A Fireable Thought

When a Nobel Prize winner can be hounded from his university chair by the harridans of the Internet (or any other self-constituted group of fanatics), the outlook for freedom of speech is not good. The West, having undergone its own Cultural Revolution, has taken up the baton of Maoist self-criticism.

I refer to the forced resignation of Professor Timothy Hunt from University College London. Hunt was the discoverer of a type of chemical important in cell division, for which he won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2001. And that discovery was far from being his only contribution to science.

What was the terrible wrongdoing that brought about his ignominious fall? He made a few remarks while in South Korea to the effect that relations between the sexes in scientific laboratories are often complicated, that women scientists when criticized often burst into tears, and that unisex laboratories are therefore a good idea. These remarks were intended lightly, no doubt ironically, but such is the modern thirst for moral or political outrage, which is the tool of the mediocre to bring about their revenge upon the gifted, that words are now taken in the most literal sense and given thereby the worst possible interpretation. The mediocre wait to take offense as a spider awaits its 1984 (Signet Classics) George Orwell Best Price: $1.49 Buy New $3.58 (as of 10:53 EST - Details) prey in a web; the spider needs its prey to live, the mediocre their offendedness to feel a sense of purpose to their lives.

Professor Hunt was forced to resign from his chair by what in effect was a witch hunt, or a lynch mob. He also had to resign from the grant-allocation committee of the Royal Society, one of the oldest and most distinguished scientific societies in the world, and one whose website claims, inter alia, that science needs women. Professor Hunt was speaking as an individual, not in any official capacity; but the Royal Society propagates its disgraceful lie officially, as almost the highest scientific authority in the country, probably from moral cowardice. But it is obvious that science doesn’t need women, it needs scientists, just as art needs artists and literature needs writers; whether they are men or women is irrelevant. There is no female science any more than there was Jewish or bourgeois science, of late unhappy memory.

Women who are successful in business or politics often claim to bring specifically female qualities to their activities, usually such as compassion or understanding or comparative lack of aggression. I am not sure I believe them, because it is perfectly plausible that in order to succeed in these traditionally male-dominated spheres the women who succeed have more rather than less of the supposed male qualities of ruthlessness, aggression, etc.

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