Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Harris - Peterson 4 - part 2 "Live Blog"

Harris and Peterson agree that we can’t always solve utilitarian calculations over multiple time periods. Harris says we are certainly getting better. Peterson agrees, but suggests fundamental evolutionary based ethics do better.

I think Stuart Kauffman’s “Reinventing The Sacred” does a really good job teasing out how cold rationality fares in complex forward predictions compared to informed intuition. Kauffman suggests that our faith in rationality is mainly backward looking. It rarely does well with Black Swan events. It just looks really good in hind sight.

This is a fairly powerful argument. I suspect Harris would dismiss it by rationalism’s 1% improve rate compounded into the future.

48:00 - 48:40
Nice to see Harris saying that moral messages may best be conveyed by story rather than scientific papers.  This seems like a winning position.  I’m not sure Peterson would disagree. He would probably say that those stories are likely to become optimized with archetypical forms whose moral lessons are tied to evolutionarily selected pro-social ethics.

Peterson gets back to the danger of atheism leaving nothing to fill an ethical and social coherence role.

I think Harris would agree. We’ll soon see. I think Harris acknowledges the need for a moral ethic. He just thinks it shouldn’t be based in supernaturalism. In effect you have a non-supernatural, humanist fact based United Church.

Murray made an excellent point with respect to Nietzsche. If you remove the religious substructure, or even just parts of it, you may end up with no redemptive narrative or vehicle. This may result in overwhelming guilt build up which can’t be assuaged.

I’d note the current build up of white guilt and privilege seems spot on here. However, I would be very surprised if a more formalized redemptive narrative doesn’t soon come in to fill this gap. Right now it is still a nascent “grace” based form. You just need to admit your privilege and then start giving things up. This is obviously problematic. It is not sustainable because there are no limits to what should be given up. Thus, for me, it comes across as very cult-like.  There is nothing wrong with that per se. Most new religious movements start off as cults. They then navigate a socio-cultural fitness landscape and either stumble into some combination of heuristics that work or they die. There seem to be a few obvious ways confessional progressivism can go to keep things sustainable. Whether or not it takes one of those paths, innovating through combinatorics and novelty, is of course any one’s guess.

Peterson and Murray are hammering home the  critique of motivational force in rationalism/atheism.  As Murray says, atheists aren’t lining up for weekly Stoicism readings.

This seems like a cheap shot. But, it is also somewhat accurate. The cheapness is that as per the debate audience - people do line up to discuss things somewhat regularly. The critique is that the regularity is insufficient for societal coherence. Things are just too spread out.

Peterson - “if we can’t move into the realm of deep discussions about good and evil then we can’t reach the level necessary to help people who have been touched by malevolence.”

This might be true, but I think Harris’ point stands - you can get lots of depth out of non-supernatural understandings of human nature which also include heroism and depravity. Why do you need a story and supernaturalism? I think the rejoinder is so that people believe they can leave their funk even if they think they can’t. They have to believe in the impossible. Saying you can do it. It is rational to think so, may not have the saving force necessary to motivate. Quasi-factuality may be needed.

I think this is a very significant point. I hope they stick on this one, or that Murray holds their feet to it. I would like to hear his view too.

I really like the current discussion about inspiration’s role in the bible and other books. Mormonism has certainly dealt with this much more than any other religion. The general answer from this tradition is fairly close to what Peterson says. “Divine” inspiration is a process greatly influenced by the person recording and experiencing it. It also involves a sense of coherence with deep societal values and needs. Peterson would certainly say this is the Logos of our evolutionary roots being expressed. I would tend to agree. At certain times, inspiration seems to find great coherence with some very fundamental human moral issues and lessons. The accuracy of this coherence certainly can be questioned. Sometimes what felt right is out of whack from rationalistic ethics. But, I would wager a guess that, on average, it is probably fairly expressive of the existential concerns of a group - provided of course that the individual conduit has a significantly deep history of trying and succeeding in a lifelong experience of attenuating to the group’s moral and existential needs.

In effect “revelation” is often a licensed expression of group morality and moral needs. Can individuals game this? Certainly. Tammy Fay Baker and all the other televangelists certainly do. Do all the “shamans” of a group or their “prophets” game things? It is certainly possible. But it is also possible that there are significant filtering processes for religious leaders in terms of their pro-sociality. Many people might think leaders are bedevilled and are simply grafting. For instance, the Shaw of Iran may be interpreted as corrupt and destroying his society. That is a very valid point. It is also likely that despite the corruption and other things that he is actually interested in the existential survival of his people.

Which one dominates? Over time, systems almost always corrupt. I think this rather complicated and long post summarizes how things are apt to work

Peterson’s point about a hierarchy of revelation (wisdom) is a very hard point to argue against. I’m not sure how Harris will respond? Has he ever encountered anyone well versed in modern revelation with respect to scripture (not just new age like revelation/intuition)? I’m not sure. I guess we’ll see.

Harris makes the point that all these scriptural revelations are simply things done by people. This leads to an obvious rejoinder - “what would you call the best moral exposition done”? Scripture? What would you call the best possible exposition?

This of course fails if one believes God to be a perfect being (in absolute terms). But what if God is simply representative of the best, or near best that can be done in a given context?

This is certainly within the scope of Mormon’s rather materialisitc perspective of Deity. In that view perfection is always getting better because both the environment and individuals are growing in capacity. It is interesting to see that Peterson has likely recreated this position. I think Harris is still hung up on absolutes though…

I love Murray’s answer here. We are currently creating a whole new set of religions that are reinventing all sort of heresies. They are not yet drawing blood, but it is very easy to imagine them taking a path whereby they do. I’ve been saying this for years. Social progressivist and fundamentalist politics are de facto religions or quasi-religions. They just lack supernaturalism. But they are just as quasi-factual or a-factual - at least in many areas.

Harris is again going back to the argument that religions have irreconcilable belief differences and therefor we can’t have a multi-path approach to the “truth”. I can see what Peterson is getting pretty frustrated at this. He says “then try Buddhism Sam.”. I don’t see why you can’t have different paths. This is a pluralistic, multi-cultural approach. Each group can deeply believe in at the utility of their own traditions. Accept that other things work for other people, for a variety of reasons. Then you’ll probably find out that where people overlap is in the deepest aspects of pro-sociality. You wouldn’t expect the Dali Lama and the Pope to get in a fist fight. They are probably both really pro-social people who would love each other’s company I think Harris may be too caught up in history here. People’s gene-culture evolution to pluralism continues to increase. Religious pluralism is more and more likely People can be subsumed by emergent pro-social essences while still expressing different story based expressions.

Perhaps that is why Harris’ hyper-rationalism has always felt a bit scary and tolitalitarian in potential. It seems to allow minimal expressional difference. Two stories with different surface ideas that different people can take to support mutually incompatible ideas is a real threat to Harris. It just doesn’t mesh with hyper-rationalist book keeping. And yet in practice, the degree of error probably isn’t that big a deal. It is the deeper stuff that matters. Over time religions seem to be tending toward more and more focus on this deeper stuff, while the superficial trappings are more like individual’s tattoo’s. They are more about colour than incompatibility.

The guests make a distinction that the pursuit of truth and the pursuit of tolerance are not the same thing. To me this is an essential point. Harris seems to think the pursuit of truth will lead to better outcomes than the pursuit of tolerance. Peterson and Murray seem to take the opposite position.

This is where I think Peterson’s 20th century genocidal worries really seem to provide some power. It is easy to go wrong when you put pressure on groups to pursue truth. It is harder to go wrong when you try to pursue tolerance. Of course both positions need some boundaries and tensions to work. Thus, Im quite happy including Harris’ hyper-rationalism as part of pluralistic endeavour to better humanity. It is, in effect, another belief system that works for a certain percentage of the population. Just let others believe differently, and focus on people’s and group’s pro-sociality much more than the specific strokes in their story expressions. 


Murray says that the worry is that the roots of the enlightenment seem not to have gone very far and very deep.  I would fully agree with this. We are dealing with gene-culture traits that take a long time to stabilize and a long-time to change. Going too fast is reckless. That doesn’t mean certain groups can’t go faster than others. Just don’t assume everyone is like you. Hence the importance of humility stories - say like those in most religious traditions…..

Monday, September 17, 2018

Harris - Peterson 4 part 1: "Live" Blog

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.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Harris Peterson - "Live" Blog Thoughts

My Live Blog

I think the main issues should be the rates of change/evolution at the net societal level. This means some groups can go much faster. They can explore and test. Others can go much slower. But what matters is, in general, what can be commonly agreed upon as a safe and effective mean rate of change, and what the distribution of these changes should look like.

My Steelman of Peterson’ Position

Peterson believes that evolution has selected for a set of beliefs that are deeply coded in the human psyche via Darwin machines/heuristics many of which produce an operalization in the form of religious meta-truthful stories.  It is important for people to be connected to these deep narratives in a way that maintains essential tensions. Pure rationality risks eschewing these tensions, not through malice, but through unintended commission and hubris. Hyper-rationality risks becoming too far removed from evolutionary grounding. If we will always recreate a de facto god-like ideal due to the inescapable role of hierarchy why don’t we just accept this and ensure it is grounded in evolutionary robust lessons which can change at a rate that is survivable by modern societies.

My Steelman of Harris’ Position

Rationality is the only solid base upon which communication can build. Religion necessarily introduces a manipulable appeal to authority structure which can be and has been coo-opted for nefarious ends. While the lesson’s of religion are indeed useful and have indeed been shaped by evolutionary forces and selection, useful myths are not necessary. Furthermore they purposefully obfuscate reality preventing people from investigating and deducing what is really happening. Religion and meta-truth is an unnecessary crutch. Anything religion can do and say can be done and said in a less supernatural and counter-factual way to the same end.

Peterson has framed Harri’s position as a technical philosophical issue concerning how to mediate between facts and values. He suggests Harris does this by an appeal to our fundamental ability to recognize truth (or perhaps to minimize obvious harm)

This obviously gets into the fitness landscape issue brought up in Vancouver 2. Sometimes things have to get temporarily worse before they can get permanently better. This obviously raises consequentialism or utilitarian issues (I’m not well versed enough on ethical philosophy to meaningfully tease out distinctions here).

My personal preference is to avoid this type of technical philosophy. It reminds me of how many angels on a pin head type question. Squaring the circle just isn’t as valuable as it may seem. This is because the bigger issue seems to be whether religion that is somewhat grounded in evolutionary lessons is more or less apt to get caught up in technocratically blind hubris than is Harris’ hyper-rationality. I think rationality has a better chance here, but its variance is much larger. Thus it is a riskier bet. However, I would probably accede that over a very long time, rationality works better. A 0.01% difference over a thousand generations is pretty substantial. Thus, if you’re not too concerned about how deep the local wells are, you’re probably better off with rationalism. I suspect the issue is that religion is almost certain to get to the same places as rationality, albeit in a slower way, and with less chance of catastrophically deep well.

This is not an obvious position. Religion is usually seen as archaic, arbitrary, and purposefully confrontational (due to its strong in-group out-group gradients). I just don’t think that applies to modern religion (which excludes most forms of anti-pluralistic fundamentalism). I think moderate religions (say, united church) and pluralistically oriented, moderately fundamentalistic religions (say,  mormonism) are much less confrontational and more pluralistic than most progressivist secular, ethically bound groups.

Peterson - It isn’t obvious to him how to present Harris’ hyper-rational ethics in a way that is motivating to people and grips a society.

I’d agree. I think Harris’ approach is very appealing to a small percentage of people. I think this percentage will increase over time. Societies are become less religious. But it is not obvious that they are becoming more rational.

If your ethical foundation is not appealing enough, in a large population, competition means someone will come up with something that is more engaging. If your society isn’t firmly rooted in some endearing moralities, this can go very wrong.

12:00 - 14:00
Murray talks about Jesus smuggling - bringing in religion at the point your opponent is weakest. I think Harris does a good job suggesting that his issue is not this, but hidden contagion. If you allow for any useful myth (practical but not factual truth), your system eventually gets corrupted.

Perhaps I’m just too much of a pragmatist, but this strikes me as philosophically true but practically wrong. It’s also why I consider utopianism to be Harris’ Achilles heel. Perfect guides are always corrupted by imperfect interpreters. Harris places rationalism as a directionally good-enough refiner.  This is probably true on a long-enough timescale, but I’m not sure we will necessarily survive the dips and valleys that are likely to come with rationalism’s malignant exploitation. This is especially true if the rate of change is so fast that gene-cultural factors don’t have time to stabilize in the population at a rate sufficient to accommodate such re-mooring. I think rationalistic ethics are just too easy to exploit for nefarious ends. Of course, so too is religion. But religion has at least been with us long enough so that people are very adept and sophisticated in spotting (explicitly or implicitly) its abuse. If you think Tele-evangelists are an obvious counter-point to this, just image how bad the same population might fare with the worst iterations of scientific racism or scientific ultranationalism… These positions don’t necessarily have redemption components nor moderating ying-yang tensions.

Harris has just said that magic doesn’t lose any of its intrigue or value even if you know it’s fake. Peterson’s rejoinder is that he is not so sure he knows which parts are fake and which aren’t. I think the placebo literature here is pretty interesting. For some things the placebo effect works and works for fairly long periods of time. For other things it doesn’t.  Belief may have corollary benefits that don’t necessarily reproduce without it. One of those may be insatiable curiosity (at a broader population percentage than pure rationalism can muster). It may also produce a sense of humility that isn’t necessarily accomplished to the same extent amongst the same spread of the population as rationalism. These are things that should be studied. We can’t just assume they work for one side or the other. I suspect Peterson may go here, but he also seems to be taking a much more conciliatory role with Harris. I think after his first two phone interviews with Harris, Peterson is much more aware of how riled up and fixated Harris can get, and I think Peterson is deliberately avoiding this. It is just too easy for him to go to the exact same place, producing nothing of value.


Peterson just made the case that Harris’ ideal isn’t a destination, but a trajectory. Basically, anything that improves our state is what we are after. We are not after a certain Platonic? ideal. 

I suspect Peterson’s follow up argument will be that trajectory based value systems have to worry about going in the wrong direction. This is gets at issues between local and global fitness landscapes. If there is no outside arbiter, and not enough ways to adequately measure “better”, up can become down.

I think this is a very strong point. I’m sure this arises from Peterson’s study of early 20th century tolitalitarianism. The issue becomes even more pronounced when an entire system loses touch with “reality” and Mandarin technocracy loses any of its grounding tethers. Normally periodic commoner revolutions re-tether things. But what do you do in a system where the tethers are designed not to exist? Or the tethers have be broken by denying the utility of evolutionary based moral goods? Can we not convince ourselves of anything?

Really interesting to see the parallels between Harris’ and Peterson’s arguments.

Harris’ rejoinder. Time to see if I was right. I suspect Harris will dodge the untethering issue. He will most likely say that rationality combined with free thought enables anyone to challenge the group-thought / technocratic Mandarin trap.

Peterson took a much less confrontational track toward Harris than I imagined. Instead of hitting the “untethering” issue directly, he makes the case that a directional approach to good and bad in, when you drop metaphysical baggage, the very fundamentals of Christianity. 

I quite like how Peterson brings in the purpose of embodiment. I suspect Harris will say that embodiment is probably fine. What is problematic is that embodiment always incorporates error. Analogies are never perfect. What religion seems to do is to focus too much on the supernatural, i.e. the “errors” at the expense of correct underlying truth.

Seems like I accurately predicted Harris’ response. “Is the flesh made of dogmatism and supernaturalism and other worldliness? Historically it has been. And that has been the problem with religion. If you denude it with everything that in unjustifiable with 21st science, what you get down to is something more universal and less provincial than christianity per se”

22:00 - 23:20
Peterson talks about all the things, like art, drama, music, etc that are spandrel led in the “instantiation” of the expression of moralized directionality. He is uncertain if rationality can reproduce such richness. I would agree. I think the criticism though, is that such richness enables a lot of erroneous folk ideas to infiltrate religion’s central message. For instance, tile work which replaces the gaucheness of images starts to be seen as conveying some true moral value. I can see some strained ways in which this might be true, especially for really intelligent people. However, this seems to leverage natural human tendencies to mythologize and associate meaning with fairly arbitrary things that are not central to a process and indeed may be counter-productive to it or larger frames in which those actions exist.  However, human evolutionary history has selected for this type of error (false positives) because they are less costly than assuming something with no direct value actually has no long term value (false negative). I think the elaborate processing ceremonies on South America cassava production versus African cassava production reflect this tension. (SA ritualizes the process. It is safe. Africa streamlines the process which is unsafe).

Murray does the perfect job as a host - “the worry of accepting the Peterson or the Murray position (on repeating Judaeo-Christian roots) is that is softens up the ground for “Jesus Smuggling” by others, even if we aren’t doing it”.

Harris uses a very good example on constructing meaning from clearly fake things like tarot cards. You don’t have to lie about the mechanism.

This is yet another thing that is true in principal and fairly incorrect in practice. For some people (probably a small percentage), no physical device/sign is needed. Yet clearly for most people most of the time, this is clearly incorrect. Even something known as fake brings in a physicality that makes the experience more meaningful. This is especially true if the physical signals resonate with the message itself. A high degree of resonance across multiple mediums and layers is deeper than one that isn’t. It has less chance of being substantially wrong. Why? I’m not entirely sure and don’t think some ex post facto BS would make the answer any more meaningful..

Seems like Peterson is taking the same position I am. Perhaps he has an answer to the “why”

Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like he does…

Great Reference
Don D Hoffman cog scientist - our mind is evolved to get things wrong in fairly specific ways

Harris - “The fact that we can even talk about the possible fitness advantage of partially wrong ideas over factually truthful ideas demonstrates that we have a larger picture of what is in fact true.  This is what religion gets wrong.”

Initially this struck me as a very strong point. But thinking about how I would respond to this, I’m not sure it is very strong at all. I’m not sure what this actually implies. It sounds very good rhetorically, but I just don’t see what type of truth Harris alludes to here? Is he simply saying we can distinguish between useful myths and factual truths?

I think the “rate of change” argument handles Harris’ comments. What matters is that the rate of societal change doesn’t exceed the group’s ability to cohere and survive during such change.

I also suspect Peterson’s earlier point about “not being entirely certain what is maladaptive or unnecessary myth and what isn’t” is apropos here. Harris is making a point about something that is somewhat easy to distinguish, factual and practical reality - in theory, and things that aren’t, subtle value judgments whose causal effects may be hopelessly chaotic over most every time period.

Harris - “It is as simple as ‘values are merely facts about the experience of conscious creatures”

I can’t say I agree with this at all. It strikes me as incredibly authoritarian. For this to not be authoritarian, you would have to have info about aggregate group level experiences, none of which are necessarily applicable to any individual. The easy way to understand this in in terms of what population level ‘facts’ say about individuals. Nothing at all. 

Peterson was just challenged on whether he believed that stupid people need myth because they can’t do rationality. Normally people would retreat away from this. I quite like how Peterson has no quibbles engaging with this idea despite its normally awful appearances. This is very much one of the things we are talking about when we say society may need some degree of metaphorical (or practically adaptive truth) in order to cohere and stay cohered. Although I certainly think IQ is putting things much too narrowly. Nonetheless, here is where Peterson’s penchant for always thinking about the uncomfortable areas of his ideas lifts him up. He can immediately engage with the essence of the idea instead of hanging to give an appearance of retreat which undermines his actual position. Love him or hate him, it makes for good and engaging rhetoric.

Peterson finally mentions, albeit briefly, with the issue of rates of change.  Seems like Murray thinks this is the big issue too.

56:00 - 57:00
Harris restates his superhero argument. He can tell his daughter that superheroes are in fact real and superheroness should be honoured.

I’m not sure how Peterson would confront this. My first instinct is to mythologize this and say that aspects of superheroness should in fact be respected. The exact embodiment is certainly variable, but there is a fundamental essence to… hero worship… that is probably needed for societal coherence and for many efficient forms of individual progress among many individuals.

Looks like Peterson and I are aligned in how we approach Harri’s superhero argument.

Interesting to see Harris acknowledge the importance of secular rituals. I think Harris and Peterson have both moved (or more likely are both more likely to feel comfortable in expressing the more moderate sides. I have to give both guys a lot of credit for keeping things very non-confrontational. I think Peterson’s therapeutic skills have certainly played a big role here).

Harris is again saying that the way of putting religious story into the explanation of meaning creates unnecessary conflicts and less-than-optimal

I am surprised at how much Harris is seemingly conceding here. I’ve never thought Harris was against any of these things. I just suspect he was much more fearful of a contagion model. That he is OK with ritual, story, etc, almost makes me think that the issue is one of power - who is making the stories, the rituals etc. If it is rational atheists, then presumably that would be fine. But in practice, I’m not so sure this would be true. Why? Over a couple of generations these things would almost certainly turn back into religion… The religion may certainly look and feel different, but then Peterson’s useful myth religion looks and feels different from the evangelical caricature Harris had initially taken it to be.


I think the most powerful thing in this debate was Peterson’s rationale for why we are unable to know when radical Leftism becomes pathologic. I’ve heard him say this many times, but this time, the thing that really made it germane was his linkage of this fact with liberal tendencies to resist categorization and to always err on the side of compassion (of intent). Great summary.

I’d also suggest that this is the same problem Harris faces. When does hyper-rationalism go to far. What are the warning signs. How do we protect against its possible excesses? I think this is the main reason to keep it as an experiment for willing participants than as a mass movement to replace religion.