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Time to introduce a National Day of Common Sense


Scientist Tim Hunt forced to resign because of his tongue-in-cheek comments that men and women shouldn’t work in the lab together because either side might fall in love

Scientist Tim Hunt forced to resign because of his tongue-in-cheek comments that men and women shouldn’t work in the lab together because either side might fall in love

ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images

Scientist Tim Hunt forced to resign because of his tongue-in-cheek comments that men and women shouldn’t work in the lab together because either side might fall in love

As we lurch ever closer to what was traditionally known as the silly season (assuming 'silly' hasn't been banned as an offensive word), it's nice to know that some people are committed to keeping silliness alive on a 24/7, 365 basis.

Things have reached such levels of toxic absurdity that even the empirical, logic-based world of science is no longer immune from the shrieking mob.

First, we had the vapid stupidity of 'Shirt-gate', which saw scientist Matt Taylor forced to make a tearful apology for wearing an 'offensive' shirt. Now his fellow scientist, Tim Hunt, has been forced to resign because of his tongue-in-cheek comments last week that men and women shouldn't work in the lab together because either side might fall in love with the other and, unforgivably, he suggested that women were more prone to crying in the workplace than men.

Hunt, like Taylor, is a man of immense achievement, a Nobel Prizewinner who, ironically, met his wife at work and who also happens to have a reputation within his field as a mentor to many young female scientists.

But such facts are inconvenient speed bumps on the highway to moral outrage and despite the fact that he was quick to apologise and tried to contextualise his remarks, the damage was done. So, for the last few days, Hunt has been forced to watch helplessly as his career is dismantled before his very eyes - University College London forced him to resign on pain of sacking and this senior scientific adviser, one of the world's leading lights in the fight against cancer, now finds himself virtually unemployable.

As he said himself in an interview with the 'Observer' on Sunday: "I've been hung out to dry. They haven't even bothered asking my side of the affair."

That last quote is, in its own depressing way, even more naive than his initial case of foot-in-mouth disease. Because even though he has vainly tried to placate the mob, he still fails to realise that they have absolutely no interest in hearing his side - they have made up their mind and decreed that he must suffer for his sins. As Hunt has learnt, trying to reason with the latest wave of militant Social Justice Warriors (SJW) is like trying to negotiate with the Borg - pointless and futile.

There can be little doubt that he is merely the latest, high-profile victim of the new witch hunts.

There was a time when anyone who wanted to join an angry mob had to at least make the effort of leaving the house to find some like-minded people. These days, of course, they simply stay at home, glued to their laptop or phone and, from the comfort of their own living-room, haughtily decide a stranger's fate, like electronic Caesars giving the thumbs up or down, depending on their mood.

The problem with these SJW's - and this is a problem which we all encounter on a daily basis, or whenever we turn on the computer - is that they don't really do thinking, or reasoning, or deduction and they certainly never change their position when new information emerges. No, they rely, instead, on their feelings and that's why they are so dangerous.

We saw that in all too vivid technicolour in Ireland where, for the last few months, you couldn't expose yourself to any news media, or social media, without being bombarded by people telling you not just how tolerant they are, but how much more tolerant than you they are.

This infantile, squawking approach to a serious issue became a weird inversion of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, but instead of 'needs' we were force-fed a hierarchy of tolerance. In this mondo bizarro, even people who voted Yes recently ran the usual, lazy gauntlet of denunciation and accusations of homophobia and bigotry if they expressed even the slightest disquiet at the way some No voters were so casually demonised by the forces of supposed tolerance and liberalism.

Cian Healy is the latest victim of this totalitarian demand that everybody toe the party line.

The prop forward was a high-profile supporter of the Yes side, proving just how far rugby has evolved from its traditional image of beer-swilling troglodytes.

Healy is on holiday in California and, as is his wont, he Tweeted about going to a Ke$ha gig at the Hollywood Pride Festival. He included the jokey, if clumsy, hashtag 'backs to the wall' and that was enough to enrage the Twitter mob, led by chief grump, Brian Kennedy.

Kennedy was quick to denounce Healy's Tweet as - that bloody word again - 'offensive' and rather than tell Kennedy to sling his hook, he only dug a deeper hole, prompting the notoriously prickly singer to harrumph that he: "Still doesn't get it."

Healy, as we know, is a big man who can look after himself, but the mob doesn't care about whether someone can handle the flak, like Healy, or plainly can't, like Tim Hunt.

So, as a we look at a society in such decline that we seem to be permanently on the edge of a collective nervous breakdown, is there anything we can do to stem the tide of stupidity which sees normally mild-mannered people turn into Torquemada as soon as they log on?

How about this proposal - a National Day of Common Sense?

This would involve no Twitter campaigns, no Change.org petitions and no orchestrated hate against someone who holds a different position. Instead, we could celebrate one 24-hour period, where anyone who sees something that enrages or even mildly irritates them would, rather than rushing to judgment with their pitch forks at the ready, simply go on about their day. It would be a day of no mad recriminations and no right-on, one-upmanship; a day when people engage their brains rather then their fury.

Any takers?

Irish Independent