I’m lacking this level of delusional arrogance

I just encountered Bret Weinstein’s self-promotional blurb, and I’m kind of in awe.

Dr. Bret Weinstein has spent two decades advancing the field of evolutionary biology, earning his PhD at the University of Michigan, before teaching at The Evergreen State College for 14 years, from which he resigned his tenured position in 2017. He has developed a new Darwinian framework based on design trade-offs, and made important discoveries regarding the evolution of cancer, senescence and the adaptive significance of moral self-sacrifice.
He is currently working to uncover the evolutionary meaning of large scale patterns in human history, and seeking a game theoretically stable path forward for humanity. With his wife, Heather Heying, he co-wrote A Hunter-Gatherer’s Guide to the 21st Century, and is the host of the DarkHorse Podcast.

I couldn’t puff myself up that much. If I were to write a similar blurb, it would be:

PZ Myers earned a PhD in developmental neuroscience at the University of Oregon, and has spent the last two decades teaching at a small liberal arts college in Minnesota. He has tried to popularize science and evolutionary biology with a blog, Pharyngula.

That is all. Personally, I would attach more importance to my family life, but no one outside my clan would care about that. Claiming to have advanced a scientific discipline while working at a primarily teaching university is gilding the lily. Developing a new Darwinian framework is unbelievable; I do try to keep up with the literature and haven’t seen any dramatic Weinstein model of evolution sweeping the field. The concept of evolutionary trade-offs is so old I have no idea who first proposed it — it might have been Darwin. Oh, yeah, he at least implied it, in the Origin:

“The whole organism is so tied together that when slight variations in one part occur, and are accumulated through natural selection, other parts become modified. This is a very important subject, most imperfectly understood.”

I don’t know what his important discoveries were.

He loses me at seeking a game theoretically stable path forward for humanity. That’s an epic level of pretentiousness. That’s the kind of meaningless drivel a guy desperately straining to pad his résumé to claim that while he may have been working at an undergraduate teaching university, he was actually making a grand plan for human destiny in his head, and that that should count towards his credit.

He also has a big bold label for himself.


It is true, he is an evolutionary theorist. It’s just that, as can be seen in that book he and his wife wrote, they are crap theories, warmed-over evolutionary psychology and panadaptationism.

As for “professor in exile”…no. He is not a professor. “Professor” is a category of employment. He was not exiled at all — he was asked to resign after alienating most of the student body with his intransigent and obvious refusal to support an exercise in civil rights, and walked away with a substantial settlement. He’s now milking the gullible with his martyrdom schtick. None of that counts as “exile”. He needs to revise that label a bit.


That’s better.


  1. raven says

    Dr. Bret Weinstein has spent two decades advancing the field of evolutionary biology, …

    The truth.
    Dr. Bret Weinstein hasn’t done much of anything in two decades while wallowing in the pseudoscience called evolutionary psychology.
    He has according to Wikipedia a whole two peer reviewed publications to show for his career.


    During the COVID-19 pandemic, Weinstein made several public appearances advocating the use of the antiparasitic drug ivermectin to prevent or treat the disease and downplaying the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines.

    Bret Weinstein is an antivaxx crackpot who lies a lot.
    Ivermectin in several large well run clinical trials had no activity against the Covid-19 virus.
    He is an antivaxxer, one of the group that helped kill millions of people.

    Of the ca. 1.4 million US dead, around 250,000 would be alive if they had been vaccinated.
    The vaccines also saved the lives of 2 million US people, one of which is…myself.

    He is currently working to uncover the evolutionary meaning of large scale patterns in human history, and seeking a game theoretically stable path forward for humanity.

    He is currently a routine right wingnut hack, selling hate and lies for money to support himself.
    His peer group is Jordan Peterson, Tucker Carlson, Ann Coulter, any Fox NoNews hate monger, Ralph Limpbrain, a variety of medical quacks, etc..

  2. Louis says

    As an outsider to the field of evolutionary biology, but as someone who reads the relevant literature to a degree, I find the front page style pronouncements about evolutionary biology to be really underwhelming. This chap’s self promotion seems to fall into that category for me. What next, breathless headlines about spandrels or neutral drift? Some grifter claiming that they are an important developer of the idea that the species concept is complex?

    Okay, that last one will be Wilkins, but he’s no grifter. He knows his onions. In fact, given a tray of vegetables I trust him to pick out the onion every time. Smart fella.


  3. Louis says

    @Raven, #2,

    2 publications and is/was a prof? I find that hard to credit. I’m not saying you’re wrong (or heaven forefend, that Wikipedia is! {swoons}), but I am inspired to check out the good old Web of Science/Scholar etc to see. Because I’ve got more than that from industry alone, so I want me that big, big prof money. And my Pharma Shill (TM) cheques.

    (Actual prof money may have settled in transit)


  4. billseymour says

    Claiming to have advanced a scientific discipline while working at a primarily teaching university is gilding the lily.

    Teachers are my heroes.

    I won’t dispute the main point of the article since it seems that Weinstein wasn’t a very good teacher; I just hope that you won’t sell yourself short since inspiring even one or two students in a lifetime is a truly great advancement by itself.

    (I’d be a horrible teacher myself since I seem to lack the full complement of “people skills”.)

  5. says

    He loses me at “seeking a game theoretically stable path forward for humanity.”

    I assume here he’s referring to “evolutionarily stable strategies” within the context of game theory, sort of an iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma where the reward for success is paid out in reproductive advantage and increasing copies of a particular strategy in the overall population.
    It sounds impressive and cutting-edge until you realize that it’s just a fairly crude and simple model with somewhat arbitrarily quantified payouts that goes back at least to Richard Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene, published in 1976. While it’s interesting and useful for understanding how the dynamics can play out in a population and result in a stable mix of strategies, the idea that it provides a “path forward for humanity” is a stretch worthy of Reed Richards.

  6. PaulBC says

    he was asked to resign after alienating most of the student body with his intransigent and obvious refusal to support an exercise in civil rights, and walked away with a substantial settlement

    Oh. One of those. Yawn. I can appreciate shameless self-aggrandizement but persecution complexes are no fun at all.

    a game theoretically stable path forward for humanity

    “Guys, it’s time for some game theory.” (That’s just to show that contrary to @6 I have many humorous reference points that are less than 30 years ago.)

  7. birgerjohansson says

    Some famous researcher – it may have been Freeman Dyson – took great pride in his students and their accomplishments.

  8. nifty says

    @5 Laurian-although it is not labeled as tenure, Evergreen does have a continuing faculty status that is effectively tenure without the label. This is awarded by a conversion process that is the equivalent of granting tenure, and Brett did have that status.

  9. kome says

    I’m not going to discount indirect contributions to academic pursuits, such as teaching and inspiring students or being a great colleague to work with. Those are incredibly important despite often being undervalued by academic institutions and scholarly communities writ large.

    But Bret said he’s made “discoveries.” That sounds more like he’s claiming to have made substantial direct contributions. Looking into what he’s published… no he hasn’t. I mean, shit, that dude got his degree in 2009, writing a dissertation that amounted to a submitting something he was second author on in 2005. He is laughably bad at this whole science thing, but because he’s a cis-het white guy the academy just lets him skate through to get whatever credentials he wants, I guess. He’s a (much much much) lazier Sam Harris.

  10. birgerjohansson says

    Here are some prime delusional weirdos who “know” they know more than the experts.
    Kwasi Kwarteng is the new British… secretary of economy, to translate from Britlish .
    He fired the most senior, most experienced and most respected civil servant because he does not want anyone opposing his magic-thinking economic policy.
    Therese Coffey wants to run the National Health Service with volunteers.
    Being delusional (and utterly loyal to the boss) is an absolute requirement for getting ahead in the British Unionist and Conservative Party.

  11. birgerjohansson says

    I discovered a spider on the wall. That makes me even with Weinstein.
    If I ‘prove’ the Jews are behind everything, I will definitely outrank him.

  12. PaulBC says

    birgerjohansson@10 Most professors I’ve known take pride in students, particularly their PhD advisees. It would be strange if they didn’t, though I’m sure there are plenty of egotistical assholes out there who see grad students only as cheap labor.

  13. birgerjohansson says

    Did someone say ‘delusional arrogance’?
    When the market tanks as a government minister holds a speech, it is probably not a good speech, or a good minister or a good government.
    Whenever a MAGA hat says ‘You can’t Trump this’, the tories say ‘hold my beer’.

  14. whheydt says

    As regards “gilding the lily”… I realize you are using the conventional phrase. It’s just that it grates. It’s a short form of a Biblical quote. The original is “painting the lily and gilding refined gold.”

  15. chrislawson says

    Jesus. I love game theory and think it’s one of the most important developments in 20th century science, maths, and philosophy. Furthermore, I think every economist and policy wonk should be familiar with the core principles of game theory. But in no way is it a complete model, and its co-option by conservative economists to justify regressive policies is one of the great misapplications of science. In almost every real-life experimental test of game theory, humans DO NOT behave the way theory predicts. So Weinstein wanting a “game theoretical stable path forward for humanity” would suggest that he is more interested in jamming people into models than in letting humans make informed decisions.

  16. PaulBC says

    chrislawson@18 I agree completely. Game theory provides a set of tools for predicting what rational agents would do when they have to make decisions, and that’s an interesting question. Extending it to human behavior is like “assuming a spherical cow” but even that may be fine as a starting point. Accepting its conclusions non-critically is just crazy (or fits an ideological agenda). Rightwingers also know that humans do not behave like game theoretic models, and use this fact when it suits them.

  17. lpetrich says

    My favorite Bret Weinstein absurdity is when he tried to organize a third-party run for the Presidency in 2020.

    https://web.archive.org/web/20201101000218/https://articlesofunity.org/ – #Unity2020 is a grassroots presidential campaign to restore patriotic, courageous & capable leadership to the United States.

    https://web.archive.org/web/20201101094716/https://articlesofunity.org/candidates/ – The Unity2020 leading ticket is Tulsi Gabbard and Dan Crenshaw.

    Unity2020 is a plan to draft a pair of courageous and capable patriots to form a co-Presidency, with one member from the left and one member from the right. Our plan requires that our candidates agree to govern as a team, with the titles of President and Vice President determined by a coin flip.

    Bret Weinstein made some podcasts about this effort, and one of them was about convincing some existing third party to support these candidates.