I think of love as the antidote to science.
The more science claims to know, the more love continues on its absurd, meandering path, scattering logic to the winds.
One Nobel laureate, however (or, perhaps, therefore), wants love to be kept out of the science lab. More precisely, he wants women to be kept out of the science lab when men are around.
Biochemist and Nobel Prize-winning Englishman Tim Hunt has not become a love object since he made remarks at a conference in South Korea that logicians might describe as neanderthal. As London's Times reports, he began by declaring that he had endured "trouble with girls."
You are not alone, Sir Tim. But how much of your trouble was self-inflicted?
Hunt explained that women in labs get in the way of the science: "Three things happen when they are in the lab: you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticize them they cry." He suggested that labs should be gender-segregated.
I fancy that even a few members of the Royal Neanderthal Society might blanch at such desperate ignorance. Even though he had prefaced his remarks by admitting he was a "male, chauvinist pig."
The reaction in the room was described by Connie St. Louis, a science journalism lecturer from the City University in London. She told the Times: "Some people laughed nervously. Some just sat there and put their heads in their hands. It was so awful, and worse he was British."
I'm not sure why the fact that he was British made it worse. The Brits are just as prone as anyone else to buffoonery. Benny Hill and Mr. Bean? Both Brits, you know.
For his part, Hunt, whose wife is a scientist, has now apologized. As the Guardian reports, he claims he was joking. Or, perhaps, "joking."
He described his words to BBC Radio 4 as "lighthearted, ironic remarks." He also said: "I just meant to be honest, actually." (Editor's note, 10:25 p.m. PT: Hunt has since resigned from his position as honorary professor with the University College of London Faculty of Life Sciences.)
Some will wish to excuse Hunt on the basis that he's 72 years old and might have different cultural mores from more modern scientists.
I wonder, though, how different his inner (though now blurted) thoughts are from so many men in, say, the tech world.
As womenfor their rightful place in a diverse tech culture, how many tech CEOs secretly harbor notions that women are a distraction, rather than a positive influence?
One cannot help but see a connection between Hunt's pleading that he has trouble with girls with the fact that many male tech types appear to have trouble with girls too.
Why else would Silicon Valley matchmakers be paid six-figure bonuses just to find the one woman who is actually prepared to hold hands with a techie male?
Update, 10:25 p.m. PT: Hunt has since resigned from his position as honorary professor with the University College of London Faculty of Life Sciences.