Peterson and Harris ... part 3

(Mervin Bitikofer) #1

Given how much I and others here enjoyed the Part 2 of Sam Harris’ meeting with Jordan Peterson in Vancouver, I don’t know how I missed that there was a “Part 3” in Dublin just weeks later - this time moderated by Douglas Murray (himself quite a treat). This one is also a couple hours long, with much of the first hour rehearsing / adding on to / continuing their part 2 (Vancouver discussion) that was linked in my initial post a couple months back. The last hour gets more interestingly political. Those who are fascinated by / curious about Peterson won’t be disappointed by his appearance here.

Not that this is all fresh - this talk was in September, 2018. But it was fresh to me, and I imagine might be enjoyed by others here who haven’t yet seen it. Could be enlightening to discuss.

(RiderOnTheClouds) #2

I’m wondering, has anyone read Peterson’s 12 Rules here, if so, is it worth the read?

(Mervin Bitikofer) #3

I’ll have to leave the true criticism / praise of his book to somebody who has actually read it. But that won’t stop me from indulging in just a bit of pre-judgment of a book by its “cover”. Most of his 12 rules, on the face of it are “no-brainers”. Of course the prudent are going to do all these things. (Though rule 6 needs a lot of caveats that I expect he must/or should provide in his text.) Based on what I’ve heard others say of Peterson (some of whom I believe had read the book), I’m guessing that if you are already inclined towards his message and style, then you would find benefit from lots of valuable nuggets in his commentary along the way. If you are the “type” whose blood pressure is easily elevated by his “type”, then you will probably spend most of his pages getting offended. I don’t feel any personal need to read it since I think I’ve already gleaned the beneficial parts of his message from these speeches.

And by the way, I’ve now looked for and found more. There is a part 4 (in London) which I’ve now finished listening to (with more Douglas Murray again too). Yes, each one has some inevitable repetition and review of stuff they’ve been over, but they get on to new things, and thus far each one (in my view) has been more revealing / beneficial than the last. It looks like part 4 might be their final one, so far as I can tell for now.

One criticism that I imagine probably comes easily from many listeners will be the latent arrogance in all of these lengthy discussions of three very well educated, (and I’m pretty sure independently wealthy) figures sitting around in their comfort, indulging in the conceit that the world waits on them with baited breath to engineer the solutions for everybody/everything. They are not unaware of this conceit and refer to their own privileged position more than once. And I’m not unaware of my own “fallacy of genetics” here, that the truth of what they say should suffer any discount or enjoy any promotion based on who is saying it. (Peterson is, shall we way, “unsympathetic” with all those who indulge in such “collectivist” write-off - and I resonate well enough with his objections there too. I too have little patience with the far-left that fails to realize how much they suffer underneath this habit.)

Yet that said, (and to indulge in use of Peterson’s own agena - I think he would probably actually approve!), I don’t think it entirely a genetic fallacy to invoke some healthy skepticism just on the strength of noting that it is wealth and educated privilege that is talking in these exchanges. There may be some great or at least beneficial insights to be had here, sure enough (I kind of hope so after indulging so much of my own time). But when three self-appointed luminaries (none of whom, to all appearances, believe in the same God that the working people of the world pray to - Peterson’s sympathies that way notwithstanding) think that the world’s future hangs in the balance of their pronouncements, I’m pretty sure God laughs. Maybe it’s just because I’ve been reading Ecclesiastes, and in among all this literature so mocked by Harris I find words that cut right through all this stuff with a perception that continues to cross the ages. Read the very final conclusion of Ecclesiastes 8 to see what I mean. And no, I (and most every wise Christian I know) does not at all read the bible the way folks like Harris are locked into imagining we do [he can’t break away from his own straw man in this regard]. Very few of us read the Bible as some sort of flat, magically dictated book where every verse is childishly attributed equal weight, and as if there were no effort of study made incumbent on us. In any case, Peterson is wise to note that one of the valuable gifts of cultural archetype and story is to place even the highest leaders underneath something to which they too remain accountable. And Harris in his turn, does not deny the importance of that either, wisely (and Christianly!) seeing the highest leaders as being accountable to all those beneath them.

So I do feel free to note that Harris’ side here contains a lot of wisdom, strident and unyieldingly anti-religious as it is. I think I would even go so far as to call it “wisdom from above” even though Harris himself refuses to own it as such. But I do think that he is not so bereft of the Spirit as he would have us traditional religious types (and himself) believe. In this regard, I believe I’m on pretty firm biblical footing to think that God shares in Peterson’s scoffing against all our “collectivist write-off”, when it comes to us indulging in that practice about whom God allegedly can or can’t speak to and through.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #4

Continuing my previous thoughts…

Regarding our conceit (and not just that of a few speakers that many may admire or listen to) of thinking we potentially have the world’s problems in hand, I don’t think it a stretch to imagine the Creator’s response being: “that’s soooo cute!” And said with every bit the drippingly offensive (and yet totally loving) condescension that a would-be mover and shaker thus addressed would hear in the phrase. “I know you ‘just have to’ build that block tower, honey, but let’s get that diaper changed first!” And that sentence alone might get us all the way from the tower of babel to a figure hanging on a cross. Yeah - I know; “cute” isn’t the thought offered up in Genesis on human ambition - more of a grudging admiration actually. But I’m trying to attend more to a broader incarnational biblical narrative here, than the jots and tittles of one particular episode within it.

And this shouldn’t for a moment be taken as a dismissal of human endeavor. The orbit of the whole incarnational enterprise has in its sights both “what is man that you care for him…” as well as “we’re but a little lower than angels”; and we aren’t given leave to stray too far from either of those poles. We are but dust, and yet not a hair escapes God’s notice and care. So our play / work are always a sacred space. And I think discussions like Harris / Peterson, or like we have right here and the work we do is all invested with a significance that does dignify the endeavor, even while we imagine that the sound and fury made by ivory tower leaders or that we indulge in making ourselves has a higher grandiosity than it actually does. We may not be the center of the universe, but to be placed near the center of somebody’s universe is enough. It’s a conceit that nobody on either side is willing to let go of, and that is probably as it should be.

“There we go, honey! Now get to those blocks. Let’s see how high you can make that tower!”


I’ve read it - I think it’s definitely worth a read. It’s thought provoking and even entertaining.

I think there are different Petersons that need to be dealt with.

There’s academic Peterson…perhaps best exemplified by his online Psych courses from U of T on YouTube (which I’ve watched both twice).

There’s self-help Peterson that is more commonly seen and heard lately. Still light years more advanced than most hucksters of the “you can do it!” crowd…but less interesting to me.

But…I think what is lost to non-Canadians…is the context of Peterson standing up for free speech and resisting government mandating speech here. This is the Peterson I know. This is the Peterson that introduced me to the other Petersons nearly three years ago. For a while there we were all holding our breath to see if JBP was going to get fired by the U of T or charged with hate speech by the province of Ontario. His actions really matter in a real world way - not just philosophically. The fact that Peterson risked his job, his livelihood, on principle…is what too few people now understand. Before he really blew up, before the Newman interview on BBC 4, this U of T professor said…”I won’t say those ■■■■ words…and that’s that!”

As a Canadian I have the utmost respect for him because of this. It just happens to turn out that his lectures and his book are interesting, thought provoking, and very enjoyable.


Oh…I’ve seen him live twice…well worth it. I took my 14 year old son the second time. It seems absurd to be sitting there with a few thousand people listening to a psychologist give a lecture. But it’s wortn experiencing.

(John Dalton) #7

This might be of interest!

(Mervin Bitikofer) closed #8

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(Mervin Bitikofer) opened #9

(Mervin Bitikofer) #10

I think I was hasty to have earlier dismissed the benefit of taking in part 1 of these Peterson/Harris discussions in my enthusiasm for parts 2-4. Since these latter three parts covered so much (with much apparent redundancy), it seemed a good way to shave away at the 6+ hours of total listening time. But now, having enjoyed those latter three so much, I went back to take in part 1. It too is worth delving into as they open up the topics expanded on in the subsequent talks.

If anyone has peripheral interest (but not 2 hours worth of interest), I think you’ll find the discussion quality / relevance to much of what we’re about here ramps up at about 17 minutes in - then just listen to what follows for as long as it engages you. It’s about there that they begin discussing the possibility that religion could ever be more (on the positive side) as opposed to a negative set of dogmas. Bret pushes Harris on this some, and it is interesting where/what Harris is willing to concede.

One of the weaknesses for Harris’ side, I think, is his apparent unwillingness to think of religion apart from its more militant or fundamentalistic adherents. To him, that set represents the “truest” or most honest representation of religion, and any who want to start nuancing anything from sacred texts or interpreting things to make them more palatable to modern sensibilities are failing to be honest to a “plain reading” of the texts. Harris notes that you can always find Christians on any side of any issue (like slavery), but that the Christians who oppose such things are (on Harris’ view) not doing it because of their religion but because of other more noble elements of their surrounding culture that they have allowed themselves to be influenced by. He supports this by insisting that because the sacred text (in his view) most clearly supports slavery - and indeed is [had been] interpreted as doing so by so many Christians, that this deflates any myth that Christianity of itself has provided any true seed of change. I.e. --while yes, the walls/dogmas of Christianity are certainly bashed down, they are (using Harris’ insightful turn of phrase here) always bashed down from the outside, never from the inside.

[added edit: I think Christ himself is the central, (and all-too-unrepeated) counterpoint that is the vital antidote to Harris’ charge here. The charge stands as very real to current religious practice, I suggest. But what Christ did was the epitome (in Christian perspective) of blowing down walls from the inside - or what we now later insist was the inside - a distinction that would no doubt not be lost to Harris.]

I find it interesting that Harris considers himself such an authority on sacred texts that he is able to discern the best scholarship about them (of fundamentalist bent apparently) and dismiss all other scholarship as less than honest to the text. But that weakness aside, I do appreciate many of his insights and critiques of fundamentalism and even religion generally (much of which Peterson agrees with). It is a badly needed critique. Thoughts?


I think those are some helpful thoughts and observations.

I appreciate Harris and I find him to be a clear thinker. What frustrates me about him, however, is he seems to be unaware that he crosses over into the metaphysical with his some of his explanations. I find the same with Dawkins.

(Dominik Kowalski) #12

My main problem with Harris is that he is not able to put his presuppositions together in a coherent worldview. Take for example his position on morality. He´s not denying that there is some kind of objective morality, but at the same time, to fit coherent within his worldview, it mustn´t be in a platonic way and obviously not in any kind of divine nature. The problem is, as aproponent of scientism, his tools aren´t able at all to offer an objective morality and it also doesn´t eliminate the problem of relativism, which under a rigorous metaphysical analysis under an atheistic worldview, is the only logical outcome. The not finished degree in philosophy shines through here.

(Phil) #13

Sad to say, I am usually the trying to see how high I can build it before the grandkids knock it down.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #14

He has a partial degree in philosophy? I hadn’t even realized that, though I’m not surprised. You see the glass half-empty, and I am glad to see it half-full. That probably puts him a partial philosophy degree ahead of most of his like-minded peers.

I think he works hard (and with some success in my view) to dispose of the canard that atheists are necessarily morally crippled for want of absolutes. There still may be the “cut flower” problem weighing against them - time is needed for any more verdict on that one. But their ability to run with less absolute (but still current) cultural consensus about many things involving “the bad life” or “the good life” and our wanting to move as many people as possible from one to the other isn’t a bad start. Don’t get me wrong - I don’t entirely disagree with you. But I no longer enthusiastically push the “atheists can’t really have any valid morals” narrative that I once would have resonated more strongly with.

There’s a metaphor with deep profundity in there somewhere.

Maybe a bunch of our generation needs to get together and reminisce about the ages of simple blocks that weren’t pre-molded plastic toys with corporately prescribed narratives.

Seriously, though. We’ll worry a little more if you’re spending a lot of time on it when none of the grand-kids are even around. Keep us posted. :crazy_face:

(Dominik Kowalski) #15

I begin with the end of your comment, since this is what it boils down to.

This was not the argument I was making at all. Quite the opposite actually, because goodness is Gods nature, I am convinced that an objective morality exists. Secular people generally tend to agree with the notion of a objective good and evil and I would cite anthropology as supporting evidence since all cultures across the world, ancient to modern, tend to have very similar moral standards/values. Sure, e.g. a human sacrifice like the Aztecs committed is barbaric to us, but it doesn´t for example apply to then conclude that these people were okay with murder, since it was rather seen as an honor at certain times and it doesn´t resemble to what we would define as murder, because the Aztecs would define their act another way. But a good example may be theft, as it was and is condemned in pretty much every cultural environments. Like I said, the values are very similar, though not the same, of course.

However I don´t deny for a moment that atheists can be moral or have valid morals, because they also have access to the objectivity of moral standards. It wouldn´t be very objective, if only certain people could have access to it, would it? Where we differ is in how we argue for the existence of this objective morality and in which form they exist. Let me paint this out for you, while I comment on the rest of your remarks.

This is an odd statement, because I don´t know who would possibly call atheists morally crippled for the want of absolutes? This is an application to objecivity and objective standards and thus fits very well the way we see the nature of morality. People tend to be morally crippled if they approach relativism, because relativism itself holds necessarily the position that every belief about good and evil is equal. Of course, even among seculars who selfproclaim that they deny objective truths this position is only found in a small minority while others think that there are differences in the views on morality, which once again presupposes some standards by which it can bejudged and thus they subvert the principle of relativism. It seems to me the greatest challenge to young people nowadays is to create a coherent worldview. I would say that this is directly caused by the missing knowledge about philosophy from which our society suffers currently.

No, I think you chose the wrong path on that approach. I already mentioned, that religious and secular people think differently about the nature of morality, although even most people on the secular side tend to think of morality as something objective. Now I´m gonna layout why I think this is an incoherent worldview which relies on several non sequitar fallacies. And Harris is a perfect example for that one.

Let´s begin with Harris himself. Let´s summarize his positions at first. He´s a proponent of Scientism. He believes in some way that morality is objective.
Well here already he stumbles. Badly. Premise two in the context of premise one supposes that science is the only reliable method to find those objective standards. Now let´s quickly quote what you wrote about my remark on his philosophy degree.

My first thought was that if you keep on throwing dung against the wall, one will stick inevitably. Because although he may be superior in terms of philosophy compared to many of his peers (Coyne, Krauss) it is still pretty paltry, especially in the area of philosophy of religion, but he still thinks he has the best arguments. Jean-Paul Sartres toenails would roll up. Dennett may be the only exception, but he is equally as weak in the philosophy of religion. Although he has something to say in the philosophy of mind (although his denial of first person experiences/qualia are a denial of subjective experience itself and I don´t think that his arguments are persuasive at all), his arguments against God go down to “one God more”, “If everything has a cause, what caused God” etc. It´s pretty sad.

But another example of bad philosophy on Harris´ part is found exactly in the realm of morality and metaphysics. He´s a proponent of scientism. It´s also known as logical positivism. The circle of Vienna as its main proponents died around 90 years ago after people like Kurt Gödel and his mathematics gave it its final death blows. I don´t think we have to go through the nonsensical claims of scientism here again, because it is a whole topic of itself and I suppose that you are familiar with them. If not, here is a collection of several of his blogposts on this topic, from my favourite contemporary philosopher of religion, Edward Feser:

Now back to the topic. If we suppose Scientism and that morality is objective, it follows that science can show us what those objective principles are. Harris here commits a categorical mistake, which cannot be resolved in principle. I suppose we would look into neruoscience if we supposed, that science can tell us about morality. The brain structures tell us much about how people often times react in certain situations, because we know that certain structures are more developed than others if certain behaviours are behaved by the person. We may be able to deduce from that through speculation and added data (witness accounts, family and friends telling as about him/her, maybe criminal record) by which standards the one particular person lives by. The categorical mistake is made if we want to conclude, that therefor it can be said if these values by the one person make up for objectivity. Comparisons with other peoples brain show differences. There are differences found in the brains of people from all over the world with different cultural backgrounds. Now how do we get to the objective standards, which seem to exist, because there are, despite all the differences, still stunning similarities?
We can conclude that applying to biology is no good. Standards from individuals are shown, but there are differences and similarities. Harris tries to approach that question with saying that the objective standards are what makes humans flourish. But this answer is also not good, as it pushes the question just one step higher and also doesn´t resolve the problem relativism makes. It would make the question if slavery is good or evil, not a logical, philosophical or even moral question, but rather a geographic one. Of course Harris doesn´t agree. And this is where his worldview falls down like the house of cards it actually is. Because with believing in objective standards of morality he has to presume rules that aren´t bound by geography or any other circumstances. They have to be universals, otherwise relativism is true, which he opposes. Can they be mixed to a certain degree? Only if certain objective, unchanging standards/parameters have already been set, then maybe there is area for disagreement within the bounds of those standards. But Harris doesn´t even offer us them. What can there be left to do? I doubt that Harris will ever say about this question Ignoramus et Ignorabimus, we don´t know and we can never know, as it would subvert his presupposed scientism. And an approach to those standards in a platonic way, would of course refute the scientism, as well as the therefor supposed materialism. Harris suffers from the same problem I have earlier diagnosed for the society nowadays: He just isn´t able to construct a coherent worldview on the basis of his presuppositions, that also gives him conclusions/implications he can accept. I think he shows that regularly when he talks about free will. Although he denies it vehemently, he recommends that we should act as if we would have it. I mean, what the hell is that?

What I meant earlier by saying that you chose the wrong path is, that you seem to think this problem might be resolved in the future. I don´t think this is the case. The question of how to approach the objective moral standards has been a problem since the beginning of philosophy and has been thought about by all kinds of cultures. Harris and his peers chose to approach this problem by using a complete different category. This isn´t a road into the unknown, it has to unavoidably fall down a cliff.

Mervin, I don´t know your political stance, but since I´m a very conservative person I am a big fan of Sir Roger Scruton, I don´t know if you know him. Scruton is a british philosopher of politics, a former agnostic, now member of the anglican church, and in my opinion the greatest political philosopher one alive. Although I don´t agree with him on every topic, he hit the nail on the head when he analyzed the cultural downfall of western Europe and certain parts of the US in terms of shared values. The humanistic (in the new, atheistic sense, originally, in the time of the Renaissance, it meant in a completely different way) movement, as Scruton in his general work and Feser in “The last Superstition” argue, were parasitic to the Christian religion and adapted their value system. Now, with the decline of religiosity in the western states, the downfall of culture and its cherished values were inevitable, as humanists aren´t able to rationally defend the christian morals the west relied and was built upon. And because of the unbelief in the christian claims and thus its missing authority to hold up the standards and because of the philosophical difficulites and probably impossibilities to argue for an objective morality within a secular system, for which I argued above, there may be a certain group that can be persuaded by Harris´ argument for an objective morality, but I would argue that it is doomed to fail because it is an argument from ignorance, similar to YEC who argue against evolution. I respect that you are able to see the positives in Harris´ methods, I personally am only interested in developments and not a series of bubbles. And the belief system of Sam Harris is nothing but that.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #16

I’m confused then, because you sure spent much of the rest of your post trying to demonstrate the poverty of the atheistic lines of thought in this.

I don’t hear Harris defending anything so extreme as positivism. Scientism, yes - and I share in your critical appraisal of Scientism itself. But “positivism” as I’ve understood it is the stronger conviction that there will be rational / mathematical proof possible for everything worth proving. Harris knows better than to back that horse and would not be unaware of Godel’s work that you referred to. No - Harris isn’t trying to offer scientifically iron-clad objectivity. He’s trying to offer enough of a basis (a ‘softer’ objectivity) that should, on his reading, be enough to get the job done without any recourse to what he recognizes as religions. Note - I’m not saying I buy into this. But nor am I willing to dismiss all atheistic challenge here. I think they do offer some valid and needed criticisms of religions generally [and more specifically the less reflective militants of each, which loom large to secularists as the only valid figureheads representing religions].

I agree with you that most of these religion critics usually have a very weak view of religion. It is an underdeveloped straw-man they cling to that seems to have Harris and company stuck in an outmoded set of objections.

(Dominik Kowalski) #17

Every secular person can participate in the objective morality, since it is open to everyone. However I´m arguing that from the angle atheists are approaching it, only an emotional justification for this position will arise, since the tools Harris is providing to get us there, cannot in principle accomplish what he is trying to find and it would, as I would argue if we push the results with those tools until the end, lead to the very opposite, namely relativism. Why is that so? The presupposed Scientism denies every gain of knowledge in fields excluded from the natural science, this has to be the social sciences, history, but also philosophy (which is a pretty self-refuting position, if you yourself engage in Philosophy, but nevermind).
What I am arguing is, that the atheist is able to use and participate objective morality. It only becomes difficult for him if you want to define from that viewpoint what these principles really look like. And if you are Harris you make this problem even worse, because you narrow down the tools from which secular philosophy approaches the topic.

I looked up some definitions and there seems to be quite some confusion about the relationship of those two views. In this discussion I will adapt your definition, that Scientism says that science can prove everything worth proving and agree that Harris doesn´t support logical positivism. However I conclude two things from that:

  1. My points still stand, because Scientism is still a strong enough claim, so that its tools still break.
  2. Harris opened up another can of worms, because although he denies Rationalism, he still believes that we can approach some objective principles and can recognize them as such. The problem with the denial of Rationalism is, that it inherently gives birth to the skepticism against its own position. And you can´t just offer such a position without taking into consideration what this metaphysic means for the reliability of our cognitive faculties. Harris´ philosophy is a mess of impossible to harmonize presuppositions and although he maybe gives us things to consider and think about, his stance on morality is certainly not one of them.
    What I´m trying to make clear is that in order to have even the “softer objectivity”, your position has to offer at least some boundaries for Relativism. The way you describe it sounds very much like Nietzsche when he describes the nature of the “thing itself”. Nietzsche writes that our words to describe things can never exactly grasp what it really is and will always miss the point, although we are able, with the invention of new words, to get closer to the nature of things. But what is the important implication? Nietzsche, while denying that we are ever able to get to it, ascribes an objective state of the nature of things itself. So although Harris may not try to get to an “iron-clad- objectivity”, the “enough of a basis (softer objectivity)” supposes some objective principles which have an objective state in their own nature, although we may never be able to get to them. To judge even for the lowest of a basis, you need a tool to differ between good and evil, which, as I have argued in the long comment above, is certainly not the scientific method.

You shouldn´t. And neither do I. I´m a Theist, because I judge it to be the more rational position and have come over time to the conviction that the metaphysical presuppositions for an atheistic worldview are make it a very weak position. So even if I would somehow loose my Christian faith, atheism is not an alternative anymore. However I appreciate the philosophy of secular people in the philosophy of religion, particularly Quentin Smith, Jean-Paul Sartre, Walter Kaufmann and Friedrich Nietzsche (although lets be clear, he´s a way bigger problem for the atheist), and, as some have suggested, Kai Nielsen. The personalized picture many people have drawn of God, mainly in Protestant denominations deserves criticism where people want to claim too much or argue in a vulnerable way, like often seen in lectures on the problem of evil.
So no, there shouldn´t be any a priori dismissal of atheistic challenges. But since I have read about the Thomistic and Aristotlelian philosophy, I realized that the vast majority of challenges are either strawman or valid attacks on pictures of God, which I don´t share anyway and which I think are hardly defensible if analysed appropriately. If you want an example, Mitchell has a view on God which I only rarely share. However I think the main threat people feel when it comes to Harris´ points arises from his popularity with a certain group and that popularity is mistaken with a confirmation that his ideas are mostly valid. He should be taken seriously when he poses interesting points, but in general in terms of if he really offers any serious challenges philosophically or intellectually I view him like a dog that barks but doesn´t bite.

E: Maybe I forgot a point I wanted to make, because this post was written over two days. Rereading it doesn´t bring anything to memory, but maybe, if needed, I will add what I have possibly forgotten.


I’m honestly trying to pinpoint arrogance and conceit in their discussions as I believe they are engaging in truth-seeking in a congenial manner. I find it fascinating that these proponents of reason and faith have aligned and allied to counter the irrational and chaotic social elements we see around us today (see idw. I think it is a pivotal moment.

As a former neuroscientist new to the formal discourse, I’m seeking an entry point into having a constructive conversation on the way Peterson has woven together the fields of philosophy, psychology and theology into a tapestry where the human evolutionary experience and the “Darwinian” derivation of truth is an integral part of how God has revealed himself to us (in an evolutionary timescale), with the Logos being the central and ultimate manifestation. This has tied together a lot of loose ends for me.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #19

Welcome to the forum, James.

It’s probably a tautology to acknowledge that there must always be an element of conceit present in any of us who presume to seek truth. We must have the conceit that we can possibly find it - that we are interested in running towards it (which is likely not the case - certainly not all the time). We are usually highly interested in the truths that are unpleasant for “our political opponents” (whoever those may be), and much much less interested in truth that weighs in their favor.

Thanks for that NYT link on the Intellectual Dark Web (IDW)! I’m not at all surprised to see the likes of Brett Weinstein involved in that. Watching these Harris / Peterson videos is my first encounter with Weinstein, and I was impressed.

I would like to think of Biologos here as capturing a bit of that same spirit, only trying to do so to bring it out into the light, rather than feeling compelled to hide away in the dark. This forum is not without its tight proscriptions, of course, since we unapologetically pursue the agenda of promoting both science and Christian faith. So in that sense this isn’t like the idw at all. But I argue that in a more valuable sense it actually is. One of the “core values” if you will for the “idw” (as I gather it from your linked article, anyway) is that people need to be willing to confront and speak truth to their own tribe on any political side - even if it gets them ostracized. If Biologos doesn’t fit that nearly perfectly, then I don’t know what would. The danger, of course, is that the movement becomes big enough in its own right that a new tribe is formed, with its own potentially harmful inertias and “unquestionable” agendas. And so it goes - inevitably so I suggest. There is a reason that tribes exist, and it can’t be all bad news. I agree with Harris that not all tribes are equal. Some do better jobs (or less lousy jobs) than others - and I would even extend this to such broad tribes as “the left” and “the right”. Of course those are both so big and broad now that there is no shortage of crazies on both sides. I still harbor and push the opinion that poop needs to be called poop and ushered off the stage. I have little patience for those who want to rabble rouse just for its own sake. Call it my intolerance, and my confrontation to the tribe of “all tolerance”.

To conclude, that I hope the pursuit of truth, wherever it leads, remains a core value to the idw (loose “conspiracy” as it is), and remains a core value for us here too, even as we promote what we see as a particular agenda toward truth.

[with clarifying edits and additional thoughts inserted above – you can edit your own posts, by the way, by clicking the pencil icon underneath that post.]


Thank you for the welcoming comments.
IDW is a bit tangential to the discussion at hand, but I do feel it’s significant, so just my two cents:
“Dark web” is merely in reference to the fact that they are not covered (even actively disparaged) by the mainstream, so discourse is relegated to the obscure (“dark”) recesses of the web.
This is a disparate group of independent thinkers of various persuasions who have perhaps unwittingly been brought together under the banner of free speech in a sociopolitical milieu where the free exchange of ideas has become impossible (especially in academia).
The upshot is that their unedited, long-form Youtube and podcast discussions are freely available and have gained popularity (a tip for those searching on youtube: for any given person of interest, only view clips on their original youtube channels, not the cropped out, sensationalized versions that others put out there). Also, rather than angry atheists dominating the space (presumably they bask in favorable mainstream spotlight), it is the likes of Jordan Peterson (clinical psychologist), the Weinsteins (evolutionary psychologist, mathematician/economist), Harris (neuroscientist), Christina Hoff Sommers (philosopher) and others (classical liberals and feminists, comedians run afoul of PC culture, etc.) who would rather promote truth than toe the party line. It seems they’ve acknowledged each other as “proponents of truth” in spite of their differences.
What I see happening as a social phenomenon is that rational intellectuals have been banished and relegated to the space that Christians have occupied in the latter decades of the postmodern era, and find through direct interaction that there is great compatibility among them, and that their plight is identical. Because they have virtually been excommunicated from cloistered institutional enclosures, the discussions are out in public and via the internet. This revolution is televised, in real time, and a large audience is tuning in.
Peterson is many significant phenomena in one so it’s not easy to pin him to one thing, but in my mind he really does embody this coming together of fields as it relates to evolution and faith.
I think this aspect of the movement is what Biologos stands for, and should actively get in on (if it hasn’t already? Too academic and institutionalized?). I think a new perspective can expound on how the Language of God has been spoken to us throughout evolutionary history. With this, we may more actively affirm that there is absolutely no daylight between the pursuit of science and faith, and that they speak for truth and meaning (same as it ever was) to address ignorance and falsehood in society, whatever it may be. That’s a sweeping statement, but it can be adequately broken down into something more tangible.

Well, is this something fresh, or more of the same?

Throughout the past decade (has it really been that long?) I’ve passively enjoyed what Biologos, the Veritas forums have offered and I think I’m in sync with the tenets. I couldn’t attend the conference and this is my first foray into this forum-- please excuse my naivete as an outsider, but I’m looking to somehow get an overview and engage. Is there anything like a prioritized list of “current issues” germane to the endeavor?

Re towers: I think they make very impressive altars when one understands, sooner or later, what needs to be placed on top.