I recently posted an interview Russell Brand did with psychologist Jordan Peterson, who is getting a lot of exposure these days, and whose book 12 Rules for Life is now a best-seller.
A number of readers wrote in with criticisms of Peterson, and I’ve been trying to get to some place of discernment about what he says. I’m very aware of the risks of living in an ‘echo-chamber’ whereby I only read the opinions of people I agree with, so I like to engage with material which is coming from a different angle, even if I’m initially not sympathetic to it.
Much of what Peterson says I find very interesting, but I’m afraid I’ve come to the same conclusion as I did (much more quickly!) with David Icke’s work. The first bit of Icke I read seemed sensible, but pretty soon I came upon his ‘the Queen is a lizard’ nonsense.
It was the lizards who stopped me reading any more Icke, and now it’s the lobsters who have stopped me reading Peterson. I’m all for considering challenging theories, but when information is presented as fact which is simply not true, there comes a point where I just don’t have enough time to perform the sifting process of trying to sort out fact from fiction.
A friend who is an Emeritus Professor of Neuroscience and was Dean of Biological Sciences at a major U.K. University wrote to me: ‘I don’t intend to read any more of Peterson because it so horribly abuses science. He has no understanding whatsoever of evolution, and for a Prof of Psychology, his understanding of basic neuroscience is so poor that I would find it shocking in a 1st Year undergraduate. What he has is a Nietzscherian world-view that he seeks to validate by misquoting and distorting the ideas of those who intellectually tower above him, or by claiming something to be ‘so obviously true’ that you’d have to be a fool not to believe it, when in truth the ‘fact’ in question is either simply a lie or cherry-picked.’
An unfair appraisal? Take a look at what P.Z.Myers, a respected developmental biologist, makes of Peterson’s ‘lobster argument’: