Every day now, I get several messages/emails from Jordan Peterson fans. Nothing could convince me more that we’re dealing with a cult-like network of bewilderingly brainwashed people. The messages take several familiar forms.
“It’s his opinion and belief. Science and evidence don’t apply.” They are desperate to carve out an exemption from minimal standards of evidence for him. This is a common refrain from defenders of religious belief as well.
“Technically, he might be wrong about that one thing, but I like what he’s saying anyway.” My personal schtick in dealing with Peterson has been to focus on specific false claims and scientific misrepresentations. They don’t matter. His followers don’t care. The pseudo-scientific veneer is just that, a game to borrow the respectability of science while not caring at all about rigor.
“He has done so much good for young men!” How do we know that? Because he says so. It’s an ‘end justifies the means’ kind of argument with no evidence of a positive result. Again, this is a very religious defense, where we’re supposed to accept the conclusion as valid because of an assertion irrelevant to the truth-claim.
“You’re just criticising him for the hits!” Somehow, that someone is popular has become a defense in itself — you’re only reason for criticizing the cult leader can’t possibly be because he’s wrong, but is simply an opportunistic attempt to get the attention of his crowds of followers (never mind that those zealous followers are annoyingly thick and I’d rather they went away.)
Meaningless drivel. You would not believe the lengths they go to to justify Peterson’s claim that a Chinese painting of intertwined snake-gods is an actual representation of the structure of DNA. An example:
First, keep in mind that a representation doesn’t need to be a detailed model of how something functions, just a portrayal of that function. Which, DNA is essentially just a carrier of genetic information used to structure the development, appearance, and function of living beings. Passed on to children, in many species, from two parents.
The image, is of Fuxi and Nüwa. In Chinese mythology, they’re credited with either being the first humans, or otherwise the creators of humanity. Which they made together, out of clay. In the image shown by Peterson, they also strongly represent (although I don’t entirely understand why, something to do with who they are, how they are arranged, and the things they are holding) the male-female and yin and yang interrelation. This duality of yin and yang is somewhat unique compared to many other dualistic systems, in that the two parts are also together a whole that is greater than the parts.
All together, the image seems to me, to represent the idea of two beings coming together, to create something new, similar to themselves, but also with variation, as in the story, they are going from being half-human, half-snakes, to just humans.
So, by my view, it’s not a model of DNA with any understanding of what the molecule is, it’s parts, or even that there is such a physical thing (And I don’t believe this is what Peterson was saying either). But it is a representation of DNA’s actual effect and function in the world, as it appeared to the people passing along these myths and creating these images. A sort of first-conceptual glimmering of an idea, that has grown to our current deep and detailed understanding of DNA.
Now, Peterson seems to put a special emphasis on the two snakes being intertwined, I’m not sure of the mythological significance of that, and it shows up in far to many different cultures for me to research it easily. But like I said previously, you could always try asking him?
“Debate him.” Jesus christ, but I hate the debate obsession. Creationists do this, too — they desperately want a contrived situation where their ideas are placed on a par with the bulk of the scientific consensus, even if they haven’t earned it, and they want it personified into a one-on-one conflict. It’s trial by combat. I have zero interest in debating J. Random Crackpot on a stage where he has rigged the game to give him every advantage, and I have nothing to gain.
That’s just noise. Long-winded ahistorical noise. Our understanding of DNA did not evolve out of contemplation of mythology. This person seems to believe that contriving a post-hoc rationale is just as powerful as making observations and testing hypotheses.
I regret ever trying to address any of Peterson’s crappy arguments, but that’s exactly what they’re hoping for — they can’t win on reason and evidence, so they resort to a war of attrition with endless hordes of delusional fanboys bombarding me with garbage logic. I hate it, but years of conflict with religious fanatics has made me stubborn, and they’re nothing different.