Peterson Is A Knob

Jordan the Frog sips teaOver on our Discord server, user “Hemi” was struggling to decipher the illustrious Jordan Peterson’s book, “Beyond Order” (which, as an aside… isn’t that just a chilling title?).

Oh dear:

“The most phylogenetically ancient multicellular organisms (that is far enough for our purposes) tend to be composed of relatively undifferentiated sensorimotor cells.1 These cells map certain facts or features of the environment directly onto the motor output of the same cells, in an essentially one-to-one relationship.”

From Beyond Order Jordan B. Peterson. His source:

“Navigation can also be a task for a single cell; mobility can be generated as a response to local sensory information by individual specialized “sensorimotor cells” that contain both sensory receptors and an organ for generating motion. Eukaryotes with cilia and ciliated sponge larvae, for example, employ ciliary motion to navigate their environment in response to a change in illumination, chemical gradients, and gravity.”

As best as I can tell the article focuses on some invertebrates with interneurons between sensory input and motor output.
I would assume since they are not say integument or digestive, interneurons are differentiated (y’know as in Adam Smith’s division of labor) from precursors.
Uggg, not sure why but he uses this basic cellular grounding in taxis or orientation as a stepping stone into…(wait for it…cue drum roll) hierarchies. He winds up getting into social construction (sans Searle) and value hierarchy (sans Maslow) and an almost self referential aside involving archetypes of Fool and Redeemer. Then a quasi Hegelian interpenetration of workplace opposites (Jungian tension?) between tradition and change orientation. Weird stuff.
– user “Hemi”

There was more. Props to “Hemi”, they were clearly grappling with a quality of thought and writing reminiscent of Calvin’s (of “and Hobbes”) Dick and Jane paper. But what interested me was the reason for Peterson publishing something this muddled and nonsensical:

It’s all ego. Peterson’s one of those people who has taken the idea of himself as rational, highly intelligent, even a genius, as part of his identity, and in so doing made it axiomatic to his world that he understands everything, automatically, better than anyone else, maybe only with the exception of other menpeople with PhDs in their specific fields.

Consequently, he mistakes his own tepid understanding of a lot of topics as deeper than it is. It’s like Trump’s “Nobody knows this but…” except not as obviously coming from an idiot, because Peterson is intelligent, just not the genius he assumes he is. Thus, you get works like this: he’s strung unrelated concepts together from various fields, glued together with a shaky comprehension that he thinks is rock-solid because it’s his, all cherry-picked to reach a conclusion that is arguable at best but which he believes is pillars-of-the-earth-level Truth because, again, it’s his.

The general Dunning-Kruger Effect has seemingly been debunked, but its cousin, narcissistic hubris, lives on. Peterson says things that nobody else is saying, and he thinks that therefore he is being uniquely prfound, when in fact he is simply being wrong.


  1. Jazzlet says

    I am grateful that people go to the effort of deconstructing this dreck, it need doing, and I certainly don’t have the patience. Good on you hemi!

  2. vucodlak says

    Oh gods. That comic strip reminds me of a story, and it’s given me a half-assed theory about Peterson to go with it.

    I was a huge fan of Calvin and Hobbes as a wee one, and I took the strip you linked to heart. Whenever I had to do a report/essay on a topic about which I didn’t have much to say (like, say, a book report one of *gag* James Fenimore Cooper’s works), I’d use Calvin’s technique to pad it out. And… I always got high marks and effusive praise for those reports.

    I hated it- I always felt like such phony when I stared at those A’s and read those glowing remarks. I mean, I took pains to make sure it was coherent, topical, and defensible within the context of the subject, but all I was doing was using $5 words to dress up a $0.02 thesis. I wasn’t saying anything new or interesting, I was engaging in a verbose analysis of the products of bovine elimination.

    To be clear, I didn’t always bullshit. I often had something I felt was semi-intelligent to say, but that just made it worse, because I got the same praise whether I really worked my ass off or just phoned it in. I started feeling like a fake all the time. Had I ever written anything good? Would I ever? Would it matter if I did?

    A part of me kept hoping someone would catch on. Whenever my rhet comp professors at the university called me aside, I thought: “This is it, finally, someone sees recognizes what I’ve been doing. I’ll have to straighten up and actually become a better writer.” Then they’d start talking about how wonderful my last paper was and I’d have to bite my lip and just nod along to keep from screaming “CAN’T ANY OF YOU SEE THAT I’M A FRAUD?!”

    I read Peterson’s work, and I see a logorrheic treatise on the fecal impact patterns of large, field-dwelling ungulates. I suspect he’s fully aware of what he’s doing, which is why he’s such an angry, fucked up weirdo. You can’t build your whole life on top of a steaming pile of cow crap without it stinking to high heaven. Even when others recognize the smell, he can’t admit what he’s done without losing his lucrative grift. Worst of all is the stench inside a life like that. It must be unbearable.

    I don’t feel sorry for him, though. He made his stinky bed (and flung a lot of turds at innocent people in the process) and he chooses to continue to lie in it.

  3. says

    he is being uniquely prfound, when in fact he is simply being wrong.

    He has discovered that being obscure sounds like a smart person, to a stupid person. It has worked for generations of post-modernist philosophers – including Peterson.

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