but they should not be allowed to hurt others. It is a chronic problem of science that, due to the hierarchy, young people are all but defenseless at the hands of their superiors, even if everyone in the craft knows that the superior is a jerk.

I do not exactly how to classify Tim Hunt without knowing more about him; and there is no way for me to know more about him, because I do not know personally anyone who knows him personally. What I know is that mental abilities decline with age, and character deteriorates, bad features becoming more pronounced and more visible. Where I work, we currently have 3 individuals in their late 60s, and we are counting the days to the retirement of each of them. Actually, the work of one of them is "outsourced" to junior colleagues to ensure that it is done without major gaffes. In other words, young people are forced to do extra unpaid work so that an old person can enjoy "working" and receiving a salary. The negative sides of aging have always plagued mankind, beginning with primitive tribes ruled by councils of elders and ending with today's retired voters who always demand higher pensions than economy can endure. Knowing the age of Hunt, I don't think we need other evidence of his cognitive decline. In his case, however, another factor may be relevant: in his active years, maybe men could offend women with impunity, so he never needed to develop this form of self-control.

I know that I'll be absolutely the same when I become old. And when I become old, I know that I'll think myself as smart and good as I have been at 25. Cognitive decline is resistant to any assessment by the sufferer himself. I hope that by then, younger colleagues will send me home in my best interest and against my will, before I have publicly made fool of myself.
I think that free speech becomes meaningless if it is one-directional. And in hierarchical systems, it is inevitably one-directional, because the lower ranks are not allowed to talk freely in public, and if they are, the system will break down. The answer? Remove free speech for higher ranks as well, stick to etiquette. The best example may be the army; how much free speech is there in the army, and can you imagine an army where an officer will stand in front of his soldiers to talk nonsense?

If the strong can insult the weak in the face, this is not free speech, this is verbal bullying. As a teacher, I always try to shut up students when they talk against other teachers, but sometimes my freshmen just insist to complain. I had a good female student who quoted to me a male professor from another department: "There are two types of female colleagues. Those of the first type look well macroscopically. They are stupid and do not read. Those of the second type do not look well macroscopically. They are also stupid, but they are ambitious and read a lot." Once I had a brief collaboration with this professor and he was quite nice to me. I was not dependent on him, not his student, but almost his peer. So it doesn't mean a thing when high-ranking female scientists say that Tim Hunt has always been nice to them.
To me, it is also difficult to trace the roots of the trends I complained of. With peace becoming the rule, people succumbed to the delusion that war always could and should be avoided. I regularly read opinion polls about "Should your NATO member country intervene if Estonia is attacked by Russia?" and the answer is more and more "No". The logic is, if the danger of Russia is far away, it's no use risking the lives of our boys. Moreover, if Russia is actually attacking us, then our boys cannot push back the Russian troops anyway, so there is never any rationale to try and stop an aggression. I wonder for how long a democratic country can fulfill its obligations in a military pact against the will of its population.

Today's Western societies have become very individualistic, with too little cohesion force. Cohesion of society has always been more a job of males (unlike cohesion of family). Today's society will not question a male shipwreck survivor whether he has let the women and the children first.

The two sexes can never be truly equal, because they are biologically different. I do not say "unfortunately", because I generally like our species the way it is. However, this has far-reaching implications. Women have much shorter fertility span, so they are at a disadvantage. Esp. in today's Western societies, where professional women are all but required to postpone childbirth until their mid-30s. (This is the reason why women break down when they have problems with their PhDs - because the reasonable plan first to finish study and then to have kids may turn into having to choose just one of these.)

Different traditional cultures have found an almost identical answer to the problem: cruel suppression of premarital sex for women, esp. when it brings babies. Though directed against women, this was a lever on men, forcing them to marry, have "legitimate" kids and support them. In today's West, this is gone. There is a never-ending discussion on gay marriage; I'd wish to see a discussion on straight marriage. The situation of "common-law partnership" is cheerfully presented as a triumph of individual freedom, but actually only one side is free, the selfish irresponsible males who refuse to marry. Some Western women having the most sensible wish to get married have to marry Muslims. I don't want a return of Gretchen's tragedy but I'd wish to see some stigma on men who refuse to grow up. If a man hasn't the basic decency to marry his children's mother, he does not love her and he is not a responsible person. And, while I agree that for some (not all) families it may be good for the mother to stay at home, I do not accept stay at home dads. The strange thing is that the parasitic men I know are deeply unhappy, yet they leave things as they are.
I finally wrote the post you suggested; it is on my blog, here:

If you like it, please feel free to copy and repost it as a guest post, and if you don't like it, feel free to leave it where it is. Anyway, it is inspired by you, and this influenced its content (I tried to connect the problem to the situation in the economy, which is your preferred field).
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