The Controversy of Bret Weinstein Explained — The Evergreen Scandal
Bret Weinstein is an evolutionary biologist that made national headlines for being a racist. So… what exactly happened? Was it simply being politically incorrect? Or is there more to it?
My book, Up in the Air: Christianity, Atheism & the Global Problems of the 21st Century talks about the problems with talking past one another in political discourse today — what I am defending in this blog post as well. If you are interested in this topic, I recommend checking it out.
NOTE: before you continue, know that my views here are rather dated (still fairly consistent but I wrote this article a few years back. Here’s my most recent stance on the issues discussed below: Link)
The mark of an educated man my friends, is to study the opposing party’s case. That should be our ambition. This quote from John Stuart Mill gets it right:
The System is VERY flawed.
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Let me give you some context.
Once a year, Evergreen State University (located just outside of Seattle), allows the students of color to take a day of absence so that their importance and contribution is felt at the University. Bret Weinstein, as a progressive, was and has been on board for this for a long time.
A year ago, they flipped the logic. Rather than telling people of color to stay away for the day, they told white people that they are not welcome on campus for a day. Absence wasn’t compulsory but highly recommended.
Weinstein thought this wasn’t quite the same ethical and political message as the former option.
Weinstein and his wife (also a professor) have since then been forced out of the University due to their “racism”. And America seems divided.
This is the result of the ever-increasing polarization in the Western world, especially in the States.
My Take on The Current Political Climate
I lean left BIG TIME.
The Conservatives have unfortunately defined themselves in a form of anti-intellectualism that I have little respect for.
Historically speaking, Democrats have personified this sort of intellectual seriousness to question and seek change. Reason was the medal. Discourse was our track — our court. It had little resemblance with much of what the Left is known for today.
Conservatives were known for name-calling. Conservatives were known for hypocrisy. Conservatives were known for dishonesty, & bad journalism.
I lean left BIG TIME.
But my leftist understanding can not include name-calling, or the unwillingness to listen to the other side, which we are getting way too familiar with on our side.
Guilt is ineffective. Guild creates spite. Guilt creates hatred and shame.
I love liberals & I love conservatives. I regularly listen to Dave Rubin and then switch the tab to listen to Steven Crowder. I can listen to “Roaming Millennial” (Conservative YouTuber) and then to SJW French small YouTubers. Jordan Peterson is fine. Sam Harris is great. Stephen Colbert is on point. And I can also listen to Joe Rogan. I read Noam Chomsky — I agree. I read Thomas Sowell — I agree.
This is not black and white.
I don’t think polarization is effective. I don’t want to only be listening to one side — ever. I promote discussion and want civil conversations to prevail in society.
That was not the case on the Evergreen campus — might I mention a liberal school — where kids patrolled the campus with baseball bats. The president of the University attempting to explain the situation was told to speak without the use of his hands because it was a so-called “micro-aggression.”
There is a video of this online if you wish to look for it. It is simply disturbing. In the video, he is told — by the students — to put his hands down after which the students start cheering and laughing. The manipulation is overt and disgusting.
The issue here is that the mere thought — the skeptic mindset — is being criticized.
“By questioning what’s happening you automatically get lumped into this right-wing hate group.”
Why are we criticizing those that are slow to answers? Since when is rejecting skepticism universal and acceptable? It seems identical to extreme right wing regimes, but should not be the case in liberal democracies.
Liberal minds simply cannot act this way.
It is this sense of tribalism that has slowly started to pollute our understanding of crucial topics that need discussion. It needs to be okay to disagree on political matters and still remain to be civil with one another. That is what we should expect from a democracy.
It needs to be okay to discuss Religion, Culture, and Race from all perspectives — even white ones. The idea that whiteness takes away any capability to be rational about race issues in our countries is incorrect. It definitely changes your understanding, but it does not automatically make you hostile to African-American problems or First Nations problems.
Minorities are important. I am a minority — I am Slovakian.
The privilege that I experience because of the color of my skin is, no doubt, enormous. Beyond my capability to understand, perhaps.
But should we take away my potential to understand because of the color of my skin & my gender? Are men really the problem? Is patriarchy really the disease in our culture?
To an extent: NO DOUBT. But are they the disease? That must be oversimplifying the issue. There must be many more reasons for our culture to be so distracted and dull.
I am very critical of Christianity. But I wouldn’t say that Christianity is “the disease” in our culture. I am tempted to say that. But logic and common sense do not permit it.
There must be contributing factors. Corrupt & greedy sexual predators that are men are a horrible part of it. And we need to take them down.
They do not deserve to be in a position of power over people. They do not deserve to decide how our economy works.
Does this mean that we should take the voices away of all male voices? Including Bill Gates and Warren Buffet who have given more money away than anyone has ever — combined?
Does this mean that we take away conservative voices? Voices that don’t want to use all gender pronouns (Think: Ben Shapiro). Well of course not. People are free to believe what they believe if they are civil and are not hurting anyone’s physical and/or mental well-being.
Will we hurt people’s feelings in the process? Of course. That is why we need more rational discussion and intelligent voices that speak from a calm, non-emotive, & clear voice. One of those voices is Bret Weinstein.
As people that believe in free speech — we have to have his back in his freedom — for our own sake, if not for his.
The Postmodern Structure
I am a fan of deconstruction. I like the concept. I like the concept of focusing on minorities and providing people the same opportunities that white people get in Western Culture. I also think, however, that some structure is essential in order to maintain some sort of civilization.
The world is not as black & white as it seems. Science is not about opinions. There must be a right way to live life and it is our duty to discern it.
Some people go to extremes to disagree with postmodernism. They suggest that believing in a postmodern structure will completely destroy our society.
In philosophy, we would call this a Slippery Slope Fallacy.
Jordan Peterson and Postmodernism
Jordan Peterson is one of those people. His questions & answers are very popular, not only among more conservative minds.
Jordan Peterson suggests that postmodernism teaches that everything is a social construct. I don’t know if I’d agree with that criticism of postmodernism, completely. I don’t think postmodernism teaches that everything is a social construct. I could be mistaken.
Postmodernism teaches that the only reason there are people at the top is because of the social structure that has established it.
(NOTE: I don’t think I made this clear enough. It has been pointed out in the comments section that this is a “stupid” statement. I’d like to say that this is a paraphrased comment by Jordan Peterson. But I also agree with it. More on this in the comment section. )
The belief is that the establishment is demoralized. AND — it is. But the question is: what is the most efficient means of dealing with this? Not: a name-calling tactic that specializes in vague generalizations about large groups of people.
Tribalism: the Fruit of Polarization
We have an outbreak of tribalism on our hands. Which explains what is happening on the far-right, mainly the expressive White Nationalists. And on the left, where conservatives are demonized.
Xenophobia is a Biological Issue — not Only a Cultural Issue
Frans de Waal spent a lifetime observing the social behaviour of nonhuman animals such as monkeys, he suggests that people tend to be Xenophobic due to our evolution as a species. Waal writes,
‘Universally, humans treat outsiders far worse than members of their own community: in fact, moral rules hardly seem to apply to the outside’ ” (Effective Altruism, 76).
Xenophobia is not only a cultural problem — it is a biological problem.
The Relationship Between Political Belief and Personality
Your political belief is strongly determined by your temperament. — Jordan Peterson.
Peterson believes that it is striking how distinct character types will have similar political beliefs.
For example, liberals tend to be (on average) high in creativity and low in conscientiousness. Right-wing individuals tend to be more orderly, he says.
It is notable that the Germans were very orderly, everything needed to be clean in the early 20th century. Hence, Hitler’s racial cleansing.
It is one thing to posit it, and quite another to measure it. Peterson believes it’s measurable. And he elaborates on that in his talk with Bret Weinstein and Joe Rogan.
If you are not a fan of generalizations, then you are not a fan of psychology. Psychology is basically a social science full of generalizations of theories and studies that are temporarily of interest, or will be to the future generation.
“Get the idea in your head that you have the potential to do great evil. Take responsibility for that and try to put your life together.” — Jordan Peterson
Evolutionary Biologists — Biological Essentialism
The biota does what it does. Those of us that look at that, will be “deeply politically incorrect.” The idea that the truth of biology will be unacceptable, is scary, Bret Weinstein believes.
Biology is not politically correct. What our genes want is not necessarily what we want. People honestly want science to be more “polite” or “politically correct,” which seems absurd.
Political correctness does not permit the honesty of science anymore. — Bret Weinstein
The Battle for Free Speech
We have to have the freedom to be the only ones to believe something. — Bret Weinstein
The people at the center are not going to innovate to make things better for themselves. The ones on the edges of culture, the oppressed, will work around the system to create new means to express themselves.
If you are not in the position of torment in a social structure or abuse of some sort, even if it’s just mental, you will be less likely to want to put in the work to create a solution to the problem.
It is the individual that is the savior of the collective. — Jordan Peterson
Arguably that means that if you are privileged, you are less likely to notice it.
I want to criticize the TOP. I am not at the top whatsoever. Criticism is important. The left has an opportunity to both criticize and listen. We all wish for a properly functioning democracy, so let’s make sure that we balance them both.
The Tolerance of Criticism
As I’ve mentioned before, Christianity is a recurring topic of critique on my blog. In the past, I’ve made it clear that I believe in cultural Christianity.
By cultural Christianity I mean: getting together and reading, worshiping, talking about philosophical problems, and having fellowship together. It is very intriguing.
I once was a Christian (quite an intense one) so I understand why the belief is attractive to so many marginalized people that don’t belong anywhere.
The only problem with Christianity is, when you actually start believing in the morality of the Bible. When you prioritize commandments that God wants of you(e.g. preach the gospel to all nations), over educating people on things that actually matter (e.g. climate change, a vegan diet, meditation, politeness, critical thinking, etc.).
I think it would be of more importance to educate children on taxes, science, physics, philosophy, sex, sexual orientation from a scientific/biological/factual perspective, not based on fiction.
It has little to do with opinion and a lot to do with observation. We observe again and again and we get closer to the truth, which is seemingly unattainable. That is okay.
“It needs to be okay to criticize bad ideas” (Sam Harris).
Do we believe in free speech? Because if we do, we will take the time to assess these truths and question ourselves. It is of the most essence to progress.
I expect people to question my views as well. That is what the quest of philosophy is: questioning.
Everyone needs a voice. Why are people so scared of extremists? They always come and they always go in a civil society. Maybe I am too optimistic about our society, but I think that we could be progressing forward if we refocus our attention towards reflection and reasonable voices. It is important to listen to educated minds when in the process of forming opinions.
Take in as many voices as possible. You should expect garbage to get in there somewhere, that is all fine and well.
If you think and keep thinking, you will most likely, be able to provide arguments to disagree with those loud voices that persuade the people you most care for.
Before you go…
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Until next time, keep reflecting!