SIO10: Jordan B. Peterson is Just Wrong (or lying…or both).

This week we listened to Waking Up with Sam Harris and as big fans we were very disappointed in how he handled his interview with Jordan B. Peterson.  So in this episode Thomas goes over exactly why that is, in the hopes that this message reaches Sam.

We also have some more great listener voicemails, thank you so much for all the great feedback and keep it coming!
Find the record of Bill C-16 from the Canadian Parliament here
Find the Ontario Provisions Peterson mentioned here
Find Brenda Cossman’s article rebutting Peterson’s Claims here
Some even argue that C-16 doesn’t go far enough! here
And VICE has a pretty good breakdown of everything here

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29 Replies to “SIO10: Jordan B. Peterson is Just Wrong (or lying…or both).”

  1. Give it a couple of years. We’ll look back at this time as the “luxury years” when personal pronoun preference was a thing and refusal to acknowledge it could assume the proportions of a tragedy. In the next few years, things are going to get a LOT worse here in Trumpistan. When Trump starts “freezing out” sanctuary cities, as he has promised to do, and deportation squads start rounding people up and sending them to camps for “processing,” personal pronoun preferences are going to assume a more realistic place on most people’s list of priorities.

    You really need to listen to the rest of Harris’s podcast. Peterson is a whack-job, but for far more reasons than just refusal to catalog his student’s personal pronoun preferences. The guy has redefined “truth” to mean whatever he thinks is good. Essentially, anything that’s not warm and fuzzy must not be true. He couches all this in “Darwinianism,” and says that “good” means that which promotes survival and “bad,” or falsehood, is that which does not. Harris takes a more pragmatic approach saying that truth is simply what is; it’s not necessarily good or bad, in and of itself. Peterson repeats over and over again that that which is not “good” in his eyes, is not true and can’t be. I was just happy not to be a student of his. I’ve taken courses from professors like him who use their own customized definition of terms that can change between Monday and Friday, or between midterms and finals. It’s an attention-seeking ploy.

    I got the impression that Harris just wanted to get past the pronoun issue and get on to more philosophical discussions. It never happened because Peterson wouldn’t let go of his personal teddy bear definition of truth and Harris wouldn’t crawl into his bubble with him and see “truth” and “reality” through his eyes. I, too, turned it off before it was over, but the pronoun discussion that triggered you so violently was only an estuary into a vast sea of pointlessness.

    1. I strongly suggest paying stronger attention to Peterson (his lectures, not his appearances on podcasts) if you think he is that kind of professor. Or, to the podcast with Harris again, if you really think that Harris “just wanted to get past the pronoun issue and get on to more philosophical discussions.” Peterson suggested several times that they agree to disagree about the truth thing, but Harris wouldn’t let it slide. Harris wasn’t arguing for pragmatism. Pragmatists don’t argue for ontological truth. They argue that we are too limited to know more than whether something is “true enough” or not, and that’s exactly Peterson’s position.

  2. Lately your tone changed, and the whole show seems more toxic. We are approaching buzz feed level here. I think the ecochamber effect is getting to you. From being balanced and logical, your tone / atmosphere of the show is becoming more Eli like – Devisive, Accusatory, One sided, and most of all too much hyperbole lately.

    1. I disagree wholeheartedly. What about this podcast was hyperbolic or insular? It was absolutely accusatory, but I think that’s needed when Sam Harris is giving his blanket endorsement to a conspiracy theorist like Peterson.

    2. This seemed like a pretty fair take on the discussion. Which points that Thomas made are you disputing? Or are you just butthurt that Harris isn’t perfect?

  3. I had asked myself this question. I think he is being wilfully untruthful when he speaks about bill c-16. He is also only about free speech when it fits his ideologies. I did an episode months ago taking him down. Message me I will link you to it. I am about to check at yours.

  4. Not to drag this out, but a recent PPP poll asked about punching nazis.

    “-And finally only 18% of voters think it’s acceptable to punch a Nazi in the face, to 51% who say it’s unacceptable and 31% who are unsure on the moral quandary of our times. Clinton and Trump voters are actually in alignment on this with only 18% of each saying it’s ok to punch a Nazi. 78% of Jill Stein voters though say that they are pro punching a Nazi, this may be where Hillary fell short.”

  5. Peterson said in another interview that he will call a trans woman she and a trans man he but not the xi, shi or similar made up pronouns.

    He may be an petty asshole but I don’t think it’s completely bigoted to refuse to use fake pronouns. Part of his anger comes probably from the attacks he had from some of his students. There is an infamous video that shows how poisonous the climate at his college is.

    Also I think you are wrong. That’s not the same as
    racial discrimination.

    1. Yes, it is perfectly reasonable to limit the possibilities to English personal pronouns. Expecting a professor, or anyone else, to remember and use made up or foreign language personal pronouns is tantamount to requiring them to speak whatever language each student prefers to speak, which would degenerate quickly into chaos, to the detriment of the just plain no special needs majority.

      1. Not to be pedantic, but you realize that the entire fucking English language is made up, right?

        If you’re going to speak English, you’re going to use he, she, you him, her, them, etc. If you want to change the language to accommodate non-binary genders with more precision than simply “it” or “that,” you’ll have to add words (and accepted definitions of them) to the language. In a country so severely dumbed down that the Metric System is considered the work of the devil, good luck with that.

        A Finnish friend who was having trouble getting the gender of his English pronouns right and was being snickered at when he referred to guys as “her” and girls as “him,” told me that in Finnish, the gender-free pronoun “han,” which meant him or her or he or she was almost always used, freeing the speaker from having to specify a gender. So, if we’d just declare Finnish the official language of the United States, we’d be home free.

        Be careful, though, of forced over-accommodation of minuscule minorities. Last time we ended up with a carp-faced clown with piss-colored cotton candy hair for president.

        1. Yup. You got my point.

          English is an evolving language that adds, forgets, and redefines words through use and geographic migration. Interestingly, English is a derrivation of German with Latin grammar rules applied, and it steals from nearly every other language it comes into contact with. Another fun fact, “male” and “female” are not derrived from one another, but evolved separately from completely distinct terms relating to different attributes through other languages (Latin and French) only to become complimentary terms in the 14th century.

          The idea that it would be outside the norm for English to adopt new terms is absurd and ignorant of even basic etymology.

          Again, we disagree on who’s to blame for the ascension of Fuckface Von Clownstick.

          1. Has anyone ever suggested new pronouns for non-binary genders? I’ve only ever heard them bitching about binary pronouns, I’ve never heard what we’re supposed to use instead. I’d be really honestly interested to know. And how many will there be? And will that settle it? Or, as Harris and Peterson were going on about, will every non-binary gendered person insist on being referred to by their own designer pronouns.

            If we’re really seriously going to add some new words to the language, complete with definitions and rules for usage, I’d be interested. If it’s going to diva-mandated chaos soup, I’ll go work on my crosswords. I’m seriously behind following the holidays.

    2. Vorb (cool name, btw), sorry to reply twice, but I re-read your comment and wanted to address your last point.

      I’m not sure I see where you’re coming from, when you say that it’s not the same as racial discrimination. If what you’re saying is “refusing to use a person’s preferred gender pronoun is not as bad as the culmination of racial discrimination in all its forms,” I agree. That said, I don’t think that’s the claim anyone’s making.

      I think the claim being made is more akin to “if you hold a position of power, deliberately misgendering a person is recognized by Canadian law as a form of harassment and discrimination.”

      A racial corollary might be continuously referring to a student of Southeast Asian descent as “Chinese,” and not just accidentally, but as a deliberate protest against having to remember the names of all those Asian countries.

      Or, more specifically, it would be like referring to a student who identifies as “multi-ethnic” as either “black” or “white,” because you don’t accept the usefulness of terms like “multi-ethnic.”

      I guess I’m wondering how you’ve determined that these examples would be different.

  6. Thomas did so much research before chastising Sam for not doing research that he though Jordan Peterson wouldn’t use he and she, which he has explicitly said he would on many occasions.


      1. Yeah, he has a weirdly specific fixation on enforcing a gender binary while claiming to be magnanimous enough to accept and respect trans people so long as they identify with one of the categories he deems valid.

        1. His whole issue is that he doesn’t want to use “made up” pronouns, and he has said multiple times that it’s because he doesn’t believe non-binary people exist.

          1. He’s not denying their personhood, just the concept of gender non-binary. Considering their personhood and gender identity one in the same is the issue here

          2. If I am a non-binary person, and you deny that non-binary people exist, then you are denying a huge part of my personhood. You are saying that the person who I perceive myself to be doesn’t exist.

            I don’t really know what to call this if not “denying someone’s personhood.”

          3. Do you have a set of personal pronouns you want used when people refer to you? I don’t personally know any non-binary gender people. The two trans people I do know wish to be referred to by pronouns opposite those of their actual physical sex, but that’s not hard to do because those pronouns exist and everyone knows them. SLWs who claim to speak for non-binary gender people (as well as for everyone else on the planet) claim that we must use their preferred pronouns when referring to them, but, so far, no one will say what those pronouns are. It’s like asking a Republican what they are going to replace ObamaCare with. All you hear is crickets.

            I am really, honestly curious.

      2. It’s not denying somebody’s personhood to say that you won’t refer to them in the way that they want to be referred, sorry. That dog won’t hunt. I can say “nah, sorry, you’re a he or you’re a she, and if I can’t tell the difference, I’ll pick one of those two, or I’ll go with whatever the consensus among everyone else is,” and that might not be cool with you, but it’s not “denying your personhood.” That’s a specious, bullshit argument.

  7. To everyone commenting about what pronouns Jordan Peterson will or won’t use: that has literally nothing to do with the issue covered in this episode. It was about Peterson’s misrepresentation of the law itself, his profiting off of that lie, and Sam Harris not looking into the law before speaking with him about it and blindly supporting Peterson’s false assertions. What pronouns Peterson says he will or won’t say has no bearing on any of that.

    1. For some reason honestly portraying the arguments of Peterson seem relevant here… Maybe it’s the criticism of intellectual honestly on the part of Sam and Jordan… Idk

  8. I feel like there was a huge amount of intellectual dishonesty on Sam’s part. He spent the entirety of the first 20 minutes offering his blanket agreement with Peterson about bill C-16 only to say at the end that he actually has no idea what the bill actually does.

    It seems as though Sam’s confirmation bias has run amok to the point that he is no longer able to see outside of his bubble. Sam and his “classical liberal” compatriots are so fixated on the “regressive left” that they are effectively blind to the republicans wielding actual anti free-speech legislation.

    On a separate note- The rest of Sam’s episode went about as well as your episode with Mike and Dustin. It was two hours of Peterson trying to define “truth” in such a way that a fact may be correct but not true and Sam trying to point out how inane and pointlessly contrived that is.

    1. No one in the blogosphere can see outside their bubbles. The function of a podcast is to report from inside your bubble to those inside your bubble, and maybe a few alien souls peering in with their hands cupped around their faces like kids at the seahorse exhibit at the aquarium. The point is to convince yourself that your bubble is the bubble.

      And remember, just for giggles, that Rush Limbaugh is richer than all of the podcasters on the web put together. People, and the makers of the products they buy, will pay a lot to be told what they want to hear.

  9. I find it interesting how the focus always seems to be the fear straight white people have that is to blame for gender and race issues when last I checked amongst most minorities and religions there are serious problems with gender and race issues. Can we not blame all bigots and racists rather than only focus on the white straight ones?

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