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Jordan Bernt Peterson (b. 1962), is a Canadian
evolutionary biologist neuroscientist clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at the University of Toronto. He is the author or coauthor of more than 90 peer-reviewed articles on clinical psychology, social psychology, and personality theory.[note 1] However, Peterson is better known because of his conservative views on religion, on trans issues, and on feminism. His statements are notoriously incoherent and ambiguous, which allows him to handwave criticism as mere misrepresentations of his views. Peterson's fanbase is extremely dedicated and overlaps with the incel and MGTOW circles, though he is not a member of either.[note 2]
As of May 2018, Peterson had over 1.2 million subscribers and 58 million views on YouTube, 711 thousand followers on Twitter, 286 thousand likes on Facebook, and over 9,750 donors on Patreon (generating an estimated $106,500 per month or $1,278,000 per year).[note 3]
- 1 Trans issues and rise to prominence
- 2 Social conservatism
- 3 Anti-postmodernism
- 4 Pseudoscience
- 5 Non-expert witness status
- 6 Lobsters
- 7 Jungian psychology
- 8 In a nutshell
- 9 See also
- 10 External links
- 11 Notes
- 12 References
Trans issues and rise to prominence
Peterson rose to popularity largely due to his public opposition to the Canadian government's Bill C-16, which added gender expression and gender identity to the list of protected groups in the Canadian Human Rights Act. Peterson opposed the bill because he believes it mandates compelled speech and thus violates freedom of speech. René J. Basque, head of the Canadian Bar Association, does not agree with this interpretation of the bill.
At the Canadian senate hearing of Bill C-16, Senator Ratna Omidvar asked Peterson how the bill's proponents could reconcile his objection to the bill and opposing gender-based discrimination. Peterson's response was:
I oppose discrimination against gender identity and gender expression, that's not the point. The point is the specifics of the legislation that surrounds it and the insistence that people have to use compelled speech. That's what I'm objecting to. I've dealt with all sorts of people in my life. People who don't fit in in all sorts of different ways. I'm not a discriminatory person...but I think this legislation is reprehensible and I do not believe for a moment that it will do what it intends to do.
Brenda Cossman, professor of law at the University of Toronto, has said Jordan Peterson is "fundamentally mischaracterizing" Bill C-16. Cossman asserts that C-16 is "not about criminalizing pronoun misuse" but instead an extension of Canada's human rights laws to trans status. When a video was shown of him refusing to adhere to the law's requirements, the dean of the University of Toronto personally reprimanded him, saying that his pledge not to use preferred pronouns revealed discriminatory intentions and that he was undermining his ability to conduct essential components of his job as a faculty member.
Federal funding denial
In April 2017, Peterson's grant application for $399,625 over five years for the salary and tuition of his three graduate students, payments for research subjects, and travel expenses was rejected by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC). Peterson alleged that this denial is a retaliation for his statements against Bill C-16: "I think that [the controversy about Bill C-16] provided someone with a convenient opportunity to make their displeasure with what I’m doing known." In 2012, when Peterson's grant was approved for the last time by SSHRC, it was for the largest amount ever awarded to a psychologist. In response, Ezra Levant spearheaded an Indiegogo campaign to raise $73,325, the first year's worth of funding within a 30-day period. The campaign reached its goal in one day.
Given that his objections to C-16 resonate with many people, including transphobic individuals, it is unsurprising that a lot of Peterson's fans are reactionaries. Such fans like and support Peterson for his opposition stance to the bill but also due to his views on the psychological differences between men and women (which the sexist reactionaries all love), sympathetic views towards conservative values, being against "postmodernist neo-Marxism" and for defending Christianity. On more than one occasion, Peterson has retweeted fans of his who were discovered to be alt-right or neo-Nazis. Peterson has lectured extensively, often speaking to conservatives, on the need to reject both far left and far right views and in particular on the need to dismantle political tribalism, on the problems with the alt-right, and on his claim that liberals and conservatives need each other.
Peterson's comments and the reaction to them (which often labeled Peterson transphobic and sought his no platforming) sparked controversy that earned him significant media coverage. Additionally, Peterson is a self-described anti-social-justice-warrior. In an interview with Joe Rogan, he congratulated himself for "monetizing SJW's", and brags that the more he is attacked by them, the more money he is given through Patreon.
His popularity with the right has led him to be interviewed by a whole slew of famous anti-leftist stars, including Tara McCarthy, Sargon of Akkad, Stefan Molyneux, Dave Rubin, and Theryn Meyer. Peterson has also appeared on the H3 Podcast. Richard Spencer has said that he respects Peterson's work, and that they "share a lot of common ground and philosophical starting points."
Lindsay Shepherd censure
In November 2017, a brief clip featuring Peterson's views on the use of gender-neutral pronouns during a classroom debate was used by Wilfrid Laurier University graduate student and teaching assistant Lindsay Shepherd in a seminar. This led her to be censured by the university for staying neutral and not "denouncing" Peterson's ideas, acting "transphobic" and creating a "toxic climate", while Peterson himself was compared to Hitler. The university's actions were heavily criticized. In light of this, the professor and administration both apologized for their actions.
Peterson holds socially conservative views on fundamental topics including religion and marriage.
Religion provides meaning, atheism provides totalitarianism
“”[Question:] Why do you not explicitly endorse Christianity?
[Answer:] Because it's more powerful to endorse it implicitly :)
Peterson was a Christian in the past, but as of 2018, has stated that he no longer believes in God. However, he continues to present himself as a Cultural Christian who believes that atheism leads to meaningless societies (belief in belief). For example, in a 2011 debate with various atheists, Peterson argued that Stalin's atheism and alleged pessimistic outlook motivated his mass-murders:
Peterson: No, he [Stalin] was killing people because, as a rational man, his conclusion [was] that life was so unbearable that it should be wiped out. Uh, you know, you guys who –
Robert Buckman: Jordan, [incomprehensible] he was a rational man?
Peterson: Hang on a second! You know, you guys are into, you know, rational thinking, forget all the time[s] that – rational thinking can go in a variety of directions. It depends on your initial presuppositions. If you believe that life is worth living – which, by the way, under some conditions, is highly debatable – you're gonna come up with a pretty optimistic conclusion. But if you've looked at life and you think that the suffering of most people is unbearable and life is evil, which is what Stalin thought, you have no problems whatsoever mobilizing everything you can to kill as many people as you can. And if you don't have any faith, like any faith, in an ultimate authority that says, essentially, that life is sacred, what's to stop you from stopping that? The fact that you have good –
Buckman: It's called morality.
Peterson: Yeah, where does that come from?
Buckman: Well, Stalin and I differed in terms of morality.
To say "I believe in God" is equivalent, in some sense, to say "my thought is ultimately coherent, but predicated on an axiom (as my thought is also incomplete, so I must take something on faith)."
To say "I don't believe in God" is therefore to say "no axiom outside my thought is necessary" or "the necessary axiom outside my thought is not real." The consequence of this statement is that God himself unravels, then the state unravels, then the family unravels, and then the self itself unravels.
To stem this unraveling with false certainty: that is totalitarianism. To speed it along is nihilism. We experimented with totalitarianism in the twentieth century, as alternative to the ultimate axiom of faith in the unknowable and unspeakable. Totalitarianism failed. Now we will have to experiment to [sic] nihilism. This experiment, led by the resentful, will also fail and it is as doubtful that we can survive it as it was that we could survive totalitarianism.
In 2013, among his 32 answers to the question, "If you could write a rule book for being a man, what 'man law' would you write," Peterson included the following dictates:
3: Keep the sacred fire burning.
9: Offer your sons up as a sacrifice to God.
12: Consult the ancestral spirits.
16: Make a worthy temple for the Lord.
27: Bring heaven to earth.
28: Take on the sins of the world.
In 2016, Peterson supported a link between atheism and the decline of meaningful lives:
I have lectured and written for the last thirty years, working on ideas originally laid out by the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche and the novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky. In the late 1800's, these two thinkers began to contend with the "death of God" -- the disruption of traditional religious and cultural belief by rationality and science. If God dies, Dostoevsky said, "everything will then be permitted." This is a very frightening idea. As you move forward through time and history from the 19th century and contemplate National Socialism and the horrors of totalitarian communism, Dostoevsky looks positively prophetic.
The same is true of Nietzsche. In the aftermath of God's death, he believed humanity, would become entranced, even possessed, by utopian political ideas, such as those of Marx. Nietzsche believed that such possession would kill millions in the twentieth century, as it did. The great German thinker also posited that human beings would have to create their own values, to fill the void left by God's demise. However, it is not clear that we can create values, voluntarily. Individuals who have forced themselves to manifest interest in something that just didn't interest them know the limits of our value-creating capacity. We also don't live particularly long. It's impossibly difficult to self-generate a complete model for being in the span of a single short life.
Dostoevsky, for his part, recommended a conscious revisiting of Russian Orthodox Christian ideas. But it is also not clear that we can return safely to past certainties, real or imagined. There may be much we have to rescue from our damaged traditions, but all of it will have to be viewed in a new light, if it is going to function and live.
I have been working, instead, on the belief that transcendent values genuinely exist; that they are in fact the most tangible realities of being. Such values have to be discovered, as much as invented, during the dance of the individual with society and nature. Then they have to be carefully integrated and united into something powerful and stable. This is in part something that Carl Jung discovered, during his forays into the deep past of ideas.
In 2017, Peterson reiterated this idea:
The worship of the rational mind makes you prone to totalitarian ideology. The Catholic Church always warned against this. The warning was that the rational mind always falls in love with its own creations. The intellect is raised to the status of highest god. The highest ideal that a person holds - consciously or unconsciously - that's their god. It functions precisely in that manner. It exists forever, it exists in all people, it takes them over and exists in their behavior. That's a god. We have to think about that idea functionally.
If religion was the opium of the masses, then communism was the methamphetamine of the masses.
In 2017, Peterson described the "Kingdom of God" as a goal to reach in a poem titled "Wisdom":
Life is suffering.
Love is the desire to see unnecessary suffering ameliorated.
Truth is the handmaiden of love.
Dialogue is the pathway to truth.
Humility is recognition of personal insufficiency and the willingness to learn.
To learn is to die voluntarily and be born again, in great ways and small.
So speech must be untrammeled, so that dialogue can take place.
So that we can all humbly learn.
So that truth can serve love.
So that suffering can be ameliorated.
So that we can all stumble forward to the Kingdom of God.
In 2017, Peterson described music as filling the spiritual void in atheistic society:
One of the things that struck me as near miraculous about music, especially in a rather nihilistic and atheistic society, is that it really does fill the void which was left by the death of God - and its because you cannot rationally critique music. It speaks to you, it speaks of meaning, and no matter what you say about it, no matter how cynical you are, you cannot put a crowbar underneath that and toss it aside.
In 2018, Peterson asserted that he was now an unbeliever, but supported Pascal's Wager:
Are you a Christian? Do you believe in God?
I think the proper response to that is[, "]No, but I’m afraid He might exist["].
In 2018, Peterson claimed that Nazism and Marxism were "atheist doctrines":
[Question:] Dr. Peterson you've claimed that the atrocities of Nazi Germany came out of a loss of belief in God. However only about 1.5% of Germans in 1939 claimed to lack a religious belief, and many of the anti-semitic beliefs propagated by the Nazis were inspired by those of Christian figures like Martin Luther. How can you explain the populist spread of Nazism in Germany as the result of atheism when the historical facts do not suggest such a conclusion?
[Answer:] Nazism was an atheist doctrine. So was Marxism.
In short: Peterson appears, for the past decade, to be wholly on board with the idea that religion is essential for a functioning society, sometimes called belief in belief. However, his historical evidence is weak at best, given that fascism has usually been religious in nature and that neither fascism nor communism have been preceded by widespread irreligion.
Support for binding marriage agreements
Peterson is very pro-marriage. Indeed, he describes marriage as "a process of mutual spoken and enacted truth" that allegedly "produces a spiritual transformation - that of maturity". Peterson describes the benefits of marriage primarily in terms of mutual co-improvement -- working on each other's flaws because neither partner can escape. This leads into worrying implications in terms of divorce:
And it's the same thing when you're living together with someone. You know that people who live together before they get married are more likely to get divorced, not less likely. And the reason for that is: What exactly are you saying to one another when you live with each other? Just think about it. "Well, for now, you're better than anything else I can trick -- but I'd like to reserve the right to trade you in, conveniently, if someone better happens to stumble into me." Well how could someone not be insulted to their core by an offer like that? Now they're willing to play along with it, because they're gonna do the same thing with you. Well that's exactly it. It's like "Yeah, yeah, I know you're not gonna commit to me, so that means you don't value me or our relationship above everything else, but as long as I get to escape if I need to, then I'm willing to put up with that." It's like -- that's a hell of a th[ing] -- I mean, you might think, "How stupid is it to shackle yourself to someone?" It's stupid, man, there's no doubt about that. But compared to the alternatives, it's pretty damn good. Because without that shackling, there are things you will never, ever learn, because you'll avoid them. You can always leave, and if you can leave you don't have to tell each other the truth. It's as simple as that, cuz you can just leave, and then you don't have anyone you can tell the truth to.
When discussing the 2017 #MeToo wave of sexual assault allegations, Peterson offered the following insights on sexual assault, marriage, and consent:
Peterson: With all the accusations of sex assault emerging (eg Louis CK) we are going to soon remember why sex was traditionally enshrined in marriage...
Mae: Wait...what does consensual sex outside marriage have to do with sexual harassment? They are not even linked.
Peterson: With all the accusations of sex assault emerging (eg Louis CK) we are going to soon remember why sex was traditionally enshrined in marriage...
balls2thewall: He is eluding to the fact of when you continue to stretch the boundaries of what the original intent of sex was in terms of the foundation of western culture. In this case Christianity; where sex was meant for the confines of marriage as a gift from God.
Mae: 'The original intent of sex'? Based on primitive standards that don't apply to modern society? There is literally no difference between consensual sex in a marriage and outside one.
Peterson: Except for the marriage part.
Support for stricter gender roles and antifeminism
“”The idea that women were oppressed throughout history is an appalling theory.
|—Jordan Peterson, history understander|
Peterson has made a number of controversial statements about the role of women, which suggest he favors a traditionalist view of gender roles in line with conservative Christianity. He also believes that systemic sexism against women, in the West, has ended years ago.
Peterson thinks the primary desire of professional women is to be mothers by age 30. Peterson has stated that "there is something that isn't quite right" with women who don't make having children their primary desire by age 30 and that women who don't have children are "isolated" and "miserable" in the latter half of their lives. Peterson, on Twitter, JAQed off on this point:
Peterson: Is it possible that young women are so outraged because they are craving infant contact in a society that makes that very difficult?
Mitchell: I think so. We're not allowed to be just mothers and we don't have many role models to look up to.
Peterson: So why don't women who feel that way speak up? Are the more maternal inclined to be more silent?
Given his belief that women should be mothers, it makes sense that Peterson believes that current "gender antipathy" may be due to the birth control pill:
There was no equality for women before the birth control pill. It’s completely insane to assume that anything like that could’ve possibly occurred. And the feminists think they produced a revolution in the 1960s that freed women. What freed women was the pill, and we’ll see how that works out. There’s some evidence that women on the pill don’t like masculine men because of changes in hormonal balance. You can test a woman’s preference in men. You can show them pictures of men and change the jaw width, and what you find is that women who aren’t on the pill like wide-jawed men when they’re ovulating, and they like narrow-jawed men when they’re not, and the narrow-jawed men are less aggressive. Well all women on the pill are as if they’re not ovulating, so it’s possible that a lot of the antipathy that exists right now between women and men exists because of the birth control pill. The idea that women were discriminated against across the course of history is appalling.
Of course, Peterson may not see a need for birth control pills because he appears to believe that men and women cannot work together. For example, in an interview with Vice News, Peterson JAQed off about whether it's possible for men and women can work together in the workplace and asserted that women who don't want to be sexually harassed but wear makeup are "hypocritical". By his own admission, Peterson himself refuses to abide by his employer's guidelines for preventing sexual harassment (such as not having one-on-one discussions with the door closed), and has been accused of sexual misconduct three times during his career as a professor. Peterson claims these accusations were "baseless".
Peterson has claimed that that men can't control "crazy women" because using physical violence against women is socially unacceptable. He also believes that that feminists don't speak out against human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia due to an "unconscious wish for brutal male domination". Apparently, feminists in the West so urgently desire male domination that they have made violence against women socially unacceptable. Right. (Peterson went on to denounce the role of femininity in society more generally, claiming that "terrible femininity ... is undermining the masculine power of the culture in a way that's, I think, fatal.")
Peterson also believes that women aren't systemically held back. He states that it's wrong to ask why women are underrepresented in the C-suite compared to asking why men are dominating that field. According to him, men dominate the field, despite more women graduating from university, because they're more obsessed with their career and are willing to work harder. From his interview with Cathy Newman, however, his claim underlies the thought that men seem to have more capacity and willingness to enter an extremely competitive field, at men's partial expense, while women are more involved with seeking a higher quality life than devoting their life to such a draining career. This argument is rather simplistic and does not contradict the factor of entrenched gender roles.
Would you suggest that trying to give a bigger voice to minorities and to women who feel they have been systemically held back...
First, I don't think there is any evidence that women are systemically held back. Not in the West. I think we're past that by a decade.
Except that we have many more women than men graduating from every level of university and yet they rarely get to the C-suit or the boards. What is going on there?
I know exactly what's going on there. If you want to occupy the C-suit or the top 1% in any organization, you have to be obsessively devoted to your career at the expense of everything else. And women look at that and they think, No.[sic] So you actually have to reverse that the question. The question isn't why aren't there more women in the C-suite. The question is, Why[sic] are there any men? Because it's the men who are willing to be obsessive about their careers and work 80 hours a week nonstop and hyperefficiently. The hyper-productivity of a minority characterized the domain where there's creative production. And almost all of the hyperproductive people are men.
Frozen served a political purpose: to demonstrate that a woman did not need a man to be successful. Anything written to serve a political purpose (rather than to explore and create) is propaganda, not art.[note 6]
Frozen was propaganda, pure and simple. Beauty and the Beast (the animated version) was not.
An academic review of his first book, Maps of Meaning noted Peterson's uncritical interpretation of a Jungian (and explicitly patriarchal) mythological framework, which portrays men through the archetypes like "the Hero" or the "Great Father" but portrays women as passive damsels in distress or through the archetype of the "Great and Terrible Mother". As the book does speak of heroines or the archetype of the "Terrible Father", this was seen as a double standard. Professor Maxine Sheets-Johnstone writes:
It is notable, furthermore, that while there is a Great and Terrible Mother, there is only a Great Father, even though this Great Father is tyrannical in the extreme as well as orderly, i.e., even though he, like Great Mother, has a powerful negative as well as powerful positive side. Why his negative side is not so designated in his label is peculiar--Terrible Father appears only once (p. 379). The lack of balance is particularly striking--and troubling--in light of the fact that men make war, men make concentration camps, men make prison camps, men dismember men, men rape women, and so on, and so on. Although Peterson chronicles the horrors of concentration and prison camps at length, recounting experiences described by Frankl at Auschwitz and by Solzhenitsyn at the Gulag Archipelago; although he specifically states that "Man can torture his brother and dance on his grave," that "Man exults in agony, delights in pain, worships destruction and pathology,... and constantly works to lay waste, to undermine, to destroy, to torment, to abuse and devour," that "Man chooses evil, for the sake of the evil," and that Man tortures and exults and chooses as he does out of "slavish adherence to the forces of socialization" (p. 347); although Peterson chronicles all these horrors and designates "Man" as their author, he does not seem to realize that it is specifically, universally, and virtually only males in "the society of men" who make war, who "torture," "massacre," butcher," "rape," "devour," and so on (p. 347). In short, that Peterson draws our attention to the horrors of "Man," all the while not questioning the patriarchal system itself in which Man's brutalities take place is an astonishing and puzzling omission, all the more so in light of his desire to discover the "human motivation for evil" (p. 460) and the way in which we humans might recognize "our infinite capacity for good" (p. 456); all the more so too in light of the absolute and central binary opposition he draws between male and female throughout.
“”Intelligence and semen quality: listen up, girls....
|—Jordan Peterson on Twitter|
Jordan Peterson has spoken out against pornography, labeling it an "untrammeled social evil" even though by his own admission its introduction has been linked with a decrease in violent rape, and suggested that people should not masturbate to pornography because it is not a "noble pursuit". Additionally, Peterson has criticized casual sex, claiming that it "is simply not commensurate with the demands of an advanced civilization". He has even JAQed off about whether casual sex could "necessitate state tyrrany", claiming that "The missing responsibility has to be enforced somehow".
Jordan Peterson opposed a proposed sex education program in Ontario, claiming that a social constructionist view of gender identity was being "foisted on children" and that it is "a form of indoctrination" being pushed by radical leftists.
Peterson condemns rape, but maintains "we have no idea" how to address college rapes, and evidently believes telling people not to rape is an ineffective solution.
Vice Interviewer: women get raped quite a bit in colleges. Do you feel like that’s a problem?
Peterson: I don’t think that that’s a very good way of stating the problem.
Vice Interviewer: I don’t know how to more clearly state the problem, which is that women get raped in college.
Peterson: The problem is that sexual behavior in young people is complex and dysregulated and often fueled by alcohol. And so all sorts of things happen that people regret and don’t like. And we have no idea what to do about it. 
Peterson also finds consent to be ambiguous: "When you say yes do you fully say yes? Well, what do you mean 'fully say yes'?"
Views on gay marriage
Peterson has made statements on gay marriage that offer conditional support instead of fully welcoming it. He responded to a question stating that he would be against legalizing gay marriage if it was backed by "cultural Marxists" and that he's concerned of their "assault on traditional modes of being." He also states "If the marital vows are taking seriously...it's a means whereby gay people could be integrated more thoroughly into standard society and that's probably a good thing." Finally, he states "Those are my views. I know they're confused...because I'm in favor of extending the bounds of traditional relationships to people who wouldn't be involved in a traditional longer term relationship but I'm concerned about the undermining of traditional modes of being..."
Peterson does not like postmodernism, judging from the very reasonable number of videos he has produced on the subject. (In his book, Peterson praises Heidegger, who is sometimes described as the first postmodernist philosopher, which would therefore be ironic, sometimes.)
Peterson believes that postmodernism is a serious threat to academic life. In this regard, he shares company with some generally more reasonable figures like Richard Dawkins, who criticised the influence of postmodernism in academia in 1998, and Steven Pinker, who considers it as part of an anti-intellectual trend, claiming that "the humanities have yet to recover from the disaster of postmodernism, with its defiant obscurantism, dogmatic relativism, and suffocating political correctness".
In contrast, other criticism of postmodernism tends to focus on its obscurity, rather than its omnipresence. For example, Noam Chomsky writes with frustration about the impregnability of the works of the French School of postmodernism:
...I'm just incapable of understanding...There are lots of things I don't understand -- say, the latest debates over whether neutrinos have mass or the way that Fermat's last theorem was...proven recently. But from 50 years in this game, I have learned two things: (1) I can ask friends who work in these areas to explain it to me at a level that I can understand, and they can do so, without particular difficulty; (2) if I'm interested, I can proceed to learn more so that I will come to understand it. Now Derrida, Lacan, Lyotard, Kristeva, etc. --- even Foucault, whom I knew and liked, and who was somewhat different from the rest --- write things that I also don't understand, but (1) and (2) don't hold: no one who says they do understand can explain it to me and I haven't a clue as to how to proceed to overcome my failures. That leaves one of two possibilities: (a) some new advance in intellectual life has been made, perhaps some sudden genetic mutation, which has created a form of "theory" that is beyond quantum theory, topology, etc., in depth and profundity; or (b) ... I won't spell it out."
Peterson maintains that the majority of the social sciences and humanities have been "corrupted" by postmodern ideology, and thinks certain more recent disciplines should never have existed in the first place:
So, as I said already, women’s studies, and all the ethnic studies and racial studies groups, man, those things have to go and the faster they go the better. It would have been better had they never been part of the university to begin with as far as I can tell. Sociology, that’s corrupt. Anthropology, that’s corrupt. English literature, that’s corrupt. Maybe the worse offenders are the faculties of education.
To combat this corruption, Peterson proposed creating a "postmodern lexicon detector” which would allow students and parents to scan potential university courses and avoid the ones that are allegedly "ideological." Facing heavy criticism, he has since retracted this idea. His means of surveying the entirety of the social sciences and humanities to determine their corruption -- including anthropology, archaeology, history, geography, political science, sociology, classics, English, comparative literature, music, visual arts, religious studies, and law -- remains unknown.
Peterson presents himself as a defender of science and criticizes poor methodology in fields like sociology. However, Peterson himself is not above non-scientific speculation, such as using mythology in his counselling practice and presentations when they suit his point and retweeting remarks of global warming deniers.
Molecule-reading shamans and other DNA woo
After reading The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge by Jeremy Narby (a book that hypothesizes that shamans may be able to access information at the molecular level through the ingestion of ayahuasca), Peterson came to believe that the double helix structure of the DNA molecule was being represented in the twin-snake motifs in ancient Egyptian, Chinese and Hindu art as well as in the symbol of the caduceus from ancient Greek mythology (which he mistakenly equated with the rod of Asclepius). Peterson's claims are not accepted by mainstream archaeologists; indeed, Peterson utterly fails to present a method through which humans could possess knowledge about molecular processes (on the other hand, humans can observe real live snakes mating, which would explain the inspiration of these images) .[note 7] When confronted about it, Peterson speculated that people might be able to have mysterious unexplained perceptions under certain conditions. If you want to enjoy the absurdity at length:
This is from China. So this is Fuxi and Nuwa, I think I got that right…But I just love that representation…It is so insanely cool this representation! So you see the sort of…the primary mother and father of humanity emerging from this underlying snake-like entity with its tails tangled together. I think that is a repres…I really do believe that this, although it is very complicated to explain why. I really believe that is a representation of DNA, so…and that representation, that entwined double helix, that is everywhere…you can see it in Australian aboriginal arts and I am using the Australians as an example because they were isolated in Australia for like 50 000 years. They are the most archaic people that were ever discovered and they have clear representations of these double helix structures in their art, so…and those are the two giant serpents out of which the world is made, roughly speaking. It is the same thing you see in the staff of Asclepius, which is the healing symbol that physicians use although that is usually only one snake but sometimes it is two. So that is a Chinese representation and then there is this.
Peterson also stated in a lecture that the theory of evolution's reliance on copying errors to produce mutations is where the theory is "weak". In the same lecture, he stated that he thinks that "DNA is a very, very complex microcomputer...maybe it's a quantum computer". This claim is an old creationist canard, and is considered by actual biologists to be a misrepresentation of how it actually works.
Jordan Peterson has also dabbled in quantum mysticism. For example, in a debate with philosopher Ronald de Sousa, Peterson displayed both a tenuous grasp of quantum theory (which one might expect from a social scientist) and a willingness to knit buzzwords foreign to his subject into the fabric of an academic presentation (which one would not). In particular, Peterson claimed that quantum physics affirms his spiritual view of the world:
Now you may know that there's an interpretation in quantum physics, for example, called the Copenhagen interpretation, and not everybody agrees with it, but according to the Copenhagen interpretation no event is an actualized event until it's perceived. And the person who formulated that hypothesis, John Wheeler[note 8], is one of the most renowned physicists of the 20th century and he believed, before he died, quite firmly that whatever consciousness is played an integral role in Being. Now it seems to me after studying this for a very long period of time that the entirety of Western civilization is predicated on the idea that there's something divine about individual consciousness and after studying that for such a lengthy period of time and trying to figure out what it meant, I think I found out what it meant. I think I found out that the reason that our archaic stories say that human beings, men and women, are made in the image of God is because consciousness plays a central role in Being itself. Modern people think the world is somehow simply made out of objects and then they look at the world and then they think about the world and then they evaluate it and then they act, but let me tell you as a neuroscientist [...] that is wrong. There's no debate about it, it's just wrong. [...] The facts of the matter seem to be something more like this: the world is actually made of potential, and that potential is actualized by consciousness.
Quantum mechanics is only useful for explaining mechanics of the universe at atomic or subatomic levels. As such, it cannot help Peterson explain literally anything about their field.
“”The story of Adam and Eve represents the fruit as producing a psychological transformation. So the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is an abstraction across trees, and it's trying to say: "Here's something that's common across trees, it's a fruit that's common across trees. The fruit that's common across trees is something that you might call food, fair enough. But here's something that's even more cool; food that's stable across the entire domain of food, isn't food, it's information. We use the same bloody circuits in our brain to forage for information that animals use to forage for information. Why is that? Because we figured out knowing where the food is, is more important than having the food. ... That's why we're information foragers.
In attempting to co-ordinate various mythologies, using Carl Jung's "Archetype" phsychological theory into a common narrative, Peterson runs the risk of baseless syncretism, especially as his primary concern is Christianity. For example, when describing Buddhist concepts in Maps of Meaning: the Architecture of Belief, he describes nirvana as "perfection" and equates it with the Christian idea of heaven in order to draw parallels between the two belief systems. Some claim this reflects a common misconception of Buddhist concepts but may be a problem of interpretation and conflicting theology.
“”Human emissions of carbon dioxide have saved life on Earth from inevitable starvation & extinction due to C02 [sic]
|—Jordan Peterson, quoting, without properly putting quotes or at least specifying it's a quote, from a denialist article|
Peterson has made retweets (his retweets "aren't endorsements") of global warming deniers including Anthony Watts, Bjorn Lomborg, Richard Lindzen,  and the Daily Mail. Peterson's tweets tend to downplay global warming. For example, one of his tweets links to a blog called "NoTricksZone" (a reference to the "trick" word in Climategate): "So it turns out that it was scientists who were sensitive to atmospheric CO2 level increases?". On occasion, he supports the "global cooling" as well as the "carbon-dioxide-is-good-for-plants" talking points.
Drugs and the supernatural
In a conversation with atheist Matt Dillahunty that discussed religion and magic mushrooms, Peterson claimed that one cannot quit smoking without divine help and implied that mystical experiences may point to (but are not direct evidence of) the existence of God:
Dillahunty: We have no confirming that this something mystical or supernatural actually can -- happened, this this is this is about the language --
Peterson: Stops people from smoking.
Dillahunty: Well, you can stop smoking without any sort of supernatural intervention.
Peterson: No, not really.
Dillahunty: You can't stop smoking without supernatural --
Peterson: There aren't really any, any reliable chemical means for inducing smoking cessation. You can use a drug called Bupropion, I think that's the one, whatever Wellbutrin is, um --
Dillahunty: Is that supernatural?
Peterson: No, you don't need a supernatural effect, but it doesn't work very well, but if you give people magic mushrooms, psilocybin, and they have a mystical experience, they have about an 85 percent chance of smoking cessation.
Dillahunty: Sure, but --
Peterson: With one treatment. Yeah, but that's kinda like evidence, you know.
Dillahunty: Sure --
Peterson: It's kinda like evidence.
Dillahunty: It's evidence that you can take mushrooms and increase your chance of quitting smoking.
Peterson: No it's not, it's indication that if you take mushrooms, and you have a mystical experience, you'll stop smoking. Because it doesn't work if you don't have the experience.
Dillahunty: Okay, if you take the mushrooms, and you have an experience that you describe as mystical, um, then you'll decrease your chances of smoking. But that doesn't tell me that there's something to this notion that they had an experience that was supernatural in any sense.
Peterson: Well, it's not definitive evidence, but --
Dillahunty: It's not evidence at all!
Peterson: Oh sure it is! Wait a second, wait a second, that's wrong, it is evidence!
Dillahunty: No. He's right. He's right. I will concede that.
Peterson: So, because, look, you want to think this through skeptically, okay, you have a pharmacological substance, psilocybin, and you give it to people who are trying to commit -- to quit smoking, the psilocybin doesn't directly have an impact on the smoking behavior, it has to elicit what's described subjectively as a mystical experience, and you can get physiological indicators of that mystical experience, and you might say that's not enough to prove that it's a mystical experience, but you know, you're conscious, and I accept that, it's like you accept all sorts of things without being able to demonstrate their, their validity on every possible objective, um, with every possible objective criteria, so don't get into too much of a hurry, it's a serious issue, if you give people psilocybin for example, and they have a mystical experience, not only are they much more likely to quit smoking, which is really something, but they're also much less likely to death anxiety if they have cancer, like, that's quite the thing, and not only that, if you test them a year later and they've had a mystical experience, which the majority of them regard as the most significant one or two three, one two or three experiences of their life, including such things as getting married, their personalities are permanently altered in the direction in the direction of more openness to experience and more creativity by a standard deviation, like that's walloping effects, so we can't get too much in a hurry about dispensing with all that.
Dillahunty: So, skepticism, as I repeatedly point out on the show, is not about cynicism, it's not about debunking, and I'm not saying that there is no supernatural and that there is no mystical experience. What I'm saying is, the thing that people subjectively describe as "I had an incredibly impactful mystical experience," whether it comes from taking a pharmaceutical, or whether it comes from attending a revival church service, or hearing a particular preacher, whether it comes from having a particularly impressive sexual experience, all of those things, that is the subjective description of that, which may be because of limitations in language, that they don't have any other -- this is the language that infuses culture, so that we have to use that to describe it but that doesn't in any way serve to confirm that there is any sort of supernatural realm or any sort of supernatural actor.
Peterson: Well it depends on how you define supernatural. Like, look, I get your point. And I'm not saying that the phenomena of psilocybin intoxication is direct proof for the existence of God.
It's hard to tell what to make of this. But he claims to have adopted an all-meat diet. He also claims it has eliminated the symptoms of "His lifelong depression, anxiety, gastric reflux (and associated snoring), inability to wake up in the mornings, psoriasis, gingivitis, floaters in his right eye, numbness on the sides of his legs, problems with mood regulation"
On the other hand, after adopting the diet, his body seems extremely sensitive to changes. He claims that merely deviating by drinking some apple cider "produced an overwhelming sense of impending doom", possibly caused an inflammatory response, and deprived him of sleep for 25 (consecutive??) days. Asked how this is possible he replied "I’ll tell you how it’s possible: You lay in bed frozen in something approximating terror for eight hours. And then you get up."
Non-expert witness status
Peterson has put himself forward as an expert witness in psychology. Courts aren't so keen on him in child-related cases, chiefly because he is not a child psychologist and has no experience in custody management (if you ever wondered why Peterson is so down on law as an area of study, although the counter-argument could be that Peterson worked in a large law-firm in Toronto for 15 years during the 2000s into the 2010s.) In Sordi v. Sordi, 2009 CanLII 80104 (ON SC), the whole document is clear and worth reading, but Justice D. Roger Timms, though not a psychologist himself, notes in particular:
I will deal next with Dr. Peterson’s report entitled “Multiple rater response to play assessment description From Kawartha Family Court Assessment Service Report”. It is dated May 4, 2009. This is perhaps the most interesting of all of the reports that counsel for the respondent wishes the court to consider. It comes as close to “junk science” as anything that I have ever been asked to consider.
That title is somewhat misleading in that it contains less than two pages of references to articles that Dr. Peterson found by doing an on-line search of on-line material on that topic. Dr. Peterson has no expertise in that area. If he had, then he might have known that the proposition that fathers play a key role in proper development of children in both intact and non-intact families, and that mothers have no legal “leg-up” when it comes to deciding custody cases, have long since been accepted by our courts here in Canada. I do not need to consider any of the articles referred to by Dr. Peterson to accept that.
The apparent but unfounded arrogance of Dr. Peterson found throughout this report [and for that matter in some of the other reports] is troubling and give rise to the question of whether his reports are not biased in more than one fashion. That there can be more than one type of bias when it comes to experts is explored by Professor David Paciocco in his article “Taking a ‘Goudge’ out of Bluster and Blarney: an ‘Evidence-Based Approach’ to Expert Testimony”. On page 18 of his paper, Professor Paciocco lists and defines many possible types of bias, including: lack of independence bias; adversarial bias; selection bias; team bias; professional interest bias; association bias; and noble cause distortion bias. I venture the opinion that Dr. Peterson suffers from at least two, if not three, of those.
In R. v. Pearce (M.L.), 2014 MBCA 70 (CanLII), Peterson failed to quite sell the court (Justices Barbara M. Hamilton, Marc M. Monnin and Christopher J. Mainella) on his "Unfakeable Big Five" personality test as a forensic tool — "The appellant proposed to call two psychologists (Drs. Jordan B. Peterson and Timothy E. Moore) as expert witnesses to support his false confession defence":
 The situation here is even more remote. It is difficult to see how Dr. Peterson’s technique of assessing the personality of a person for his private consulting business satisfies the Daubert factors to make it admissible for a forensic purpose. Dr. Peterson provided no evidence that his technique of personality assessment has been properly tested for the purpose it is being used for here, detecting when an agreeable person may falsely confess to the police. All Dr. Peterson could say is he hired university students to try and fake the personality assessment and they couldn’t do it. That is not scientific validation. There has been no peer review of the technique of the Unfakeable Big Five. Dr. Peterson provided no rate of error or accepted deviations. In fact, he claimed, without any proof, that his assessment tool cannot be deceived while other personality assessment techniques can be. Finally, there is no evidence that the Unfakeable Big Five is generally accepted as a forensic tool. It was designed and is used for Dr. Peterson’s private consulting clients to hire employees.
 While not necessary to decide this appeal, I would close discussion of the judge’s ruling on Dr. Peterson’s proposed expert evidence by expressing concern about the decision to attempt to proffer Dr. Peterson as an expert witness on areas that he was clearly not qualified as he had no background whatsoever regarding police interrogations. This decision unnecessarily complicated and delayed this trial and is proof positive of the concern expressed in D.D. (at para. 56) of the detrimental impact on the justice system of attempting to use dubious expert opinion.
Peterson is frequently criticized for making unscientific statements and offering unfalsifiable opinions.
“”Peterson is at his murkiest when he is talking about nature. Half the time he seems to be committing the naturalistic fallacy: he’ll describe tendencies that exist, and imply that these things are therefore good. So he’ll talk about dominance hierarchies among lobsters, and exhort young men to “Look for your inspiration to the victorious lobster.” Of course, the animal kingdom is also a place of mutual aid, and for a man to emulate a lobster is like a woman treating the existence of the praying mantis as a license to eat her husband.
“”Spend half an hour on his website, sit through a few of his interminable videos, and you realize that what he has going for him, the niche he has found—he never seems to say “know” where he could instead say “cognizant of”—is that Jordan Peterson is the stupid man’s smart person.
On January 2018, during an interview with British journalist Cathy Newman to promote his self-help book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, Peterson argued that hierarchies are not a social construct, but biological to some extent. To prove his point, Peterson famously compared the tendency for humans to form social hierarchies to that of lobsters which occasionally display hierarchical behavior.  Unsurprisingly, actual marine biologists called bullshit on Peterson.
Peterson uses speculative Jungian constructs such as mythical archetypes and the "collective unconscious" in his books and lectures. The "collective consciousness" asserts that all humans have an "unconscious mind" which is derived from ancestral memory that is common to all humankind. The idea of unconscious mind is one of the oldest ideas in the field of psychology, and is still generally in use. For example, Jung's view on mythology holds that similarities in myths and narratives across cultures and "strongly points to an underlying commonality of structure and purpose" – ie, that all mythologies come from a shared subconscious experience.
Carl Jung also developed the principle of "synchronicity", which purports that apparently meaningful coincidences may have a deeper psychological interpretation even when there is no apparent causal link. Jung proposed synchronicity has a possible connection with alleged ESP phenomena, and it is often misidentified as paranormal pseudoscience. In Jungian theory, astrology, the I Ching, and paranormal events are all products of synchronicity. It is the causal psychological principle from which they originate. 
As a Jungian, Peterson has repeatedly cited synchronicity to explain coincidences that he notices, including the apparent likeness between Pepe the Frog and Kek, the Frog-headed ancient Egyptian deity. While it's unclear if this was in jest, Peterson has made a few other paranormal claims (see above section).
In a nutshell
- JordanBPeterson.com, his website
- I was Jordan Peterson’s strongest supporter. Now I think he’s dangerous, Bernard Schiff, The Star
- Analysis of Peterson's video "Genders, Rights and Freedom of Speech", The Agenda with Steve Paikin.
- Postmodernism Did Not Take Place: On Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life, Viewpoint Magazine
- Some humor about Peterson's inability to remember his social media passwords
- Some leftist takes on Peterson's ideas about being "forced" to use pronouns
- An Evening With Matt Dillahunty & Jordan Peterson, in which Peterson presents exclusively tired old religious apologist arguments
- Peterson: MGTOWS are pathetic weasels
- It is sometimes claimed that Peterson is not "the author of any lasting work of scholarship, the originator of any important idea, or a public intellectual of any scientific credibility or moral seriousness". However, in November 2017, he had 4510 citations with an h-index of 38 (see Jordan B Peterson - Scopus preview). An h-index of 20 is considered "successful", and 40 "outstanding".
- Peterson called MGTOWs "pathetic weasels", though he later apologized for the comment.
- Peterson hid his income on his Patreon. When it was last public, on October 21, 2017, Peterson made $66,636.40 per month with 6099 patrons. If we assume that Peterson's current patrons pay the same amount per capita, then Peterson's 9,750 patrons should net him (66,636.40/6099)*9750 = $106,526.463 per month.
- Peterson's idea is not new. That axioms are required for proof is ancient knowledge, known to Euclid and his contemporaries.
- As an aside, this is not what Gödel's incompleteness theorems proved.
- As noted in the thread, this definition would make Pablo Picasso's Guernica "not art".
- Contrast Deepak Chopra, who explains this problem with "quantum".
- Peterson is confusing the Copenhagen interpretation with the participatory anthropic principle
- Robinson, N. (March 14, 2018). The Intellectual We Deserve. Current Affairs. Retrieved April 4, 2018.
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-  Jordan Peterson’s Gospel of Masculinity, The New Yorker, Kelefa Sanneh, March 5, 2018.
- Christie Blatchford (April 3, 2017). "'An opportunity to make their displeasure known': Pronoun professor denied government grant". National Post. http://nationalpost.com/news/canada/an-opportunity-to-make-their-displeasure-known-government-pulls-funding-of-pronoun-professor.
- Sophia Savva (May 2017). "Jordan Peterson’s federal funding denied, Rebel Media picks up the tab". https://thevarsity.ca/2017/05/01/jordan-petersons-federal-funding-denied-rebel-media-picks-up-the-tab/.
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- Screenshot of Facebook post
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- From Jordan Peterson's Patreon description as of February 2018.
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- CHRISTIE BLATCHFORD SITS DOWN WITH 'WARRIOR FOR COMMON SENSE' JORDAN PETERSON, National Post
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- Luscombe, B. (March 19, 2018). "7 Questions". Time. Vol.191, No 11. p. 76.
- Screenshot from Peterson's book
- Science Is Not Your Enemy
- Englightenment Now by Steven Pinker - Kirkus Review
- Chomsky on Postmodernism
- 2017 Maps of Meaning 8: Neuropsychology of Symbolic Representation
- See the Wikipedia article on Caduceus as a symbol of medicine.
- Jordan Peterson Wrongly Claims Ancient Art Depicts Structure of DNA
- An Evening With Matt Dillahunty & Jordan Peterson, 14:52 to
- Jordan B. Peterson (1999). Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief. Psychology Press. p. 92. ISBN 978-0-415-92222-7. https://books.google.com/books?id=8Siqb_pbg0MC.
- Michael Shermer (2002). The Skeptic Encyclopedia of Pseudoscience, Volume One. ABC-CLIO, Inc.. p. 240-242. ISBN 979-1576076537. http://www.antoniolombatti.it/SkepticEncyclopedia1.pdf.