Saturday, January 27, 2018

Annals of Derp: Jordan Peterson, Clinical Psychologist

£7.99 from Mugtopia UK.

Following up on the previous post, here's Conor Friedersdorf complaining about the journalistic tactics used by UK Channel 4 News on the innocent and unsuspecting Jordan Peterson, in that interview:
Peterson was pressed by the British journalist Cathy Newman to explain several of his controversial views. But what struck me, far more than any position he took, was the method his interviewer employed. It was the most prominent, striking example I’ve seen yet of an unfortunate trend in modern communication.
First, a person says something. Then, another person restates what they purportedly said so as to make it seem as if their view is as offensive, hostile, or absurd.
And of course we've seen David Brooks getting upset over this too.

So I ran across a transcript of the the thing (from an all-trite blogger called Katana17, the Daily Stormer also has one), helpfully red-lettering all the spots where Newman seems to be trying to restate Peterson's statement, and I'm going to, sort of, dispute that, first in a segment Friedersdorf doesn't look at, where Peterson is explaining how he never said that trans activists are the same as Mao Zedong. He merely said that they're the same in every important respect:
Newman: I mean there’s no comparison between Mao and a trans activist, is there?
Peterson: Why not?
Newman: Because trans activists aren’t killing millions of people!
Peterson: The philosophy that’s guiding their utterances is the same philosophy.
Newman: The consequences are, …
Peterson: Not yet!
Newman: You’re saying that trans activists, …
Peterson: No!
Newman: Could lead to the deaths of millions of people.
Peterson: No, I’m saying that the philosophy that drives their utterances is the same philosophy that already has driven us to the deaths of millions of people.
Newman: Okay. Tell us how that philosophy is in any way comparable.
Peterson: Sure. That’s no problem. The first thing is that their philosophy presumes that group identity is paramount. That’s the fundamental philosophy that drove the Soviet Union and Maoist China. And it’s the fundamental philosophy of the left-wing activists. It’s identity politics. It doesn’t matter who you are as an individual, it matters who you are in terms of your group identity.
Sorry, no. You can't make that work. If Mao Zedong and the Toronto student trans activist share the philosophy, and it "drove" Mao to be responsible for the 40 to 80 million deaths of his reign (mostly from the famine induced by the Great Leap Forward), but hasn't driven the trans activist to do it yet then you are saying that they will, or may at any moment, and not that they won't. Or if you are saying that they won't, and you know they won't, then there must be some other factor that Mao and the trans activist do not share. Or the philosophies are in fact different.

And then can you document your view that both philosophies presume that group identity is paramount? I can find evidence that Mao did not do that at all; that in his philosophy individual and group were the opposed terms of a dialectical unity—
Mao likewise recognized the tension existing between individual and social needs, between leaders and led, between the government and the governed. These contradictions do not require violent revolutionary action in order to be resolved. They can be settled peacefully through democratic methods of discussion, criticism, persuasion and education.
But Mao's philosophical standpoint giving the individual and the group a kind of equal weight did not prevent him from bringing about the deaths of many tens of millions. Nearly all of these deaths were caused, in the understanding of most historians, by Mao's belief (which may be philosophical but doesn't relate directly to his views on individuality vs. group membership) that agricultural output and industrial output could be hugely increased at the same time, without importing any heavy machinery (making steel in the famous backyard furnaces, for instance), and that the pretty successful collective farms of the early 1950s should be merged into gigantic people's communes, of 5,000 families and upwards. And because in the 1958 anti-rightist campaign he killed anybody who disagreed with him, the supreme individual serving the people, not one of the people, of the group, but the most individual person in history.

I can't find out who's the official philosopher of the trans activist movement, or even if there is one, so I can't really complete this argument, but I have to say I suspect Jordan Peterson doesn't know either, and I don't believe trans activists do in fact presume that group identity is paramount. As you'd expect with a list of 71 genders, they seem to think people tend to be unique, though I can't say if the opinion amounts to a philosophical view.

You might argue, I guess, that Mao and the trans activists show their philosophy in their actions, Mao in allowing 40 million and more people to die for his eccentric economic ideas, trans activists in asking University of Toronto faculty to master an alarming list of pronouns; Mao's actions are the true index of what he thought, his words about his philosophy can't be trusted. But to say that is to say that there's no real difference between philosophy and behavior, and since the behavior of Mao really is different from the behavior of trans activists, what is Peterson saying?

You can't really tell, because Peterson refuses to say it. Like Ross Douthat or Bret Stephens in cases we've looked at, he wants his audience to hear it, but he doesn't want the responsibility of having said it, so he keeps weaseling between saying it and denying it. Newman is trying to pin him down: "Well, are you saying this, and if not, what?" and he's replying no, but he's unable to give her an alternative. Or what, Conor Friedersdorf, am I missing here? What is the subtle idea Newman is cruelly and brutally caricaturing?

"So, Mr. Stephens, are you saying that the conclusions of 97% of working climate scientists are full of shit?" "No, of course not! As a fellow intellectual, I'm full of respect for them! But they're not very impressive, are they? They could be totally wrong, couldn't they?" I'm not saying, I'm just saying.

More important, anyway, and more subject to critical analysis, is this segment on empirical reality:

Newman: Okay, but I want to put to you that here in the UK, for example, let’s say that as an example. The gender pay gap stands at just over 9%. You’ve got women at the BBC recently saying that the broadcaster is illegally paying them less than men to do the same job. You’ve got only seven women running the top FTSE 100 companies!
Peterson: Yeah.
Newman: So it seems to a lot of women, that they're still being “dominated and excluded” to quote your words back to you.
Peterson: It does seem that way, but multivariate analysis [3] of the pay gap indicate[s] that it doesn’t exist.
Newman: But that is not true, is it? I mean, that nine percent pay gap! That’s a gap between median hourly earnings between men and women!
Peterson: Yeah, but there’s multiple reasons for that. One of them is gender, but it’s not the only reason. If you’re a social scientist worth your salt, you never do a univariate analysis. Like you say, well women in aggregate are paid less than men. Okay, well then we break it down by age, we break it down by occupation, we break it down by interest, we break it down by personality.
Newman: But you’re saying basically, it doesn’t matter if women aren’t getting to the top, because that’s what’s skewing that gender pay gap, isn’t it? You’re saying well that’s just a fact of life, so they are not going to hardly get to the top.
Peterson: No I’m saying it doesn’t matter, either.
Newman: You’re saying it’s a fact of life.
Peterson: I’m saying there are multiple reasons for it, and they’re not being taken into account.
By the way, if you're a social scientist worth your salt, you try to adjust your hypotheses to what the data tell you. The UK Office of National Statistics has analyzed the British pay gap figures for 2017 and found that 64% of the difference in pay between men and women (which exists in all occupations) cannot be explained by objective economic factors, in other words looks like gender bias:
The Blinder-Oaxaca decomposition results show that 36.1% of the difference in men’s and women’s log hourly pay could be explained by differences in characteristics between men and women included in the model; of those, occupation has the largest effect since it explains 23.0% of the differences between men’s and women’s log hourly pay.
Plus 23% for the next most important variable, occupation, because, no doubt coincidentally, more men than women work as chief executives and senior officials, managers and directors, proprietors, professionals, and associate professionals and technicians; while more women work in administrative and secretarial positions, or caring, leisure, and other services, which for some reason pay a lot less. Leaving just 13% of the difference to be accounted for by the factors for which you might say "that's just the way it is", i.e. because women always get pregnant and have to take care of the kids and can't fully commit (part-time vs. full-time status, length of job tenure, and presumably age; in fact for part-time workers under 40, the pay gap is in the other direction, women in these peak child-rearing years form 30 to 39 earning a lot more than men).
Newman: But why should women put up with those reasons? Why should women be content?
Peterson: I’m not saying they should put up with it. I’m saying that the claim that the wage gap between men and women is only due to sex, is wrong! And it is wrong! There’s no doubt about that! The multivariate analysis have been done. I can give you examples. Wait a second.
Analysis in terms of the different personality traits of men and women, such as the Big Five list of  extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, openness to experience (women are said to pay a penalty for being more agreeable and neurotic), has also been attempted a good deal in recent years; a summary view of the literature by Francine D. Blau and Lawrence M. Kahn, "The Gender Wage Gap: Extent, Trends, and Explanations" (Institut zur Zukunft der Arbeit 2016), found that
Our effort to assess the quantitative evidence on the importance of these factors suggests that they account for a small to moderate portion of the gender pay gap, considerably smaller than say occupation and industry effects, though they appear to modestly contribute to these differences. 
It's a real thing, but it accounts for definitely less than two, probably less than one, of the nine points in the 2017 UK gap.

Newman: I’m saying that nine percent pay gap exists! That’s a gap between men and women. I’m not saying why it exists, but it exists. Now if you’re a woman that seems pretty unfair!
Peterson: You have to say why it exists.
Newman: But do you agree that it’s unfair? If you’re a woman, ….
Peterson: Not necessary, ….
Newman: And on average you’re getting paid nine percent less than a man, that’s not fair is it?
Peterson: It depends on why it’s happening! I can give you an example. Okay. There’s a personality trait known as “agreeableness”. Agreeable people are compassionate and polite. And agreeable people get paid less than less agreeable people for the same job. Women are more agreeable than men.
Newman: Again, a vast generalization.
Peterson: It’s not a generalization.
Trust me, it's a generalization. And if you're getting paid less because the person who makes the decisions perceives you as too agreeable or too neurotic, then you're certainly being punished not for being a woman but for manifesting traits perceived as feminine; it's the same kind of bias that leads you to be more likely to be hired as a waitress than a CEO.
Newman: Some women are not more agreeable than men.
Peterson: That’s true, that’s right. And some women get paid more than men!
Newman: So you were saying that by and large, women are too agreeable to get the pay raises they deserve?
Peterson: No. I’m saying that, that’s one component of a multivariate equation that predicts salary. It accounts for maybe five percent of the variance, something like that.
That's better. But you see how she had to push him with a "so you're saying" to make him admit it. And 5% is almost certainly much too high for agreeableness on its own, though very far from where he started with the claim that the gender wage gap "doesn't exist". Newman has done a great job in moving him toward an approximation of reality, though he's still wriggling.
Newman: Surely, the answer, ….
Peterson: There are another eighteen factors, one of which is gender. And there is prejudice, there’s no doubt about that, but it accounts for a much smaller proportion of the variance in the pay gap then the radical feminists claim.
It's clear from the most cursory look at the data that bias plays an overwhelming role in what keeps British women in fields that pay less well and paid less then men in those fields. He's trying to snow her with his 18 factors and his superior scientific authority.

Just one more irresistibly funny bit and I promise I'll go away, about how women deeply want men they cannot dominate, because they want to dominate them, although they don't, but they'll settle for it, at least some of them, though it makes them unhappy, though it doesn't, but it does make them miserable:
Newman: So you’re saying women have some sort of duty to sort of help fix the crisis of masculinity?
Peterson: It depends on what they want. No I mean, it’s exactly how I laid it out like. Women want, deeply, want men who are competent and powerful! And I don’t mean power in that they can exert tyrannical control over others. That’s not power! That’s just corruption. Power is competence, and why in the world would you not want a competent partner? Well, I know why actually. You can’t dominate a competent partner. So if you want domination, …
Newman: So you are saying women want to dominate, is that what you’re saying?
Peterson: No. I’d say women who have had their relationships with men impaired and who are afraid of such relationships, will settle for a weak partner, because they can dominate them. But it’s a sub-optimal solution.
Newman: Do you think that’s what a lot of women are doing?
Peterson: I think there’s a substantial minority of women who do that. And I think it’s very bad for them. They’re very unhappy. It’s very bad for their partners. Although the partners get the advantage of not having to take any responsibility.
Newman: What gives you the right to say that? I mean, maybe that’s how women want their relationships, those women. I mean, you’re making these vast generalizations.
Peterson: I’m a clinical psychologist.
Newman: Right. So you’re saying you’ve done your research and women are unhappy dominating men?
Peterson: I didn’t say they were unhappy dominating them. I said it was a bad long-term solution. It’s not the same thing.
Newman: Okay, you said it was making them miserable.
Peterson: Yes, it is.…
Friedersdorf quotes only the first three turns in this exchange (noting, correctly, that Peterson didn't say fixing the crisis was a "duty" but rather asked Newman what she "wanted" to do),  but omits the rest, in which you can really see Peterson squirming, as Newman works uphill to force him to say what he means. And then that argumentum ad verecundiam! "I'm a clinical psychologist." Are you now? Whoop-de-doo!

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