In the Tim Hunt Affair, Where Have All the Grown-Ups Gone?
Regarding the colossal farce of the Tim Hunt affair, about which I wrote previously on this site, more remains to be said about the doubling down of Hunt’s dissembling critics and delators. Connie St. Louis, his principal and most effective accuser, whose pre-redacted CV has now been rumbled as a document full of misrepresentations and “downright falsehoods,” is unrepentant about the snuff job she helped foment. Berating Hunt for sexism and old-boyism while bowdlerizing his text and excerpting only the “problematic” portion of his pre-luncheon toast, she essentially reverse-triggered the larger context of his speech. In this way she tampered with evidence in order to convict her prey.
For this piece of skullduggery, she suffered no qualms of conscience. “I’ve no regrets about breaking a journalistic story,” she boasted.
In fact, her story has nothing to do with journalism as we once knew it. It is a journalism so yellow and speckled it resembles a rancid banana. Of course, if she is referring to contemporary journalism, then she is spot on, for most mainstream reporting in our day is little more than a vast propaganda and indoctrination mill serving the progressivist cause. In a fair milieu, it is not Hunt but St. Louis who should be drummed out of her profession and summarily dismissed from her teaching post. If I were Tim Hunt, I would immediately retain a pitbull lawyer and sue for malfeasance, libel, and defamation of character.
The shoddy thinking and false logic of the progressivist camp -- not to mention its programmatic disingenuousness, conscienceless puerility, and Star Chamber methodology -- are perfectly exemplified by another Hunt basher, namely Washington Post columnist Rachel Feltman, who self-righteously fulminates that Hunt is an abettor of the anti-woman-in-science cadre. Is it not obvious, she seems to believe, that women have suffered egregiously from the patriarchal conspiracy against women in science? After all, “only 13% of people working in STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics] are women.”
Feltman presumes that such a numerus clausus derives almost entirely from male prejudice rather than, to a far larger extent, from the more plausible case of test scores and demonstrated competence, which determine acceptance into the scientific disciplines. The figures she cites are inherently ambiguous, given their built-in assumptions and a priori data-collecting techniques. Feltman is just another typical journalist who has not done her homework, grappled with her subject, or applied the tenets of common sense. Her ideological agenda has overridden her professional integrity -- the pervasive tendency of the progressivist establishment, in which orthodoxy trumps fact and reason.
Naturally, there will inevitably be some degree of prejudice in all human affairs, and the less the better. Where unjust discrimination exists, it must resolutely be confronted -- on both sides of the gender fence. For an example of out-and-out gender bias, however, Feltman might have consulted the practice of famous academic and radical feminist Mary Daly, who throughout her 33-year career at Boston College refused to allow male students into her upper-level classes.
This exclusion was consistent with her belief, as stated in a 1999 interview with EnlightenNext Magazine: “If life is to survive on this planet, there must be a decontamination of the Earth. I think this will be accompanied by an evolutionary process that will result in a drastic reduction of the population of males.”
This dottle is still lit and smoking in the Mammy Yokum pipes of her legionary associates and disciples. One thinks of the late Andrea Dworkin, who believed male seduction and all heterosexual penetration amounted to a form of rape; or Sally Miller Gearhart, who, in an article entitled "The Future -- If There Is One -- Is Female," contended that the proportion of men must be reduced to 10% of the human race; or Catherine A. MacKinnon, who argued that the only difference between convicted rapists and men in general is that the former got caught; or Valerie Solanas, who wrote: “Every man, deep down, knows he’s a worthless peice [sic!] of shit.” This is just to name only a few of the more malicious feministikas.
Such invective is as preposterous as it is extreme, and reflects discreditably not on its target but on its exponents. A far more sensible and relevant discussion about competence, ability, and gender was initiated by former president of Harvard Larry Summers, who proposed the socially taboo thesis that, although women excel in many fields, they are generally weaker in math, engineering, and the hard sciences. Such under-representation, he suggested in his now infamous speech on the subject, was owing less to patterns of discrimination and socialization and more to a “different availability of aptitude at the high end” of math and science. “There is relatively clear evidence,” he said, “that whatever the difference in means -- which can be debated -- there is a difference in the standard deviation and variability of a male and female population.”
Summers later attributed greater emphasis to cultural patterns of behavior and expectation, but his original insights drew from copious experience and studied differences in gender biology. For this apostasy, Summers was hounded out of the presidency.
Mary Daly, however, resigned at the end of her long, prejudice-riddled career rather than admit she was wrong, for which act of putative heroism she was celebrated and revered.
Daly, who developed her reprehensible vision in her 1998 book Quintessence, had no ground to stand on, except a youthful slight from a silly altar boy about how a mere woman could never “serve mass.” The remark “burned its way into my brain and kindled an unquenchable Rage.” Her “Rage” culminated in the theory of “rapism,” defined as “the fundamental ideology and practice of patriarchy” -- which makes Tim Hunt an ideological rapist, a member of a “male-controlled organization” responsible for a species of “gynocide.” Oh, what a piece of work was Mary Daly. Such are the PC denizens of a powerful but factitious pseudo-cognitive realm offering rich hospitality to their glandular compulsions and constitutive lack of basic decency and intellectual probity.
Even authentic scientists are not proof against the depredations of political correctness. Renowned biologist Richard Dawkins, for example, who supported Hunt, tweeted his hopes that “no reverse witch hunt against Tim Hunt’s accusers” will occur. Seriously? Allow false witnesses like Connie St. Louis who destroy a man’s career and reputation without the slightest compunction or regret to escape without reprimand?
Consider, too, that the president of the Royal Society, Hunt’s long-time friend and Nobel Prize co-winner Paul Nurse, actually believes that Hunt’s flippant comments should be taken at face value: “He said he was a chauvinist and that is not acceptable.” Hunt referred to “a chauvinist monster like me,” but this was merely a jocular, self-denigrating quip. Perhaps a kindergartner might not get it -- but a notable scientist and a fully mature adult who cannot read between the lines, who cannot even read the lines in the context of the published transcript of Hunt’s introductory remarks, is simply beyond credibility. (It is also worth noting that women make up half the Council of the Royal Society.
Nurse also shows the extent to which he has succumbed to the travesty of moral equivalence. The “hate mail” he received, he informs us, divides into two categories: one consisting of correspondents who insist that Hunt should be further punished and who go so far as to threaten Nurse with bodily harm; the other comprising pleas for clemency and reinstatement, including many eminent scientists and at least eight Nobel laureates and 21 honorary fellows. (More recently, hundreds of brave young female academics and scientists have testified on Hunt’s behalf. “It has also been of great comfort to me,” he said, “to see many women at the top of science testifying for my record in supporting women scientists.”) Yet Nurse appears to regard his two categories as equally “hate mail” -- “These are the extremes,” he opines. As Clarice Feldman (NB -- not Feltman) writes, “Smug, elitist faculty gravitate to the easily mouthed clichés of feminism and other forms of political correctness to give them a false veneer of enlightenment.”
How different is this, ultimately, from the outright distortions and fact-twisting of the overwhelming majority of our blogs and news organizations: “Tim Hunt’s gobsmacking misogyny” (Salon); “Tim Hunt's speech proved sexism is alive and well in science” (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation); “it would be a mistake to listen to the foghorn of Hunt’s comments and ignore the boat it’s signaling” (The Atlantic). These instances are merely a drop in the proverbial bucket. The pathetic litany of disinformation, the blind or deliberate skewing of truth, the misuse of graphs and charts, is virtually endless. Indeed, many of these carpers depend on graphs and charts, as does Julie Beck in The Atlantic, that apparently prove an unfair salary discrepancy and approach to hiring between women and men with identical university accreditation.
The problem here is that we are dealing with crucial variables like motivation and life/work goals that are hard and often impossible to control for and are simply left out of official-looking schematics.
What these instruments do not show, as Thomas Sowell demonstrates in Economic Facts and Fallacies, are the personal, domestic, and temporal factors that frequently differentiate the two groups. Male scientists tend to dedicate more consistent time to their work spanning the years of their careers, a factor also taken into account in hiring policies. “When you correct for all the various factors,” Sowell points out in an interview with Peter Robinson, such as numbers of hours worked and continuous employment, “the differences become quite trivial.” Further, women who worked “continuously” in academia enjoyed higher incomes than men.
Indeed, both Statistics Canada and Canada’s leading public affairs magazine MacLean’s, among many other sources too numerous to mention, provide evidence for significant gender bias in education favoring women -- e.g., two-thirds of medical degrees are currently earned by women, 75% of degrees in pharmacy are held by women, women account for 59% of young adults aged 25 to 34 with a university degree, etc. And we know that the overall majority of undergraduate students are women, by a 60-40% (and in some case 70-30%) differential. In the Humanities, the asymmetry is even greater.
Interestingly, older men entering a particular trade or discipline, or reapplying for a job after having left a particular profession for an extended period, suffer real hiring stringencies of the sort that feminists like to whine about.
A friend of mine, a first-rate chemical engineer who spent some years as a videographer, is now experiencing enormous difficulties re-entering his specialty. Employers go with the odds, focusing on youth and especially on the promise of reliability and durability -- elusive but salient determinants that rarely figure in “explanatory” tables or regression analyses. One of the major departures from this rule is the teaching profession, where women receive myriad exemptions from service. At the University of Ottawa, whose pro-active recruitment policies I am familiar with, a discretionary fund has been set up to benefit women institutionally merely for being women -- for example, freebie leaves to do “research.” This is clearly common practice at most Western universities. The other flagrant deviation from rational hiring and maintenance protocols, as is common knowledge, pertains to state-run enterprises. None of the perks, however, apply to men.
A personal disclosure seems appropriate at this juncture. As I indicated in my previous article on the affair, I am no fan of Tim Hunt’s -- not because of his innocuous and decontextualized introductory remarks at the South Korean conference, which no reasonable person could object to, but because of his pitiable post-conference grovelings and his genuflection to the false god of political correctness. No manly Virtù there. Nevertheless, he was intentionally maligned and betrayed, or at the very least conveniently misunderstood, by a ravening corps of intellectuals who, morally speaking, merit neither their credentials nor reputations.
True, Hunt did later say that it was “terribly important” to criticize scientists without having them burst into tears -- a smidgeon of comeback. I would add that it is terribly important to criticize anyone without the dams coming down. As a former prof with thirty years in the trenches, I have seen too many female students break into tears over a critical comment or low grade; during the same period, I have not seen a single male student indulge in so fluid a performance. Which leads me to suspect that Tim Hunt is largely right and that gender differences are indeed in play, though, of course, exceptions abound.
In a column for The Telegraph, one of the most lucid and well-reasoned to have emerged from the controversy, London mayor Boris Johnson concurs, citing Professor Ad Vingerhoets of Tilburg University, the world’s leading expert on crying, whose research has shown that women on average cry significantly more often and for longer intervals than men. “On the whole,” Johnson concludes, “men and women express emotion differently. There is, in other words, a gender difference, and it should not be an offence to say that.” His final word on the issue should likewise cause no offense: “The first step is to recognise that these emotional differences do indeed exist, and to be honest about them. Sir Tim Hunt was doing what he has done all his life -- pointing out a natural phenomenon he had observed. He did not deserve to be pilloried, and should be reinstated forthwith to his academic positions.” Amen to that.
I’m convinced we are witnessing a real-life replay of the Donald Sutherland classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers, or a resurgence of something like a version of the Black Plague affecting the life of the mind -- a kind of dotage or second childhood that has afflicted every important Western institution. Boris Johnson thinks so, too. Like certain primitive tribes that worship arcane and nefarious powers, he writes in his Telegraph article: “We have our own mystery gods these days. We have our own chthonic powers, and when someone is deemed to have said or done something to cause offence to the great and implacable Moloch of Political Correctness, then the priests and priestesses of that religion will sometimes react with a vindictiveness -- and a total lack of reason.”
The social fear, the moral panic, the herd mentality, the blatant inanity -- in effect, the sheer delirium -- that has imbrued the Western mind now leaves little maneuver room for those who retain the fading virtues of humor, reason, logic, common sense, and, broadly speaking, a saving measure of personal equilibrium. Reality is a patient but unforgiving taskmaster, and those who fail to recognize it -- or worse, distort its shape and character—not only damage the health of society but eventually destroy themselves. They resemble malevolent children, scary dandiprats out of a Stephen King novel. Where, as Diana West wonders in an illuminating study of our increasingly stunted intellectual and moral climate, have all the grown-ups gone?