If you are a Canadian faculty member, there is a reasonable chance that you recently received an email or letter from Statistics Canada. The Survey of Postsecondary Faculty and Researchers was designed to assess what has come to be known as “diversity” among the groups targeted, in consequence of a commitment made by the three Canadian research granting councils, under guidance from the federal Liberal government, to increase “diversity” among those receiving funding. It has long been the case that research funding was dependent, as much as possible, on two factors, both intensely meritocratic: the research record of the applicant and the quality of the proposed research. That appears about to change.
The fact of this occurrence motivated me to try my hand at writing a critique of the concept of diversity, which is a very slippery term. What it truly means is “let’s aim for fewer white men in positions of authority,” which would be a fine idea if race and sex were reasonable criteria by which to judge applicants, and if it wasn’t motivated by a broad set of “progressive” beliefs, which include the idea that we live in an oppressive patriarchy and that men who work now should be required to step back so that a litany of hypothetical, indefinable and prejudicial historical wrongs might be righted (this even though those who do the righting weren’t those who committed the prejudicial crimes, so to speak, and those who benefit not those who were the victims). There was even a recent article in Nature, a magazine that was once, with Science, one of the two unquestionably most influential scientific journals, suggesting that male scientist should voluntarily delay their career advancement so that their underprivileged colleagues (underprivileged despite their status as university professors) could catch up and justice properly served.
“Diversity” is a word that, on the face of it, masquerades as something positive—because it is positive, in some of its manifestations. It’s obviously not helpful to set up an organization where everyone thinks alike, or solely in the approved manner. It is necessary, for example, for healthy organizations to ally the conservative tendency to preserve with the more liberal tendency to transform. But that begs the question: where is diversity to be found? Among the ideologues who were pushing the “progressive” doctrine that it’s part of, most frequently including “inclusivity, equity and intersectionality,” it is to be found in a set of immutable characteristics that typify different groups, including race, sex, gender (because that is distinguished by those same ideologues from sex) and sexual proclivity, above all.
There are real problems with this agenda, however. The first is that it’s dangerous, in exactly the manner it is hypothetically designed to fight. The argument made by those who are truly prejudiced has always been that the differences between groups are so large that discrimination, isolation, segregation and even open conflict–including war and genocide–are necessary, for the safety of whatever group they are part of and are hypothetically protecting. Why is it any less risky for the argument to be made in the reverse manner? The claim that group-based differences are so important that they must take substantive priority during hiring and promotion merely risks validating the opposite claim.
There’s a second problem, too—and it’s particularly interesting, because it has been made by the same ideologically-oriented groups on the left that are pushing the diversity agenda: considering race, say and gender when making diversity decisions is not sufficient. Diversity that focuses on females is insufficient, because black, Asian or Hispanic women, for example, face more egregious prejudice than white women. This brings us to the last word of the progressive set—“intersectionality.” For the ideologues of intersectionality, true diversity cannot be limited to the features we have already considered—race and the like—because many people are alienated or, in the jargon, “marginalized,” from the broader culture by more than one oppressed minority feature. In consequence, the “intersection” between the groups must be considered for any real justice to make its appearance as a consequence of policy.
This is an extremely problematic theory, practically speaking (and this is the second problem, in addition to the danger just outlined), in that there appear to be no limits, practically or philosophically, to the number of group memberships that have to be taken into account for true diversity to establish itself (and I mean this non-ironically). It doesn’t take much thought—just a little arithmetic—to determine the nature of the problem: There are just too many potential intersectional categories. Let’s break it down.
There’s race and sex, for starters—and plenty of attention is paid to both—and, following that, gender, which seems to come in something approximating second place in terms of import. But how many races, sexes and genders is it required to consider? Assume, for the sake of argument (and this is what the modern science suggests) that there are five major human subpopulations: African, European/Middle Eastern, East Asian, inhabitants of Oceania, and denizens of the New World. Let’s assume two sexes and three genders—although many of those concerned with diversity, etc., would insist that there are a much larger number of the latter. So that’s 5X2X3 =30.
Then we might as well add to that disabilities, which are extraordinarily common (particularly when you consider that many people who are not actively ill in some major manner, physical or mental, are faced with the exceptional stress that comes with caring for a family member who is).I don’t know how to calculate the appropriate number here, although but according to the U.S. National Center for Education Statistics, 20% of undergraduates reported a disability in 2015-2016. These include “those who reported that they had one or more of the following conditions: blindness or visual impairment that cannot be corrected by wearing glasses; hearing impairment (e.g., deaf or hard of hearing); orthopedic or mobility impairment; speech or language impairment; learning, mental, emotional, or psychiatric condition (e.g., serious learning disability, depression, ADD, or ADHD); or other health impairment or problem.” So, if we assume that two divisions (presence/ absence) are necessary to cover each disability (counting each listed in the last phrase separately), we’re now require nine additional multiples of 2 (two for blindness, two for hearing impairment, etc.) for our equation:
So that’s 30 X 2 X 2 X 2 X 2 X 2 X 2 X 2 X 2=15360.
I can’t see why class/economic origin shouldn’t be taken into account as well. According to the U.S. Census Bureau estimates, 12% of Americans live below the poverty line. So, we need at least an additional two categories to account for economic disparity, and that’s a very coarse grained measure. And that brings us to 30720 categories of “diverse” individuals (15360X2). If we are truly serious about diversity, and are willing to attribute it to group identity, and are going to apply its dictates to hiring, placement and promotion for every position, then we have a minimum of ~thirty thousand different categories to consider—and there are many other categories of exclusion that are arguably of equal import (such that it is difficult to determine why it was that race, sex and gender occupy so much attention).
There’s height, strength and attractiveness, which all arguably provide an unequal starting place in the race for success. There’s intelligence, native language and education. There’s age, marital status and—of critical importance—presence or absence of dependent children. That’s nine more categories. Assuming we once again use two divisions for each additional category (short/tall, strong/weak, etc.), the total of “diverse” individuals now exceeds fifteen million.
30720 X 2 X 2 X 2 X 2 X 2 X 2 X 2 X 2=15728640
We’d only need to add one more binary category (obese/non-obese (?)) to exceed the entire 18 million person workforce of Canada. And why not? Who’s to say, given that elimination of discrimination is hypothetically the goal, that one more important than another? I say this in all seriousness: Isn’t that just another form of discrimination?
And there are great problems even with the categories that seem, on the surface, relatively simple—let’s say, race. The geneticists, as I mention, consider five (and even those don’t overlap perfectly with the categories that are used politically: Hispanic, for example—a favorite unique to the US—is more of a linguistic category, although those described that are often of mixed European and New World origin). But why is it reasonable to stop at five? Let’s take the case of “black,” for example. First, we could note that blacks who immigrate to the US do better, in general, than blacks who are born American. This is true for education (black immigrants are more likely than Americans, in general, to have a college degree) as well as income ($43,800, somewhat lower than immigrants to the US in general ($48,000, a figure inflated by the outsized economic attainments of Asians: $70,600) but substantially higher than U.S. born blacks ($33,500). (Americans overall average $52,000).
Do we therefore differentiate blacks on the basis of their place of birth, and add another category to the diversity pool? And we could also make a very strong scientific case for even further differentiation. Are we truly to be satisfied with the claim that all blacks are the same, even independently of birthplace? For example, there is much more genetic diversity among Africans—the putative home of humanity—than among all other non-African populations. This is in large part because the apparently small number of migrations out of Africa to the rest of the world produced a variability bottleneck: a relatively small number of people moved, and so a relatively small amount of genetic diversity existed. By what logic, therefore, is it reasonably to cluster all these people together, call them “black,” and assume that organizational diversity justice has been served, say, by their increased rates of hiring, promotion and placement?
And let’s return to the beginning. As far as I am concerned, unless you accept it as a dogmatic given (and this would be if you were an advocate of the “equity” doctrine, which means that all outcomes for all groups in all professions must be identical, and which therefor runs into the same arithmetical problem that diversity encounters, as described previously) university hiring and granting practices are remarkably meritocratic. In the university departments I have worked within (McGill, Harvard and the University of Toronto) it was obvious to everyone that within the limits of human error, which are of course manifold, people were promoted when they deserved it and obtained research grant money for the same reasons. In both cases, the more productive people had a pronounced edge, which is exactly how it should be if scientific research is important enough to garner investment, be it from private or public funding sources. The three granting agencies are as meritocratic as our somewhat (and inevitably) flawed measures of research productivity can make them, and the universities themselves bend over backwards and tie themselves in knots (both clichés are necessary) to right past wrongs—to the point where, according to the well-respected social scientists Wendy Williams and Stephen Ceci in their demonstrated a 2:1 hiring advantage for female candidates for open science, technology, engineering and mathematical positions.
In consequence, I would like to suggest that the proper way to determine who gets what slice of which pie in a given organization is the manner in which employers are legally bound to hire: first, they must conduct an analysis of the job to determine and list its requirements; then, with certain exceptions they are required to hire, place or promote the person who is most qualified to undertake that job, regardless of attributes that are not relevant to the task. These include, in my opinion, the differences in race, sex, gender, and their combinations (as well as the other intrinsic differences we discussed) that are pushed so assiduously, self-righteously and thoughtlessly by the progressives who think they can replace comparatively well-functioning meritocracies, aimed at the solution of serious problems by the most qualified people with candidates chosen on the basis of attributes that would clearly be viewed as prejudicial if they were used as grounds for rejection, failure to promote, and firing.
A final observation. The fact of the endless multiplication of categories of victimization, let’s say—or at least difference—was actually solved long ago by the Western emphasis on the individual. We essentially assumed that each person was characterized by so many differences than every other person (the ultimate in “intersectionality”) that it was better to concentrate solely on meritocratic selection, where the only difference that was to be considered was the suitability of the person for the specific and well-designed tasks that constituted a given job. That works—not perfectly, but less imperfectly than anything else that has been contemplated or worse, implemented. We toy with it at our peril.
 U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2019). Digest of Education Statistics, 2017 (2018-070), Chapter 3 (table available online at https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=60)
Tauriac, J.J & Liem, J.H. (2012). Exploring the divergent academic outcomes of U.S.-origin and immigrant-origin Black undergraduates. Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, 5, 244-258.
 Michael C. Campbell, M.C. & Tishkoff, S.A. (2008). African genetic diversity: implications for human demographic history, modern human origins and complex disease mapping. Annual Review of Genomics and Human Genetics, 9 403-433.
 Tishkoff, S.A., Reed, F.A. Frieldaender, F.R. et al. (2009). Science, 324, 1035–1044.
Agree with Dr. Peterson. This “diversity” nonsense is an attempt to destroy Western civilization and replace it with group “fairness” whatever that means.
I’m a huge fan of Dr. Peterson from his YouTube videos, I found this article (blogpost?) of his to be very rational, persuasive etc. and hard to argue with. Yet I have the same opinion of the comment by DC April 4, 2021 at 12:20 pm I would really,REALLY like to hear Dr. Peterson’s reply. Does he ever do Q&A from his audience?
It may have long been the case that research funding has been based on terms as loosely defined as ‘quality’ of proposed research and the ‘track records’ of applicants. Is it really absurd to contend that institutionalised ideas about ‘quality’ and the value of track records that mainly serve to indicate the extent to which the scholar in question has been suitably pre-institutionalised, are the truth you call a lie?
Maybe you’re a racist who, in a self parody typical of the afflicted, simply doesn’t realise it?
Several years ago I was diagnosed with throat cancer. While in contemplation of my life, I prayed for healing and health. Time was, and is, very important to me and I wanted my life to have a greater meaning than I had obtained.
Through prayer and meditation and with guidance from Romans 2, I conceived a logo, which I trademarked. It is aimed at the populous not to judge LGBTQ. It is very simple and sublime, it hints of education and harmony.
It may but the intent was not to promote those groups rather to curb judgement. To prevent the high rate of suicides. To prevent mockery and to teach society to accept them as the person next door. To leave judgement to Him.
I was interviewed by Theresa Anzovino of Niagara College in Welland Ontario and was featured in one of their textbooks, Walk a Mile. A few years ago maybe 2018.
While I tried to promote it there was been little to no interest in it. Perhaps Mr. Peterson or a staff member could look at it and comment. I would obviously supply more information.
May God Bless all.
I’m intrigued by what I am reading here, because largely i disagree with it, and want to dissect why.
On the face of it, your argument is sound, Dr. Peterson. Identity politics and intersectionality ultimately result in a world where the push for diversity results in categories too numerous for dealing with; the exercise becomes onerous and destructive. It consumes time and energy better spent elsewhere, taking action against oppression, perhaps, instead of spending time trying to explain exactly how one person is oppressed in different ways than another. I’d agree that it’s unproductive, even if I would not go all the way to unjustified and false.
Yet, I don’t think one can dismiss systemic oppression as a concept. As a scholar of psychology, you likely know that the human mind forms associations and heuristics that then shape behavior. For example, most people learn at a young age that people in poverty are dangerous; their lack of resources may make them more likely to take actions that others could be trusted not to take, out of desperation and a lack of viable alternative options. Similarly, middle school level study of demographics will tell you that black people are more likely than their white counterparts to experience poverty. A simple logical leap then takes you to the insidious conclusion that black people are more dangerous, less trustworthy than whites.
The trouble with this is that after that conclusion is learned, it impacts the way people behave toward members of the black community. If presented with two equal candidates for a position, do you hire the one you see as more trustworthy, or less? Clearly, the one you see as more trustworthy. Thus, if you associate blackness with untrustworthiness, you will give preferential treatment to whites. How much does that preference weigh in practice, though? in other words, the decision maker has placed value on whiteness, so can that value be quantified? How much better does a black applicant need to be than a white one to overcome the unconscious bias? Is it a differential of 10 IQ points? 20 points on their standardized exams? 3 years of work experience? 10 more publications in peer reviewed journals?
The dark thought that we might wonder is: is there is data to back those associations? Maybe so. Should it matter? As you say above, individuality is the concept that solves this problem; ideally, an interviewer would simply measure the person they are speaking to, regardless of the real or imagined distinctions and heuristics associated with their race, or gender, or what have you. But, knowing what you do about the way the human mind works, do you truly believe that hiring managers as a category (academic institutions possibly excepted) are capable of making decisions in a vacuum, and leaving their biases at the door? I believe you are a largely rational man, and that you have no such illusions.
What then is a reasonable society to do? Because the prophecy, at least in the case of race, seems largely self-fulfilling. Faced with a barrier of mistrust, black society has not flourished, and the comparative lack of opportunity for blacks at large has resulted in generational poverty, which perpetuates the heuristics and leads to generational mistrust. This, to me, seems an injustice; it is not a meritocratic system, it is a system that assumes the worst about people based on an irrelevant characteristic, and by making that assumption, helps to make the perverse assumption more accurate.
The points above, perhaps, you may accept (perhaps not; I’d be eager to hear your response if not). The point where we may differ is the conclusion about what should be done about the situation. As you say, individualism is the best system we have yet devised. I would posit that for all the flaws associated with identity politics and intersecionality (and they are many), they have at least accurately diagnosed a problem with individualism as a system: it assumes that we are capable of evaluating people’s talent and potential accurately, and we very obviously are not. I believe it is appropriate for centralized authorities to measure the trends in our biases, and then take action to correct for some of them. For example, by use of a diversity and inclusion policy.
As you have pointed out in some of your youtube content, the issue is often one of details; the issue is complex and the details matter. I would vigorously oppose blanket instruction to hire one category of candidate simply to hit a quota. But, assuming it is possible to quantify the likely impact of disadvantages faced by an individual due to the biases they endure, then I believe a healthy society should adjust its expectation to account for that impact. In other words, formalize a methodology to measure merit not merely by the achievements of the individual on a universal scale, but also taking into account the relative difficulty of those achievements based on the individual’s starting point. I am more impressed, in other words, by a black man who has published 15 peer-reviewed articles than by a white man who has published 20, but probably not than a white man who has published 50; objectively. I believe in many cases the impact of bias can be quantified to a reasonable degree of empirical certainty, and a weighting scale applied to correct for it throughout an individual’s life. I believe further that the disparity could be remeasured frequently to validate the progress of the system in correcting implicit biases over time, and the weighting scale periodically adjusted based on data, rather than a vague desire to be “more diverse.”
In my mind, a system of this nature would actually better serve meritocratic ideals than either intersectionality-based diversity initiatives or current conceptions of meritocracy. I would expect a person who has overcome great challenges to achieve success to be more valuable in an organization than one who achieved similar or slightly greater success without such challenges.
I’d be eager to hear your thoughts on the matter; feel free to reach out if you would like to discuss.
Great points. I like to break thinks down as simple as possible for myself since my career is outside of this field. Your last paragraph sums up in my mind the idea that hypothetically the person who has overcome great challenges is in a race with the person who has not. The “white person” would have generally have started 200m ahead in a 1600 per say, but our goal is to find out who actually is a faster runner. If I understand correctly the answer to the problem here is simply to take the published articles out of the process and base the interview on tasks at the point of hire. The goal being to purely judge ability. If a person with 50 published papers is truly better we would be back to the person who was ahead still has the advantage. If the best way to judge the value of the person to the organization, is to be able to objectively quantify the ability of one to “overcome great challenges”. By doing this the second candidate would then have a distinct advantage. I am truly a rookie to this field but it is very interesting to me.
Your insight on specific scenarios on how to test this would be appreciated.
“How much better does a black applicant need to be than a white one to overcome the unconscious bias? Is it a differential of 10 IQ points? 20 points on their standardized exams? 3 years of work experience? 10 more publications in peer reviewed journals?”
In answer to this perhaps the “Decision maker” is strictly barred from knowing any of the candidates’ diversity portfolio. What do you think?
How are you? I am coming late to this post, but not late to the battle.
Keep up the good work, thank you. You should be appearing on the new Five Dollar bill!
The Federal Liberal goal appears to be to Destabilize Canada by means of Diversity/Division and Massive National Debt . This follows the Dictates of people like George Soros and Maurice Strong, both with close ties to the Trudeau Family. I am not looking forward to an Authoritarian World Government and a Lower Standard of Living. We are fast moving toward the Far Lefts’ Vision that “We have to Destroy to Create “. Good Luck
Human Rights Tribunals are the new name for the old Kangaroo Courts.
It’s worse than you think, Doctor Peterson.
If most advocates of intersectionality would recognize a concept that seems fairly foundational to their thinking, called horizontal oppression, they’d recognize that those who are advantaged in untargeted categories will inherently advance in any system of demographic (and identity, recognizing that for some people, an identity is foist upon them which they are in a position of having to unlearn to be recognized as who they are, see disabled, trans, gay, et cetera) tollgating.
So in fact, what seems like a system designed to eradicate privilege is certain to replicate it.
If you believe in privilege theory. And I do. My hypothesis has yet to be disproven by events: Quiet Abuse, for example, is rife in ostensibly left-wing (though by your excellent definition of left and right, they’re not really left-wing) circles: Gaslighting, quiet derision, goalpost shifting (how often is criticism framed as an attack, the language of war and assault?), and more are incentivized by this system. Further, as increasing jargon is required to navigate these spaces, ableist standards multiply.
In Edmonton, for example, we have a bunch of trans men hijacking the Trans Day of Remembrance, and inviting to speak NDP politicians who spent public money entrenching a discriminatory system of hormone replacement access… Don’t worry though, because Black and Indigenous People of Colour (BIPOC) are well-included. So it’s okay that they’ll be cheering people who spent public money ensuring that trans women generally have to go through a psychiatrist to get extremely safe medicine that saves lives, while cis women go through their GP, despite the exact same contraindications… never mind that these are people who are suffering who know what they need and are being denied it… your lectures have explored how dangerous that position is.
PS: I also agree that the distinction between sex and gender is idiotic… but it’s motivated by their cisfeminist (belief that the primary victims of sexism in total utility terms are the female-assigned-and-identified) politics: Ever since the second-wave and the renaissance of transition medicine, repressed since the Fall of Rome, cisfeminists have argued that there is no neurological basis to sex. Trans people, trans women especially, raise their ire, because they both undercut that argument and the argument for their own disprivilege.