Montag, Juni 15, 2015

Wissenschaft wird Opfer der Ideologie: Nobelpreisträger ohne Anhörung zur Kündigung gebracht

Nachdem die Diversity-Beauftragte Bahar Mustafa mit Sprüchen wie "Tötet alle weißen Männer" für Aufmerksamkeit sorgte, konnte sie selbstverständlich ihren Job behalten.

Komplett anders hingegen sprang man erwartungsgemäß mit dem Nobelpreisträger Tim Hunt um, der einen dummen Spruch gegen Frauen vom Stapel ließ. Spiegel-Online berichtet:

In einem Interview hat sich Nobelpreisträger Tim Hunt darüber beschwert, wie sein Arbeitgeber ihn nach dem Skandal um sexistischen Äußerungen behandelt hat. "Sie haben mich im Stich gelassen", sagte der 72-Jährige der britischen Zeitung "The Observer". Ihm sei nahegelegt worden, seinen Job zu kündigen - dabei habe ihn niemand nach seiner Version der Geschichte gefragt. Er habe keine Chance gehabt, sich zu erklären.

Genderama hatte immer wieder über Fälle dieser Art berichtet. Immerhin reagieren zunehmend mehr Menschen alarmiert auf diese Entwicklung. So kommentiert Brendan O'Neill auf den Seiten der liberalen Plattform

If you were in any doubt that a dark cloud of illiberalism has descended over the Western academy, then the case of Tim Hunt should put you straight.

(...) Hunt's crime was to make a not-very-funny gag during an after-dinner speech at a conference on women in science in South Korea earlier this week. (...) In a normal world, a world which valued the freedom to make a doofus of oneself, that should have been the end of it. Seventy-two-year-old man of science makes outdated joke, tumbleweed rolls by, The End.

But we don't live in a normal world. Certainly we don't live in a world where people are allowed to make off-color comments. And so with tedious, life-zapping predicability, Hunt fell victim to the offence-policers, to the machine of outrage being constantly cranked up by self-styled guardians of what we may think, say, and even joke about.

Twitter went into meltdown. Journalists kicked up a fuss. His comments were branded "shocking and bewildering." (You find a silly joke bewildering? You really should get out more.) And then came the denouement to this latest outburst of confected fury: Hunt "resigned" from UCL, where he was honorary professor. (...) Professors of Britain, be warned: tell a funny that irritates the right-on, and you shall be cast out.

Even more depressing than the resignation/sacking of Hunt has been the response to it. "This is a moment to savour," said the Guardian. The Twitterati has given birth to the hashtag #distractinglysexy, featuring pics of women in laboratories, all designed to mock Hunt's 1950s worldview. One science journalist thinks Hunt deserves the roasting he's received because it is alarming that "in this day and age ... someone would be prepared to be so crass, so rude."

What is truly alarming, what should really send a shiver down every liberal's spine, is not the words that came out of Hunt's mouth but the haranguing of him that followed, the shunning of him by the academy and possibly by the scientific elite itself. (As the Guardian crows, Hunt is a "fellow of the Royal Society… at the time of writing, at least." Yes! Let's cast him out of that institution too! And can we pelt him with rotten eggs as he leaves?)

The response to Hunt is way more archaic than what Hunt said. Sure, his views might be a bit pre-women's lib, pre-1960s. But the tormenting and sacking of people for what they think and say is pre-modern. It's positively Inquisitorial.

The irony is too much to handle: Hunt is railed against for expressing an old-fashioned view, yet the railers against him do something infinitely more old-fashioned: they expel from public life someone they judge to have committed heresy. Kick him out. Strip him of his titles. Mock his misfortune. "Savour the moment." How awfully ironic that the Royal Society, which played a key role in propelling Britain from medievalism to modernity, is now being asked to behave in a medieval fashion and send into the academic wilderness a heretic among its number.

The Hunt incident is quite terrifying. For what we have here is a university, under pressure from an intolerant mob, judging a professor's fitness for office by his personal thoughts, his idea of humour. Profs should be judged by one thing alone: their depth of knowledge. It shouldn't matter one iota if they are sexist, stupid, unfunny, religious, uncouth, ugly, or whatever. All that should matter is whether they have the brainpower to do the job at hand.

UCL and the mob's hounding of Hunt echoes the university of the pre-Enlightenment era, when only those who were 100 percent Good Catholics had a hope in hell of getting a job. Only now, academics must be unflinchingly in accordance with the commandments of PC rather than with Biblical thinking. A Nobel Laureate has been broken on the wheel of PC. This is bad. Really bad. For if even a Nobel winner can be treated like this, what hope is there for lesser professors? The chilling effect of the Hunt debacle on the Western academy is likely to be pretty intense.

(...) In effectively dumping Hunt, UCL is sending the message that it will not tolerate deviant thinking. Oxford University did something similar last year when it cancelled a debate on abortion (which I was due to speak at) at the behest of an angry mob of feminists. The management of the London School of Economics gave the nod to the disbanding of its student rugby team for the crime of distributing a rude leaflet. In the U.S., Columbia has indulged the mattress girl, allowing her to defame both a man and campus life more broadly. UVa banned fraternities in response to what turned out to be an utterly made-up rape. Even the notorious Laura Kipnis case is not a simple case of mad, intolerant students trying to shut down an outspoken academic, but rather has been facilitated by educational structures themselves: in this case the federal Title IX rules dealing with gender issues on campus.

Auch die in den USA recht bekannte Autorin Amy Alkon (ihr Schwerpunkt sind Bücher über Gutes Benehmen im 21. Jahrhundert – ich habe eines davon gelesen und fand es gelungen) äußert sich zu diesem Fall:

Looking at all of this, it could be seen as a man lamenting his own difficulties with women -- or even if he is in favor of single-sex labs, couldn't somebody discuss or debate this with him instead of immediately packing him off to the guillotine?

We're a little quick to use social media as a means to assess -- or rather "assess" -- a person and then make some some speedy determination about how they should be punished.

Alkon zitiert einen Artikel des Science Media Center zu dieser Debatte:

I had questions, mainly revolving around whether or not Tim Hunt is a chauvinist. Does he actually discriminate against his female colleagues? Does he seriously propose segregated labs and has he ever tried to implement this? Does he refuse to employ young women in his lab because they might cry when he appraises their work? And critically, will removing Tim Hunt from his positions at UCL, the Royal Society and the ERC also remove a barrier to the progress of women in science and advance that cause. I asked around but none of those giving interviews or tweeting seemed be able to answer me. Worryingly for me, the question of whether this scientist deserved this global vilification seemed irrelevant.

I then called scientists who know him and something interesting happened. They said they had not witnessed any gender bias in him. Some specified the exact opposite. That Tim is a fantastic supporter of young scientists, including women. The organiser of a national competition for young scientists told me that he had never been anything but fantastic, especially with the young women, and is really dedicated and generous with his time. Another eminent woman wrote: "among scientists who know him, Tim Hunt is regarded as a good man and an excellent scientist. He is renowned for his willingness to engage, especially with students, and has done a great deal to promote the careers of young people, including women."

I then decided to call Tim himself. I asked him why he called himself a chauvinist and if he believes he is one. He insisted again that it was intended to be a silly joke and that he prides himself on treating everyone he works with respect and kindness, and believes he has achieved that over his career.

Eine anonyme Wissenschaftlerin befindet auf den Seiten des Blogs Daily Kos:

The issues that Sir Hunt brought up are real issues. At our Women in Science meetings we discussed similar issues of gender-related tensions in the lab. Female graduate students sometimes feel their relationship with their male adviser is very different from the relationship said adviser has with his male students. Falling in love in the lab is not unheard of, to put it mildly. That women tend to be more sensitive and brought to tears more easily is also nothing to be ashamed of. Bringing these issues up as one person's experience, in a light-hearted way, is not something that I see as an attack. And yet, somehow it turned into just that.

And this is what bugs me (sorry for the pun, I am an entomologist) as a woman scientist. That female scientists, perhaps without seeing the whole remark in context, immediately see an attack instead of a joke, or an opportunity to bring these issues up and discuss them with the seriousness they deserve.

Instead, they lash out a counter attack with the #DistractinglySexy tag. It makes me feel as if they are so insecure in their abilities as scientists, that they're afraid one man's comments will show the world "what they're really like". Now some might take my words out of context and say that I think women are lesser scientists than man. And that's what, I think, was done to the Nobel laureate.

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