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Boneheaded thinking of brightest minds

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 13 June, 2015, 12:52am
UPDATED : Saturday, 13 June, 2015, 12:57am

Just because a person has a high IQ it doesn't mean he or she necessarily has an even adequate EQ. In fact, the two quotients - intelligence and emotional - are often inversely proportional.

Yet, we somehow expect Nobel Prize winners to be paragons of virtue and nobility, or at least high-mindedness. So when some of them say the most boneheaded things and reveal the most common contemptible prejudices, we are shocked. Perhaps we are just naive. This week, Tim Hunt, a winner of the 2001 Nobel in physiology or medicine, got himself into hot water when he made a sexist remark about female scientists. Of all places, he said it in front of the World Conference of Science Journalists in Seoul. The event was in honour of women in science. He explained - or was it meant to be a joke? - why he didn't like working with female scientists.

"Three things happen when they are in the lab... You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you and when you criticise them, they cry."

Given the nature of the event, he was guaranteed maximum coverage. For commenting on his"trouble with girls", the British biochemist has had to resign from his post as honorary professor at University College London.

It's hardly the worst thing Nobel winners have ever said about women. In his autobiographical Surely You're Joking, Mr Feynman, the great American physicist Richard Feynman was positively misogynistic.

"Bar girls are all bitches," he wrote. "They aren't worth anything and all they're in there for is to get you to buy them a drink, and they're not going to give you a goddamn thing; I'm not going to be a gentleman to such worthless bitches ... I learned it till it was automatic."

Feynman clearly had serious issues with the opposite sex.

As recently as 2007, James Watson, co-discoverer of the DNA structure, said blacks were intellectually inferior to whites.

In his famous Double Helix, he went out of his way to belittle and demean the woman scientist Roselind Franklin, whose meticulously prepared X-ray images of DNA samples enabled him and Francis Crick to work out its double-stranded helical structure.

Talk about an ingrate!