Jordan Peterson vs Susan Blackmore • Do we need God to make sense of life?

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welcome to the big conversation here on unbelievable with me Justin Braley the big conversation is a series of shows exploring faith science philosophy and what it means to be human in association with the Templeton religion trust today our conversation topic is the psychology of belief and do we need God to make sense of life well the big conversation partners I'm sitting down with today are Jordan B Peterson and Susan Blackmore Jordan Peterson is a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto and author of the new book twelve rules for life an antidote to chaos Jordan rose to prominence in 2016 when his stance on free speech in the threat of legal action for refusing to use transgender pronouns created a media storm but since then many new people have discovered his academic work including a very popular lecture series on the psychology and wisdom of ancient Bible stories and his new book twelve rules for life distills much of the wisdom into a guide to leading a meaningful life our other guest is Susan Blackmore she's a psychologist lecturer and author of books on consciousness and evolutionary psychology including the meme machine and seeing myself the new science of out-of-body experiences and she views many forms of religion as fundamentally negative for human flourishing as she's written for instance that religions are an example par excellence of meme plexes that use wicked tricks to ensure their own survival well today we'll be looking at the psychological roots of faith beliefs can we make our own rules for life or are we subject to some higher level of meaning and our even atheist fundamentally religious deep down I'm really looking forward to today's conversation so Susan and Jordan welcome along to the program thanks for have you thank you Justin I will start with you Jordan you're a hard man to categorize in many ways your work actually attracts attention from both believers and non-believers and many of whom say that you've actually made them consider consider their views about religion especially the many atheists that I've heard on who who've said your work opens up things in a new way do you just tend to describe yourself as a religious man at all I would definitely describe myself as a religious man yeah I think that's fundamentally true the Devils in the details what does that mean exactly I've seen you've been asked the question do you believe in God and that's not a question you necessarily find it terribly easy so I don't know what people mean when they say believe mmm like it's it's as if that question explains itself when it's asked it's like it doesn't what do you mean by belief and what do you mean by God and what makes you think that the question that I'm answering is the same one that you're asking if this is not something that you can say yes or no to in any straightforward manner so I find it an off-putting question and and I don't think it's because I'm avoiding the issue I think that answer it properly requires books and lectures yeah so do you see yourself at least in the Christian Christian tradition as far as your I suppose well I've you well there's no doubt about that because I'm a westerner there's no escape from that I'm conditioned in every Celt from as a consequence of the judeo-christian worldview and so I've read a fair bit in other religious traditions and have a reasonable grasp on some of them I would say not trying to overestimate my knowledge but we're saturated in judeo-christian ethics and so I've seen you say that you certainly live your life as though God exists yes I would say well to the best of my ability right yeah and I think that that's the fundamental hallmark of belief is what you it's how you act no what you say about what you think you think sure what do you know about what you think seriously I mean we wouldn't need a psychology and anthropology or sociology any of this any of the humanities if our thoughts were transparent to ourselves they're not in the least and you've been in the least they are you've been willing to be quite critical as well as some of the new atheist so Sam Harris Daniel Dennett Richard Dawkins what what have you made of their particular way of approach they just don't take it seriously enough there as far as I'm concerned they they don't contend with the real thinkers you know I know all three of them very well and I have deep great arguments with them and they seem to be taking it seriously I know what you mean that there's a certain sort of superficiality and the writings of all of them but as people I find they they really care about there's no doubt about that and and and it's not like I'm not sympathetic to the atheist a rationalist claimed I'm perfectly sympathetic to it but I don't believe that the level of discussion that's characteristic of Dawkins and Dennett and and Sam Harris say approaches the level of complexity of say Friedrich Nietzsche or Dostoyevsky well that would be asking man you're gonna play with the heavy weights but what I've noticed is it's a lot of people who maybe up to a point have been interested in what those people have been saying from the new atheist side who are also interested in what you're saying there's an interesting sort of correlation back yeah a definite and and why is it that especially some of these you know potentially I see a lot of men in this audience are coming to you Jordan to sort of sit at your feet and hear what you have to say at this point well the new atheists have a hell of a hell of a time with an active ethic you know they say well you can build an ethic on rationality it's like well first of all that's not self-evident it's possible but it's by no means self-evident and and they're there they're essential existential concept is rather hollow like with Harris for example we never when I talked to him twice in two different podcasts and we never really got to his sense of what the ideal Society might be but I've read his writings on on the maximization of well-being for example and it's just it's just that's just not going anywhere you can't even measure it properly and if you're thinking about something like that scientifically that's that turns out to be like that's not a problem it's a catastrophic problem but some really goes deeply into the consequences of meditation and he tells stories about his own experience of how behavior changes compassion seems to arise naturally this is not based on rationality which is not everything and I would agree with you there it's based on practical experience training in observing one's own thoughts which is also of interest to you and in the way behavior changes in ways which he would say and also query whether it's true that it's better behavior being compassionate and kind to people is better we can't have some great underlying reason why if you don't have God you know it's a very difficult question you've got to find some basis but even without one Sam is trying to say as I would that if you spend a lot of time meditating and really becoming to understand yourself and see the consequences of certain thoughts and actions then better actions follow that's one of the things I like about his work well and I'm certainly not questioning it questioning his ethical integrity or his commitment to these problems although I certainly don't think that compassion or kindness constitutes a sufficient grounds for like a transcend to get transcended ethic not at least partly because both and I'm speak about that technically to some degree compassion is associated with trait agreeableness fundamentally and agree and agreeable this is a great short-term strategy for infants but it's a very bad medium to long-term strategy for adults and it's by no means a the ground upon which an entire complex society can rest and that's partly what you see playing out right now in the political world because the politically correct types are very high in compassion we have research that demonstrates that and so and there but that ethic doesn't work for a sophisticated society we were only doing introductions where let's come to you sue and you may be familiar to some unbelievable listeners who have already heard you on the show before and I think you're happy to describe yourself as an atheist does that mean for you that you are a naturalist someone who's committed to a view that our experiences can be fully explained by a purely material world no I mean I've you know I sign up in a waiter naturalism groups and and and and beliefs but because I work on consciousness such a lot and the problem of how do we relate the mind-body problem you know here's this table here's my glass of water will agree that if I go like this it'll go all over the place and ruin the microphone how does that relate to my the taste of the water that you know these fundamental problems mean I have big queries about naturalism as you described it there okay in a much broader sense yes as you know and many listeners will know I started out being a parapsychologist and rejected ideas of clairvoyance and telepathy and ghosts and poltergeists because of lack of evidence so that's one way to naturalism to throw that lot out I was brought up like like you as a Christian and I threw that out because in the end then makes sense to me so that's another way to say I'm left with naturalism but I'm not left with the naturalism that explains everything I'm left with a feeling that that's what once try to do to understand what's going on here in minds in bodies in tables and glasses of water and it's very difficult you're well-known for picking up the idea of memes though sort of originated at some level with Richard Dawkins and the idea of a an idea propagated across generations and and you even went as far as to describe religion as a virus of the mind in terms of it that was Richards term but yes okay a kind of view you would still stand by today yes but you've got to be careful about what you mean by a virus I mean I think if I often say in lectures imagine a continuum between what you mean as being a virus of the mind it's really bad you know it's like like the flu model usually we think the virus is yes they aren't always so imagine that you think you know religions is utterly bad or you think religions utterly wonderful Natalie good and all in between I think Richard is way down there and I'm somewhere here I think by and large on balance the world would be a better place without any religions but the the writtens would not thrive if they didn't have within them things which are positive I mean we know to personal level it's a society level the worst societies have a more religious a personal level there's evidence that people are happier and they have better social connections and so on if they're religious so I don't think we would be stuck with these horrible memes if it weren't for the fact that they also have some good qualities what do you make of the whole meme theory and the fact that sue does he ultimately I think it's a shallow derivation of the idea of archetype and that Dawkins would do well to read some young in fact if he thought farther and wasn't as blinded by his a priori stance about religion he would have found that the deeper explanation of meme is in fact archetype I disagree I mean you can you just first of all explain archetype for those who are not perhaps familiar with that particular psychologic one archetype is partly a pattern of behavior that's grounded in biology so it's the behavior itself so you could think about that is both the instinct and the manifestation of that instinct but it's also the representation of that pattern so part of what's coded in our mythological stories for example are images of epical patterns of behavior and those are the typical patterns of behavior that make us human I really want to have this discussion about memes by the way because because it's a really a discussion that needs to be had because I think that the the meme idea is very interesting and I do think that there are contagious ideas but that needs to be chased down much deeper because there are ideas that are so contagious that we've actually adapted to them biologically and so and once that happens they're not only they're no longer merely memes there's something else they're built into us I can give you the archetypes as you just yeah well I can give you a kind of example of that so imagine I'll have to try to do this relatively rapidly it's very complicated so I'm hoping I can do it so imagine that we live in dormant turkeys we don't have to imagine that that happens to be the case there are at least 350 million years old so they're really really old so the idea of the archetype of dominance is older than our ability to perceive trees right it's really down there and our nervous system is fully adapted to the existence of dominance harkey's it's one of the things the serotonergic system tracks ok so now we also know that your position in a dominance arc especially if you're male is proportionate to your reproductive success the higher you offer in the hierarchy the more likely you are to succeed ok so what that means is that males have been selected for their ability to move up the dominance hierarchy but that's not quite right they've been selected for their ability to move up the set of all possible dominance hierarchies and that's a very abstract sin and there's a set of characteristics that go along with the ability to move up the set of all possible dominance hierarchies that's represented in religious terms as the optimal ethical manner in which to conduct yourself I say and that's that's not a meme that's casually passed from person to person it's maybe way deeper than that I think you're being unfair to memes I I would make this response here about the difference between memes and archetypes so archetypes are there whether we have memes or not all of that history yeah evolution is that so we have you know ideas about sex differences or ideas about dominance is a very good example that don't require memes they can then become memes and a mean by definition as Dawkins stars it out is that which is imitated or that which is copied from person to person so the idea of dominance hierarchies can be a meme and all the ideas we build on top of that as long as we pass it from person to person now certainly think of hierarchies of memes from from yes indeed from once there are no more than then fast across the culture to wings but you analyzing memes and I think the power of the idea means is this we have a first replicator genes on the on the planet and we know the consequences of that producing all these organisms but the idea about means is that they are a second replicator so genes are copied by chemical processes in in in bodies memes are copied by imitation and other kinds of interactions between human beings and very little in any other species at all and that's what gives rise to culture so the whole theory about memes is it is one of many ways of trying to understand the evolution of culture and in that lane that way I say it's not not trivial it responds and I want to move on to talking about the twelve rules Jordan well the the the issue is what happens when a meme is so widely distributed that it becomes a determining factor in evolution itself because yes I think well that's where I think the religious that's for me that's the grounds of the essential religious instinct it's a meme gene interaction and it goes back forever yes and then so I'll finish with this see because once you see that there's a meme gene interaction and that there's selection in favor of a certain meme let's say then then you open up the entire question of what constitutes the underlying reality because anyone this isn't something I tried to have a talk with about Sam Harrison Lee augered in very rapidly you could say that reality is that which selects now it's not exactly a materialist viewpoint it's more of an evolutionary view point and if reality is that which selects then what's selected by that reality is in some sense correct now that's not well this is why you're adding honor that's a big claim you're adding on I know it's a big claim I understand it's a big claim but it's also the central claim of pragmatism let's move it on there just a bit yes all fascinating I do want to talk about the book which I I read an really interesting Jordan 12 rules for life very much drawing actually on your biblical series as well and and that was interesting me it's almost like I don't psych illogical theology or something like that I'm not sure what what term to give it but you you constantly draw and throughout it it's it's a rulebook for helping people to leave meaningful lives very practical in that sense but stacked with illustrations and stories from biblical stories Adam and Eve the flood Cain and Abel and so on and Jesus as well what why is that particularly being your focus recently to explain life and psychology from this very religious standpoint well I wouldn't say recently I think I've been doing this since about 1985 but the reason that there's multiple reasons that the reason fundamental reason is because I was trying to solve two problems three problems I would say one would be the problem of how to live in the face of the undeniable tragedy of life the other is what to do with the fact that malevolence exists and that well those are the two most fundamental questions that the the and they're interrelated because what happens is that the apprehension of tragedy is one of the things that drives people towards towards malevolence have a chapter in there called don't criticize the world until you put your house in order and I draw writings there from some of the worst people about whose actions I'm familiar with like they call in mind high school shooters and mass murderer named carl panzram who's very insightful person and i've tried to track how it is that people develop a malevolent attitude towards being I would say towards life and that's intrinsically associated with tragedy well these great stories that we have part of the substructure of our culture are our antidotes to both malevolence and tragedy that that's what and I mean that I'm not necessarily even saying that they're successful antidotes but the reason that they were formulated the deep reason is as a response to the tragic conditions of life and to malevolence and then my experience in delving into these stories and is that the farther I delve into them the deeper they get and that never ends just when I think I've got to the bottom of a story like the story of Cain and Abel which is like 12 sentences long I mean it's so short it's unbelievable it has no bottom and that's a really fascinating phenomena I guess it's partly like the Bible is a hyperlinked text you know so that every verse refers to many other verses and so you never get to the end of it in some sense but then it's also hyperlinked with the entire culture around it and so and then I also think that because the stories in Genesis especially the first part of Genesis are deeply mimetic in the sense that that you've been describing that they they have a kind of biological depth that's unknown as well yes they have a life of their own that's for sure a life that lasts a lot longer than the mere lives of mortals let's say so and and you you the rules will have you know quite fun titles in a way in fact I think they originally came from a blog post you put up on a on an internet website but you've obviously developed them in in all kinds of different ways stand up straight with your shoulders back rule number two treat yourself like someone you're responsible for helping number 3 make friends with people who want the best for you and so on I guess I'd be interested know what your response having had a chance to look at the book is to this way of looking at life and how we create meaning for ourselves in the process my reaction if you like it's so full of lovely stories really interesting thought-provoking stories wisdom lots of wisdom all over the place then the Bible stories then this you just don't understand that you don't get why the Bible is well I get it in this sense that those stories many of them are very deep and have something to tell us but it's the way I think that Jordan kind of slithers from a good idea about this might be a good way to live your life to this story I mean let me give you example you you talk about with great knowledge about the evolution the evolution the arms race between the size of babies heads and the size of women's pelvis and this is something that's always fascinated me I think it's meme drone that you know we've ended up with childbirth being painful as I well know and you probably don't how painful it is for those reasons but then later in the book you bring in the story of Adam and Eve and how God says you know women will suffer and you know and so on and the implication not clearly stated but the implication to the reader is God did it now on the one hand you're saying look we evolved this way this pain and suffering is an inevitable consequence of the way that that evolution has played out and in the other you're kind of luring people into believing that God actually made that and even worse than that the idea that that it at least speaks to me that somehow we're so bad and deserve all that suffering which in other places in the book you try and get we shouldn't feel so wicked and bad how do you respond to that Jordan well you asked a little bit earlier about you were talking about psychological theology you know and I did this lecture series on Genesis 15 lectures on Genesis and it was called a psychological interpretation of the biblical story psychological approach the biblical stories I think and I've been trying to do that like I'm not a theologian even though I'm very interested in these stories and what I was trying to do with see I do believe that the biblical texts are foundational mmm I believe it didn't the Nietzschean sense and you know Nietzsche of course announced famously in the late 18-hundreds 18 unders that God was dead and the typical rationalist atheist regards that as a triumphal and triumphalist Proclamation but that wasn't that for Nietzsche and Nietzsche knew perfectly well and said immediately afterward that the consequences of that was going to be bloody catastrophe because everything was going to fall and he predicted the rise of communism for example and the deaths of tens of millions of people in the aftermath of the death of God because Nietzsche knew perfectly well that when you pull the cornerstone out from underneath the building that even though it may stay aloft in midair like a cartoon character that's wandered off a cliff for some period of time that it will inevitably cut crumble mm-hm and that it will be replaced by something that's perhaps far worse now Nietzsche hoped it would be it would be replaced by man's ability to recreate meaning spontaneously out of his psyche for example which i think is a doomed enterprise but he knew that in the interval it would be replaced by both nihilism and by communist totalitarianism which is a hell of a prediction because it it was done like 40 years before the events actually unfolded well you can you can see it that way but if that is the case why do we have evidence that the most dysfunctional societies today are the most religious and for example in the United States of America the higher if you go across different states the higher belief in God is proclaimed belief in God whatever you think that means the the more murders suicides marital breakdown various measures of dysfunctional society are well it depends on how you define religion in part I mean first of all America is a very religious country and to think of it as a country that's doing worse than other countries in the world is just not the case ah serration rate is higher than any other well true but some living in sin it's and it's what would you say ability to provide the basic essentials of life for people and and the essential freedoms that go along with that you wouldn't compare well to an African dictatorship no no no but most of these studies have been done only in developed societies but they're if you look at income inequality that's much worse in the States oh yes a lot of people in the states have a very high standard of living but the poorest are really poor with Obamacare being dismantled and so on well but but nevertheless let me go back to that point we know that more dysfunctional societies have higher proclaimed believe higher attendance in church and so on now this doesn't fit with what us ate now Nietzsche's ideas are very profound and interesting but I just want to stop you from saying that he was absolutely right about somehow if if we get rid of God we're going to be worse because we have very well functioning society we were we were pretty bad in the 20th century yes yes and we and we could easily drift out we again and they've been terrible bad things done in the name of God and have been terrible bad things done in the name of communism and and and and atheism I don't think we can I don't want Jordan come back on this evidence I mean obviously from her perspective sue feels like actually we've got pretty stable societies that are increasingly secular these days so perhaps a Nietzsche was wrong and in fact we're not going to see this well I would say they're stable to the degree that they're actually not secular and this is also a Nietzsche and observation and the dust yes keen observation for that matter is that we're living on the corpse of our ancestors like we always have that's a very old idea but that rut you that runs that stops being nourishing and starts to become rotten unless you replenish it and I don't think we are replenishing it we're in danger of running we're living on borrowed time and in danger of running out of it I'd like I I think that the reason that the Western societies essentially work quite well is because they act out a judeo-christian ethic and one that's essentially predicated it's predicated on utmost regard for the sovereignty of the individual so the individual is sovereign in relationship to the state which is a remarkable idea and one that's fundamentally religious and it's in its in its essence in my motive mode of thinking and that's also predicated on honest speech and there's there's other pretty pretty kids at all as well but those are religious predicates in my estimation there's a section actually sue in Jordan's book where he says this Christianity elevated the individual soul placing slave and master commoner and noblemen alike on the same metaphysical footing rendering them equal before God in the law it's nothing short of a miracle he has very high view of what Christianity has done for the world whether or not it's objectively true what do you take from well that evidence that I was discussing earlier that there's plenty of now that the most dysfunctional societies are also the most believing societies there are lots of hypotheses about why that is the case but I would like to challenge Jordan on the implication that he put before that because a lot of these of our of our moral stance today comes from religion and not all of it does that it has to have that as a basis I don't think it does I feel very grateful to live in a country where now at last the majority are not religious it's just tipped over in the latest polls and in fact coming up on the train from Devon today I got chatting with various people the assumption that I find here I don't know what it's like in Canada is I always start with assuming someone's an atheist and it nearly always turns out to be there oh yeah all that religion stuff you know it's very very common in this country now we have not descended into being a terrible country we have you know yes we have our problems we're still fairly early on in the in the experiment I suppose of the well ten years yes III will await with interest and I hope I live long enough to see but then if we look at many of the Scandinavian countries which are way ahead of us in in that move they have wonderful health systems welfare state support for people out of well and so I'd be reinterred in hearing your response to all this then Jordan did ultimately we can divorce the the good principles that we may have had in some respects from religion from religion ultimately and still leaf yes perfectly happy so I demand it you see a lot of this depends on your definition of religion like I know perfectly well from my own empirical studies that there's at least two disparate sets of phenomena that might be regarded as religious right there's the dogmatic element which is really what Sue's referring to when she talks about the pathology of religious belief and there's the spiritual element and dogmatic element tends to appeal to people who are essentially conservative in their temperamental nature and I mean that's scientifically speaking and the meaningful element the spiritual element let's say tends to appeal to people who are more liberal in their in their temperamental fundamentals and religion overall is a continual dialogue between the dogmatic element and the spiritual element and if either of those exceeds its proper boundaries then there's a degenerative consequence like if the spiritual types get the upper hand then the structure disappears and if the dogmatic types get the upper hand then everything clamps down into too much stasis so to make a direct claim say between the existence of dogmatic belief and the pathology of society and then to assume that that encompasses the entire relationship between religion and the functioning of society I think is a based upon a narrowing of an unfortunate narrowing of the definition of what constitutes religious but then back to the idea that that our moral claims can be divorced from the religious substrate it depends on what you mean and here we go with the definition by moral substrate you know the or religious substrate let's say that I regard you as a sovereign individual well question is what does that mean it might just be an opinion might just be a meme might be reflective of something far deeper so deep that if we transgress against it it will be fatal and my investigations have convinced me that that's exactly the case that although it may be a rational claim it may be an Enlightenment claim as well that there's something underneath it that's so much deeper than that that to reduce it to mere rationality or to mere enlightenment claim is to do it an immense disservice and also to fall prey I would say to the postmodern quandary because the postmodern quandary is all belief systems are equally invalid it's something like that hmm and that's a real problem when you try to erect a belief system on purely rational axioms so and you can't besides that you can't even do it it's like I don't respect you as an individual for rational means the rationality didn't proceed my respect for you it's way deeper than that it's embodied for example and it's built into our emotion you have Malaysian issue with rationalism and the Enlightenment and so on where you feel that those who appeal to that as somehow we're in this golden age now are forgetting that it's all built on a much deeper longer evolutionary psychological history which which is completely different to rationalism per se oh I see a university professor let's take Dawkins for example he's pretty he's he's the sovereign rational individual but there's a there's a wall around him that's the wall let's say of his University and then outside the university there's the wall of the town and outside the town there's the wall of the of the state and the wall of the country and there's just these concentric rings that are protecting him and he can stand in the middle and say well I'm divorced from all that it's not under it doesn't undergird me it's like yeah undergirds you to a degree that you can't possibly imagine and you're you're you're living on on the well it really it is the resources that have been gathered painfully and blood Lee in the past and saying well we can just detach ourselves from that and float off it's like no you can't you don't understand what you're talking about all that leads me to gratitude for all that we have I mean I I recognize that I recognize that nothing to do with any religious basis at all I recognize that I could not come on the train here have a really interesting discussion meet Justin again I have a nice glass of cold water you know without a load of other people doing it for me that gratitude which is one of the things that you right put in into your book it gives it gives good place to it and it's a very important that doesn't come from anything religious unless you say because I was brought up a Christian it came from there but I don't base it on that anymore I think it comes from I think it comes from a recognition that I've done a lot of meditation I meditated every day for 30 years and I think this has something to do with it but it's observing the inner consequences of different ways of confronting the world and I'm much more in recent years in the habit of waking up in the morning even if it's raining in January in England and looking out and going and it's it's a feeling of gratitude not the gratitude towards God or at towards anybody or anything just free-floating gratitude that seems to have a positive consequence I accept that they are better and it's kind of selfish waiting it pops up again do you think you can just have gratitude in general or Muskrat as you'd always be given towards something and ultimately well that's a good question that that goes back to our discussion about acting things out like gratitude is something you feel towards something and you can say well I don't feel it towards anything in particular and I would say all right well defuse nothing that you feel it towards serves in your psychological hierarchy as your equivalent of God no but it's gratitude you know this morning for example I looked out and it was so green we've had Frost's and it's been white last few days and it was green this morning and it was just gratitude to the universe if you like it's not really God because it's not a creator it's not anything I can pray to it I mean I know your gratitude towards I don't know but I find I know that you tackle in this book that that happiness is not an ultimate good and I died struggle this right not an ultimate goal okay it wasn't alright alright okay there's a big difference right you're right you pick me up correctly on that um nevertheless we are happiness seeking creatures and I have found through practice and growing older that acting gratitude thinking gratitude feeling gratitude makes me happier and seems to care okay so I don't I don't think we are happiness seeking creatures and I think it's a logo not because there's something wrong with being happy because you know thank God if you get to be happy now on that but I don't think that that's what we seek I think we seek a meaning that's deep enough to sustain us through tragedy and that is way different you know when I hit some tragedies too strong a word I think I'm but what I wear horrible things happen to me or I feel or I read some terrible thing going on in the world yes those are tragedies going on in the world um my response is nothing matters it's all empty and meaningless this is how the world is get used to it get on with it girl that sounds like a very Zen Buddhist way of dealing I guess my defense a paradoxical way though it is the first part the first part of that is nihilistic and the second part isn't so how do you reconcile those two things get on with it girl because oh well here's another thing I've often done this with my students let's suppose you become nihilistic nothing matters there's no point in doing I mean I think we live in a pointless universe what are you going to do and I say to them like William James in his wonderful thing about getting up in the morning but that's a slightly different point that he makes there but I say to them okay tomorrow morning when you wake up think it's all pointless there's no point in doing anything what are you going to do well actually you're gonna need to go to the loo you're going to get out of bed and you're going to go to the bathroom and when you're there you'll think actually I'm hungry I think I think I want to go down to the kitchen I probably should put my slippers on why don't I get dressed you gonna have something to eat and then you think I'm bored and you go to university and go into your lectures and you know we are not creatures who will just not do anything to me to go through that process which I've done in the past a lot and it's just natural now is it is it is a very positive way of living to accept the meaningless and ultimate emptiness of everything and accept that this creature here this thing this evolved creature just will get on with thirty-foot but you're not accepting the meaninglessness of it even by going through those actions that you don't because you're because you're acting as if those things are meaning yes I meaningful are you pretending that they're me I'm not pretending I'm I'm my way of putting it would be that those meanings are constructed by myself and others personal because the kind of creatures we are because of them mean destructive neither is your desire to use the loop none of that's concern no but the fact that there is a loop you see see so imagine this you you have the proximal meanings that you describe that is sort of a priority right you're handed to you you might consider them as needs or drives although they're not there are personalities it's not the right way of conceptualizing them but but then there's the intermingling of all those needs and drives let's say and that constitutes a new layer of structure because it isn't just that you have to eat and that you have to use the washroom and that you have to have something to drink and that you have to be warm enough or cool enough to survive it's that you have to do all those things at the same time in a situation where you're going to have to propagate that across time and you're going to have to do it with a bunch of other people and it's always been like that and so what that means is that out of those proximal meanings higher meanings arise and you might say well those meanings are arbitrary and religious say they are arbitrary but I would say they were constructed it's very interesting reading your what we mean by constructed well they are a consequence of moment metic evolution of the of the language that people are brought up in the culture they live in the arguments they have I mean what about the biology that they're given well we start with the biology and the memes build on top of that matter biology - well by definition they are well pseudoscience in saying we'll talk about genes as biology talk about memes as culture that's all I meant by dividing that but let me say this I don't accept that division but I would say meaning reading reading your book made me think a lot about what what you mean by meaning and your claim that we should have a meaningful life or strive for a meaningful life that meaningfulness is important and I kept asking myself do I do I live that way what meanings does my life have and you know if I think of something like well that most of my striving goes into right my books and is that meaningful and again I have the same response when I ask myself that question it's just what this body does it then you should listen to the body and stop listening to the thing that's criticizing it and what would the body say it would say write your book and try to be as clear as I do said at the beginning is that the Atheist types act out a religious structure and you have a fascinating part in your book Jordan where you do say this you're simply not addressing atheist you say you're simply not an atheist in your actions and it is your action correctly or let go and it is your actions that most accurately reflect your religious beliefs what do you mean by that what are you saying that no one is really an atheist deep down I didn't say no one was I said that most of the people who claim to be atheists aren't so this is why I like Dostoyevsky's crime and punishment because we're Skolnick off tried to act like an atheist right he took the ideas that we're floating around Dostoevsky took the ideas that we're floating around in the late 1800s which are still the ideas that we're discussing today what most fundamental idea I suppose being after Nietzsche's announcement of the death of God that if there is no God than anything is permitted that was risk Olenick office call across the criminal in crime and punishment the murderer he gets away with his murder uh you know technically but not psychologically and he decides that if there's no God anything is permitted really true that's a that's a person in a character in a novel I don't think that that's so let's hear the end of that story and what what what do you take away from what does death key has to say about well dostoyevsky's take away was - was that there was a moral law that Miss kholokov was breaking even though he crashing alized his way through it like he committed the perfect murder right he murdered a woman who people would have voted to murder and then he got away with it and he did it for good reasons at least reasons that he could rationalize as good and then he got away with it but it destroyed his soul and then Dostoyevsky's write about that and one of the things I like about Dostoevsky as compared to Nietzsche say because I think Dostoyevsky is the profounder of the two is that in in the Brothers karamasoff for example ivan is the atheist and now even is everyone everything you'd want a man to be like seriously and Dostoyevsky man he doesn't strawman his opponents the most powerful characters in his books are always the opponents of what he himself believes and Ivan is always arguing with Alyosha who's his younger brother who's a monastic novitiate and really can't articulate himself for it was nowhere near the force or charisma of Ivan but Alyosha wins the drama even even though he loses all the arguments and that's the where Dostoyevsky is so great it's like and this is what you're doing in your life you're right you're acting it look you're acting out the logo citizen that's what you're doing you're writing books to illuminate the world don't you think it's kind of offensive to say to me that that I'm not an atheist when I am I why don't you answer me this question why do you think I don't go around murdering people why do you think I go around trying to be I don't know you well enough to know don't do it is because they're too cowardly oh that could be a reason it could be that I don't matter we need him to place things out and I know I know it is we've had not long enough but Jordan just come back to this because I want to hear why ultimately despite everything that sue said there you still think she's behaving as though there is in some sense a God or some ultimate meaning even though she protests that no that's that's why I would say she's acting it out well for example the act of writing a book I mean the judeo-christian culture is the culture of the book it's it's the revelation of the proper mode of being in written form it's not only that but it's it's a large it's a large part of that it's the culture of the book you're acting out the culture of the book it's thousands of years old and the voice the true voice in the culture of the book is the logos that's what it is technically speaking and so she's acting out the logos and writing a book it's like and then she says well I don't believe in God it's like okay the logos like you do is fine in a scripture in the New Testament is the world is brought into the word and it of course was related it brings order and to Jesus Christ as the sort of personification almost of that he's the archetypal manifestation of the logos I mean these are all big words and things I mean a lot of people will be asking what do you actually make of in Christian terms the figure of Jesus do do you believe that he was in some sense divine was there you know when you look at what the Bible tells us about Jesus one thing you might ask yourself is do you believe that each individual is divine in some sense and I would say well perhaps not but you act as though you do and our law acts as if it does it's predicated on that idea because the sovereignty of the individual is the divinity of the individual there's no difference between those two things and I can make an absolutely brutally clear case for the development of that idea historian I've traced it back to Mesopotamia at least in its earliest written forms I mean originally the only real sovereign individuals were the sovereigns right the Emperor's and Pharaohs but that the idea of the sovereign individual descended down the hierarchy of power so to speak until with Christianity it was universalized or each sovereign individuals and that means that the law itself is written as if we each contain a spark of divinity and so then I think well what is that divinity and in the Christian worldview well that's the logos that's the true speech that brings forth habitable and good order from the chaos of potential in your view whether she likes it or not sue is at some level a benefactor of that reality of not only a bit much better than merely being a benefactor an active contributor it's no easy thing to write a book and to get your thoughts straight and to put them forward into the world but she couldn't do it without without this idea in a sense of of God doesn't need the idea even it's embodied it's the one one of the consequences of the way I've been thinking about it and some Harris talks about this too is the way I think about it prevents me going oh I'm so clever I've written a brilliant book I mean it doesn't always I have those thoughts come on but I've got quite good at seeing them coming up and going oh there comes that thought again because I'm taking the view that these books are the memes are doing it through this this organism here and I have ever been that would be the eternal logos manifesting itself or I know but I'm not playing games like that's the oldest language we have for that sort of thing and that the logos that I'm talking about is the integration of those motivational forces that you were describing it's not merely a meme like that's that's where Dawkins said Dawkins is wrong about that there isn't biology and memes the interactions matter they're crucial they're crucial some of these memes are millions of years old but you lend it away if I can bring you back to to Justin's question really because you slithered out of it I think in your question was who's Jesus different from the rest of us but like by saying oh we've all got a spark of divinity but do you then believe that Jesus was somehow divine in a sense that other than what I am what was that you know did he do miracles was he you know all all of that stuff pretty cancer and then we'll finish with a final quick answer how about this render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's that's a miracle that's the separation of church and state in one sentence so there's a miracle for you we're gonna go for a final question I'm gonna ask if for both of you widget which is the question we began with we're talking about the psychology of belief do we need God to make sense of life your one-minute answer begins now soon absolutely not that will do for an answer okay do we need God to make sense of life Jordan well God is what you use to make sense of your life by definition this is one of the things I learned from young the highest value you have a hierarchy of values you have to otherwise you can't act or you're painfully confused you have a hierarchy of values whatever is at the top of that hierarchy values serves the function of God for you now it may be a god that you don't believe in or a god that you can't name but it doesn't matter because it's God for you and what you think about God has very little impact on how God is acting within you whatever God it is that you happen to be let's say following it's been fascinating to share this time with you both thank you so much for being with me on the program sue and Jordan all the very best thanks very much talking [Music]
Channel: Unbelievable?
Views: 1,519,089
Rating: 4.8361173 out of 5
Keywords: unbelievable, justin brierley, premier christian radio, christianity, atheism, philosophy, faith, theology, Jordan Peterson, the big conversation, susan blackmore, debate, sam harris, richard dawkins, Atheist, Atheism, Humanism, Secular, Christian, Christianity, Faith, Debate, Apologetics, Theology, Science, Philosophy, God, Existence of God, Evidence
Id: syP-OtdCIho
Channel Id: undefined
Length: 47min 0sec (2820 seconds)
Published: Fri Jun 08 2018
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👍︎︎ 1 👤︎︎ u/BernardJOrtcutt 📅︎︎ Jun 13 2018 🗫︎ replies


👍︎︎ 204 👤︎︎ u/[deleted] 📅︎︎ Jun 13 2018 🗫︎ replies

Seems like JBP's idea of God more like, whatever you put at the top of a hierarchy of value takes the function of a God.

Someone should start off by asking him what his God is and how he worships that God to get definitions straight. Cause it seems like every discussion of his with an Atheist on the issue gets no where because you're probably not talking about the same thing.

This interview felt more like an ad for the book btw.

👍︎︎ 227 👤︎︎ u/Pharcydeify 📅︎︎ Jun 13 2018 🗫︎ replies

Summary from Susan Blackmore's facebook page:

Oh Jordan Peterson – sigh. What a confusing, clever and utterly maddening man. My discussion with him on Premier Christian Radio is up at last, so do watch. This came off the back of his Bible-based book ‘Twelve Rules for Life’ (now a mega-bestseller because of his many online debates). We battle through evolution, meaningfulness, life’s great challenges of how to cope with tragedy and the existence of malevolence. He complains that the level of discussion by Dennett, Dawkins and Harris doesn’t approach the level of Nietzsche or Dostoyevsky (a reasonable level of comparison to use in putting others down?). I find myself explaining memetics, presenting evidence that – no – you don’t need to be a religious country to avoid utter chaos, and refuting his claim that I am not really an atheist. He actually says ‘you’re not an atheist in your actions’. But I stand firm on this - I do not need God to make sense of life. He does. I hope I put up a good fight with this man whose preferred image has been described as ‘the coolly rational man of science facing down the hysteria of political correctness’, and perhaps I even exposed some of his irrationalities.

👍︎︎ 482 👤︎︎ u/CuriousIndividual0 📅︎︎ Jun 13 2018 🗫︎ replies

This is the first reddit thread related to JBP that hasn’t gone completely off the rails within the first 10 minutes. Keep it up guys!

👍︎︎ 86 👤︎︎ u/SchnitzelBoss 📅︎︎ Jun 13 2018 🗫︎ replies

It was really frustrating how every time she began to give an insightful answer, or explain an interesting topic, she’d be cut off by the mediator. He showed a heavy bias towards Jordan regarding the lengthy pandering and bringing up the book. You can actually see the look on her face when he cuts her off and switches the focus to 12 Rules for Life.

As with Jordan’s argument, I think I can see what he’s saying. Essentially, humans tend to place something at the top of their hierarchy whether they like it or not. It doesn’t have to be a god. However, he seems to imply that this was placed by a deity and not just a result of evolution. Or that since it happens, there must be some legitimacy behind it. His focus on the Judeo-Christian values sort of reminds me of a Christian apologetic, also.

Just to add, for a guy who resents post-modernism, he seems to give some post-modern-like answers when it comes to altering definitions to make/fit the point he’s trying to make.

👍︎︎ 35 👤︎︎ u/MuscleHamster420 📅︎︎ Jun 13 2018 🗫︎ replies

JP is arguing that atheists belive in God because they live by morals derived from God. I would argue that man made God and any morals from God are originaly from man. Atheist live by morals derived from man.

👍︎︎ 45 👤︎︎ u/Enders_Game1977 📅︎︎ Jun 13 2018 🗫︎ replies

“I feel gratitude to the universe” one minute later. “I believe we live in a pointless universe”

Gratitude towards pointlessness, now that is something right there.

👍︎︎ 28 👤︎︎ u/Invelious 📅︎︎ Jun 13 2018 🗫︎ replies

For Peterson, Nietzsche and Dostoyevsky are an ultimate and unquestionable authority to the point of complete irrationality, which is something that she should have pointed out more to expose his false arguments. He thinks that fiction like Crime and Punishment can be legitimately used to back his arguments because "Dostoyevsky makes the strongest characters, he never makes a straw man against which to test his arguments", which is plainly silly. You cannot use fictional work which is contrived to make point of authors world view as an argument. The only thing that the novel does is saying that you cannot kill someone and get away with it emotionally, which most of us already know that you cannot do unless you are not a psychopath, but in no way it does nor it can prove that Raskolnikov's trials somehow relate to spirituality and it's just an emotional roller-coaster and a good insight into human nature.

👍︎︎ 96 👤︎︎ u/[deleted] 📅︎︎ Jun 13 2018 🗫︎ replies
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