Harris just laid down the “defend astrology” gauntlet. I think Peterson will take it. It is a devil of a trap.
How would I handle it? In a debate, you’d obviously avoid. But real diabetic requires response. I would be tempted to say that astrology might work as a very archaic religion, provided its moral lessons were firm and invariant enough. The problem with astrology is that it is minimally grounded in moral lessons about what to do with each other, and (as far as I know) more optimized to stories about how different personality types interact. Thus I’d be tempted to say it is more descriptive than prescriptive.
Now obviously there are lots of general prescriptions in it, but they seem not to deal with any big life conundrums. Instead they seem to “instantiate” description in terms of easier to understand actions which embody certain personality types. “Take a risk” has no ring and yang to it. It has minimal stories about why risks go right and why they go wrong. Astrology simply postulates (as far as I can deduce form very minimal connection with it) how different personality types should engage with risk.
That’s a useful lesson. But, it seems to be a very base lesson. Different religions seem to have evolved much more complicated and nuanced views which tend to be much more applicable to large sized groups. I suspect Peterson may go down this road. I would also note the reasonably robust role science of religion researchers such as Aran Norezayan have found between the co-evolution of religion and governance. They seem to lead and pace each other in the selection process for larger polity sizes and polity size stabilization.
Seems like Peterson’s approach is fairly similar to mine. Astrology was a creative impetus that helped orient people to larger, more truthful things. Without the ability to be creative and to be wrong, we risk not having the creative freedom to progress as much as we might otherwise do.
I believe this is largely Eric Weinstein’s position too (see his debate with Ben Shapiro & Sam Harris).
How much counterfactual license is needed for creativity, especially radical creative genius?
I’m sure Harris will counter with his “imagine any false idea that enables creativity and strip one falsehood from it”. This slippery slope argument is not very convincing to me. At some point there are phase changes. We don’t know what net levels of irrationality or religious like thinking these phase changes occur at. But it is highly probable that phase changes occur. I would also suspect that they follow some type of non-linearity, such as an S- curve.
Harris is taking Weinstein’s sand box approach. You need to be able to distinguish fact from fiction. You do this by suspending disbelief, albeit temporarily. Constant suspension of belief becomes problematic.
Peterson raises an interesting technical point. Is the sandbox strategy consistent with rationality? Should you ever be able to suspend disbelief? Any non-stamp collecting scientist would clearly say yes. Einstein’s Gedanken are truly powerful. How deep down the rabbit hole do you need to go? This is important because you’ll have a standard distribution here. For some problems, you really might need someone almost entirely tuned out of reality. Where do you situate society to get the right mean and right spread? I think this, and the issue of rates of change & coherence are the two fundamental questions in this series. Unfortunately the moderators haven’t really steered things here. I suspect Eric Weinstein would have…
I liked Petersons last couple of comments. Would be nice if he had read some Norezayan to make the case a bit stronger.
Harris is now mentioning the “genetic fallacy”. Because something emerged from evolution, there are no other ways to get these good things - and that the products are necessarily good.
Murray is a great moderate.
Looks like Harris is worried about the mean of the population distribution with respect to religiosity. He fears there are going to be too many people clinging to and leveraging justifications for their medieval beliefs. I suspect he figures that almost no spread of population into this zone is acceptable in a normalized distribution. And that is why I worry about the rates of change his hyper-rationality might inflict on the world. It may assume people are a lot more like him than like those than Peterson appeals to. I suspect Peterson’s approach is more scalable and sustainable than Harris’. Both meet up in the end, but one strikes me as a naive utopianism that has fairly large risks of losing some major social moorings while the other simply risks a slow rate of change. I guess that is the fundamental difference between liberals and conservatives. I guess that is why I also like this discussion series. You aren’t after an answer, you’re after an enactment of ting-yang tension.
27:00 - 28:00
Sounds like Peterson is going off the deep end a bit. I think he has a fair number of mistakes (or big assumptions) about the evolutionary process here. His sexual selection theory ‘may be’ valid. But there is no reason to think so. His inference about “the spirit of the father” being a fundamental part of the evolutionary process is a big leap in this conversation. I can see why Harris got lost in the end. It is easy to dismiss. I’m having to take a few minutes to figure out what he is actually meaning. No use in dismissing his thoughts simply due to his “night” language (aka religious terms) and his bad evolutionary process thoughts.
I think what he is doing is a bit of a combo of pragmatic iteration toward the truth with Platonic ideals. A platonic idea leads and paces us and is selected via hierarchies and the sexual selection which re-enforces hierarchies in certain ways (which may or may not work the way he imagines ( male hierarchy with females resonating their selection of it).
The resonance between male hierarchical meritocracy with female sexual selection may actually be more interesting than Peterson makes it sound. For example what if there was severe dissonance between female sexual selection trait preference and male hierarchical meritocrital preference? Females are picking men who other men think are counter-fit (say Beta’s). Men may then chose the Beta route for better sexually caused fitness, or the meritocric approach for better natural (non-sexual) fitness.
This sort of seems to be what actually happens… However, Peterson is saying these both line up (to some degree or another). I have no idea how you would verify this. What you probably get is a decent overlap between the sexual and natural selection traits (call it the ideal of “the father” if you have to). I suspect in most cases, a mixed strategy is most fit. But evidence is pretty clear that it need not be so. Hence, Harris’ genetic fallacy argument is very apt here. And you can see Peterson is no evolutionary scientist. But we can’t fault people for not being perfect. Life is more interesting learning from people than pridefully cajoling them.
Peterson “The idea of the spirit of the father may reflect something metaphysically important about the fundamental nature of reality itself”. I think he’s hinting at how Platonic forms work in conjunction with both Pragmatism and selection.