Former University of Toronto clinical psychology professor Jordan Peterson was recently rebuked for a tweet in which he criticized him Sports Illustrated Choose to put plus-size model Yumi Nu on the cover of a magazine. His tweet (below) not only criticized her looks, but suggested that her appearance was a dictatorial attempt by the left to force people like him to appreciate her beauty.
The backlash against Peterson’s comments was swift and widespread, including by social media influencers; online political commentators (such as Hasan Piker and Vaush); independent news outlets (such as young turk); mainstream news sources (NBC News, New York Post); even international news outlets (The Independent and The Toronto Sun). In the current political climate in the U.S., incidents sparked by the above tweets are becoming more common as the issue of culture wars has come into the spotlight. Popular intellectuals like Peterson have built their careers on raising these hot issues and then claiming they are persecuted when others disagree with them.
Interestingly, much of the backlash ignored Peterson’s follow-up tweet (above), in which he justified his position by linking to scientific articles that purportedly validate his views. Peterson raises an interesting question: Can science be used to measure whether a person is attractive? While some recent studies have attempted to do just that, many more refute these claims.
The sociology of human sexuality and race has long held that concepts such as beauty and race are social constructs—determined by a range of cultural, biological and other complex social factors. To some extent, almost everyone acknowledges this truth. It’s known to be embodied in the classic Twilight episode “The Eye of the Beholder”, the lesson of which is that beauty is a local rather than a universal one.However, the intellectual dark web (of which Peterson is a follower) and practitioners of this “science” try to apply their models to almost everything – linking aspects of human behavior and reducing them to serve evolution Function.
Anyone following the latest round of culture war conspiracies should be familiar with the crowds involved in this complex debate about beauty. sometimes called The Intellectual Dark Web (or IDW for short), who make up a disgraced group of academics and other pseudo-intellectuals (including podcaster Joe Rogan and conservative commentator Dave Rubin) who claim their voices are being overrated Concerned about the suppression of political correctness or “awakening” by traditional institutions.
Peterson’s claims cover the full spectrum of biological determinism, from demonstrating that social hierarchies are natural to claiming that patriarchy should be the preferred organizing principle in society.
However, researchers in the field of evolutionary studies (which focus on the extent to which our behavior is a product of our biology) tend to be far more cautious in their claims than Peterson and his ilk. We can definitely speak of the so-called science of beauty. In response to the overly deterministic model proposed by IDW, the current consensus among scholars in the field is that human “nature” is a complex combination of biology and other social factors. These researchers are quick to note that they can’t tell us very precisely what their findings mean for society as a whole.
The model advocated by the IDW is more akin to the biological determinism of the 18th and 19th centuries—a model that underpinned eugenic programs in Nazi Germany and even the United States. Peterson’s claims cover the full spectrum of biological determinism, from demonstrating that social hierarchies are natural to claiming that patriarchy should be the preferred organizing principle in society. In his book, he also seems to justify violent men (like the Buffalo shooter or the Uwald shooter) by asserting that young people must bear an unfair burden.To say that the ideas supported by Peterson and IDW are related to white supremacist ideology is not just speculation, because their ideas obviously from Academia on far-right groups online.
Related: How the far right chose science
In fact, the parallels between the Buffalo shooter’s rhetoric and those espoused by Peterson et al. are strikingly similar. Far-right groups are pleased with Peterson’s claim that hierarchies are natural and beneficial to society because they are the “legitimate” scientific basis for promoting racist ideologies. The manuscript left by the Buffalo shooter is threaded through with references to a series of claims supported by race scientists.These include tweets, memes, and links to prominent thinkers in the field, such as Steven Pinker and his colleagues, who publish and support flawed literature direct quote by the shooter. The most notorious of these models is Charles Murray’s book, The Bell Curve, in which he argues that intelligence and race are related — meaning most people of color “Born” is not so smart.These models continue be called Introduced by prominent scholars such as Stanley Goldfarb, former dean and current faculty member of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, who also opposes anti-racism efforts in medicine.
Taken together, these events show that biological determinism has infiltrated the ivory tower of academia more than many realize. While some of the examples mentioned here are clear in their paranoia, there are many more cases where far-right groups have opted for miscommunicated or miscommunicated scientific research.
Some anti-racist scholars in the field of genetics have criticized their colleagues (above) and called for change from within. They stress that scientists can and should prevent their work from being exploited because they recognize the importance of clearly communicating their findings.
If scientists don’t think about the ways their ideas might be used, for better or worse, the results can be disastrous. This was the case when some sociologists offered social constructivist criticism of the use of the psychiatric system, which conservatives later used to justify the dismantling of America’s state public health systems. Scientists must exercise caution when trying to communicate their ideas – lest they be used to justify heinous acts, including terrorism.
The radicalization of the Buffalo shooter should serve as a warning to other academics, as he is one of many terrorists in the country who rely heavily on “race science” to justify their actions.
The radicalization of the Buffalo shooter should serve as a warning to other academics, as he is one of many terrorists in the country who rely heavily on “race science” to justify their actions. The same logic drives heinous attacks on the LGBTQ+ community.
While the Buffalo Archer may lack the scientific literacy needed to understand the research he cites, researchers must work hard to avoid getting involved in the process. Whether it’s scientific racism defending their beliefs or a lack of adequate consideration for the larger impact of one’s discoveries, scientists need to better understand that doing scientific work is a social activity. Science itself is a powerful tool used to help lead society forward, and when it is used to naturalize hierarchies and inequalities in society as a whole, it is an equally harmful tool.
The Frankfurt School philosopher Max Horkheimer famously wrote a critique of instrumental rationality in which Horkheimer argued that if science was not consciously directed by practitioners, it could be absorbed. That’s the focus of his classic work,”rational eclipse,” In it, he shows how the Nazi party weaponized science as an end in itself, rather than a tool to pursue its goals. Today, we face the same questions and problems in science, and for our collective good, we must decide what to use these tools for—and what we as a society want to prioritize.
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