Philosopher, neuroscientist, author, podcast host, and prominent atheist Sam Harris is set to hold the biggest live event of his career. Along with Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson and Centre for Social Cohesion founder Douglas Murray, on July 16 at the O2 arena in London, Harris will discuss everything from religion, over Trump, to intellectual honesty.
In an interview with The Independent published today, Harris touched on a wide variety of subjects. What perhaps stands out ahead of the O2 event is Sam’s criticism of Jordan Peterson’s philosophy. As The Spectator noted, a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, Jordan Peterson rose to prominence after criticizing political correctness and the Canadian government’s Bill C-16.
A few viral videos were all it took for Peterson to become an online celebrity of sorts, with his YouTube videos and lectures amassing hundreds of thousands of views overnight. For Jordan, the snowball has not stopped rolling, and he has become one of the most prominent public intellectuals of our time. Naturally, along with fame came notoriety, but Sam Harris’ criticism of Peterson is, so it seems, rooted in two things: Jordan’s refusal to denounce Trump, and Jordan’s “overt appeal” to religion.
“If I have any disagreement with Jordan on this front it does come down to (as far as I know) he has said very little in criticism of Trump which may signify nothing, but it strikes me as peculiar. And I know his fan base is filled with Trump supporters and he’s done far less than I have to make it uncomfortable for the Trump supporters in his fan base.”
Indeed, intentionally or not, Peterson has not made it uncomfortable for the Trump supporters in his fan base. As The Pluralist noted, Peterson said that given the right to vote, he “probably” would have “impulsively voted for Donald Trump at the last moment.”
However, for Harris, Peterson’s refusal to publicly denounce Donald Trump seems like a “strange omission,” and the Trump phenomenon is something the two will discuss at the O2 event, according to Harris, who told The Independent the following.
“That’s a choice I don’t totally understand, that’s a choice I don’t support. I think if you are at all committed to the truth, scientific or any other form of truth, to not have noticed that the current occupant of the oval office has done more to harm the public notion of truth than any person in living memory… That seems a strange omission. So it will be interesting to discover if there’s any daylight between the two of us on the topic of Trump when we’re there.”
When a National Post reporter asked Jordan Peterson whether he believes in God or not, the professor responded, “I think the proper response to that is No, but I’m afraid He might exist.”
Seemingly an atheist or at least an agnostic, Jordan Peterson has, however, found much of his philosophy on religion, Christianity in particular, famously deriving some of his ideas from ancient myths and the Bible. As The Spectator noted, Peterson draws inspiration from Jung’s philosophy of religion, and holds views similar to the Christian existentialism.
That is a problem for Harris, who told The Independent that Peterson is “making an overt appeal to religion,” and “pandering to ancient fears.”
“Insofar as Peterson’s making an overt appeal to religion, he is (in my view) pandering to ancient fears and modern instability in a way that is intellectually dishonest, and he should know that much of what he’s saying is bulls*it. “
Apart from “pandering to ancient fears,” as Harris put it, Jordan Peterson also panders to religious sectarianism, which Harris considers “retrograde.”
“Insofar as Peterson is pandering to religious sectarianism, trumpeting Judeo-Christian values, I think that’s retrograde, I think that’s a political dead-end. It’s just unnecessary.”
And that is where Harris’ and Peterson’s philosophies most notably clash. One could infer that these fundamental disagreements promise, at the very least, lively debate.
Jordan Peterson has previously appeared on Sam Harris’ podcast, Waking Up. The two have extensively discussed freedom of speech and the nature of truth. More recently, as the National Observer noted, the pair spoke at the Orpheum Theatre in Vancouver, Canada.
Along with Eric Weinstein, Bret Weinstein, Dave Rubin, Ben Shapiro, Douglas Murray, Maajid Nawaz, Joe Rogan, and dozens of others, Harris and Peterson are, according to the New York Times, considered to be a part of what’s been dubbed the “Intellectual Dark Web,” an alliance of “heretics,” as the NYT put it, all of whom have amassed substantial followings through unconventional means, divorced from mainstream intellectualism.
Sam Harris has been in the public eye longer than Peterson. As noted in the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, along with Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris was considered to be one of the leading intellectuals of the New Atheist movement.
Douglas Murray, who will also appear in the upcoming event in London, is a British author, journalist, and political commentator, described by The Guardian as a right wing, neoconservative journalist who wants to “protect” Europe – white, Christian Europe for that matter – from “outsiders.” In one of his books, as The Guardian noted, Murray argues that Europe is facing an almost existential threat.