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Jordan Peterson on Joe Rogan: The gender paradox and the importance of competition
The Canadian professor has been on the Joe Rogan Experience six times. There's a lot of material to discuss.
- Jordan Peterson has constantly been in the headlines for his ideas on gender over the last three years.
- While on Joe Rogan's podcast, he explains his thoughts on the gender differences in society.
- On another episode, Peterson discusses the development of character through competition.
Like many people, I first discovered Jordan Peterson on the Joe Rogan Experience. Since Episode 877, the Canadian professor has been on at least five more times, making him one of the more popular recurring guests.
Peterson is one of the most polarizing thinkers of our day. This is apparent from my own articles on him. When I criticized his ideas on gun control, I received numerous negative emails, tweets, and comments, most of them grammatical nightmares (as trolling goes). Yet when I shared his tips for better writing, liberals derided me for entertaining anything the man says. If nothing else, Peterson is a perfect example of how you simply can't make everyone happy (nor should you desire to).
More importantly, it is possible to appreciate certain aspects of a person's ideology while being critical of others. Many fans of Peterson seem to be "all in," while critics won't take seriously anything the man says. It makes you wonder how either "side" can be in any sort of relationship at all. If Kellyanne and George Conway can maintain a marriage, it is certainly possible to hold conflicting thoughts about a philosopher in your mind and still contemplate value.
Alas, Twitter demolishes all subtleties. Regardless, here are two moments from JRE worthy of discussion.
Jordan Peterson Explains the Gender Paradox - Joe Rogan
Jordan Peterson rose to prominence (and to some, infamy) for his ideas on gender-neutral pronouns. In the above clip, he discusses the "gender paradox" in depth, which he defines thus: "As societies become more gender-equal in their social and political policies, men and women become more different in certain aspects, rather than more similar."
Peterson is pulling data from the contested "Nordic paradox," which states that as societies promote gender rights, less gender balance is observed in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) careers and upper management positions in certain sectors.
Peterson believes there are two types of equality you can pursue. The first is equality of opportunity. He notes that talent is distributed everywhere. Some differences between men and women have been minimized, while some industries, such as academia and health care, are now dominated by women. Though this might place stress on family structure, he concludes that one of the best indicators of economic health in developing countries is their attitudes toward equal rights.
The second is equality of outcome, or equity. Peterson claims the ultimate equity is utopia, but there's an issue. If you were to break down humans into twenty categories (he says there are many more) such as gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic background, attractiveness, and intelligence, it would be impossible to represent everyone equally everywhere.
"There's no way you can regulate a society so tightly that every single one of those groups is equally represented in every single one of those occupations at every single level of the hierarchy."
Are discrepancies between men and women socialization or biological? The relationship between biology and culture is culturally dependent, he continues, then offers a hypothesis: If the differences are primarily social, men and women will become more alike the more egalitarian the society. Yet that's not what happens, according to the Scandinavian research.
Men are more interested in non-animate things, such as technology, gadgets, and automobiles, while women are more interested in people. Societies are better off economically the more equal rights are emphasized, yet Peterson points to the Nordic research.
Interestingly, David Brooks points out a different phenomenon in America: Millennials are divided not by occupation but by political leaning. He attributes this to female mobilization and male backlash, given the 21-point gender gap between Democratic-voting women and GOP-leaning men under age 35.
Brooks does not claim war or even a paradox. He concludes the disparity is more the product of politics than gender:
"I have to say that this rising war between the sexes feels phony to me. Millennials seem to be in fundamental agreement on how to live. I detect less day-to-day difference between men and women than in earlier generations."
Not that Peterson's data are off, necessarily, but building an argument from one geographical region alone is suspect. As Nima Sanandaji, author of Nordic Paradox, points out, the discrepancy between male and female professional roles is attributable to welfare state policies, which, while well-intentioned, paradoxically hold women back from achieving many positions Peterson cite as evidence of gender discrepancies.
On this topic, it appears Peterson is picking and choosing studies to bolster his preexisting belief, which, of course, never makes for good science.
Joe Rogan - Jordan Peterson on the Importance of Competition
In this clip, Peterson points out that the world is "functioning unbelievably well, even though it has its problems." Joe Rogan has often pointed out that societies battled less upon realizing that trading with enemies is more beneficial. This obviously isn't always the case; populism is also reversing this trend. But Peterson is right. We are better off today than likely at any point in history, regardless of how terrible the news becomes—and we need to recognize climate change will greatly affect this upward trend.
Peterson also claims systemic prejudice is decreasing, which might not hold as much water. Nevertheless, developing economies are increasing rapidly thanks to access to clean water, medicine, and cellular technologies. Opportunities are spreading out globally.
Here Peterson dives into liberal notions of an equal playing field, opening the discussion of competition. To frame the argument, he points out many people that claim they want an equal playing field default to listening to a very limited range of music—they want the "best of the best" and don't invest time to discover a wide range of musicians. Thanks to streaming services' pro rata payment system, the best make more per stream than everyone else, which is not healthy from a competitive standpoint.
Competition, however, is healthy, and also necessary. It's encoded in our biology. Rogan mentions a favorite subject of his: participation trophies. Every child receiving a trophy for playing is a terrible way to teach them about life. Not keeping score, even when it's obvious one team has beaten the other, sets a dangerous precedent. Competition does not have to be brutal, but it does have to exist.
Peterson counters with an issue Paul Bloom brilliantly wrote about: Empathy can also be dangerous. Over-emoting often points to emotional lacking. No one argues for complete abstinence from empathy—it is arguably a quality that helped us ascend to the peak of the animal kingdom—but it also softens you. It blinds parents to the struggles existence demand. Enter snowplowing parents whose children can do no wrong.
Peterson then contemplates the idea that "it doesn't matter whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game." The sentiment confuses children. Holding the idea that they're supposed to be a good sport who doesn't care about the outcome and try to win is illogical to a developing (and many developed) minds. Focusing on a single game instead of the bigger picture is what drives parents to miss the larger point.
Which is this: You could give the star player the ball every time if you want to win a game. A good coach, however, teaches the star how to make his teammates better. The goal is the championship, not a single game. Life, Peterson continues, is not a single game, nor even a single championship—it is a series of championships. The way to train to win the series is to develop your character.
That occurs by focusing on winning the largest number of games across the span of a lifetime, which Peterson claims by reciting the most fundamental kindergarten lesson imaginable: Play well with others. This means you want to win, but you want to train others to play well together. Then the kid becomes fun to play with, setting them up for a lifetime of teammates to play with and coaches to learn from.
"Don't forget, kid, that what you're trying to do here is to do well at life. And you need to practice the strategies that enable you to do well at life while you're in any specific game. And you never want to compromise your ability to do well at life for the sake of winning a single game."
Peterson recommends teaching this between the ages of two and four, but really, this applies to all of us at any age. And this lesson—play well with others—is one that we could all work on at this point in our history together.
All this from a wad of gum?
- Researchers recently uncovered a piece of chewed-on birch pitch in an archaeological dig in Denmark.
- Conducting a genetic analysis of the material left in the birch pitch offered a plethora of insights into the individual who last chewed it.
- The gum-chewer has been dubbed Lola. She lived 5,700 years ago; and she had dark skin, dark hair, and blue eyes.
Five thousand and seven hundred years ago, "Lola" — a blue-eyed woman with dark skin and hair — was chewing on a piece of pitch derived from heating birch bark. Then, this women spit her chewing gum out into the mud on an island in Denmark that we call Syltholm today, where it was unearthed by archaeologists thousands of years later. A genetic analysis of the chewing gum has provided us with a wealth of information on this nearly six-thousand-year-old Violet Beauregarde.
This represents the first time that the human genome has been extracted from material such as this. "It is amazing to have gotten a complete ancient human genome from anything other than bone," said lead researcher Hannes Schroeder in a statement.
"What is more," he added, "we also retrieved DNA from oral microbes and several important human pathogens, which makes this a very valuable source of ancient DNA, especially for time periods where we have no human remains."
In the pitch, researchers identified the DNA of the Epstein-Barr virus, which infects about 90 percent of adults. They also found DNA belonging to hazelnuts and mallards, which were likely the most recent meal that Lola had eaten before spitting out her chewing gum.
Insights into ancient peoples
The birch pitch was found on the island of Lolland (the inspiration for Lola's name) at a site called Syltholm. "Syltholm is completely unique," said Theis Jensen, who worked on the study for his PhD. "Almost everything is sealed in mud, which means that the preservation of organic remains is absolutely phenomenal.
"It is the biggest Stone Age site in Denmark and the archaeological finds suggest that the people who occupied the site were heavily exploiting wild resources well into the Neolithic, which is the period when farming and domesticated animals were first introduced into southern Scandinavia."
Since Lola's genome doesn't show any of the markers associated with the agricultural populations that had begun to appear in this region around her time, she provides evidence for a growing idea that hunter-gatherers persisted alongside agricultural communities in northern Europe longer than previously thought.
Her genome supports additional theories on northern European peoples. For example, her dark skin bolsters the idea that northern populations only recently acquired their light-skinned adaptation to the low sunlight in the winter months. She was also lactose intolerant, which researchers believe was the norm for most humans prior to the agricultural revolution. Most mammals lose their tolerance for lactose once they've weaned off of their mother's milk, but once humans began keeping cows, goats, and other dairy animals, their tolerance for lactose persisted into adulthood. As a descendent of hunter-gatherers, Lola wouldn't have needed this adaptation.
A hardworking piece of gum
A photo of the birch pitch used as chewing gum.
These findings are encouraging for researchers focusing on ancient peoples from this part of the world. Before this study, ancient genomes were really only ever recovered from human remains, but now, scientists have another tool in their kit. Birch pitch is commonly found in archaeological sites, often with tooth imprints.
Ancient peoples used and chewed on birch pitch for a variety of reasons. It was commonly heated up to make it pliable, enabling it to be molded as an adhesive or hafting agent before it settled. Chewing the pitch may have kept it pliable as it cooled down. It also contains a natural antiseptic, and so chewing birch pitch may have been a folk medicine for dental issues. And, considering that we chew gum today for no other reason than to pass the time, it may be that ancient peoples chewed pitch for fun.
Whatever their reasons, chewed and discarded pieces of birch pitch offer us the mind-boggling option of learning what someone several thousands of years ago ate for lunch, or what the color of their hair was, their health, where their ancestors came from, and more. It's an unlikely treasure trove of information to be found in a mere piece of gum.
A study finds that baby mammals dream about the world they are about to experience to prepare their senses.
- Researchers find that babies of mammals dream about the world they are entering.
- The study focused on neonatal waves in mice before they first opened their eyes.
- Scientists believe human babies also prime their visual motion detection before birth.
Imagine opening your eyes for the first time as a brand new baby. The world is so mysterious, full of obstacles and strange shapes. And yet it does not take babies all that long to get their bearings, to latch on to their parents, and to start interacting. How do they do this so quickly? A new study published in Science proposes that babies of mammals dream about the world they are about to enter before being born, developing important skills.
The team, led by professor Michael Crair, who specializes in neuroscience, ophthalmology, and visual science, wanted to understand why when mammals are born, they are already somewhat prepared to interact with the world.
"At eye opening, mammals are capable of pretty sophisticated behavior," said Craig, "But how do the circuits form that allow us to perceive motion and navigate the world? It turns out we are born capable of many of these behaviors, at least in rudimentary form."
Unusual retinal activity
The scientists observed waves of activity radiating from the retinas of newborn mice before their eyes first open. Imaging shows that soon after birth, this activity disappears. In its place matures a network of neural transmissions that carries visual stimuli to the brain, as explained by a Yale press release. Once it reaches the brain, the information is encoded for storage.
What's particularly unusual about this neonatal activity is that it demonstrates a pattern that would happen if the animal was moving forward in its environment. As the researchers write in the study, "Spontaneous waves of retinal activity flow in the same pattern as would be produced days later by actual movement through the environment."
Crair explained that this "dream-like activity" makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint, as it helps the mouse get ready for what will happen to it after it opens its eyes. It allows the animal to "respond immediately to environmental threats," Crair shared.
What is creating the waves?
The scientists also probed what is responsible for creating the retinal waves that mimic forward motion. They turned on and off the functionality of starburst amacrine cells — retinal cells that release neurotransmitters — and discovered that blocking them stopped the retinal waves from flowing, which hindered the mouse from developing the ability to react to visual motion upon birth. These cells are also important to an adult mouse, affecting how it reacts to environmental stimuli.
Graphic showing the origin and functionality of directional retinal waves.Michael C. Crair et al, Science, 2021.
What about human babies?
While the study focused on mice, human babies also seem to be able to identify objects and motion right after birth. This suggests the presence of a similar phenomenon in babies before they are born.
"These brain circuits are self-organized at birth and some of the early teaching is already done," Crair stated. "It's like dreaming about what you are going to see before you even open your eyes."
The non-contact technique could someday be used to lift much heavier objects — maybe even humans.
- Since the 1980s, researchers have been using sound waves to move matter through a technique called acoustic trapping.
- Acoustic trapping devices move bits of matter by emitting strategically designed sound waves, which interact in such a way that the matter becomes "trapped" in areas of particular velocity and pressure.
- Acoustic and optical trapping devices are already used in various fields, including medicine, nanotechnology, and biological research.
Sound can have powerful effects on matter. After all, sound strikes our world in waves — vibrations of air molecules that bounce off of, get absorbed by, or pass through matter around us. Sound waves from a trained opera singer can shatter a wine glass. From a jet, they can collapse a stone wall. But sound can also be harnessed for delicate interactions with matter.
Since the 1980s, researchers have been using sound to move matter through a phenomenon called acoustic trapping. The method is based on the fact that sound waves produce an acoustic radiation force.
"When an acoustic wave interacts with a particle, it exerts both an oscillatory force and a much smaller steady-state 'radiation' force," wrote the American Physical Society. "This latter force is the one used for trapping and manipulation. Radiation forces are generated by the scattering of a traveling sound wave, or by energy gradients within the sound field."
When tiny particles encounter this radiation, they tend to be drawn toward regions of certain pressure and velocity within the sound field. Researchers can exploit this tendency by engineering sound waves that "trap" — or suspend — tiny particles in the air. Devices that do this are often called "acoustic tweezers."
Building a better tweezer
A study recently published in the Japanese Journal of Applied Physics describes how researchers created a new type of acoustic tweezer that was able to lift a small polystyrene ball into the air.
Tweezers of Sound: Acoustic Manipulation off a Reflective Surface youtu.be
It is not the first example of a successful "acoustic tweezer" device, but the new method is likely the first to overcome a common problem in acoustic trapping: sound waves bouncing off reflective surfaces, which disrupts acoustic traps.
To minimize the problems of reflectivity, the team behind the recent study configured ultrasonic transducers such that the sound waves that they produce overlap in a strategic way that is able to lift a small bit of polystyrene from a reflective surface. By changing how the transducers emit sound waves, the team can move the acoustic trap through space, which moves the bit of matter.
Move, but don't touch
So far, the device is only able to move millimeter-sized pieces of matter with varying degrees of success. "When we move a particle, it sometimes scatters away," the team noted. Still, improved acoustic trapping and other no-contact lifting technologies — like optical tweezers, commonly used in medicine — could prove useful in many future applications, including cell separation, nanotechnologies, and biological research.
Could future acoustic-trapping devices lift large and heavy objects, maybe even humans? It seems possible. In 2018, researchers from the University of Bristol managed to acoustically trap particles whose diameters were larger than the sound wavelength, which was a breakthrough because it surpassed "the classical Rayleigh scattering limit that has previously restricted stable acoustic particle trapping," the researchers wrote in their study.
In other words, the technique — which involved suspending matter in tornado-like acoustic traps — showed that it is possible to scale up acoustic trapping.
"Acoustic tractor beams have huge potential in many applications," Bruce Drinkwater, co-author of the 2018 study, said in a statement. "I'm particularly excited by the idea of contactless production lines where delicate objects are assembled without touching them."