Kooks hate being called on their kookery


The College of Psychologists in Ontario has threatened to yank Jordan Peterson’s license if he wouldn’t take a course on professionalism in social media (it’s obvious that he needs it). Peterson challenged the decision in court.

The courts have spoken. He better take that course.

Last November, Peterson, a professor emeritus with the University of Toronto psychology’s department who is also an author and media commentator, was ordered by the College of Psychologists of Ontario to undergo a coaching program on professionalism in public statements.

That followed numerous complaints to the governing body of Ontario psychologists, of which Peterson is a member, regarding his online commentary directed at politicians, a plus-sized model, and transgender actor Elliot Page, among other issues. You can read more about those social media posts here.

The college’s complaints committee concluded his controversial public statements could amount to professional misconduct and ordered Peterson to pay for a media coaching program — noting failure to comply could mean the loss of his licence to practice psychology in the province.

Peterson filed for a judicial review, arguing his political commentary is not under the college’s purview.

The Ontario Divisional Court has dismissed Peterson’s application, ruling that the college’s decision falls within its mandate to regulate the profession in the public interest and does not affect his freedom of expression.

I’m trying to imagine myself in his position — it’s not that hard, although I don’t think I’ve been quite as maladroit and hateful on social media as Peterson. If I was threatened with loss of my position — I don’t have the external resources he does — and told I need to take a course in social media professionalism, I’d shrug and do it. Maybe I’d learn something. Peterson just hates to be told that he’s wrong about anything.

Peterson says he hasn’t undermined his profession at all.

He denies that he has brought disrepute to the profession, arguing the opposite is true.

I think I’ve done demonstrably more than any psychologist has ever produced to increase the prestige and trust of the practice of psychology around the world, Peterson said.

I can think of no one who has done more harm to the reputation of psychology than Jordan Peterson. He’s a narcissistic blabbermouth who invents, and teaches, garbage ideas.


  1. robro says

    My best friend asked me recently about Peterson. He described Peterson as a dangerous nutcase. One fail right there, Dr. Peterson, from someone who has a lot of experience with psychologists, teaching, and is insatiably curious. I’m confident that my friend did his own investigation of Peterson to come to his conclusion.

    I believe my friend was asking because my son, who is mentored by my friend, is somewhat enthralled with Peterson. In fact, the one time my son visited Pharyngula you did a post about Peterson. My son hasn’t been back to Pharyngula as far as I know.

  2. Jemolk says

    I don’t tend to judge groups based on the presence of crackpots, jackasses and idiots (but I repeat myself) in their midst, but on their reaction to these people. If other psychologists had not condemned Peterson, that would have damaged my estimation of the field nearly irreparably. Justifiably so, I think. Peterson really is the worst the field has to offer, and that’s saying something considering where it started.

  3. raven says

    Peterson says he hasn’t undermined his profession at all.

    Coming from someone who lies constantly about everything, this isn’t the least bit convincing.

    Peterson has always been a routine, garden variety conperson.
    It is just that the rest of the world has finally seen through him.

    He was finally pushed out of U. of Toronto, Department of Psychology.
    I guess after 24 years, they finally managed to locate a spine and a pair of ovaries.

    It’s telling that he was at Harvard for 5 years and at the U. of Toronto for 24 years.
    We know what is wrong with Peterson. Everything.
    So, what in Cthulhu’s name is wrong with Harvard and U. of Toronto?

  4. Pierce R. Butler says

    I can think of no one who has done more harm to the reputation of psychology than Jordan Peterson.

    Sigmund Freud? (Nah, he got a couple of things right.)

    Carl Jung? (Peterson’s inspiration – he loses points just for that!)

    BF Skinner? Timothy Leary? (Nah – see Freud.)

  5. hemidactylus says

    Donald Hebb with his synaptic postulate and cell assembly idea probably launched the cognitive revolution and countered Skinner’s black boxing of internal factors in psychology. Hebb helped put the Organism between Stimulus and Response. Snail paleontologist Jean Piaget had some goofy ideas based on genetic assimilation and the Baldwin effect, but he was far more prestigious for his work in developmental psychology than Peterson could ever dream of being for his retooled Jungian psychology. Jungian Anthony Stevens did more for Jungian psychology than Peterson ever could. Albert Ellis’ rational emotive therapy was a forerunner of cognitive behavioral therapy. He also had a bee in his bonnet about Ayn Rand and Objectivism. I never got much into Carl Rogers but he was well regarded. Daniel Kahneman and Lawrence Kohlberg were quite serious pioneers. Jonathan Haidt has his issues, but is more respectable than Peterson. Leon Festinger (cognitive dissonance) and Irving Janis (groupthink) made lasting contributions though Janis was a bit monomanic. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs was a bit overhyped, but far more important than anything Peterson has done.

  6. Artor says

    Most professional licenses require ongoing education relevant to the field to keep them up to date. My sister is a cardiologist, and she has to take many hours of classes every year to keep her license current. Peterson is no different, and he has clearly identified an area in which he is badly in need of some remedial education.

  7. says

    BF Skinner? God’s Death, I read “Beyond Freedom and Dignity” in college, and it was the most ridiculous rubbish I’d ever read for any class — and that includes Kissinger’s book and a sample of early fascist writings! I can’t believe anyone ever took Skinner seriously.

  8. birgerjohansson says

    Hemydactylus @ 5
    I am mostly interested in physics and technology, but I managed to recognise three names on your list, which is a credit to the well-rounded Swedish education system 😊 .

    Kissinger’s book was probably never translated here, and Ayn Rand is a purely American malignancy.

  9. hemidactylus says

    This right here documents one of the greatest things a professional psychologist has ever done for humanity:

    I think it also shows Albert Ellis could have benefited from a modern day word processor, but that’s beside the point.

    This is one priceless bit where Ellis is quoting Rand’s former protege and lover Nathaniel Branden:
    “Second, you launched into a vitriolic, irrelevant and gratuitous attack on the unbelievability (to you) of Ayn Rand’s fictional heroes–thus causing Miss Rand, who was one of my guests that evening, to be insulted in a context where she had no means to protest or answer you. Your comments had nothing whatever to do with my psychological theories, they were incoherent and devoid of intellectual content, and appeared to be motivated by some sudden explosion of personal hostility.”

    Aside from that how did you like the play Mrs. Lincoln?

  10. says

    arguing his political commentary is not under the college’s purview

    This is typical of the sort of associative “logic” that right wingers–and Peterson specifically–use.

    ruling that the college’s decision falls within its mandate to regulate the profession in the public interest and does not affect his freedom of expression

    Exactly. It’s about Peterson’s license, not his freedom to speak.

  11. raven says

    OT but worth knowing.

    Russian agency says mercenary leader Prigozhin was aboard plane that crashed, leaving no survivors

    This headline isn’t quite right.
    Reports are that the private jet was shot down by Russian air defenses.

    No surprise.
    It’s Russia, after all.
    The betting was Prigozhin wasn’t going to live much longer.
    There were 9 other people on the plane, who I guess, are just collateral damage.

  12. monad says

    More increase than any psychologist ever. Because these people only ever go for big lies, never wasting their time on anything remotely plausible.

  13. steve oberski says

    8/23/23, 11:15 AM Peterson v. College of Psychologists of Ontario | Superior Court of Justice
    https://www.ontariocourts.ca/scj/peterson-v-college-of-psychologists-of-ontario/ 15/15
    Divisional Court
    Backhouse, Schabas and Krawchenko JJ.
    – and –
    Schabas J.
    77. The application for judicial review is dismissed. The applicant shall pay the respondent costs, as agreed, in the amount of $25,000.

  14. seversky says

    As you suggested, they should have yanked his license a while back. Now, it will make little difference. He’s built up his fanbase/cult following. They’ll just se him as persecuted and he’ll be happy to play the victim/martyr card.

  15. seversky says

    23 August 2023 at 5:06 pm

    OT but worth knowing.

    Russian agency says mercenary leader Prigozhin was aboard plane that crashed, leaving no survivors

    This headline isn’t quite right.
    Reports are that the private jet was shot down by Russian air defenses.

    Somebody gets on the wrong side of Putin and meets an untimely end? Gosh, I AM surprised!

    I had been wondering how it would happen. Something like falling down stairs in a bungalow perhaps.

  16. KG says

    hemidactylus@5, Raging Bee@9, w.r.t BF Skinner,

    Possibly the best title of a scientific paper ever:
    Breland, K., & Breland, M. (1961). The misbehavior of organisms. American Psychologist, 16(11), 681–684. https://doi.org/10.1037/h0040090

    Skinner insisted that what went on within animals (including people) could and should be disregarded – there are just stimuli and responses, and any response to any stimulus can be conditioned. Breland and Breland’s paper, among others, showed just how egregiously wrong this claim was.

  17. jrkrideau says

    I read “Beyond Freedom and Dignity” in college
    Good heavens why? I hope it was not a psych class.

    Skinner had an immense affect on learning theory and applied behaviour analysis. To see what he was doing you would have to read his earlier papers or perhaps have a peek at “The Behavior of Organisms”. Or see some of the applications that psychologist-practitioners did building on his work.

    By the time he was writing that book I think he was a bit bonkers and had advanced beyond dogmatic though I thankfully never had to read it; I just have heard of it. I did read Waldon II which he wrote back in the 1940’s. It was a bit weird but okay.

    A lot of Skinner’s bad publicity seems to come from people who have little or no knowledge of his hard-core published work. Most of his early work probably still holds but the field has progressed a lot since the 1930’s and 1940’s.

  18. KG says

    You must have read a different Walden Two (note spelling) than me, because the one I read was both sinister and ridiculous. But then, you are both sinister and ridiculous yourself, so I suppose it adds up.