Too Much Faith Following the Wrong Leader

Andrew Donaldson

Born and raised in West Virginia, Andrew has since lived and traveled around the world several times over. Though frequently writing about politics out of a sense of duty and love of country, most of the time he would prefer discussions on history, culture, occasionally nerding on aviation, and his amateur foodie tendencies. He can usually be found misspelling/misusing words on Twitter @four4thefire and his writing website Yonder and Home.

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50 Responses

  1. Thanks for writing this. There’s a lot to think about here.Report

  2. JoeSal says:

    “My own faith journey is mostly failures, a few successes, and a whole lot of falling short in the middle that mostly instructs me to mind my own business about trying to tell anyone else how they go about their spiritual matters. Such things are between a person and their God, and if either of those two ask my input I’m happy to help out. Otherwise I practice my right to worship how I see fit, and do my utmost to make sure everyone else has the same.”

    This looks as if through experience/knowledge you constructed a individual construct of what your religion would be, and recognized that maybe others do the same. It also appears that you would acknowledge that people have the individual authority that would be found in a individual sovereignty frame work that would allow them to do this. I suppose there was conflict on the way to you recognizing this was the better path to take to create peace in your life, and the lives of others?Report

  3. JoeSal says:

    I have to somewhat care about what Jordan Peterson thinks, because if he is correct, people are biologically disposed (on average) to seek/follow Hierarchy.

    That could mean there are two biological components conflicting within every person. The one that desires hierarchy, and the other one that desires individual sovereignty.Report

    • Chip Daniels in reply to JoeSal says:

      Which is a recurring theme in all of human history, literature and philosophy, to which Peterson adds very little original insight.

      Even the debates right here show that we struggle with how individual freedom can only occur with the assent and protection of the collective body.Report

      • JoeSal in reply to Chip Daniels says:

        I guess the question is, which one we should feed the most? individual sovereignty or hierarchy

        I notice there is a lot of lamentations about hierarchy these days, yet there are a few more notches before the knob reaches 11.Report

        • JoeSal in reply to JoeSal says:

          Also, when religion does manifest in competing collective bodies, history shows a lot of people die.

          It’s almost as if individual constructs/individual sovereignty is a piece of tech to avoid repeating that history. I think we are about to see what it looks like when we put that piece of tech aside.Report

      • I honestly don’t get what the deal with Peterson is, agree with Chip here that he doesn’t seem to be saying anything new, or anything much at all, and not in a terribly compelling way at that. I can only conclude thirsty folks drinking the sand not knowing the difference is at work here.Report

        • JoeSal in reply to Andrew Donaldson says:

          I am not perfectly fluent in Peterson either, but he does have that theme of hierarchy being a biological component. Like it is wired deep within our brain or something along those lines.

          This would also be in conflict with the liberal tenet that all people desire for people to be equal, because for there to be a hierarchy, there would need to be desire for people who are unequal. To get to unequal means there needs to be a discernment of unequality.

          I think it is in saying that people desire a social construct where people are unequal that he steps into the fire. This is aside from his freedom of speech issues.

          There is a topic (a couple years old now) in certain circles as to whether some people are better than others. This has the same problems associated. The social truth to these are relatively unclear to me.Report

    • I think biology has limits in explaining human behavior, though it does has an underlying usefulness. There are variables that will never fit neatly into a scientific expaination, such as spiritual matters and psychological issues, that go into those things beyond just biology. I think a more interesting question is why do some hierarchies fit people moreso than others, what factors would make someone rebellious to school and parents yet fit into the military, or someone failing at a regimented career and workplace find more comfort in an academic setting. Things like that. Report

      • JoeSal in reply to Andrew Donaldson says:

        Petersons positions is based on the guys studying the biology are saying there is a there there.

        I am kind of with you on saying that the biology has it’s limitations, I think what Peterson is saying, is that it is heavier weighted than anyone previously thought it was.

        If he is correct, that has implications. Both for the liberal position, and for my own.Report

        • Mike Schilling in reply to JoeSal says:

          Not than *anyone* though it was, given the history of “scientific” racism and evolutionary psychology. At most he’s been influential in popularizing these ideas.Report

          • JoeSal in reply to Mike Schilling says:

            Ah, yes thanks for the correction, I probably generalized that too much.Report

          • Chip Daniels in reply to Mike Schilling says:

            Which is why Peterson sets off all my BS alarms.

            He is an academic who speaks in dense academic prose, but not to his fellow academics but to laypeople, none of whom can understand it but apply their own desired precepts onto it and use it as an authoritative voice for the things they don’t want to explain.

            The guys you run into on the internet talking with utter conviction about “alleles” and the “Flynn Effect” aren’t scientists or experts in anything related to the subject, but laypeople who use sciency sounding words to dress up pretty ordinary and banal evil.Report

            • Yeah, me too Chip. There is always room for the rebels and outsiders, but there is also something about at least tacitly being apart of your peer group. An academic that doesn’t want peer review critique, or the traveling evangelist that has problems with basic theology questions from someone who has spent a lifetime considering them, or a medical shuckster who can sell the cure without knowing what the disease is always a warning sign. Not a hard and fast rule, but a good indicator.Report

            • JoeSal in reply to Chip Daniels says:

              As someone who has seen herds and actual BS, the two are seldom far apart.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to JoeSal says:

                Which is true, but the opposite is equally untrue.

                The long shot, the iconoclast and the eccentric rebel is also oftentimes in close proximity to BS.

                In social justice theology, it is recognized that the search for truth is difficult and our tools can often fail us.

                So there are generally four tools that are used: Observation, moral intuition, and fact gathering; reason and Scriptural guidance; discussion and consensus-seeking; Action and testing to see if it works;

                The fourth one is the key and most often overlooked.

                Justice should be obvious and self evident; E.g., even if a theologian assures us that burning witches is correct, our moral intuition recoils at the sight.

                A lot of BS depends on suppressing our intuitive sense, or suppressing dissenting voices, in favor of some logic or authoritative voice.

                For example, Peterson generally supports the idea of a social hierarchy of power; Yet his rise to fame was when he became a dissenter challenging power and hierarchy.

                Why should his voice of dissent be respected, but not the voices of trans people themselves?

                If trans people have seized the commanding heights of academe, isn’t that a natural form of dominance like some alpha wolf taking command of the pack?

                See, none of this “natural order” stuff ever withstands the light of inquiry, because it is always a reverse engineering process, of trying to justify an outcome but only when it bends in our favor.Report

              • JoeSal in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                In your comment it appears there are three objectivisms being used:

                a.)social objectivity
                b.)objective reality
                c.)scriptural objectivity

                We may further discuss scriptural objectivity later, but I would like to leave it out of the discussion here because it is complicated enough without adding that one in.

                Social justice theory resides mostly in social objectivity. It’s truth components are typically not whole cloth. The reason they are not whole cloth is they do include a amount of intuition, and full consensus is rarely ever reached, and less resolved as the population sizes become larger.

                So when your dealing with social truth, there needs to be a awareness that what you are dealing with is pretty sketchy in the truth department.

                What is social truth today may not be social truth tomorrow.

                Objective reality has truth components, that don’t require intuition or consensus. They will be there whether we ignore or recognize them. No emotion will change the existence. The truths don’t have to be defended, as only those ignoring or attempting to deny them will have to live with the result of the activity.

                Now we can talk about “natural form” or “natural order” using these two frameworks.

                The part I want to discuss in Objective Reality: (without social objectivity being the primary framework)

                –is it true that humans have a biological component in their brain that predisposes them to seeking/following hierarchy?–

                You can keep attempting to drag us onto the battlefield of social objectivity, but that really doesn’t have much value in defining the truth components of reality.

                You can continue to go ad hominem against Peterson, this still won’t help much.Report

            • greginak in reply to Chip Daniels says:

              Peterson has mastered the art of being completely confident he is brilliant at everything. This is party to do with him being a believer in the psych of Carl Jung which is very old fashioned and far more mysticism then psychology by even the soft standard of modern psychology. Jung was an important figure in the history of psychology but the collective unconscious carp is,well, very old.

              I watched one video of him talking about some old stone inscription with two snakes intertwined. He was insistent that he truly believed this showed people a couple thousand years knew about the double helix nature of DNA. Which is …..special….since snakes mate by wrapping themselves around each other and fight with each other by wrapping themselves together just like in the inscription. But JP was less then knowledgeable about nature so he was sure his fantastical interpretation was on point.Report

              • George Turner in reply to greginak says:

                I don’t think Peterson is confident at anything. He suffers from severe anxiety and depression. He stayed cloistered in academia until some of his student lectures started getting huge numbers of views on Youtube after he stood up to the language police in Canada.

                His rise is primarily an example of “During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.”

                It’s not that he’s saying anything more profound or obvious than past writers like Mark Twain, George Orwell, Winston Churchill, Solzhenitsyn, or really anyone in Bennet’s “Book of Virtues”, it’s that he’s saying it in a new cultural vacuum where young people hadn’t heard much of that wisdom. And he backs a lot of it up with the latest research data that doesn’t get reported because it doesn’t support trendy notions.Report

              • I think we can attribute his rise more to PT Barnum, than Orwell, since there is indeed a sucker born every minute.Report

              • greginak in reply to George Turner says:

                Twain wrote about earlier versions of Peterson. He loved to talk about the various hucksters and conmen who fleeced the public.Report

              • George Turner in reply to greginak says:

                So what is it Peterson says that isn’t basically obvious to folks born before 1980? Were the great minds of the past completely wrong? Do men not find fulfillment in being useful to others or establishing a place in society? Do women not prefer men who will be loyal and successful?Report

              • greginak in reply to George Turner says:

                Wow…i remember those things from when i was a kid. Good ol times. Shame people stopped believing them ( eyes roll so hard i almost sprained them) A good grift is simple and has solid hook, so you got that part down.Report

              • George Turner in reply to greginak says:

                In case you didn’t know, Peterson is a liberal Canadian. What he’s preaching is basically long-accepted liberal thought from the time before they let juveniles take over the campuses and sack any teacher who spoke any truth that made them uncomfortable.

                Had that not happened, Peterson wouldn’t have gotten any more attention than any other liberal professor because they’d all be saying basically the same things they said many decades ago (except for their radical communist branch). What has become apparent is that many kids have never heard any of those simple truths, except perhaps from their sports coaches.

                It seems many of them have been taught crazy stuff like all men are evil, if it feels good do it, and totalitarian communism is good. They sense that there is something fundamentally unsupportable about those positions, but they’ve never heard the counter-arguments.

                Peterson is as shocked as anyone at his success. He just thought he was correcting gaping holes in high-school students’ educations.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to George Turner says:

                he stood up to the language police in Canada.

                He didn’t do half his lectures in French?Report

              • George Turner in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                He refused to be compelled by law to use certain pronouns, taking the position that no government in the Anglo-American tradition has ever held power over the people’s language.

                He wasn’t saying he wouldn’t use the people’s preferred pronouns or treat them with anything less than complete courtesy and respect, he was saying that no government body, no group of people, should be able to dictate what you can and cannot say outside the long-established prohibitions on fighting words and such.

                If a government is allowed to do such things, what’s to stop a new ruling party from making it a criminal act not to refer to a white person as “sir” or “master”?

                It’s a line that we should not cross, because the history of mandated speech is not good. Those holding power always use it to oppress those who don’t hold power.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to George Turner says:

                I heard part of his protest was kneeling during the Canadian anthem on the grounds that no government body, no group of people should be allowed to dictate what you can and cannot say.Report

              • dragonfrog in reply to George Turner says:

                He refused to be compelled by law to use certain pronouns

                This is a somewhat less courageous stand than it may seem at first blush, since he first dreamt up this imaginary law before refusing to be bound by it.

                That’s kind of it – his whole fame is predicated on his bold refusal to bow to a law he made up himself out of whole cloth.Report

              • George Turner in reply to dragonfrog says:

                I believe the law he refers to was bill C-16, “An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code”, which was passed by Parliament in 2017, which protected gender identity and had criminal and monetary penalties. Back in 2016 he argued that it would, when combined with section 46.3 of the Ontario Human Rights Code, subject people and institutions to criminal penalties if they or an employee, directly or indirectly, intentionally or accidentally, said something that might be construed as being offensive to someone.

                For something he just imagined, the Canadians sure debated it a lot in the press and in Parliament. The leader of Canada’s Conservative party even switched his stance on the bill after meeting with Peterson.Report

              • dragonfrog in reply to George Turner says:

                Yes, that is the bill, and later law, to which he referred.

                The law added “gender identity or expression” to a couple of lists of prohibited grounds for discrimination.

                One may read the Canadian Human Rights Act, as amended by Bill C-16 here

                The above link jumps you straight to the list of Discriminatory Practices banned under the act – you will notice that it contains things like wage discrimination, discriminatory hiring, refusal of residential accomodations – and nothing about pronouns.

                One may read the section of the Criminal Code amended by Bill C-16 here

                You will notice that the acts that are prohibited toward the listed identifiable groups (now including gender groups) include incitement to genocide or hatred, but not failure to use proper pronouns.

                Now, Peterson was just as capable of reading this as anyone, and if he had any confusion on this front he was more capable than most of going and asking an eminent expert in human rights law, being throughout this whole nonsensical story a professor at the University of Toronto, home to Canada’s largest and arguably most prestigious law school.

                But he didn’t ask anyone, or if he did he ignored what they told him.Report

              • dragonfrog in reply to George Turner says:

                Must be some odd caching thing going on, my comments are disappearing.

                Don’t have time to make the post over, but
                – Yes I know she was building her grift on the basis of misinformation about bill C-16

                – I linked to the sections of the Criminal Code and Human Rights act amended by C-16. Both have specific lists of protected classes – amended to contain “gender identity or expression” – and lists of acts that are prohibited when carried out on the basis of those classes.

                – In the Human Rights Act, the prohibited acts include things like refusal of residential accomodation, refusal of goods or services customarily available to the general public, wage discrimination, etc.

                – In the Criminal Code, there are two prohibited acts: incitement to genocide and promotion of hatred.

                – In neither law is refusal to use a person’s preferred pronouns a prohibited act.

                – Peterson knew this, and if she was confused she was uniquely positioned to check her theories with one of Canada’s most eminent legal experts, what with being a professor at the University of Toronto.

                – Rather than walk across campus for a ten minute chat, she chose to spin the whole thing up into a country-wide drama, abetted in this by a negligent press that gave the whole silly affair oxygen rather than call up an expert and say “hey, this psychology professor is waxing pompous about law. Is there anything to this?”

                – This is a story of Canada’s news media totally failing at basic background checking.Report

              • Michael Cain in reply to dragonfrog says:

                Two links is too many these days.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to George Turner says:

                It’s a bold stance, but actually a lot of people don’t know the rule for whoever vs. whomever.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to George Turner says:

                He backs it up with a lot of research data.

                Which can be totally trusted because, well, its science.

                But it doesn’t get reported because the scientists who run the universities and publish the magazines are liberals and can’t be trusted.Report

              • George Turner in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                He’s not saying anything that wasn’t pretty standard knowledge outside of radical circles. It may be shocking, but when you pin down a geneticist, they will admit there might be a link between genes and body type, or that maybe cats are genetically different from dogs.

                He notes that there are differences between men and women, which makes sense otherwise we wouldn’t have different words for the two sexes because we wouldn’t have figured out that there were two sexes. Is this once universal observation now only a white-wing talking point?

                He points out that, as groups, men and women don’t necessarily have the same interests, and it’s not all due to gender stereotyping because some of the differences show up prior to birth.

                He even points to Scandinavia, which has had the most gender equality for the longest time at yet which shows the sharpest distinction in career preferences, which grew over time as women became even freer to pursue what they liked instead of having their career choices dictated by economics.

                Well, this upsets lots of young people who think women should be equally interested in doing the same things men are interested in, and in equal numbers. Well, it turns out that women aren’t that really drawn to sanitation work, commercial fishing, or brick laying. They’d rather be doctors, nurses, executives, politicians, lawyers, and school teachers.

                This comes as a shock to, well, no one except the young modern left, who either think most women want to be race car drivers or Marine infantry, or think that men don’t really want to do that either, but that they’ve been somehow conditioned by society to like going fast and breaking things without regard to their personal safety.

                So this gets back to “In a Time of Universal Deceit — Telling the Truth Is a Revolutionary Act.”

                That’s what has the left so upset. It’s like the wisdom of their own mothers, fathers, and teachers, even the liberal socialist ones, has come back to haunt them.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to George Turner says:

                Does he observe the fact that women dominate the faculty and administration of most universities?

                That would point to it being just a natural law of the universe that women are good at running things.

                And how is it that if we just let people run free and do what they want a small percentage of people prefer to dress and act like the other gender.

                Should we respect that and address them as they wish, or should the government, a group of people dictate to them what they can or cannot wear and what they can or cannot be called?

                Its like I mentioned before that for people like Peterson the “natural order” of things always seems to require massive doses of force, otherwise somehow it runs amok or something.Report

              • George Turner in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                And that’s why he says we shouldn’t use force or government compulsion to control behavior. Hrm… Might that have been a standard liberal position just a few short years ago?

                Keep in mind that if we decide government compulsion is what we want, the university faculty doesn’t get to set the standards, Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell do.

                Contrary to lots of the screams on the far left, Peterson represents what used to be standard Canadian pro-labor liberalism. He really hasn’t changed on that. But unlike many on the campus left, he calls out nonsense when they go off the rails.

                He even points it out as a big difference between the right and the left. The right has bright clear lines that, if crossed, get a right-winger banished from public discourse or considered as a member of the GOP or the conservative movement. The right has no qualms about condemning neo-Nazis (who after all are just racist socialists) or various members of the lunatic fringe. The right is quite good at policing that line.

                In contrast, the left has no line to the left that is policed at all. Fascist violence is laudable. Calling people Nazis is okay. Joining the communist party proves one is genuinely committed to the cause. Advocating cannibalism or eating babies to stave off global warming doesn’t cause anyone on the left to bat an eye. I’ve even seen honest suggestions that we involuntarily sterilize Africans met with no push back at all. Race-based genocide, for a good reason, is apparently acceptable in some far-left circles.

                Peterson is saying this is a bad thing because it lets too many really bad ideas gain a foothold on the left. He likes his pro-Canadian, pro-Labor liberalism, and he doesn’t want to see it supplanted with totalitarian communism, genocidal environmentalism, or any other “ism”.

                So his stance triggers people who are easily triggered, and they hop on line and say horrible things about Jordan Peterson as if he’s the return of the anti-Christ and leading a wave of right-wing death squads.

                Another thing he points out is that the current “woke” culture teaches young people to do the exact opposite of everything that cognitive behavior therapy recommends for creating a well-adjusted, calm, happy person. It encourages people to magnify differences, turn every little statement or event into a crisis of world-ended proportions, and to be extremely sensitive and intolerant to the tiniest of stimuli. The woke people aren’t going to find inner peace until they quit being so darn woke about whatever someone just Tweeted.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to George Turner says:

                The following was uttered in a single breath:

                ” The right has no qualms about condemning neo-Nazis …
                In contrast, the left has no line to the left that is policed at all. Fascist violence is laudable. Calling people Nazis is okay.”

                The following sentences were separated by a single pause:

                “Advocating cannibalism or eating babies to stave off global warming doesn’t cause anyone on the left to bat an eye. I’ve even seen honest suggestions that we involuntarily sterilize Africans met with no push back at all. Race-based genocide, for a good reason, is apparently acceptable in some far-left circles.”

                “Another thing he points out is that the current “woke” culture …encourages people to magnify differences, turn every little statement or event into a crisis of world-ended proportions, and to be extremely sensitive and intolerant to the tiniest of stimuli.”

                Indeed. We wouldn’t want to magnify things to Godwin proportions!Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                Now if you excuse me, I am off to Chili’s to get some baby back ribs.Report

              • George Turner in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                That sounds really good. I haven’t had ribs in a while. I used to go to Tony Roma’s for ribs at the local high-end mini-mall/mega bookstore that William Shatner liked to frequent, but unfortunately it closed a few years ago. Most of the other places around here only have so-so ribs, so I usually just make my own in the oven.Report

              • dragonfrog in reply to George Turner says:

                It’s easy to stand up to the language police in Canada, what with their being imaginary and all…Report

            • fillyjonk in reply to Chip Daniels says:

              Oh crap, are “alleles” a code word now? Do I have to bone up on what they’ve become in pop culture before I start teaching them in intro bio this term? Gah, all the bro-dude/MRA/pop psych/pop philosophy/identity-movement crap makes me want to jump out a window some times.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to fillyjonk says:

                Every quack needs a roster of sciency sounding words, in the same way and for the same purpose as miracle diet pills and anti-aging creams are supported by the authority of science which is being suppressed by scientific authorities who can’t be trusted.Report

              • fillyjonk in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                So it’s not a situation of “if I say allele it’s gonna be a dogwhistle to some people even though I don’t intend it as such” and more of a “people MIGHT have a false definition of it if they hang out in certain weird places?

                I mean, it’s still stupid and annoying but less stupid and annoying.

                I’ve had beginning students argue stupid stuff with me, like that Pentawater crap. I just don’t have the energy for it any more, especially not these days.Report

              • Marchmaine in reply to fillyjonk says:

                Alleles are ok (for now).

                But whatever you do, don’t google knitting.Report

              • fillyjonk in reply to Marchmaine says:

                I’ve just learned to never search on anything I care about (and don’t have to, for work)

                This is the stupidest timeline. I suppose it’s the timeline we deserve, but I still hate it.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to fillyjonk says:

                Allele Hat pattern by Nathan Taylor – RavelryReport

              • Michael Schilling in reply to Marchmaine says:

                Actually, knitting would be a good analogy for genetics. There’s a patterns, a very simple one that makes a muffler. If I make a random change to it, I almost certainly get either a worse muffler or something useless, but there’s a specific change than results in a muffler with armholes. Many random, beneficial changes later, it’s a pattern for a cardigan.Report

              • North in reply to fillyjonk says:

                Yeah, the right wing internet idiots use an assortment of Peterson science-y sounding word the way left wing idiots fling cultural appropriation and other social sciency terms around- a lot and mostly incorrectly.Report