What’s Jordan Peterson been up to?

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We haven’t heard much from him lately. Last year, you couldn’t go on the internet without groaning over yet another fanboi raving about how wonderful Dr Peterson is, he changed my life, don’t you know, and his self-help book is the greatest, and millions of people everywhere have turned their life around with his advice. He was raking in so much money from Patreon and his best-seller book that he was certainly able to live a life of indolence and leisure, and of course, as the master of giving advice to others, he was sure to be living his life as an exemplar of moderation and reason.

Nope. Peterson has been living in ‘absolute hell’. We learn about all this from his daughter Mikhaila, who has been promoted to being “a well known speaker on diet”, eliding over the fact that she has no training or qualifications in nutrition.

  • He acquired “a severe addiction to benzodiazepine tranquilizers”. Really severe.
  • He claims to have started taking them because of his “autoimmune reaction to food”. This is also why he started his bizarre all-beef diet. (By the way, one of the side effects of benzodiazepine is constipation. The man has been corked up for a while.)
  • Getting off of a benzodiazepine addiction is tough; withdrawal seizures are common, and they can kill.
  • North American doctors are aware of this, and wanted to wean him off the dangerous addiction with other drugs. Therefore, they are all puppets of the pharmaceutical companies.
  • So he flew off to Russia to get treatment, where the doctors have the guts to treat him as a man should be treated.
  • The Russian doctors put him in an induced coma, presumably as a consequence of his seizures. And his pneumonia.
  • He nearly died several times.
  • Jordan Peterson has only just come out of an intensive care unit, Mikhaila said. He has neurological damage, and a long way to go to full recovery. He is taking anti-seizure medication and cannot type or walk unaided, but is “on the mend” and his sense of humour has returned.

I’m glad he’s well enough now to laugh, but I would have just told him to stand up straight and clean his room. That would have fixed him right up.

Do people still take advice from this horrific wreck of a man? Not to blame victims of disease or accident, but all of his problems seem to be self-inflicted.

Pounded in the Butt by Our Carnivore Diet

I read a curious book last night…well, more like skimmed an odd and repetitious assortment of short transcripts. Jordan & Mikhaila Peterson – Our Carnivore Diet: How to cure Depression and Disease with Meat only: Revised Transcripts and Blogposts. Featuring Dr. Shawn Baker was available for free on Kindle Unlimited, so I downloaded it.

It’s bad.

The cover is a hint. It’s a poor Photoshop with sloppy layout, the kind of thing you’d see on a self-published romance novel with the smiling heroine in front in her best bikini, and in the background the brooding, rich Heathcliff she’s going to win over…except, oh dear, that’s her father in the swim trunks. Seriously, Dr Peterson, you’re rich enough to hire a graphics pro to do the design. Chuck Tingle could have done a far better job, and would have at least thrown in a few dinosaurs and a sentient physical manifestation or two.

The contents are worse. The first chapter is a transcript of an interview with Steve Paikin (who?). The second and third are transcripts of interviews with Joe Rogan (yeesh). The fourth is a transcript of a podcast with Robb Wolf (?). The fifth is a transcript of…you get the idea. Then there are a couple of extracted blog posts, and a bonus(!) transcript of some carnivore diet proponent named Shawn Baker (who? again). And they’re all the same!

All can be summarized similarly. Jordan Peterson or Mikhaila Peterson talk with a sympathetic host about how miserable their lives were, and how Mikhaila was afflicted with these terrible idiopathic diseases and Jordan was so depressed. I believe that part. Mikhaila had rheumatoid arthritis to such a terrible degree that she had hip and ankle joints replaced with prosthetics, and Jordan always comes across as a sad sack. They were really sick! And then they say they got better when they started cutting stuff out of their diet, finally getting down to nothing but beef and salt and water. Yay! They found the cure! And the gullible hosts praise them.

Except, I would say two things. They were suffering from real but idiopathic diseases. All “idiopathic” means is that the doctors don’t know the causes. Have they considered the fact that their “cure” is also idiopathic? I accept that they say they feel better now, but we don’t know that their all-meat diet has anything at all to do with it, and announcing that they have the universal CURE in a book title is classic quackery.

The second issue is that every chapter in their book is a repetitive recital of the same damn things: the same two people describing their complaints and their history, in nearly the same words, in public broadcasts over and over. If you repeat the same anecdote 11 times, it doesn’t magically transform into empirical data.

After reading their best case summary of their diet, I am not at all tempted to try it. In fact, I’ve gone the opposite way in my life, cutting way back on meat and enjoying a vegetarian diet, and I feel pretty good.

If I repeat that sentence 11 times would you find that a compelling reason that you should conform to my dietary rules? I would hope not.

Maybe if I also put a photo of my wife in a bikini on the cover?

I think Peterson is cracking up

Sorry, buckos, it’s another comment on Jordan Peterson. But I think he’s losing it. He’s on a lengthy world tour and is posting delusional missives about his mental state.

So it’s 2:39 a.m. in Oslo, Norway. I woke up in a too-hot hotel room out of a fitful nightmare, which I can only partially remember. I haven’t had a dream that I could recall even that clearly in a very long period of time. The last one was about traveling and speaking and not getting enough to eat. That was about six months ago. It occurred just before I embarked on what has now been a nine-month, 85-city world tour. I am on a very restricted diet, eating only beef and water, as a consequence of what appears to be a rather intractable auto-immune disease. I was concerned at some deep unconscious level about what might go wrong if I set out to talk with 250,000 people: If I could not eat, then I could not think and then things would not go well. Hence the nightmare. It was a warning of what might go wrong (and has not).

Has too.

I don’t remember my dreams very often, either, but when I do, they tend to be surreal and sort of playful (I’m one of those lucid dreamers). I don’t think I’ve ever had a violent dream about beating people up — maybe it’s because I eat a healthy diet — but it seems to be one of his themes.

In this dream I was speaking to a young man. He was very garrulous and irritating; he was unkempt, poorly put together, and he simply would not shut up. Everything he said was designed to provoke and to test. He finally pushed me beyond my limit of tolerance. I grabbed him, physically, and threw him against the wall. It was like wrestling with dough.

In my dream, I wrestled my opponent to the ground. He was still talking, mindlessly, mechanically, rapidly, nonstop. I bent his wrists to force his knuckles into his mouth. His arms bent like rubber and, even though I managed the task, he did not stop babbling.

You’d think a psychologist would be able to provide some insight into all this. But no. It was because he had a bad experience with a French journalist the day before. He was resentful because the journalist wouldn’t swallow the bullshit he peddles, so he had a dream about forcing him to accept what he said. His response is to dehumanize someone who disagreed with him.

I hadn’t spent two hours talking to a person. The person wasn’t there, or was barely there (even though the journalist had the makings, I would say, of a fine young man). I couldn’t reach him. Instead, I had a very irritating discussion with an ideologically possessed puppet and that was both too familiar and too unpleasant. I had a shower, and we went for a steak, and we tried to put the episode behind us, as we must, under such conditions, when the next city and the next audience beckons, the very next day. But the part of me that lurks underneath, dreaming, still had something to say.

And that something was SHUT UP!, and also to regurgitate that NPC meme that’s making the rounds of the right-wing trolls.

He’s not holding up well under the strain of his diet and finding out that a lot of people can see right through him. Poor man.

Dinner at the Petersons’

I think I’d pass. Following the lead of the daughter, Mikhaila Peterson, she and her father, Jordan, eat a diet that consists entirely of “beef, salt, and water”, and they never, ever cheat. Well, not exactly. Mikhaila admits I can also, strangely enough, tolerate vodka and bourbon, which is nice — one does wonder what else she can tolerate.

Jordan Peterson admits to also drinking club soda, which, after being told is just water, he feels compelled to clarify.

“Well, when you’re down to that level, no, it’s not, Joe. There’s club soda, which is really bubbly. There’s Perrier, which is sort of bubbly. There’s flat water, and there’s hot water. Those distinctions start to become important.”

Context! Speaking precisely! It’s all very important! What you eat, not so much.

The author of the article asked an expert about the consequences of an all-beef diet.

“Physiologically, it would just be an immensely bad idea,” Jack Gilbert, the faculty director at the University of Chicago’s Microbiome Center and a professor of surgery, told me during a recent visit to his lab. “A terribly, terribly bad idea.”

Gilbert has done extensive research on how the trillions of microbes in our guts digest food, and the look on his face when I told him about the all-beef diet was unamused. He began rattling off the expected ramifications: “Your body would start to have severe dysregulation, within six months, of the majority of the processes that deal with metabolism; you would have no short-chain fatty acids in your cells; most of the by-products of gastrointestinal polysaccharide fermentation would shut down, so you wouldn’t be able to regulate your hormone levels; you’d enter into cardiac issues due to alterations in cell receptors; your microbiota would just be devastated.”

While much of the internet has been following this story in a somewhat snide way, Gilbert appeared genuinely concerned and saddened: “If she does not die of colon cancer or some other severe cardiometabolic disease, the life—I can’t imagine.”

I’m also thinking of the consequences of a lack of fiber, and the strain on your kidneys, and of a 26 year old with severe gout. Beef and alcohol, that’s what you’re going to get. Unless, of course, you’re just like the Breatharians, who claim to live on air and sunlight, yet have regularly been caught cheating.

But he says he never ever cheats! Well, that’s exactly what a cheater would say, and isn’t it odd that he asserted that when no one had accused him of doing so?

I thought this was the meat of the article, the real conflict in what they’re promoting:

The popularity of Peterson’s narrative is explained by more than its timeless tropes; it has also been amplified by the fact that her father has occasionally cast his spotlight onto her story. Jordan Peterson’s recent book, Twelve Rules for Life, includes the story of his daughter’s health trials. The elder Peterson, a psychologist at the University of Toronto, could at first seem an unlikely face for acceptance of personal, subjective truth, as he regularly professes the importance of acting as purely as possible according to rigorous analysis of data. He argued in a recent video that American universities are the home to ideologues who claim that all truth is subjective, that all sex differences are socially constructed, and that Western imperialism is the sole source of all Third World problems. In his book, he writes that academic institutions are teaching children to be brainwashed victims, and that the rigorous critical theoretician is morally obligated to set them straight.

He demands adherence to an objective truth, but happily wanders off into the weeds on the basis of anecdotes. Actually, if you ever listen to his lectures, all he’s got are subjective opinions that spring out of the twisty morass of his brain, so it shouldn’t be surprising that he’s endorsing dietary quackery. What he says has an extraordinarily tenuous connection to what he does.

My daughter is roughly the same age as Mikhaila Peterson. I’m proud of how Skatje turned out sensible and reasonable and living a well-balanced life, although she’s probably not going to get as rich off bunkum with as little work as Mikhaila.

Also, my daughter is a vegetarian, which kind of makes her the anti-Mikhaila.

Classic nutritional quackery

Mikhaila Peterson has a snazzy name for her diet: The Lion Diet.

The Lion Diet: Ruminant meat, salt, and water. Organs incorporated if you’d like but not necessary. High fat cuts to stay in ketosis or added tallow (ruminant meat fat). Fasting as you feel necessary. Eating every day isn’t necessary but most people like 1-2 meals per day.

That’s not quite right. If you look at her list of allowed foods, it includes a lot of green leafy vegetables, and just minimizes carbohydrates, so it’s not as horrible as it sounds. A diet of nothing but meat is something that no human society has ever tried, so you know that it’s not something we’re well-adapted to…but lots of individuals have tried all kinds of wacky combinations.

What’s really horrible about it are her exaggerated medical claims. It seems to cure just about everything. She hasn’t yet gone on to claim that it cures cancer, too, but give her time.

CEO of The Lion Diet, Inc. #𝐋𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐃𝐢𝐞𝐭 : 𝐁𝐞𝐞𝐟, 𝐬𝐚𝐥𝐭, 𝐰𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐫 = complete remission from severe autoimmune arthritis, and depression.

She really relies on the notoriety of her father to “sell” this crap (it’s not clear what this CEO could be selling, other than Patreon memberships; you’ve already got the complete summary of the diet). She claims to have “cured” him of all kinds of problems.

My dad suffered from a number of health problems too. Not like me, but the same depression and similar fatigue and weight gain. Gum disease and skin problems and GERD. He’s fixed too. He lost 50 pounds in the first year on this diet. For anyone who watches his videos, you can see the difference from December 2015 to now.

Sure. His emotional problems are all gone now. He’s not a weeping wreck anymore.

Poor man. It’s weird how he breaks down because mobs of people criticize him on the internet, but his advice to everyone else is “Man up, bucko”.

Speaking of hypocrisy, it’s also amazing how so many skeptics gullibly follow anecdotal dietary advice and accept grand claims of cures simply because the quack peddling them is related to the guru they follow.

If you poke a sewer rat in the eye, it doesn’t respond rationally

I did a little experiment. I made a video criticizing a loony comic book guy who hates SJWs. I was also partly driven by disgust: he lies transparently. In this one video he made, he goes over published reviews of a movie online, taps on the screen with his pencil, and says the reverse of what the reviewer said, and his fans believe him. Honestly, it’s that blatant: he shows a positive, favorable review, which any viewer can easily read, and declares that, well, this reviewer can’t even stomach the film, contradicting the review in plain sight. It’s psychologically fascinating and revolting at the same time.

So I pointed out that he’s lying over and over again.

Of course his fans discovered that I’d criticized their hero and came flooding in, which is where it gets interesting. I’m told I have low testosterone, I’m boring, I need to watch more of his videos (no thank you), and since I’m obviously a Social Justice Warrior, my opinion is not to be trusted. For instance…

I think you misunderstood what SJW is . You are a Beta Male by definition. That would make you a white knight with a agenda to deny your own masculinity in procurement of selfish attention . Mostly by overly dominant females. Your total lack of information is also a symptom of a SJW mindset and especially a Beta Male.

Ouch. So many cliches. “Beta male”, “white knight”, “deny your own masculinity”, and I’m motivated solely by my craving for attention from dominant feeemales. None of that addresses any of the points I made, and in fact, none of the comments addressed the problem that this Ethan Van Sciver character is openly misrepresenting what he shows.

Further, they mainly seemed to be focused on their martyr complex and imaginary conspiracy theories. For example…

The problem with SJ is that it’s not real Justice. In real justice, you are innocent until proven guilty. You have the right to a trial. You have the right face your accuser. You have the right to counsel. Evidence needs to be gathered to support the accuser’s claims. SJ has no court, no appeals and no jury. SJ only requires an accusation and a twitter mob to take your life away. SJ is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

I couldn’t let that stand, so I asked, “Whose life has been taken away without due process by SJWs?” He had an answer.

OH MAN! I’m glad you asked. I’m short on time, so I’ll just point some more glaring examples of the lives effected by an evil philosophy.

Count Dancula
Jessie Smollet
Vic Mignogna
Hayden Williams
Nick Sandmann (along with the entire school)
Steven Crowder
Jordan Peterson
Martina Markota
Lindsay Shepherd

I could sincerely go on. Social justice sounds beautiful. I get it. But the underlying philosophical pillars are build on sand.

Jordan Peterson video on SJ:

Count Dankula is a British YouTuber who trained a dog to make a Nazi salute in response to the phrase, “Gas the Jews”. He was fined £800 for violating the Communications Act with his tasteless joke. He then went on to raise £100,000 on GoFundMe.

Jussie Smollett is an American actor who apparently (it’s currently under investigation) staged a hate crime. I’m not sure why he’s on the list, since it blew up in his face and he’s destroyed his own career.

Vic Mignogna is an American voice actor for anime. Multiple women, many of whom were underage at the time, have stepped forward to accuse him of decades worth of sexual harassment, and he’s lost a major gig after an investigation, and anime cons aren’t inviting him to their events any more. So yes, he’s lost revenue for his actions. Deservedly.

Hayden Williams is a representative for Turning Point USA who was punched by Zachary Greenberg while he was staffing a table at UC Berkeley. Greenberg was arrested and is facing serious criminal charges. Greenberg’s life has been and is going to be seriously affected…is that a bad thing?

Nick Sandmann is the smug, obnoxious high school kid who confronted a Native American singer at the Lincoln Memorial. Nothing has happened to him or his school, other than that his behavior was shown in a viral video. His family is suing the Washington Post for $250 million.

Steven Crowder…are you fucking kidding me? He’s one of the dumbest people on YouTube, and he’s parlayed that into gigs on Blaze TV, Fox News, PragerU, and the Glenn Beck show. The only penalty he seems to have suffered is that Fox News dropped him…for criticizing noted SJW Sean Hannity.

Jordan Peterson…jesus. This is ridiculous. Peterson is a man who has turned his persecution complex and his bizarre Jungian ideas into a money-making machine. He has suffered no substantial consequence other than, perhaps, self-afflicted constipation from his terrible diet.

Martina Markota is a far-right fanatical Trump supporter who spreads conspiracy theories, like PizzaGate, and shills for the Proud Boys. She had an account with Chase Bank that was closed, because the banks…hate…conservatives? I guess? She then raised $34,000 on IndieGoGo.

Lindsay Shepherd was a Peterson acolyte who was reprimanded for showing a Peterson video in a class she was TAing (I actually think the reprimand was inappropriate), and has since gone on to a career as a speaker and columnist for far right media, and has a few multi-million dollar lawsuits against the university pending.

So, basically, in response to a request for names of people who have had their lives taken away by horrible SJWs, he listed people who are profiting from conspiracy theories about how horrible SJWs are taking away people’s lives. Please, could someone ruin my life this way?

I expressed my disbelief that he actually cited Jordan Peterson as someone whose life has been destroyed by SJWs. Here’s his nonsensical reply.

Jordan Peterson is a Genius Canadian Treasure. And the leftist propaganda machine have been trying to slander him for years. It’s not working because no one trusts the media, and Peterson makes sense. The fact that he’s successful isn’t evidence that he’s not been maligned. All the money he’s making is a result of free market choices. Which in the end, is the fairest measure of success.

I think I’m done with these loons. Experiment successful. Once again, dishonest conservative blowhard is exposed for his lies, and once again, it makes no difference — it will be turned into profit and imaginary confirmation of the lies.

Have you ever noticed how often the origin of breasts is explained as “for men”?

I made a video about hypotheses for the evolution of breasts in women. Sort of a video. It’s not very visual, and is just me talking, because I didn’t want anyone distracted by sexy pictures — that wasn’t the point. I even left my sexy face out of it.

Since it’s just me droning on, I include my script below, so you can skip the video altogether and just read what I said.

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Now you too can pretend you were at Skepticon this year

Here’s my talk on the Cambrian from Skepticon 6.

Oh, hey, I just realized I could post the content of that text-heavy slide I flashed, showing the sources I used. So here you go:

Web reviews from Donald Prothero, Nick Matzke, Larry Moran.

Briggs, D.E.G.; Fortey, R.A. (1989). The early radiation and relationships of the major arthropod groups. Science, 246(4927), 241-243.
Budd, G. E., and S. Jensen. 2000. “A critical reappraisal of the fossil record of the bilaterian phyla.” Biological Reviews 75:253-295.
Erwin D and Valentine J (2013). The Cambrian explosion : the construction of animal biodiversity. Greenwood Village, CO, Roberts and Company Publishers.
Marshall, Charles R. (2006). “Explaining the Cambrian ‘explosion’ of animals.” Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences. 34: 355-384.
Smith MP, Harper DAT (2013) Causes of the Cambrian Explosion. Science 341:1355.
Long M, Betran E, Thornton K, Wang W (2003) The origin of new genes: glimpses from the young and old. Nature Rev Genet 4:865.
Knoll AH, Carroll SB (199) Early Animal Evolution: Emerging Views from Comparative Biology and Geology. Science 284:2129.
Erwin DH, Laflamme M, Tweedt SM, Sperling EA, Pisani D, Peterson KJ (2011) The Cambrian conundrum: early divergence and later ecological success in the early history of animals. Science. 334(6059):1091.
Peterson KJ, Dietrich MR, McPeek MA (2009) MicroRNAs and metazoan macroevolution: insights into canalization, complexity, and the Cambrian explosion. Bioessays. 31(7):736.

What caused the Cambrian explosion? MicroRNA!


No, not really — my title is a bit of a sensationalistic exploitation of the thesis of a paper by Peterson, Dietrich, and McPeek, but I can buy into their idea that microRNAs (miRNAs) may have contributed to the pattern of metazoan phylogenies we see now. It’s actually a thought-provoking concept, especially to someone who favors the evo-devo view of animal evolution. And actually, the question it answers is why we haven’t had thousands of Cambrian explosions.

In case you haven’t been keeping up, miRNAs are a hot topic in molecular genetics: they are short (21-23 nucleotides) pieces of single stranded RNA that are not translated into protein, but have their effect by binding to other strands of messenger RNA (mRNA) to which they complement, effectively down-regulating expression of that messenger. They play an important role in regulating the levels of expression of other genes.

One role for miRNAs seems to be to act as a kind of biological buffer, working to limit the range of effective message that can be operating in the cell at any one time. Some experiments that have knocked out specific miRNAs have had a very interesting effect: the range of expressed phenotypes for the targeted message gene increases. The presence or absence of miRNA doesn’t actually generate a novel phenotype, it simply fine-tunes what other genes do — and without miRNA, some genes become sloppy in their expression.

This talk of buffering expression immediately swivels a developmental biologist’s mind to another term: canalization. Canalization is a process that leads organisms to produce similar phenotypes despite variations in genotype or the environment (within limits, of course). Development is a fairly robust process that overcomes genetic variations and external events to yield a moderately consistent outcome — I can raise fish embryos at 20°C or at 30°C, and despite differences in the overall rate of growth, the resultant adult fish are indistinguishable. This is also true of populations in evolution: stasis is the norm, morphologies don’t swing too widely generation after generation, but still, we can get some rapid (geologically speaking) shifts, as if forms are switching between a couple of stable nodes of attraction.

Where the Cambrian comes into this is that it is the greatest example of a flowering of new forms, which then all began diverging down different evolutionary tracks. The curious thing isn’t their appearance — there is evidence of a diversity of forms before the Cambrian, bacteria had been flourishing for a few billion years, etc., and what happened 500 million years ago is that the forms became visible in the fossil record with the evolution of hard body parts — but that these phyla established body plans that they were then locked into, to varying degrees, right up to the modern day. What the authors are proposing is that miRNAs might be part of the explanation for why these lineages were subsequently channeled into discrete morphological pathways, each distinct from the other as chordates and arthropods and echinoderms and molluscs.

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