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So, on June 6, a copy of eSkeptic popped into my inbox, with a defense of Jordan Peterson from a former student of his, Dr. Jonathan N. Stea. That’s to be expected. Peterson’s a smart guy, familiar with ways of influencing people, from his psychology training and study of authoritarian leaders, as his legion of followers well shows.
This entry is not an attack on Peterson. As controversial a figure as he is, that controversy is far from black and white, and would require more nuance to properly and fairly address than I’ve space for in a post of this length.
The defense opens with the following paragraphs:
“It is well known that clinical psychologist, Dr. Jordan B. Peterson, has been portrayed in the media as a polarizing figure: bigoted alt-right charlatan on the one hand, superordinate fatherly free-speech protector on the other hand. The former portrayal reflects downright ignorance and the latter is optimistic. Commentary on his clinical psychological acumen is conspicuously absent. His detractors are keen to point out his politics, eccentricities, and volatility, as if political pigeon-holing and ad hominem attacks weaken the veracity of his claims. This is inaccurate.”
“I know because I am a former psychology student of Jordan Peterson at the University of Toronto; he was my undergraduate thesis supervisor. I have a master’s of science degree and a doctorate degree in clinical psychology from the University of Calgary. I am a registered and practicing clinical psychologist in Calgary, AB, Canada. I provide evidence-based treatment to individuals with concurrent mental health and addictive disorders in a specialty outpatient hospital clinic. I have published many peer-reviewed scientific research papers on topics related to addiction and mental health.”
Wait. What? So Stea opens by noting that few are criticizing Peterson’s clinical practice, only his public persona, and then listing his own credentials. Do you know why Peterson’s clinical practice is unmentioned in most criticisms? It’s not relevant to the discussion, evidence-based or not. This opening of the defense starts off poorly with a heavy-handed dismissal of Peterson’s critics, and ends up worse. It fails the initial “So what?” test and fails on first face.
In the main body, Stea then goes on to assert numerous ways where that clinical practice is reflected in Peterson’s books, video lectures, and speaking engagements. The trouble with these assertions is none of them seem evidently true. The phrase “evidence-based” is used at least six times in the main body alone, almost as if Stea is trying really hard to tell us something — dost thou protest a bit much? Also, of what possible value is an evidence-based methodology to a man widely known for dismissing empirical evidence as any basis for what is true? Unless I’m wildly mistaken from hearing his first interview with Sam Harris, Peterson’s publicly stated view of truth is instrumental; what is useful to attain one’s ends, not what comports to observable reality. How could Stea not know that about his old teacher? What far away galaxy has he been living in since 2016?
Look. I get it, Stea.
I get that you really like your old teacher, and that he influences you still — otherwise you wouldn’t write this piece, but lay off on the Rhetoric 101 tactics; you’re trying too hard, and it shows. This is classic apologetics: conflate what’s being criticized with what obviously isn’t, defend what’s not as though it were what is, and prematurely declare victory having only pretended to address the real issue. There is a screamingly obvious misdirection here. Busted. If a mere learner could pick this out, how much more would a better skeptic yet? I could be wrong of course, but it would take better arguments and more solid evidence than the flimsy assertions found here to convince me.
Really, eSkeptic? You can do better than this. The arguments are biased and uncritical, even apologetic in tone, and read like an advert for Peterson’s book, not a fair and objective rebuttal to the critics, indeed, a rather clumsy one however unfair Peterson’s critics have often been.
Dr. Jonathan N. Stea, you do your profession a disservice with this piece and should be embarrassed. No one with a critical neuronal cluster in their brain cares about lengthy listings of personal credentials when they merely preface such shoddy argument: arguments from authority, bare assertions, red herrings, and blanket dismissals carry no weight with me, so color me unimpressed.
Tf. Tk. Tts.
This time, I’m going a little off-topic on this humble little blog and sharing a video by friend and fan of the fractals, Montel Thompson, a homey of mine in this Navy town. He does good work at Atlantis Games and Comics not too far from where I live, and is big into nerdy things like cosplaying, comics, games, movies, and such. We nerds must stick together in these rough times. I’ve seen his cosplaying as the superhero Patriot, with the terrific workmanship that goes into it and I’m hoping to cosplay on my own this year once again as the Ninth Doctor. But it looks like I’ll have to up my game if that’s to work, assuming I do. Pics if and when that happens. So give this one a watch, and if this is your cup of a certain famous Tamil beverage, then please subscribe to his YouTube channel. It’s a fine alternative to the plethora of downright awful YouTubers masquerading as public intellectuals who have nothing better to do but endlessly whinge and complain about social justice advocates and not being dicks to others. Oh, and be sure to like his stuff, too!
Tf. Tk. Tts.
Bindaro the pugilist looked up from his freshly spilled tankard of ale, at he, she, or maybe it, or they, who had just spilled it. The gnoll across the table from him growled chucklingly, in obvious contempt for his peace of mind, and despite his reputation. For you see, Bindaro had never in his long career as a mercenary used a weapon in combat. This was not because of some notion of fairness or honor, though he was no stranger to those. It was because when aroused to fight, his strength made it impossible to wield a weapon in his hand without breaking it, even a bowstring, which snapped when he pulled back to launch an arrow. Even a crossbow was not exempt, as his grip and the strength of his trigger-finger damaged it beyond a single use. So he fought using only his fists, and in battle had a durability to match his strength, permitting otherwise impossible feats. He could brain a mountain giant with a single blow to the skull, and punch through stone walls without injuring himself, it was said. The gnoll, however, apparently harbored doubts, or at least, some strong measure of foolhardiness. Bindaro looked crossly at his annoyer at the other side of the table.
“Young fella,” Bindaro began, “…do you have any idea what you’re getting into?” The scaly lips of the gnoll curled upward, showing serrated backward-pointing teeth. It growled with amusement as did its companions across the tavern room. “You, my friend, are a special kind of stupid. Let me show you why.” “Hurr, hurr, hurr! Man-thing think him scary…Urk!” Bindaro’s fingers had gripped the gnoll’s neck, as the humanoid was lifted off its feet with one arm, gasping uselessly for air. Bindaro’s eyes shone with a seething orange light as his inner source fueled his strength, hand tightened around the gnoll’s windpipe. Rather than kill the humanoid, he tossed it across the room like a wet rag doll, unconscious, bruised, and limp. “Never piss me off like that again, or I won’t be so kind next time. That goes for all of you. You won’t like it when I’m angry.” He turned to sit back down and ordered another ale.
“Excuse me, Sir. Would you be Bindaro the Pugilist?” A young wizard, wet behind the ears by the looks of him, had seen his display of strength, and seemed either wanting to interview him, or wanting to hire him for something. He was hoping on the latter. Cash had been a bit short lately with no local battles to get involved in. “It depends, my boy. What’s it worth to you?”
“My associates and I will pay you handsomely for your skills if you accompany us to an abandoned monastery in the Baskona mountains. Twenty-five gold sigmas downpayment plus five gold sigmas per week, and a 20% cut of whatever we find there.”
Bindaro thought about it for a second, and responded.“Will there be danger? If so, have anyone in your group good with a pen who knows contract law draft up something, talk to my legician at the local barristers’ office, and meet me here…” Bindaro handed the young wizard a slip of parchment with his current lodgings written on it.
Well, he thought, as guests filed out of the tavern at closing time. It looked like I’ll be able to pay my rent and upkeep for another year…Finally, a job!
To be continued…
This is episode 87 of the Ra-Men vodcast, hosted by YouTuber Aron Ra, and here featuring his recent interview with one of my favorite philosophy professors, David Kyle Johnson. He’s the same gent who taught the Great Courses course I’ve reviewed a bit back, The Big Questions of Philosophy, and here he’s discussing the latest offering of his from the Great Courses, Sci-Phi, Science Fiction as Philosophy. He and Aron go over the outline of the course, as well as addressing a few essential points, two of which include the existence of knowable facts, and that apologetics is at best philosophy done badly, its abuse and in method its antithesis; that even if we do exist in a computer simulation, said simulation is reality for us, a reality with its own rules and its own facts, though everything would exist in digital form as bits in a server. Professor Johnson notes the importance of philosophy, how it gave rise to all other intellectual disciplines, and even now has use in the modern age.
One thing I’ve noticed about apologetics, and Johnson points this out, is that it always, without fail, operates on the basis of an agenda to defend, often religious, though I personally know at least one political apologist, have read many in my time, and have locked horns once with another (Here’s looking at you, Tobin). Apologetics is unconcerned with such niceties as a search for knowledge over error, of getting one’s facts right and using cogent reasoning, or with rigorous thinking and a deep understanding of concepts. It is instead concerned with the sowing and perpetuation of confusion over clarity, fallacies over good reasoning, and twisting the facts beyond recognition to support whatever agenda is at play, rationalizing backward from the conclusion by shoehorning the premises to support it.
That being said, I love debates and listen to or watch them often, but they are not for me to engage in personally, not yet, at least. I’m an inexperienced public speaker, tend to get emotional in an argument, and I’m easily annoyed, not thinking myself particularly kindhearted when faced with an arguer who shows that they are not willing to abide by the rules of good rhetoric, logic, or dialogue, and have nothing of any evident value to teach me from their perspective. I try to avoid arguing with anyone online, much less in meatspace, almost never to folks I don’t know, rarely with those I do, and prefer to do any argument through the medium of a blog post, or more abstractly, through my stories in published fiction. That’s good for offsetting my fight-or-flight response, and keeping my thinking clear. This is why I don’t debate apologists, including those who try to pass themselves off as philosophers. I find apologists who pull what they erroneously think to be unimpeachable philosophizing in a serious debate incredibly annoying. They argue dishonestly, as per the nature of apologetics, and I refuse to debate anyone who argues in bad faith, obviously so to anyone who is logically and rhetorically literate and not operating under the agenda to defend a presupposed conclusion.
Anyhoo, the interview lasts for about 30 minutes, and it’s quite good. Both Ra and Johnson are articulate, knowledgable, and a lot of fun to listen to. That’s something worth aspiring to in time, and with practice.
Tf. Tk. Tts.
Here are the show notes (via Aron Ra):
Interviewing Professor David Johnson of Kings College about his Great Courses–Exploring Metaphysics and The Big Questions of Philosophy and Sci-Phi: Science Fiction as Philosophy (buy it on DVD/CD or stream it):
Sci-Phi: Science Fiction as Philosophy (DVD from Amazon as of Jun 4th: https://www.amazon.com/Sci-Phi-Scienc…
“The Great Courses Plus” (Smartphone App: Has “The Big Questions of Philosophy” and should have “Sci-Phi” by June 25). https://www.thegreatcoursesplus.com/apps
Sci-Phi: Science Fiction as Philosophy (On iTunes): https://itunes.apple.com/us/audiobook… Here is the websites for my other courses (which are also available as audiobooks, etc.):
Big Questions of Philosophy: https://www.thegreatcourses.com/cours…
Exploring Metaphysics: https://www.thegreatcourses.com/cours…
Here is a link to his article on Craig: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/bl…
And here is my article on (open letter to) Bill Nye: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/bl… Writing the letter is what actually got me the opportunity to speak to him. It was my “Big Questions of Philosophy” course that convinced him to love philosophy—especially the first four lectures. He emailed me to thank me and everything.
You could also direct them to my two blogs:
Plato on Pop: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/bl…
A logical Take: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/bl…
Category Nonprofits & Activism
How could it be?
The chances of three hundred thousand words in three unrelated languages sounding alike and meaning exactly the same thing, despite no contact made between the civilizations that spoke them, civilizations separated by billions of years . . . how could it be?
Then again, how could it not. I’ve noticed that that humans alone can generate quite a few phonemes, but only a limited number, and there are thousands of languages in the history of humanity.
I must consult my tables, but I’m convinced that the likelihood is surprisingly high, more than it might seem. It would be very surprising if there were no such coincidences, something which so many are far too dismissive.
This has spurred a search for me, the search for a language sharing no features, even coincidental ones, with any other language. What’s the probability of that? Let me find out!
Good luck. I’ve a feeling I’ll need it to crack this case. I’ve got an extra-temporal murder to solve. If only I can access the files in the Magnum Librarium, I’ll have the data I need.
This depends on a lot, but with the data, this case is as good as cracked, and the suspect identified.
Then comes the easy part: nabbing the perp before anyone else gets killed!