Sweden’s Foreign Minister versus Canada’s Psychology Professor – Should Science be met by Political Insult?

In science, it is all about validated facts and reliable knowledge, the so-called Scientific Theory (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_theory), no more no less. It is not about opinions (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opinion) and emotions but it is rather about facts (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fact). Science is the main driver of validated knowledge as being deduced from validated hard facts (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fact) and it is the very bases of any healthy democracy. Opinions come and go but the domain of science is always based on hard facts and remains to be an ultimate reference based on neutral knowledge. However, in social sciences there are no absolute global facts as such as human diversity can be quite complex depending on many parameters. In exact science such as mathematics, physics and chemistry facts can be universal, absolutely correct and exact with high quantitative precision which is not the same as non-exact and qualitative sciences that can not be directly measured with calibrated instruments. In the later case observations can be bases in best cases on comprehensive compilation and statistical treatments of intensive arbitrary data.

Both politics and science should inform the public about how democratic decisions are made and how the public taxes are used to settle conflicts and disputes in the society. If both the Canadian professor Peterson and the Swedish Foreign minister Wallström were, as they are indeed, citizens like us they would demand to know what are the hard facts behind their arguments. Professor Peterson did, to a great extent, explain by “validated” science his views, indeed he has, to large extent, the scientific community behind him. The Swedish foreign minister Margot Wallström, on the other hand, did not raise any logic arguments and replied with an insult (https://youtu.be/7dJFa_cgero). The other members of the panel did not share the Minister views. I learned that “To think free is great, but to think rightly is greater”, this statement is written over the entrance of Uppsala University. Free thought and the right to express ourselves freely is absolutely fundamental but does not deserve insulation, it deserves free, ethical and fair debates. In this context, the question is, is the validated, or at least to large extent validated, science of Professor Peterson wrong? If so why? This was never explained by the Swedish Foreign minister and she even went on by insulting the people that listen, including university students around the world, to Professor Peterson. Well, the matter is so simple, if I was a politician, I would require an investigation about the facts stated by Professor Peterson. There are psychologists in Sweden and if professor Jordan Peterson is wrong then why the Swedish minister does not get a second opinion from the Swedish psychologists and just turn this matter to an open academic and social debate? That was much better than acting emotionally as she did. The same applies to Anne Lööf, the leader of the Swedish Center party, where she protested (https://youtu.be/Bv3ZNeoutjo) against Professor Peterson with a short statement by saying “WE” don’t agree with that? We, who is WE? Is it all the Swedish people? It is all the people of the Center Party? Or is it the liberals or the Alliance? This was not enough from her as she did not give any further explanations on why she does not agree on scientific facts and the reasoning of Professor Peterson? Even the host, journalist and leader of the Norwegian TV program, Fredrik Skavlan, did not do any follow-up events to find out which is which and why science and politics are in dispute? Unfortunately, any information that appear on the Internet spreads so fast and any corrections by experts my come with considerable delay. This was also the case here.

The topic of “Equal Outcome” and “Equal Opportunity” is very much discussed in literature and the basic definitions and explanations have been known for longtime (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equality_of_outcome). It turns out that there are great differences between the two concepts, i.e. “Equal Opportunity” and “Equal Outcome” in terms of politics (http://www.valuesandcapitalism.com/equal-opportunity-vs-equal-outcome/), i.e. to the left or to the right. As far as I know psychology is politically a neutral science and is always needed in democratic societies, it is the essence of healthy social fabrics. Psychology went through considerable advances, progress and developments and most of the content of modern psychology is still yet unknown to the public. Still the science itself is subject to several limitations by not being an exact science, as is the case in mathematics, physics and chemistry. Human behavior (psychology, sociology and anthropology) can not be modeled or parameterized, i.e. described by mathematical equations. The impacts of the two concepts, “Equal Opportunity” and “Equal Outcome” and their implementation, whether scientifically or politically based, on the society are enormous on several socio-economic and even socio-economic-environment levels. These differences should be explained to the citizens on every detail as at the end of the day the citizens should base their decisions and votes on what is what, why is why and how is how?

Definitely there is a big disagreement between science and politics on the highest levels (https://nyheteridag.se/swedish-foreign-minister-wallstrom-says-jordan-b-peterson-shouldve-stayed-under-a-rock/) though both are related. For us as citizens in a democratic society, we need to know what is the good science (correct and trustful news) and what is pseudoscience (bad and fake news). Science is always the main driver of healthy democracies and both science and politics are very much dependent on each other. Now, if politics continue to discredit science without validated facts then we will be in a very problematic situation for years to come. This will end up with an accelerating spiral of mistrust in science, research and education. It is a green light from politicians to the public to be suspicious about our education system. This is already taking place and it remains to see what type of society would be have in the future? Of course constructive criticism is very healthy for science and there is nothing wrong to question knowledge but this can not be on loose arguments, emotional opinions and definitely not through insulting the scientific community.

This said, there are still media-based concerns about Professor’s Jordan Peterson political argumentation (https://medium.com/s/story/a-field-guide-to-jordan-petersons-politicalarguments-312153eac99a). What concerns non-exact sciences, they have to be strictly validated and reproducible on several scales and levels as well as over very long periods of time. In this case, human science, they should be done preferably over generations. So, it is healthy to get a balanced debate of what is addressed by Professor Peterson but again through validated facts and fair debates from both sides, i.e. politics and science. Logically the scientific community should be more and more engaged in media debates as this in-fact one of the three duties and tasks of the universities and academies, i.e. research, teaching and outreach activities. Unfortunately, many universities and academies, if not all, are very passive in performing their third duty, and systematically ignore their third task, which indeed counterproductive what regards promoting and achieving sustainable societies. By being part of the scientific community I have to explain what science dedicates without mixing up science and politics. Then the citizens and voters have to take all these facts in their consideration to achieve more sustainable future for the coming generations as well. Very important questions in this context are: Do we need science? If, the political answer is yes, which indeed is, then we can ask is science a bad or a good compass for politics? Would “Equal Opportunity” or “Equal Outcome” be the best for promoting Circular Economy and sustainable societies.

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