Jordan Bernt Peterson (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. However, Peterson is better known because of his conservative views on religion, on trans issues, and on feminism. His statements are notoriously 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 known to be a member of those circles. In particular, Peterson called MGTOWs "pathetic weasels", though he later apologized for the comment.
Trans issues and rise to prominence
|“”jordan peterson would be like Target 1A for the anti-free speech cultural Marxist thought police & thus far the full extent of their villainous persecution of him has been a letter telling him to knock it off|
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:
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 notable anti-leftists, 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.", Spencer was eventually disappointed by Peterson.
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 explaining that atheism causes hair loss
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 presents himself as a Cultural Christian who believes that atheism leads to meaningless societies. For example, in a 2011 debate with various atheists, Peterson argued that Stalin's atheism and alleged pessimistic outlook motivated his mass-murders:
In 2013, Peterson supported presuppositionalism:
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:
In 2016, Peterson supported a link between atheism and the decline of meaningful lives:
In 2017, Peterson reiterated this idea:
In 2017, Peterson described the "Kingdom of God" as a goal to reach in a poem titled Wisdom":
In 2017, Peterson described music as filling the spiritual void in atheistic society:
In 2018, Peterson asserted that he was now an unbeliever, but supported Pascal's Wager:
In 2018, Peterson claimed that Nazism and Marxism were "atheist doctrines":
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:
When discussing the 2017 #MeToo wave of sexual assault allegations, Peterson offered the following insights on sexual assault, marriage, and consent:
Sexism: support for stricter gender roles and antifeminism
Peterson wearing a fedora, for reasons yet to be determined.
|“”The idea that women were oppressed throughout history is an appalling theory.
Peterson has made a number of sexist, if not dated, 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. His outlandish claims have nary a shred of basis in reality, and he demonstrates no understanding of the feminist movement despite denouncing them.
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:
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:
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 and also helps propagate stereotypes of men and women.
Peterson notoriously criticized the Disney animated film Frozen as being "reprehensible propaganda" for challenging traditional gender roles, being absolutely disgusted at the idea that a woman does not require men to be successful. In 2017, he wrote:
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:
|“”Intelligence and semen quality: listen up, girls....
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.
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 taken 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:
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:
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 has associated postmodernism with the conspiracy theory of Cultural Marxism. Peterson has produced multiple videos on Cultural Marxism, which he views as a threat to western civilization. Peterson supports the political repression of supposed Cultural Marxists- he accused professors at the Ontario Institute for the Studies of Education of being a "fifth column" for supposedly promoting Marxism, and stated that Institute educators "should be put on trial for treason."
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). When confronted about it, Peterson speculated that people might be able to have mysterious unexplained perceptions under certain conditions.
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:
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.
"The "unlikely" part makes it thoroughly reassuring. So it'll only cost my right to teach (as opposed to biology denier Dr. Nicholas Matte)."
"Human emissions of carbon dioxide have saved life on Earth from inevitable starvation & extinction due to C02 [sic]"
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. The study he referenced had a sample size of 12 people. It might seem ironic that Peterson is willing to accept this study as evidence of the "mystical" because he rejects the huge amount of evidence that supports the existence of man-made climate change. Conclusions based upon a 12-subject sample are uncertain to be sure. The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine published results of a similar study, also with a small sample group (15). It is fairly standard practice to limit sample size when testing dangerous drugs, e.g. "Psilocybin induces schizophrenia-like psychosis in humans via a serotonin-2 agonist action," by Wollenweider et al (1998), utilized groups of fifteen.
It's hard to tell what to make of this. But he and his daughter claim to have adopted an all-beef 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 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"
Peterson is frequently criticized for making unscientific statements (read: absolute bullshit) 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, "No biologist would argue with Peterson that dominance hierarchies have probably existed for a long time, but it’s also true that plenty of animals live together without the need to assert dominance over one another."
Defamation lawsuits and threats against critics
While Peterson is hailed by his supporters as a champion of free speech, he has sued several of his critics. Lindsey Shepherd, a teaching assistant at Wilfred Laurier University, was reprimanded by her professor, Nathan Rambukkana, for showing a video of Peterson in class. Rambukkana stated that presenting a Peterson video in class was inappropriate, comparing it to presenting a speech by Hitler. Unbeknownst to the professor, the TA was recording the conversation and publicly released the audio of the conversation. Peterson subsequently filed a defamation lawsuit against Wilfred Laurier University. Despite Rambukkana making his remarks on Peterson in private, Peterson's lawsuit stated that Rambukkana should have known audio of his comments would have been posted on YouTube and be used to destroy Peterson's reputation. When Wilfred Laurier University's statement of defense stated that the media exposure of the case actually helped Peterson, Peterson launched a second lawsuit against the University. Peterson compared Wilfred Laurier to the Nazis, stating that accusing Peterson of gaining from the lawsuit was like saying that "those who survived the Holocaust should be grateful to their oppressors for teaching them survival skills." Peterson additionally threatened to file a defamation lawsuit against Kate Manne, who accused him of misogyny in a critical book review of 12 Rules for Life. Following a negative book review of 12 Rules for Life in the New York Times by Pankaj Mishra, Peterson called Mishra an "arrogant racist son of a bitch" and threatened to "slap" Mishra should they ever meet in person.
Popularity and funding
Peterson was one of the biggest creators on Patreon, until he ended it in January 2019. He had over 9,750 donors by mid-2018, generating an estimated $106,500 per month or $1,278,000 per year. When it was last public, in October 21, 2017, Peterson made $66,636.40 per month with 6099 patrons. (If we assume that Peterson's patrons as of him ending his 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 closed his Patreon account in protest of Patreon's ban of Sargon of Akkad. Sargon had
said non-PC things violated Patreon's guidelines against hate speech by using several slurs intended for his critics on the alt-right, including "faggot" and "nigger and had been mass-reported for this by his fellow right-wingers. Peterson has spoken of forming a far-right free speech alternative to Patreon, possibly taking Bitcoins, but nothing has as yet eventuated.