UK
19/06/2015 08:21 BST | Updated 19/06/2015 09:59 BST

Richard Dawkins Hits Out At 'Cruelty' Of Tim Hunt Treatment By The 'Academic Thought Police'

Outspoken academic Professor Richard Dawkins has claimed Sir Tim Hunt was the victim of "a feeding frenzy of mob-rule self-righteousness" when he quit his job in the wake of 'sexist' comments.

Sir Tim provoked a backlash on social media after he reportedly said the "trouble with girls" in laboratories was that "you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticise them they cry".

Prof Dawkins said the reaction to the 72-year-old Nobel laureate's comments had been "disproportionate" and gone through schadenfreude into "cruelty" after he was shamed and made to resign from his post in a letter to the Times.

richard dawkins

Richard Dawkins slammed the "witch hunt" against his fellow scientist Tim Hunt

Hunt subsequently apologised for the comments - made at a conference in South Korea - saying they had been intended to be jocular and ironic, but said that he was told that if he did not resign his position at University College London he would be sacked.

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Dawkins said he didn't approve of Hunt's comments but condemned the “baying witch-hunt . . . unleashed among our academic thought police” which has brought down the scientist's career.

tim hunt scientist

Tim Hunt said he was "finished" after resigning from several academic posts

In his letter to the Times, Prof Dawkins said: "Along with many others, I didn't like Sir Tim Hunt's joke, but 'disproportionate' would be a huge underestimate of the baying witch-hunt that it unleashed among our academic thought police: nothing less than a feeding frenzy of mob-rule self-righteousness."

Others to come to Sir Tim's defence have included London mayor Boris Johnson, who called for his reinstatement, and television physicist Professor Brian Cox, who said the remarks had been "very ill-advised" but that the response - which also saw him give up a position at the Royal Society - had been "disproportionate".

Mayor of London Boris Johnson has also voiced his support for Hunt, calling for him to be reinstated. Writing in his column in the Daily Telegraph Johnson said that the outrage over Hunt's "trouble with girls" remarks showed a "total lack of reason".

After standing down from a position at University College London and other academic roles, Hunt said that he was "finished" and never got the chance to explain himself.