Victor Davis Hanson, call your office

It seems that the plan is to reduce University course selection to just one subject:
Victim Group Studies.

How I was Kicked Out of the Society for Classical Studies Annual Meeting

Mary Frances Williams is a courageous person.  Reading about her experience tells us much about the modern Academy. Here is a long quote about the heart of the matter, but I recommend reading the whole thing to understand why Williams felt any need to make these common sense points.

I only wanted to make four very brief points, but I felt compelled to state at the beginning that we could not abandon the ancient languages because then we would have nothing left of our field—of all the egregiously shocking things I had just heard, that seemed to be the one that most cried out to be challenged. I then attempted to say the following:

1) It is important to stand up for Classics as a discipline, and promote it as the political, literary, historical, philosophical, rhetorical, and artistic foundation of Western Civilization, and the basis of European history, tradition, culture, and religion. It gave us the concepts of liberty, equality, and democracy, which we should teach and promote. We should not apologize for our field;

2) It is important to go back to teaching undergraduates about the great classical authors—Cicero, the Athenian dramatists, Homer, Demosthenes, the Greek and Roman historians, Plato, and Aristotle—in English translation in introductory courses;

3) One way of promoting Classics is to offer more survey courses that cover many subject areas (epic, tragedy, comedy, rhetoric, philosophy, history, political theory, and art history), or to concentrate on one area such as in Freshmen seminars, or through western civilization classes;

4) It should help with securing funding from administrators to argue that such survey courses are highly cost-effective: a student could learn a tremendous amount even if such a survey were the only Classics course taken. On the other hand, a seminar that concentrated on the close reading of a few texts would prove beneficial for all students.

Unfortunately, I was interrupted in the middle of my first point by Sarah Bond, who forcefully insisted: “We are not Western Civilization!”

What can one say to that? I didn’t respond; but as I then attempted to move on and make my second point, I was interrupted by her and others, and not permitted to finish what I had hoped would be four very brief statements. A member of the audience with no connection to the panel, Michael Gagarin (University of Texas Emeritus) rose, came over to me, and told me I wasn’t allowed to speak.

I had never been at an academic conference where a member of an audience had the power to forbid another audience member from speaking. I continued: “We don’t teach Homer. We don’t teach Cicero… Why don’t we teach Thucydides and Herodotus?… So I’m saying: Cicero has value. Homer has value. Demosthenes has value, because it will teach you about defending Democracy.” (Sarah Bond pointed out that these writers were “all men” and seemed to think she’d scored a devastating point at my expense.)

I then went on to say that I believe the journals publish articles on the basis of merit, not because of the race or ethnicity of the authors. Padilla then challenged me since I was clearly disagreeing with his argument, namely, that only black people and Hispanics should be able to publish in academic journals.

In the hope of making my position clearer—that race should not be a determining factor when it comes to assessing the value of scholarship—I said to Padilla, “You may have got your job because you’re black, but I’d prefer to think you got your job because of merit.” Admittedly, I was under stress and did not express myself as clearly as I might have done, but what I was trying to convey is that the principle he was advocating clearly didn’t apply to hiring decisions—and nor should it—because he had got his job on merit, not because he’s black. Indeed, if I thought the opposite, and I imagined there was a chance of him saying, “You’re right, I was only hired because I’m black,” that would have contradicted the point I was trying to make, which is that it would have been wrong to hire him based only on his race, just as it would be wrong for an academic journal to publish an article based on the race of its author.

Williams was attacked for her ideas in a supposedly academic discussion, and told to shut up. There’s lots of offensiveness to go around.

She quotes her offending phrase.  We can assume, since it is not flattering, that it is accurate; and can see why it could cause offense. But, as we’ll also see, Professor Peralta thinks he should have been hired simply because of his melanin content. A white person is not allowed to infelicitously agree with that, though.

And Williams is right, it would have contradicted her argument.  So, I think she didn’t mean it the way she said it.

From the comments: “There is nothing political in learning how to conjugate a Latin verb, for example.”  That’s actually the point Williams was trying to make.  But, there something political in it now.

In fact, that’s the whole point: Latin speakers were patriarchal, white, colonialists. Further, conjugation is simply a way to ‘otherize’ minorities by suggesting rigorous study is required for Classics students.

See, critical-theory intersectionality is easy. If you can write plainly.

For a Masters degree in the single University study SJWs are promoting, however, you have to be able to translate this (which is about STEM syllabi, though that’s irrelevant):

“…the curricular inclusion of Indigenous perspectives is differentially problematic if we cannot also attend to the taken-for-granted and naturalized epistemological, ontological, and axiological commitments and enactments of what we are including perspectives into.”

Finally, let’s let Professor Dan-el Padilla Peralta, confirm that he hopes his perception of what Mary Frances Williams meant is true. Italics in original.  I think we can reasonably ask if he might have been more offended if Williams had said, “You didn’t get your job because you’re black.”

Seeing as no one in that room or in the conference corridors afterwards rallied to the defense of blackness as a cornerstone of my merit, I will now have to repeat an argument that will be familiar to critical race scholars of higher education but that is barely legible to the denizens of #classicssowhite. I should have been hired because I was black: because my Afro-Latinity is the rock-solid foundation upon which the edifice of what I have accomplished and everything I hope to accomplish rests; because my black body’s vulnerability challenges and chastizes the universalizing pretensions of color-blind classics; because my black being-in-the-world makes it possible for me to ask new and different questions within the field, to inhabit new and different approaches to answering them, and to forge alliances with other scholars past and present whose black being-in-the-world has cleared the way for my leap into the breach.

“Into the breach” is cultural appropriation.

“Cry ‘God for Harry, England, and Saint George!’”

Nobody is allowed good intentions but us

Here’s what compassion gets you from the rabid Left. (Link broken intentionally. You can fix it if you really want the reference.)

Trump’s Plan to Decriminalize Homosexuality Is an Old Racist Tactic

Because “colonialism.” Don’t you know all cultures are morally equivalent? Except Western Civilization, which is oppressive.

This sleight of mind is how our Leftists forgive female genital mutilation and support boycotting the only democracy in the Middle East; while refusing to express an opinion on, or even acknowledge, the debate among some Imams regarding the proper way to kill gays – throw them off tall buildings or collapse a wall on them.

That is a very partial list of the multi-cultural ‘diversity’ the Left embraces in order to facilitate condemnation of Western culture. (The answer to the Imam’s debate is obvious: How many walls can you afford to collapse?  You can use the same building many times.)

I’d also mention how the Islamic fundamentalist debate on the treatment of trans people is proceeding, but I’m not aware of it.  Perhaps it goes unmentioned in the Quran.  If so, that’s probably good for trans people in strict Islamic countries.

But. If Trump moves to extend some protection to gays in Islamic countries that makes him a racist.

Maybe for those ‘apolitical voters who vote based on feelings’ someone could could point out that the charge of “colonialism” is just one more tired talking point for the postmodernist/critical theorist/intersectionalist wing of the party calling themselves Democrats: They aren’t to be taken seriously from a moral standpoint.

My favorite example of the bankruptcy of cultural equivalence, AKA deeply held moral intuitions, is related by Mark Steyn: The Gelded Age

In a culturally confident age, the British in India were faced with the practice of “suttee” – the tradition of burning widows on the funeral pyres of their husbands. General Sir Charles Napier was impeccably multicultural:

‘You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: when men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours.’

India today is better off without suttee. If you don’t agree with that, if you think that’s just dead-white-male Eurocentrism, fine. But I don’t think you really do believe that. Non-judgmental multiculturalism is an obvious fraud, and was subliminally accepted on that basis. After all, most adherents to the idea that all cultures are equal don’t want to live in anything but an advanced western society. Multiculturalism means your kid has to learn some wretched tribal dirge for the school holiday concert instead of getting to sing “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer” or that your holistic masseuse uses techniques developed from Native American spirituality, but not that you or anyone you care about should have to live in an African or Native American society. It’s a quintessential piece of progressive humbug.

Progressive humbug has become a quintessential piece of Western culture.

Poisonous word smoothy

A paper from the Canadian Journal of Science, Mathematics and Technology Education:
Disrupting and Displacing Methodologies in STEM Education: from Engineering to Tinkering with Theory for Eco-Social Justice

It has been argued many times over the course of decades and across diverse paradigms that science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education practices-as-usual (re)produce systems of dominance: be it patriarchy, heteronormativity, white supremacy, Eurocentrism, (neo-)colonialism, able-ism, classism, labor inequity, anthropocentrism, and/or others. Thankfully, there are many who are doing the critical and creative work of (re)opening STEM education to the possibility of eco-social justice to-come through a plurality of productive approaches, orientations, and stances: anti-oppressive, anti-racist and critical race-based, decolonizing and de/colonizing, queer, Indigenous, gender-equitable, post-colonial, community-based and participatory, critical place-based, inter-species, and many more. Further, there are many examples taking richly critical and complicit stances to work within and against logics of exclusion. Yet, in doing so, many of these engagements are oft depoliticized and atheoretical practices of inclusion in ways that continue othering those formerly excluded, albeit differently…

Those are the first four sentences, and less than half the first paragraph. There are one-hundred forty one words. Polysyllabic opportunity is taken at every turn. Especially where a Social Justice meme can be invoked for the target audience.

In, well, quite a few words for four sentences, Marc Higgins, Maria F. G. Wallace and Jesse Bazzul check every identity group/victimhood box, and add “and/or others” and “and many more” for good measure. Tomorrow’s outrage groups can’t be easily identified.

This may be the clearest (partial) paragraph in the piece, since it consists primarily of lists of the oppressed and oppressions.  The redundancy of “many” and “oft” in the last sentence is a minor point of confusion in a paragraph designed to be incomprehensible except to the cognoscenti. It is just a warmup for the even more intentionally obscure word smoothy to follow. Translated, that half paragraph is rendered:
Some people we know have been saying STEM education is socially unjust for a long time. It’s a good thing those people are trying to make STEM education conform to the post-modernist assertion that we can’t really know anything. The only truth is power. Justice demands STEM education be like the ________ Studies curricula.

I’ll admit some of that is interpretation based on understanding the code words, but we’ll get to more evidence for my poetic license below:

…the curricular inclusion of Indigenous perspectives is differentially problematic if we cannot also attend to the taken-for-granted and naturalized epistemological, ontological, and axiological commitments and enactments of what we are including perspectives into.

This sentence is probably the best example in the paper in the paper of esoteric obscurantism, as well as absolutely terrible writing even in context, but I’ll give translating it a shot:
Including Native American mysticism in basic STEM teaching methods will not be useful if we can’t also reject the essentially Enlightment ideas of logic and rationalism. It will be doubleplus ungood if we don’t do more to make hard science “woke.”

Last example, I promise:

…There are now multiple productive exemplars which critically engage methodological processes to disrupt and displace restrictive norms which linger and lurk with/in educational research and its concepts which left unchecked (re)articulate forms of oppressive power. The space of “innocence” which serves to mask methodological power is perhaps no longer tenable for not addressing taken-for-granted referents to system which (re)produce dominance, inequity, and foreclose the space of responsibility towards one another across lines of difference and power…

The double negative is a thoughtful touch, as is “exemplar” where “example” would have done. (That’s like “utilize” instead of “use.”) “Lurk” and “mask” subtly add to the bias of the evidence free critique.

Translation:
Lately, we see many useful examples of “critical theory” being applied to STEM research/teaching methodology. This is important in order to disrupt the oppressive power of the so-called scientific method, which pretends, by definition, it is unbiased. As we all know, that isn’t so. Maybe we’re not doing a good enough job destroying it. Such systems are bad things, because they exclude those who aren’t competent within them.

This paper is full of coded micro-approval virtue signals, and assumes its world-view is unassailable. But, that’s not the worst problem it poses. It is part of the withering, post-modernist attack on hard science. Those who practice hard science in our educational institutions should be warned: From their Womens Studies beachhead, the post-modernists have already marched through English, Anthropology, Sociology, Geography, History, et. al.; Biology is next; Mathematics will be last, but they’re coming for you.

Hat Tip: Jordan Peterson

The selected zero-sum victims cult

Conflate the ideas in the following 3 articles, and ponder.
1) Selection effects

To take a more provocative example [of selection effects], consider the “____ studies” fields in academia. Even if they don’t explicitly require professors to have left-wing ideas, they select for such professors by making uncomfortable anyone with a different point of view. In other fields, this is less the case. But I fear that in those other fields, any lack of diversity along gender or racial lines will be used as a wedge to make them to come up with selection criteria that have the effect of pulling in people with a left-wing viewpoint. In economics, I call this the “road to sociology watch.”

2) Does the Zero-Sum Nature of Academic Success Contribute to the Left-wards Bias of Academia?

For a while now, I have had a theory that the zero-sum nature of academic success (competition for a fixed and perhaps shrinking number of tenured positions) affects the larger world-view of academia. (This article that compares academia to a harmful cult demonstrates this zero-sum thinking pretty well.)

3) The Free Speech Crisis on Campus Is Worse than People Think

We’ve heard about microaggressions, said to be small slights that over time do great harm to disadvantaged groups; trigger warnings, which some students demand before they are exposed to course material that might be disturbing; and safe spaces, where people can go to be free of ideas that challenge leftist identity politics. We’ve heard claims that speech that offends campus activists is actually violence, and we’ve seen activists use actual violence to stop it —and to defend this as self-defense—when administrators fail to do so…

[T]he new culture of victimhood combines sensitivity to slight with appeal to authority. Those who embrace it see themselves as fighting oppression, and even minor offenses can be worthy of attention and action. Slights, insults, and sometimes even arguments or evidence might further victimize an oppressed group, and authorities must deal with them. You could call this social justice culture since those who embrace it are pursuing a vision of social justice. But we call it victimhood culture because being recognized as a victim of oppression now confers a kind of moral status, in much the same way that being recognized for bravery did in honor cultures…

Victimhood culture is a new moral culture, not simply a variant of dignity culture. Its adherents and defenders still use much of the language of dignity, as when writer Regina Rini describes the goal of microaggression reporting as “a culture in which no one is denied full moral recognition.” This sounds like dignity culture, except that the implication is that even minor and unintentional slights deny people full moral recognition. The break with dignity culture is more fundamental, though. Dignity culture fights oppression by appealing to what we all have in common. Our status as human beings is what’s most important about us. But victimhood culture conceives of people as victims or oppressors, and maintains that where we fall on this dimension is what’s most important about us, even in our everyday relationships and interactions. And this means that victimhood culture is ultimately incompatible with the goals of the university. Pursuing truth in an environment of vigorous debate will always involve causing offense—and one of the shibboleths of victimhood culture is that it’s okay to offend the oppressors but not the oppressed. Many campus activists, realizing this, have attacked the ideals of free speech and academic freedom. One of these visions will have to prevail—either dignity culture and the notion of the university as a place to pursue truth, or victimhood culture and the notion of the university as a place to pursue social justice.

The first article ends with the passage I quoted, and there’s more there to think about. “Making uncomfortable anyone with a different point of view” is a very nice description of why our campuses have become so anti-free speech. RTWT. I also highly recommend perusing the comments.

The second article makes a wonderful point about capitalism. The comments there are also worth a look.

The third article is fairly long, but it does an excellent job making the case that “Victimhood culture is a moral culture, and the activists who embrace it are moral actors, not part of a “snowflake generation” that can’t cope with disagreement.” In other words, victimhood culture is much more of a threat to classical liberal values than you might think if you dismiss it as a silly, passing phase of young naifs surrounded by mentors who view 1984 as a “How to” guide.

This new culture is abetted by social media; where qualifications for oppressed tribal membership are continually redefined, identitarian scoring systems are maintained, and virtue signaling shaming rituals are fueled.

Further reading:

Rule by internet mobs.
Narrow Roads of Bozo Land: How We Came to Be Governed by Online Mobs

Crowdsourced anonymous Kafkaesque accusations.
How An Anonymous Accusation Derailed My Life

The value of victimhood.
Collision with Reality: What Depth Psychology Can Tell us About Victimhood Culture

And what should we fear?
Western Civilisation “Not Welcome Here”

Finally, see if you can connect these dots to Jordan Peterson’s popularity.
Harvard Study: 20% Of College Students Consider Suicide; 9% Attempt It

Victim culture activists truly are as afraid of words as they say they are. It’s not posturing, it’s mental illness posing as a moral code; producing fragile people whose stifling nihilism becomes their only real psychological defense.

Jordan Peterson on why university safe spaces are absurd and crippling:

The Mental Health Crisis | Jonathan Haidt:

In sum:
Strictly select your collective for matching ideology.
View every game as zero-sum.
Create hundreds of victim groups.
Convince students that rights trump responsibilities.

Then teach them they are oppressed by culture outside the ivory towers, and they will demand dignity free safe spaces from within which to plot its destruction.

JBP at 20 Monroe Live

My wife and I were at Dr. Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life lecture on Thursday (Sep. 20) in Grand Rapids, MI. We had VIP seats (3rd row, center) which added a badge, a picture with Peterson, and a separate interactive Q&A session. An unadvertised perk, for which my skinny old butt was grateful, was padded seats. Beyond row G, there was no padding. 20 Monroe live is a venue designed for rock concerts, not lectures, and all the folding chairs were packed closely.

Dave Rubin opened: A couple of decent jokes, and invocation of several Peterson memes (e.g. Cathy Newman, lobsters). All of which drew positive reaction from the audience. Rubin was OK, but has a pretty much canned intro. He welcomed 3,000 people when the capacity (it was filled) is about 1500. Must have been thinking about a previous event? He also told us we were the first audience to cheer for the venue’s announced policy of “no heckling, no video.” Aside from the fact that Peterson ticket buyers come for an intellectual stimulus and wouldn’t want to peer at the man through a forest of cameras held high in the first place, or listen to some SJW ranting instead of what they paid for, I’ve also read of the same reaction elsewhere. Maybe Dave wasn’t at that event.

The audience was about 35% female, 40% young male, and 25% older male. I make that latter distinction because I’m in the category, and it is relevant to the second-hand ad hominem arguments of many of Peterson’s critics. These postmodernist fellow travellers (most of them aren’t aware of how their social justice world views were formed) claim his demographic is overwhelmingly young, alt-right, and male – and mostly incels. They claim this audience proves he is a fascist, homophobic misogynist. Untrue of the demographic, but it’s all they’ve got. Peterson has hundreds of hours of video online going back decades, which you can be sure these SJW’s have minutely combed for any badthink.

On the contrary, the more of him you see the more you will be convinced he is intelligent, articulate, polymathic, grounded, kind, thoughtful and humbly aware of his own exhaustively examined faults. It’s not possible to spend a little time listening to him and come to any other intellectually honest conclusion.

The problem is simple: journalists guilty about inequality portray Peterson as an anti-trans, Cold War lunatic. Then, people who read that commentary and end up watching videos from his Biblical Series, or his Maps of Meaning lectures, do not find a right-wing radical. Instead, they find a passionate lecturer against authoritarianism who is deeply invested in a symbolic, archetypal understanding of human nature. Now, they realize that all these left-leaning outlets have lied to them. Instead of exposing a bigot, they’ve smeared a serious scholar.

For political reasons. But, Peterson’s message is only political in the sense that he looks at the science and comes to different conclusions about human nature than does the collectivist left.

He said nothing political during his speech.

Politics came looking for Peterson, he didn’t go looking for politics. His many years studying psychology, and vast experience as a clinical psychologist, have convinced him that postmodernism is a nihilist threat. Until his government decided to apply group-identitarian principles to him through the mechanism of compelled speech, he was invisible to the Internet. Then he made his conclusions explicitly public.

Back to the event. People I talked to said they were there because they wanted to better understand Peterson’s ideas. They sense the nihilism oozing from academia and media, and don’t want to succumb to it. Only one of them recognized the phrase “long march though the institutions;” and “Gramscian” drew a blank. But they all knew the effects. They’re looking for intellectual ammunition.

It is the first event of this nature I’ve attended which began with a standing ovation. That goes back to a Barry Goldwater campaign rally in 1964. That’s before I could vote.

I think Dr. Peterson had a cold. His voice seemed a little hoarse, or maybe it was the spirit of Kermit. A meme you’ll have to look up if you don’t recognize it.

From 2 minutes in the audience was transfixed. Interruptions by applause decreased as he continued; not because he stopped making valuable points, but because nobody wanted to interrupt the flow. Interrupting a train of thought is his specialty, but he usually does it himself (then jumping right back to his main thread).

Peterson gave an original, insightful, erudite, humble, astoundingly extemporaneous performance. It seemed improvisational. Which is to say, it was typical.

For reference, the 12 rules:

1.  Stand up straight with your shoulders back
2.  Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping
3.  Make friends with people who want the best for you
4.  Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who
    someone else is today
5.  Do not let your children do anything that makes you
   &nbspdislike them
6.  Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world
7.  Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient)
8.  Tell the truth – or, at least, don’t lie
9.  Assume that the person you are listening to might know
   &nbspsomething you don’t
10. Be precise in your speech
11. Do not bother children when they are skateboarding
12. Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street

He started with Rule 1 (this is not necessarily obvious, he skipped around and only directly mentioned rules 1, 3, 2, 5, 9 and 4, in that order, IIRC). He invoked Rule 1 in speaking to the Problem of Evil, and to set up the relationship between responsibility and meaning: Be prepared for tragedy, in part by taking responsibility for yourself. In doing so you find not the answer to the purpose of the universe; but meaning in your life.

He segued to the rule 3, 2, 5 sequence (with excursions to 5, 9 and 4), building the case for treating “yourself like someone you are responsible for helping” because that directly impacts relationships with your spouse, your children, and your community. Not concepts you haven’t heard from him before, but essential to the core element of his message: individual sovereignty requires individual responsibility.

The collectivist counterpoint is: “Treat everyone as a member of a group you need to control in order to ensure your own power.” I.e., power is well-being. Peterson has never specifically said this (AFAIK), but I think the contrast is both accurate and useful.

I’d put the overall experience in the top 90% of the hundred or so hours I’ve watched on YouTube, half of that (so far) his university lectures. I didn’t expect to hear shocking new directions. After all, the talk was about 12 Rules. There were many concepts with which I was familiar, but with different stories, examples, and analogies. I learned from those. JBP spoke of ideas he’d “just figured out in the last 2 weeks.” Nice to be a spectator in that journey.

He is a powerful teacher; he lets you see the mundane as marvelous – again. It’s an encouragement to regain your childlike wonder. Listening to him is a challenge and an invitation to explore the borders of chaos and order.

He was also funny. There were some hilarious riffs on relationships. Peterson had to pause to let the laughter die off.

I’d give a lot to see Peterson’s humour unleashed over a beer or three. I imagine it to be poker-faced and Menckenian, though peppered with, “And that’s that, bucko!”, “Think again, sunshine!”, and “Bloody neo-Marxists!” Hearing him laugh about something is a treat.

In a era where Jerry Seinfeld eschews college campuses because of their near Stalinist humorlessness, we won’t see unconstrained Peterson humor anytime soon. He is pilloried enough without contributing sound bites for the deliberate misinterpretation at mis-re-education camp(use)s. This is a shame.

There was a deserved standing ovation at the end of Dr. Peterson’s address.

The following will likely vary by venue, but for those of you wondering about the content, sequence and timing of activities, as I was, here’s a bit of housekeeping info. The lecture is followed by a general Q&A. In this case, Dave Rubin selected questions submitted online through Slido. This segment completes the basic portion of the show.

Then there’s a delay of 15-20 minutes while they set up for pictures.

It was stated in emails prior to the event that it was OK to give JBP a gift during the picture segment. I did. I gave him a kiddie cup from a dinner I had at Red Lobster on the occasion of my wife’s birthday earlier this month. I expected a laugh from the doctor, and I got one. He asked where it had come from, and I told him Red Lobster via my 10 year old grandson. I have my own cup, from a granddaughter. So I have that in common with him now. ;)

As my 20 seconds ended, I thanked him for the hard work and dedication that made it possible for him to give us the gift of his insights.

We were asked please not to engage in extended conversation, since to move 200-300 people through the process takes 45 minutes – if it’s moving quickly. This is why there’s no book signing, the time would easily double.

You would think that at a Jordan Peterson event, people would be particularly loath to violate this responsibility.

Well, there’s always a couple, aren’t there? You could hear grumbling from everyone both in line and already finished when a couple of people took a minute or two. I was jealous, but proud that my inner child hadn’t done anything that made me dislike him.

The reason people who had already had their picture taken were grumbling is that the last portion of the evening is spent in a more intimate, back and forth Q&A with JBP. They were robbing us of that time. About 50 of us stayed for it.

I paraphrase: The questions ranged from a long exposition (female): “I like STEM. I’m a proven talent. Males and females give me praise for my abilities. It’s still really hard. Should I continue?”, to (female) “What psychedelic drug would you recommend to a beginner?”, to (male) “I have evil tendencies. I’ve always identified with villains. I’ve resisted temptation to do -some unspecified thing- so far. How do I ensure I continue to cope?”

A takeaway for me was the intimate nature of some questions before a group of 50+. Some people had a remarkable level of trust in a bunch of strangers whose only certain characteristic was an interest in Jordan Peterson’s ideas; and a belief JBP could tell them something important about a personal problem.

He handled the serious and the oddball questions with aplomb and real interest. Probably at bit like office hours at UoT, or a clinical session with a client. ;)

This conversation lasted a little over an hour, and my wife and I discussed the evening for our entire 45 minute drive home. A fine evening.

Jordan Peterson is a classical liberal who strongly supports First Amendment principles. His cogent defense of these ideas is a gift to all of us. I highly recommend visiting his website and YouTube channel, particularly the videos of his lectures at the University of Toronto. His passion for teaching and the importance of his thinking can only be appreciated with a deeper exposure than a single lecture, or an interview with an ideologue like Cathy Newman.

Redefining "The Right Stuff"

Maybe we’ll have to redefine STEM as Sanctimonious Tyrannical Extortion of Mediocrity.

How Identity Politics Is Harming the Sciences

“All across the country the big question now in STEM is: how can we promote more women and minorities by ‘changing’ (i.e., lowering) the requirements we had previously set for graduate level study?”

Diversity, determined solely by skin color and/or “gender orientation,” is becoming the most important characteristic for designing bridges, spacecraft, and medical devices.

Expect slower innovation, more engineering failures, and greater risk from surgeries.

TERF War

Academia’s Consilience Crisis
Appearances by Gad Saad, Jordan Peterson, Nassim Taleb, E. O. Wilson and anti-science poster boy and Professor of Sexual Diversity Studies, Nicholas Matte.
Recommended.

[C]onsilience
… refers to the principle that evidence from independent, unrelated sources can “converge” to strong conclusions. That is, when multiple sources of evidence are in agreement, the conclusion can be very strong even when none of the individual sources of evidence is significantly so on its own. Most established scientific knowledge is supported by a convergence of evidence: if not, the evidence is comparatively weak, and there will not likely be a strong scientific consensus.

One might say, “Interdisciplinary scientific method.”

The Quillette article doesn’t mention Intersectionality, but it bears some discussion as the evil twin of Consilience. It’s what Dr. Matte applies as an alternative to scientific method when he flat out denies the reality of biological sex differences.

Intersectionality
…is an analytic framework which attempts to identify how interlocking systems of power impact those who are most marginalized in society. Intersectionality considers that the various forms of what it sees as social stratification, such as class, race, sexual orientation, age, disability and gender, do not exist separately from each other but are complexly interwoven.

One might summarize, “A means of creating victim identity groups.”

Implict, but missing from the definitions is another difference. Intersectional analysis begins with its result already decided. It is not falsifiable by experience or logic. That does not mean there are not competing and conflicting “theories,” but debating such differences is problematic because any such conversation is bounded only by opinions about the relative power of various victim identity-groups. It’s postmodernists shouting their foregone conclusions at each other.

For example, the TERF war (TERF is trans exclusionary radical feminists) revolves around who can claim to be a woman. At issue are claims by some feminists that trans-women (i.e., men) aren’t really women. While science is on their side, this does put the TERF feminists in a bit of a bind. They appear to be claiming “biological determinism is only a fallacy when used against them, not when they use it against others.” Of course, by “biological determinism” both sides of the TERF war mean to reject the idea that there is a biological difference between sexes. Differences between men and women are determined wholly by social conditioning.

If both sides agree with Dr. Matte that there’s no such thing as biological sex, why do they care who calls themselves a woman? Well, if your biological sex can be determined moment by moment at your whim, what’s the point of Women’s Studies? If it can’t be, what’s the point of Transgender Studies? People’s careers are at stake. So is the basis of their power.

Consilience bears a superficial similarity with intersectionality in weaving together multiple points of view, but consilience compares independent observations in an attempt to falsify theories – a way of seeking objective truth. For example, that there is a better than 99% correspondence between physical characteristics and how people identify as men or women; that in utero exposure to testosterone has permanent developmental effects; and that, with vanishingly small exceptions, males and females differ by huge tracts of genetic material, tend to strongly confirm profound biological differences between men and women – identity group power struggles notwithstanding.

Intersectionality is anti-science, so it allows some to claim that math is racist, rigorous discipline in engineering is sexist, physics is based on white privilege, and chemistry is colonialist. The emphasis on power as the only arbiter of truth gives rise to claims that speech criticizing intersectionalist claims is literally violence, while intersectionalist speech is beyond reproach.

In the TERF war we’re seeing what happens when intersectionalists engage in their only useful activity.

Pass the popcorn.

Jordan Peterson and the Problem of Evil

I hereby cede the rights to this post’s title to J. K. Rowling.

Here’s another “I lean left and I’m embarrassed to say I like Jordan Peterson” book review. Thoughtful and worth reading.

BOOK REVIEW: TWELVE RULES FOR LIFE
by Scott Alexander

This passage caught my attention, because its snark and jarring misapprehension seem out of place in an otherwise balanced, even sympathetic, article. Peterson, author of Maps of Meaning, refuses to answer THE question about the search for meaning?

What about the most classic case of someone seeking meaning – the person who wants meaning for their suffering? Why do bad things happen to good people? Peterson talks about this question a lot, but his answers are partial and unsatisfying. Why do bad things happen to good people? “If you work really hard on cultivating yourself, you can have fewer bad things happen to you.” Granted, but why do bad things happen to good people? “If you tried to ignore all bad things and shelter yourself from them, you would be weak and contemptible.” Sure, but why do bad things happen to good people? “Suffering makes us stronger, and then we can use that strength to help others.” But, on the broader scale, why do bad things happen to good people? “The mindset that demands no bad thing ever happen will inevitably lead to totalitarianism.” Okay, but why do bad things happen to good people? “Uh, look, a neo-Marxist transgender lobster! Quick, catch it before it gets away!”

“[W]hy do bad things happen to good people?,” is also known as the Problem of Evil.

Despite the mockery, the quality of the rest of the article makes me charitable: This is probably not deliberate misrepresentation. But it is a serious error. Alexander acknowledges Peterson does address the Problem of Evil, ““Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street” is about a heart-wrenchingly honest investigation of the Problem of Evil,” (Rule 12) and then puts that paragraph in?

Still, there’s more than one class of evil. There’s evil chosen by man, and then there’s the random, impersonal, perverse chaos of existence. Let’s see if Peterson is evading either of those.

To the first evil, Peterson tells us in no uncertain terms one of the reasons bad things happen to good people is that “good people” lie – often to themselves. This answers questions about why there is war; speaks (mostly and in the present, at least) to why famine; and tells us the cause of all manner of man-made evil. It’s explained by Rule 8, forms the basis for Peterson’s admiration of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, and informs many of Peterson’s lectures.

Other bad things come under the heading of “Why does the universe tend toward perversity, when innocent people are randomly made to suffer terribly?”

That is, why cancer? Why Alzheimer’s? Why chaos? Why… Well, I can’t miss the opportunity to quote (truncated) one of my favorite Joeseph Heller passages from Catch-22:

“And don’t tell me God works in mysterious ways,” Yossarian continued… “There’s nothing so mysterious about it. He’s not working at all. He’s playing. Or else he’s forgotten all about us. That’s the kind of God you people talk about — a country bumpkin, a clumsy, bungling, brainless, conceited, uncouth hayseed. Good God, how much reverence can you have for a Supreme Being who finds it necessary to include such phenomena as phlegm and tooth decay in His divine system of creation? What in the world was running through that warped, evil, scatalogical mind of His when He robbed old people of the power to control their bowel movements? Why in the world did He ever create pain?”

“Stop it! Stop it!” Lieutenant Scheisskopf’s wife screamed suddenly, and began beating him ineffectually about the head with both fists. “Stop it!”

… “What the hell are you getting so upset about?” He asked her bewilderedly in a tone of contrite amusement. “I thought you didn’t believe in God.”

“I don’t,” she sobbed, bursting violently into tears. “But the God I don’t believe in is a good God, a just God, a merciful God. He’s not the mean and stupid God you make Him out to be.”

Yossarian laughed… “Let’s have a little more religious freedom between us,” he proposed obligingly. “You don’t believe in the God you want to, and I won’t believe in the God I want to. Is that a deal?”

 

I think the God Jordan Peterson doesn’t believe in is the God you can blame your suffering on, thereby absolving you of responsibility for your own life. The God who cares about every sparrow’s fall is the God who also doesn’t do anything about it. The totalitarian state is like that, too. When they’re not engaged in actively shooting the sparrows. Which is a difference between man-made evil and random evil.

Peterson addresses the Problem of Random Evil extensively in his lectures Maps of Meaning and The Psychological Significance of the Biblical Stories.

He confronts the problem and suggests a psychological/ evolutionary-biological answer is at least partly in the archetypal stories humans have created over millenia. More succinctly than 60 hours of lectures: “Take up your own burden. Learn from mistakes, take corrective actions, and don’t repeat. Don’t whine.” One of the received truths is that you have to take responsibility for yourself – in doing so you find not the answer to life, the universe and everthing, but meaning. It’s all you can ask for. Ignoring it leads to evil.

Maybe the the offending paragraph results from the fact that this is narrowly a book review, and perhaps Alexander is not well acquainted with Peterson’s other works:

The politics in this book lean a bit right, but if you think of Peterson as a political commentator you’re missing the point. The science in this book leans a bit Malcolm Gladwell, but if you think of him as a scientist you’re missing the point. Philosopher, missing the point. Public intellectual, missing the point. Mythographer, missing the point. So what’s the point?

The non-point-missing description of Jordan Peterson is that he’s a prophet.

[Peterson is] the only person in the world who can say our social truisms and get a genuine reaction with them…

Maybe that’s because they aren’t social truisms anymore. Why? Well, that brings us to an oversight in the piece. It’s because many people have never heard them, and there’s an organized effort to suppress them.

So, one might ask the question “If Peterson is indeed evading the Problem of Evil with cliches, what is the alternative?” Well, one popular on our campuses is the postmodernist answer, which Peterson identifies as evil for good reason. Here’s their answer:

Postmodernism, the school of “thought” that proclaimed “There are no truths, only interpretations” has largely played itself out in absurdity, but it has left behind a generation of academics in the humanities disabled by their distrust of the very idea of truth and their disrespect for evidence, settling for “conversations” in which nobody is wrong and nothing can be confirmed, only asserted with whatever style you can muster.
-Dr. Daniel Dennett

That is, the Problem of Evil is irrelevant – if it did have any relevance it would be sexist, racist and patriarchal. Only power matters. All this angst about good and evil is pointless. Cultural relativism and moral equivalency are absolutes in a universe where truth cannot be known.

This nihilism could serve as a definition of evil. It’s what Peterson stands against. If his metaphysical answers to the Problem of Evil are somehow less than satisfactory to you, fine; but to assert he’s evading the question is simply ludicrous.

And Alexander knows it. One of the ideas continually showing up in reasoned critiques of Peterson is that he is a good man.

And it makes me even more convinced that he’s good. Not just a good psychotherapist, but a good person. To be able to create narratives like Peterson does – but also to lay that talent aside because someone else needs to create their own without your interference – is a heck of a sacrifice.

Yes. Exactly. How did he become a good man? By squarely facing the Problem of Evil.

So, he provides a role model, which is another thing prophets* do. He came to be that model by prolonged, intense grappling with the question, among other phrasings, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” You can even see him continuing to do that when he frequently pauses to make sure he’s telling the truth (Has anything changed since I last thought this thought which would cause me to change my mind? Are these words the right words?).

The more of him you see the more you will be convinced he is intelligent, articulate, polymathic, grounded, kind, thoughtful and humbly aware of his own exhaustively examined faults. One of which is not refusing to answer the question about why bad things happen to good people. It’s not possible to spend a little time listening to him and come to any other intellectually honest conclusion.

It is unreasonable to complain Peterson hasn’t supplied a tidy sound bite answering the Problem of Evil to your satisfaction, it’s quite another thing to mock him for it when his life-work has been dedicated to answering it.

*Alexander’s word. I’m not claiming it, and I’m quite sure Jordan Peterson would be uncomfortable with it. Because he knows full well the danger.

One man

Highly recommended article at Quillette.
Why Jordan B Peterson Appeals to Me (And I Am on the Left)
A slice:

There is the lecturer, who juxtaposes mythological and religious themes with psychology and evolutionary biology, presenting a synthesis of science and religion, and then there is the social media culture warrior. Watching Peterson’s lectures versus watching snippets of him online, in recent interviews, you are watching two different men…

Maps of Meaning is an attempt to take the wisdom of religion and ancient cultures and explain, through a contemporary lens of modern psychology, what these cultures got right. It is an attempt to revive the past as a source of deep knowledge, not wreckage to be discarded at the altar of scientific materialism, or a postmodern presentism.

I agree one could perceive two men (or more, there’s also the serious scholar), if one worked at it, because of Internet fractionalization – mostly on the basis of hyperbolic click bait headlines – not content. Seeing two men is superficial. An examination of his works reveals just one.

I quibble over a minor point. It has some truth in it, but rankles slightly because it’s hard to think of anyone more totally integrated as a person than Jordan Peterson. Peterson as a teacher and Peterson as a social media presence are exactly the same man. Calling him “two men” concedes something to his critics that they don’t deserve.

Maps of Meaning was published in 1999. Peterson’s lectures on TV Ontario are twenty years old. His interview with Cathy Newman was an educational exercise. He’s been saying what he’s saying for a long time. There are several platforms, but only one man. It’s the message, not the medium. And it’s not who follows him, though who his critics are is revealing.

Another way of looking at this is:
There is a man whose many years studying psychology, and vast experience as a clinical psychologist, have convinced him that postmodernism is an existential, nihilist danger. Until his government decided to apply postmodernist principles to him through the mechanism of compelled speech, he was invisible to the Internet. Then he made his conclusions explicitly public.

There are not two men there, there is one man with the courage of his convictions, thrust into unexpected notoriety for the act of speaking. An action he surely saw in Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Peterson has often praised Solzhenitsyn’s insight: “One man who stopped lying could bring down a tyranny.”

Peterson said, “I don’t think he meant that as a metaphor–or hyperbole.”

The one man is the one who’s been trying to identify and prevent tyrannical acts for twenty years. That there are more tyrants whose message has become more ingrained, and that dissemination of ideas has become easier since 1999 does not bifurcate the man. The author never quite recognizes the problem as one of perception, but comes close by explaining the damage the Left is doing to itself.

The problem is simple: journalists guilty about inequality portray Peterson as an anti-trans, Cold War lunatic. Then, people who read that commentary and end up watching videos from his Biblical Series, or his Maps of Meaning lectures, do not find a right-wing radical. Instead, they find a passionate lecturer against authoritarianism who is deeply invested in a symbolic, archetypal understanding of human nature. Now, they realize that all these left-leaning outlets have lied to them. Instead of exposing a bigot, they’ve smeared a serious scholar.

He mentions (excuses?) only Peterson’s strictly academic presentations. I’ve watched hundreds of hours of both his University of Toronto classes and his more forceful interviews and podcasts. Some examples of the latter, totally consistent with his academic message:

5 minutes


7 minutes

44 minutes

Science Contemptists

A few examples of those who have attracted Progressive contempt because they point out uncontroversial scientific facts Social Justice Warriors don’t want you to hear:
Dr. Charles Murray. Dr. Christina Hoff Sommers. Dr. Judith Curry. Dr. Jordan Peterson. James Damore. Dr. Amy Wax. Dr. Bret Weinstein. Lindsay Shepherd.

Dr. David Reich bravely makes a bid to join them. RTWT: How Genetics Is Changing Our Understanding of ‘Race’, but here’s a short excerpt.

What makes genetic racial stereotyping,

[S]o insidious is that [these claims] start with the accurate observation that many academics are implausibly denying the possibility of average genetic differences among human populations, and then end with a claim — backed by no evidence — that they know what those differences are and that they correspond to racist stereotypes. They use the reluctance of the academic community to openly discuss these fraught issues to provide rhetorical cover for hateful ideas and old racist canards.

This is why knowledgeable scientists must speak out. If we abstain from laying out a rational framework for discussing differences among populations, we risk losing the trust of the public and we actively contribute to the distrust of expertise that is now so prevalent. We leave a vacuum that gets filled by pseudoscience, an outcome that is far worse than anything we could achieve by talking openly…

…a natural response to the challenge is to learn from the example of the biological differences that exist between males and females. The differences between the sexes are far more profound than those that exist among human populations, reflecting more than 100 million years of evolution and adaptation. Males and females differ by huge tracts of genetic material — a Y chromosome that males have and that females don’t, and a second X chromosome that females have and males don’t.

Most everyone accepts that the biological differences between males and females are profound. In addition to anatomical differences, men and women exhibit average differences in size and physical strength. (There are also average differences in temperament and behavior, though there are important unresolved questions about the extent to which these differences are influenced by social expectations and upbringing.)

How do we accommodate the biological differences between men and women? I think the answer is obvious: We should both recognize that genetic differences between males and females exist and we should accord each sex the same freedoms and opportunities regardless of those differences.

A few thoughts.

“[R]eluctance of the academic community to openly discuss,” is a serious misunderestimation. Try, “The academic community openly and actively suppresses.”

“If we abstain from laying out a rational framework for discussing…”, well anything the SJWs don’t like discussed, we avoid censure and unemployment.

“[T]here are important unresolved questions.” Not for the Left. Not about sex, gender, climate change or race.

As populations go, “most everyone” is far less likely to be true if the population is university professors of Sociology, English, Education, or anything ending in “Studies.” The denial of biological difference between men and women, for example, is seriously advanced by many credentialed academics. To present the case, we have Dr. Nicholas Matte, professor of gender studies at University of Toronto:

Dr. Matte is but one academiot forced by postmodernist dogma to make such assertions, because to allow discussion of an inconvenient scientific fact threatens his life’s work. Better to impugn the scientific method. Better to equate speech you don’t like with violence. Better to be a laughingstock.