Reader Joey Campagna writes to ask about a controversial Canadian prof:
He is a pro-Darwin and pro-Evolution professor of psychology at the University of Toronto in Canada. He is a tenured professor with hundreds of academic works, many peer-reviewed, and is widely cited in the literature of his field. He is being decried and denounced by academics and media outlets. I have seen online sources call him all manner of names from moron to a bigot, alt-right to Hitler, fundamentalist to ill-informed, just Google his name to confirm, links below. His name is Dr. Jordan B. Peterson. What did he do wrong? To oversimplify an extremely complex person and situation, he is refusing to tow the PC party line by objecting to compelled speech. Specifically, he is opposed to Canadian Human Rights Codes requiring the use of new trans-gender pronouns, violations being punished by fines, and jail time via court contempt if the fines are not paid.
Question: Does this mean that the academic and social cachet of being pro-Darwin is fading?
Yes, Peterson, one of whose lectures I (O’Leary for News) heard in Toronto recently, is now yet another Hitler (along with numerous Canadians that you thought were just harmless dullards in scarves and earmuffs). Our national magazine, Macleans, attacked Peterson in what I can only describe as a bizarre meltdown.:
As far as I can tell, Jordie—and not the cool “Geordi” from Star Trek either— rewards the devotion of his Patreon patsies with regular rants against “political correctness,” and relationship advice I can only call “Angry Oprah Says.” For USD $29.99, Petersonites can get access to the Self Authoring Suite (a USD $119.92 value!). Those looking for further opportunities to give him money can pay USD $9.99 for “100 question phrases” which “can be found, along with similar question sets, elsewhere on the web” so that they might learn how your personality compares to 10,000 others. More.
Actually, as I recall the lecture, Peterson is an engaging academic of the type who used to be common, who makes people think. As opposed to today’s campus enforcement team who make me wonder why any alumni ever give to universities. If the public really wants thought police instead, why not let the government pay?
Anyway, I (O’Leary for News) thought about the reader’s question and replied,
As one caught in the thick of this in Canada, I would say that being pro-naturalism is as strong as ever but that being pro-Darwin is fading as cachet and cover. Naturalists, having secured power, can invent whatever origins stories they need. Post-modernism makes all facts a mere culture war. For safety, Peterson would need to make clear that evidence does not matter to him, only political correctness matters. But he won’t do that.
I sometimes wonder why people who even want a life of the mind do not understand how serious the problem is. Don’t think it will bypass the sciences if no one defends them.
But post-modernism does that to people. There are no principles, only shrieks in the night.
So no, Darwin will not protect you from Orwell’s enforcers if you believe in his theories for rational reasons. If you feel forced to gabble Darwinian thoughts on account of your identity, you can, of course, expect protection as long as such thoughts are still considered Cool.
Happy New Year.
See also: Can science survive long in a post-modern world? It’s not clear.