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Archive for the tag “censorship”

Everyone’s talking about Jordan Peterson

It seems that everyone’s talking about Jordan Peterson, including Jordan Peterson.

Jordan Peterson was apparently invited (or, according to some accounts, invited himself) for a visiting fellowship with the Cambridge University Faculty of Divinity, and the invitation was subsequently withdrawn by the university, leading Peterson to get into a snit and invoke a biblical curse on the Cambridge Divinity Faculty, wishing it the obscurity it so richly deserved. In that article he comes across as petulant child having a temper tantrum.

Jordan Peterson

I first heard of Jordan Peterson at our monthly literary coffee klatsch a year ago, and have been debating with myself whether it would be worth the effort to find and read any of his books, and have discovered huge debates about him. It seems that he is a secular guru who is widely (and controversially) discussed in Christian circles, Some seem to regard him as a kind of prophet for our age, while others seem to regard him as a false prophet to be denounced. It seems, from what I’ve heard, that the Cambridge Divinity Faculty are about equally divided on this point.

So I am like Topol in the film Fiddler on the Roof, saying “on the one hand” and “on the other hand”, and being unable to decide.

One thing that prejudices me against Jordan Peterson is that he and another secular guru, Jonathan Haidt, appear to have overlapping fan groups, Saying that they have overlapping fan groups does not necessarily mean that they know each other, or agree with each other, or that they are in cahoots with each other, though since both are engaged in the same discipline (psychology) it is quite possible that they have met. I’m not even sure about their overlapping fan groups — that could be a misperception on my part. What I do know, however, is that Jonathan Haidt promotes a set of values that are very different from Christian values. And I do wonder about the wisdom of Christians running after fashionable Western secular gurus, particularly psychologists.

So I’m still thinking “on the one hand” and “on the other hand”.

On the one hand, why would a Faculty of Divinity invite someone from a different discipline, psychology, as a visiting fellow? Of course one can have interdisciplinary studies, but interdisciplinary studies should surely be founded on something more than celebrity. I am reminded of what another blogger once wrote:

Rational debate about the existence/ non-existence of God, and the ethical implications thereof, is good. It belongs to human dignity to seek to discern what is true.

There is an academic discipline which studies questions such as what constitutes a warranted belief, what religious language ‘means’, whether it has a possible reference and what it means for our conceptions of the good life. That discipline is philosophy. There is also an academic discipline whose remit of study includes the atrocities committed in the name of religion. That discipline is history.

So why, when Channel Four want to air a programme about these issues do they give air-time to a biologist with no training whatsoever in either discipline? Moreover one whose previous pronouncements in this area have only been published because he has piggy-backed on his (justified) scientific reputation and which, considered in their own right, are unworthy of a moderately bright A-level student..

Yet another example of the ignoring of the humanities in mainstream culture and, in spite of the irrationalism of our age, the persistence of the Victorian cult of the polymath scientist. Boo, hiss.

In both cases it seems to have been the celebrity of Peterson and Dawkins that led to the invitation.

On the other hand there is a sense in which theology is too important to be left to the professional academic theologians. Of all academic disciplines, theology should be most open to hearing from those from outside, because theology claims to be the Queen of the Sciences, the one that makes sense of all the others, That gives people like Dawkins and Peterson as much right to make pronouncements on theology as anybody else.

There is another aspect of this particular incident, however, which also seems to be ambivalent, and that is the reasons given for withdrawing the Fellowship at Cambridge — that Peterson’s views were not representative of the student body. That seems to go against the liberal ideal of a university as a place where different views can be vigorously debated, and seems to reflect a growing authoritarian tendency in many universities.

When I was a student at the University of Natal in Pietermaritzburg (now UKZN) in the 1960s it was regarded as a liberal institution in a very conservative society. It was, many would say, only comparatively liberal. But even that minimal liberalism seems more liberal than Cambridge University today. Students were open to hearing different views, at least to the extent that the government allowed them to. Every year the local committee of the National Union of South African Students (Nusas) arranged a Reality Week, at which representatives of different political parties were invited to debate on campus. The National Party debated with the Liberal Party. The United Party was too afraid to appear on the same platform as the Progressive Party, so they spoke at separate meetings. The Communist Party, the ANC and the PAC were banned by the government, and so could not appear, but if they had been able to the students would have given them a hearing, as they gave to the others. Even though there was vigorous disagreement, the differing views were heard. At the root of that lay the liberal concept of academic freedom.

Of course there are limits to academic freedom, limits which quacks and loonies sometimes try to push by promoting bogus academic disciplines (one that did a lot of damage in South Africa, whose effects are still felt today, was Fundamental Pedagogics). But Jordan Peterson is not one of those. He’s a professor in a recognised department of a recognised Canadian university. So why is a British university apparently purging people whose views seem to differ from the official party line? Ought a university to have an official party line?

But though I think it bad that people should try to suppress the views of people like Jordan Peterson, I’m still not convinced that I should lash out money on any of his books, Not a good excuse, I suppose, because I did read Dan Brown’s The da Vinci code even though I knew beforehand that it was probably rubbish, and reading it only confirmed that. But mass-market paperbacks are cheaper than academic books. And lest anyone say that a lot of Peterson’s stuff is on YouTube, let me say that I don’t do YouTube because (a) it’s also expensive, like books, (b) it usually tells me my browser doesn’t recognise any of the formats available, and (c) even if it does recognise the format, it’s usually so broken up that I can’t hear it,

Update

Since writing all that stuff above I’ve come across a review that reminds me of the reservations I had about Jordan Peterson when I first heard of him. I had forgotten the lobster factor, which Duncan Reyburn had mentioned at our literary coffee klatch. But this review reminded me of it again: Review: 12 Rules for Life by Jordan Peterson | Kate Manne:

Rule One is “Stand up straight with your shoulders back”, to avoid seeming like a “loser lobster”, who shrinks from conflict and grows sad, sickly and loveless – and is prone to keep on losing, which is portrayed as a disaster.

And I recall that that was what made Jordan Peterson’s stuff incompatible with, and indeed contrary to Christian values — it espouses worldly values, like being a winner. It is diametrically opposed to the Beatitudes, which tell us “Blessed are the meek”, but if we follow Peterson’s advice, that is all wrong, because in this world, Blessed are the pushy, for they shall get what they want.

Thought crime

Back in the bad old days of apartheid we had all sorts of repressive laws in South Africa. There was detention without trial, a long list of banned books and films and laws restricting press freedom. The democracies of the world, including the UK, rightly criticised us for these things, and eventually we repented and abandoned them and opted for a free society.

But now those democracies seem to be adopting the evil ways that we discarded back in 1994. Hat-tip to The Ergosphere for this example:

Just seen on the Telegraph: a story about a woman convicted of a crime for downloading a banned magazine that promotes Islamicist terror. Her story, which the judge believed: she wanted to see what had convinced her brothers (both convicted terrorists) to become terrorists. She was given a short jail sentence, just a month after the time she has spent awaiting trial.

I have a problem with this. Thought crime is NOT crime. Acting on what she read would almost certainly have been criminal, but reading it? I’ve downloaded and read a bunch of terror material, starting with the Turner Diaries and Mein Kampf. I had no interest in becoming a Nazi: quite the contrary. I was merely interested in these documents that convinced people to support Hitler and led to the Holocaust. I wanted to understand what could cause people to do such things.

Is this British justice in the 21st century?

It reminds me of Pontius Pilate “having examined him before you, have found no fault in this man touching those things whereof ye accuse him… I will therefore chastise him, and release him” (Luke 23:14, 16).

What was the “therefore” there for?

New health and safety lunacy: banning books

It seems that in the USA they are planning to ban children’s books published before 1985, on the ground they they might, just possibly, contain too much lead.

New federal law bans children’s books printed before 1985 – National Civil Liberties | Examiner.com:

Until 1985, it was legal for trace amounts of lead to be used in the inks and paints used in children’s books. But the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (PDF), which went into effect February 10, bans the sale of any children’s products containing more than 600 parts per million (ppm) total lead, no matter how unlikely it is that the items will feature at a toddler buffet. The Consumer Products Safety Commission has ‘clarified’ the issue with contradictory guidance that has thrift stores and even libraries disposing of mountains of books published before the magic date — and hoping that a stray copy of The Wind in the Willows doesn’t bring down the wrath of the regulators.

Is this the law of unintended consequences, or health and safety concerns gone mad? Ot is it censorship “for your own good”?

Brit politicans’ expense claims and censorship

For the last ten days or so the media have been full of the scandal of British Members of Parliament’s claims for expenses, something that puts our own Travelgate scandal of a few years ago in the shade.

But it seems that some MPs have fought back, and have accused the media of stirring the pot for sinister reasons of their own. And this has led to media censorship of an MP’s blog.

St. Aidan to Abbey Manor: Fightback MP silenced – what do you think?:

Well, if you can find anything libellous at the cache of Ms Dorries blog, you’re more perceptive than I am. Here is what I think is the offending passage (if you’ve read her blog, it could be any one of several, e.g. reposting a ‘Private and Confidential’ letter the Telegraph sent just hours before splashing her personal finances all over the next issue), which I’m posting because

a) this is a free and democratic society, and if MP’s have to have their expenses open to scrutiny then their arguments should be open to scrutiny too.

b) I dislike censorship, whether it’s happening to Dave Walker, Nadine Dorries or anyone else. Hey, even people I dislike. Most of them.

Dave Walker posted cartoons on his blog about the mismanagement of the SPCK Bookshop chain when it was taken over by a couple of American businessmen, who then tried to bully Dave Walker into silence because he had exposed their unethical practices.

This looks even more sinister, however Craig Murray – Support Nadine Dorries’ Freedom To Blog:

It is now confirmed that Nadine Dorries blog has been taken down by her webhosts after threats by lawyers acting for the creepy and anti-democratic Barclay Brothers. I particularly dislike them because they destroyed the Scotsman, which was once a good newspaper.

Nadine Dorries had accused the Barclay Brothers of outing the sleaze about MPs in their Daily Telegraph as part of an anti-democratic plot. The same accusation was in this Independent piece at 2am yesterday. The Independent has edited it out.

It almost inclines one to believe in conspiracy theories. Let’s do away with elected government, and have the world ruled by the media for their own profit. Big Brother, in Orwell’s novel, was an evil dictator who took over the reins of government and controlled the media and everything else. But Big Brother has now been reinvented by the media as a “reality” TV show, and popularised, and suddenly The Daily Telegraph is Big Brother, and British MPs are the “housemates”.

The Daily Telegraph used to be known as the Daily Torygraph, but the opinion that it is trying to suppress is that it is actually trying to score votes for a couple of parties way to the right of the Tories.

Muslim parents ask UK schools to shelve pro-homosexual storybooks for 5-year-olds

Muslim parents ask UK schools to shelve pro-homosexual storybooks for 5-year-olds: “Two primary schools have withdrawn storybooks about same-sex relationships after objections from Muslim parents.

Up to 90 gathered at the schools to complain about the books which are aimed at pupils as young as five.

One story, titled King & King, is a fairytale about a prince who turns down three princesses before marrying one of their brothers.”

The mind boggles.

Will the gay “community” now burn down the Bristol mosque?

I wonder how this will affect the “Buy Danish” community?

Remember, those are the ones who put little stripes in their blogs saying “Buy Danish” after a Denish newspaper published some anti-Islamic cartoons.

And what will the 5-year-old community do?

The bated-breath community is on tenterhooks.

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