Something concerning of late is the number of Left-wing journalists laying into the scientific theories of Jordan Peterson, even though they have arts degrees! I have nothing against arts degrees, incidentally, but I do take issue with people pontificating about areas they know nada about…
This they do over and over again, particularly around psychology – which is Peterson’s specialist area. Yesterday it was the turn of Jared Yates Sexton, who accused Peterson of “bad science” and “patriarchal pseudoscience” – whatever that means.
Yates Sexton had taken offence to Peterson’s recently publicised hypothesis that enforced monogamy serves a protective function against male violence, whereas sexual frustration in men can lead to aggression. This observation does not seem unreasonable to me, considering most terrorists seem to be young blokes who weren’t getting any (nothing against virgins, incidentally).
It’s actually quite a complex theory, and certainly not a literal instruction for forced marriages, nor any suggestion that violence doesn’t happen within monogamous relationships. It deserves nuanced academic contemplation, but we are not in that sort of age.
Yates Sexton’s ‘critique’ resorted to nothing but insults, before he accused Peterson of relying “on shaky research and logical fallacies”. All of this prompted yours truly to investigate the background of Yates Sexton: how does he know? Is he a scientific researcher himself?
It turns out that he’s in fact a creative writing professor (though his prose tells another story). That someone whose job is making stuff up is tasked with analysing a Professor of Psychology says everything about the desperate state of academic debate.
Indeed, every time I see Peterson criticised, his opponent seems to have some sort of arts degree – be it English, creative writing or something else.
Like I say, I have nothing against arts degrees; I did music, art and drama at school and find literary people very attractive. It’s only that I am exhausted with “arts-plaining”; writers with no understanding of psychology trying to lecture on it. The expression “know your limits” comes to mind!
Much of the reason they find Peterson controversial in the first place is they haven’t studied psychology, nor dared to read about the topic, therefore they are hearing many theories for the first time through him. They take him way too literally; “Jordan Peterson wants forced marriage!” It’s hilarious at times…
Their infantile retorts (he’s “bad science”, “dangerous”, “alt-right”) are ultimately a smokescreen for their lack of scientific knowledge from which to draw.
Much of Peterson’s assertions are reflective of psychological research, not ideology. I know this because I studied psychology and his analyses chimes with the research. It is merely that facts do not always make Left-wingers happy.
Generally, the Left has huge issues with psychological theory. This is because of their belief that people are ‘blank slates’ who can be shaped by the environment, so as to justify their desire to engineer it. Thus they cannot stand anyone who cites biological variables in human development – for example, personality traits have genetic components – as Peterson and all psychologists will do…
This aversion to psychological theory is part of the reason why I have never been published in this subject in a left-wing publication. I have a First Class Honours BSc in Psychology and 86 in a neuroscience paper – sorry for the brag, just making a point – yet I am deemed as “right wing”. Why? Because I was always accurate about reporting my studies. It is astonishingly frustrating to have an ideology planted onto you for being factual.
All the while I have watched numerous Left-wing journalists cover psychology, even when they have no background in it. It is not a problem to lack qualifications… I am not an academic snob and love self-taught people, as well as thinking that university is overrated. But the issue is having no interest or knowledge of topics; it shows!
One of the worst examples of this was Owen Jones’s criticism of James Damore last year, who was fired by Google for writing a memo that suggested sexual differentiation in the brain. Owen accused him as ‘alt-right’, increasingly code for: “I don’t know what to reply”. Everything Owen wrote was wrong. But is it any wonder? He has a history degree!
It strikes me that one of the greatest diversity issues in media is actually academic diversity, as there don’t appear to be many scientific writers in the mainstream. Of course, by its very nature, journalism will attract arty, literary types. But if we do not have more BScs over BAs, is it any wonder journalists react to Peterson, as well as other scientists, with such horror?
Of course, Peterson covers numerous other areas like economics, history and religion which others may want to touch. These are ones I am more reticent to partake in; psychology is my area, and I really do know my own limits!
By all means people should criticise Peterson, but it is not enough to hurl insults, nor assume that sanctimony is a replacement for expertise. I am not against psychological criticism of Peterson, but, bloody hell, let’s have some facts. Until then I will keep count on the correlation between hating Peterson and arts degrees.