Dr. Christopher DiCarlo is an Author, Educator, and Philosopher of Science and Ethics. Here we get an exclusive interview with him.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: So, we have done an extensive interview before. Let’s start from the top in terms of some activities and the programs that you’re rolling out. Since we last talked, which was a couple of years ago, what have been some developments of the critical thinking tools that you’re putting out now?
Dr. Christopher DiCarlo: I am working on my next book on critical thinking. Hopefully, it will be the last one that I need to write because I am becoming worried about becoming Noam Chomsky. I keep writing the same book over and over again.
DiCarlo: [Laughing] it has all the same stuff in it, the usual tools for critical thinking. It looks at more contemporary issues like what is going on with the abortion issue in the States, what is going on with anti-vaxxers worldwide. It looks at more of those types of issues.
This time around is a little different now. I have a New York City agent. He signed me with a fairly big-time publisher in the U.S. Hopefully, this will get a little more recognition, a little more notice in the mainstream, hopefully in the U.S.
Basically, it is trying to get the tools into the mind of the average citizen, so they can have more engaging and critical conversations. In the long run, the hope is that this saves time, money, and energy, so that a lot of time is wasted in not knowing how to communicate effectively.
There are different issues. There are different ways of saying what I think is important. In that respect, it is always a worthwhile endeavour doing. The title of the next, latest book is So You Think You Can Think?
DiCarlo: We will see if the publisher wants to go with that title by publication time. It is working with an editor and an agent to get this, hopefully, done in the next few months. That’s what I am doing in terms of the publishing right now.
In terms of working, I am not teaching a whole lot. I was teaching at the University of Toronto a bit. There were some issues with some faculty members there. That is a whole story in and of itself. I don’t know if it has to do if I am seen as a bit of a radical educator.
But a couple of the faculty members there got a little jealous and didn’t like how many students were appreciating what I was teaching, how I was teaching. I don’t know if it had anything to do with the fact that I have been on the same talk shows as Jordan Peterson, and if they were trying to lump me into that group.
I am basically on the outs with the University of Toronto. This is my fourth university in, basically, doing what Socrates was doing, which was trying to get people to think more responsible. Teaching is pretty much non-existent at this point nor will I ever fathom having an academic professorship.
The only people who get hired now are out and out nepotists. You just have to know somebody and you’re in. Or you’re so politically correct that they almost have to give you the job. I don’t think I am fitting those bills too much these days.
I feel a little uneasy just getting hired because I just knew somebody. Let’s face it, Academia, meritocracy, it is dead. It is pretty much dead. It has been dying the death of a thousand nepotistic rationalizations for years now.
We can finally put the tombstone on the grave. People don’t get hired in academia now; unless, they’re friends very, very deep inside. Or they’re very, very politically what that department wants in terms of diversity. I am talking of liberal arts and humanities. Sciences are a different story.
They play their game over there. In the arts and humanities, it has all pretty much gone to shit. I would really rather not have to do anything with academia for the rest of my life because it is such a mess at this point.
Even the department that I was working in, the University of Toronto didn’t offer a course in critical thinking. It is absolutely amazing what is going on at that level. I am thoroughly disgusted with postsecondary education. It is a joke, in the liberal arts and humanities.
I very much fear for the future of student education. I have been trying to get critical thinking in high schools in Ontario for almost ten years now. I have had some headway with the last provincial governments now and the minister of education.
Now that Doug Ford has taken over in Ontario, once he won, tried to get in contact with his minister of education of time, Lisa Thompson. Now, he has a new minister of education, to which my assistant put out a request immediately to meet with him to try to get critical thinking in high schools.
We haven’t heard back yet. We hope to get something done in terms of having a meeting with the new minister. But my hopes are not overly high because they are placing a lot of focus with various other facets of the ministry.
So, a lot of my work has been consulting, has been working with various clients on various levels, and, surprisingly, a lot of that has to do with mental health now. It has to do with critical thinking and how that applies to therapy, how it applies to ethics, how it applies to public speaking and communication. That sort of thing.
I have been totally out of academia since April, 2018. I don’t imagine that I am ever going to return. Unless, somebody, somewhere recognizes merit besides that they have the backbone to bring that into their curriculum, in whatever capacity.
We’ll see. Ryerson, I am going to be working with them on some level on a series on ethics for a special component within continuing ed. That is a whole other thing altogether. That is not University proper.
Otherwise, I have got a really, really interesting project coming up.
Over the last 20 to 25 years, you have noticed that I do some God debates.
DiCarlo: Every time, I am asked. I say the same thing, “What side would you like me to take?”
DiCarlo: There is always a bit of a pause if they are on the phone. They say, “You’re an atheist. Aren’t you?” I say, “Well, yes, to your religion, sure. But I am agtheist. I am an atheist to any stated world religion because I can’t imagine any of them have it right. They haven’t been able to demonstrate that. I am agnostic insofar as I am wondering, ‘What could we possibly imagine the concept of God to be beyond what our little peon brains have been able to fathom at this point?’ Since I don’t know, I am not going to try to guide my life by some conception of what that might be, and use what we have available to us: the principles of logic, the laws that we have figured out in terms of science, and critical thinking. Those will make things better for us and in understanding the universe. If we discover some god-like entity, Hey! Bonus! In the meantime, I am not going to get hung up on people’s weaker-than accounts of what they think their god happens to be and then expect me to go along with that. I can’t do that. It doesn’t make any sense to me.”
With all these god debates, none of them allow them to take my side and me to take their side. I have been able to get some people. One of them being Dr. Michael Murray. Do you know the John Templeton Foundation?
DiCarlo: He was the president of the John Templeton Foundation. He was at one of the Wycliffe talks in Toronto. He was on stage with Geordie Rose and somebody else. He was quite an interesting character. So, I contacted him.
I said, “Would you ever be able to do a God debate but switch sides?” He said, “Yes.” I said, “You’re kidding. Okay.” I contacted Richard Carrier. Do you know Carrier? Do you know his work?
DiCarlo: Okay, then we contacted a woman named Lorna Dueck, she is the host of a CBC show called Context. It is kind of a Christian show. She had Andy Bannister guy on it. I don’t mind Lorna. She was alright. Bottom line, Lorna Dueck and Dr. Michael Murray are going to debate Richard Carrier and myself on the existence of God, not a particular god, but a good old fashioned Socratic dialogue.
Carrier and I will take pro. They are going to take the con. They are going to argue against the existence of God. We are going to argue for it. It is going to take place on Friday, September 13th. The title is “The Switch Debate.” This will take place in Downtown Toronto at the Toronto Public Reference Library during some festival.
It will probably be getting a lot of attention over the next few months. The purpose or why I want this type of debate is to show a level of humility on the part of believers and nonbelievers, where they can give up their favourite side and can Steelman their opponent view to the best of their ability to show collegiality, knowing that we do not believe these particular sides.
But we should make every effort to be in the mind of another, as it were. My hope is to try to demonstrate to the world, especially the US, that it is a sign of intellectual maturity to be able to consider the other person’s side without calling them “crazy,” or whatever, but try to understand the biases at play that lead them to get to that belief that differs from yours now and to understand that it might change in the future.
A great way to get the dialogue going is to imagine what it is like to be that other person, to have that belief different than our own. We don’t do this anymore. The ancient philosophers used to practice this continuously.
Take the other side, “But I don’t favour the other side.” “We don’t care. Take the other side and see what you can do with it.” You can find some interesting things out about yourself and the other person.
It is about education and knowledge and beliefs in a way that allows us, as Aristotle said, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” It is to be able to do this in good faith.
I have written up a short manifesto for this event in which Lorna Dueck, Michael Murray, Richard Carrier, and myself have to agree to take this serious and to make sure that we make the very best judgments on our part to put forward the strongest argument that we can without making it a mockery, without making it slip that we aren’t arguing from this particular side and being disingenuous and letting our true beliefs about the other side slip through.
It is a short manifesto that we’ll all sign and agree to prior to this event. We have a fairly distinguished moderator from a television show here called The Agenda here in Ontario from TVOntario. They are a fairly good journalist and will be a good moderator and will be fairly neutral.
The basic hope is that The Switch Debate can be a model for future discussions on important issues. This one will be about God. In the future, I would love to have it about the Israel-Palestine conflict and have scholars switch their sides. I would love to see debates on abortion or the gun debate, and have them switch and do the best they can to see how they can manage to try to argue what they know is directly [Laughing], diametrically opposed to their current belief system.
I think it is a healthy exercise in education and in public discourse. We have lost touch with that. So, I am going to try and bring it back, make it interesting, and make it relevant again. Hopefully, this will have some traction with the public.
I have been planning this with CFI for months now. We are going to go public with it in the next few weeks. We will start a marketing campaign. Because I was worried somebody else would take the idea and run with it, certainly not with God.
Carrier and I are fairly well known in the atheist community. I don’t know about Murray and Dueck. They are certainly well known in their communities. It can help people hopefully pay a little more attention and what it means to have a civilized conversation without the attacks of the ad hominems. We’re seeing this on the news.
A return to civil discourse is really what it is all about with all its wondrous aspects of humility and civility, and consideration, and due diligence, and taking things serious and doing the best that we can. I can let you know about this now as we are promoting it.
Jacobsen: In the beginning of the interview, you mentioned abortion in the U.S. and anti-vax in the world. What is the current state of the issues around abortion in the United States? What is the current state of issues around anti-vaxxers or anti-vaccination activists of a sort around the world?
DiCarlo: In the States, you have about 5 states – Georgia, Missouri, others – that are making it really, really difficult for women to access clinics for abortions. The appointment of Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
When you connect the dots, it looks like a challenge to a Roe v Wade challenge from 1973. It made abortion federally legal for women. It would be pretty gutsy to try to do that. If they already have the states being heavily involved in limiting the number of places in which people can have abortions, mind you, it is much more complicated than this.
At the same time of places offering abortions being closed, the number of places offering advice on reproductive capacities are springing up with names like Reproductive Information, Family Therapy and Counselling, and so on.
These are Christian organizations that do not talk, at all, about abortion or anything like that. This is really the flip side of shutting the clinics down and then having these things pop up in the guise of places that can give women information into what their options are.
People have gone into these. The Daily Show has done it. Samantha Bee’s show has done it. They’ve gone in and pretended to be women in need and recorded what is going on. They are told, “You have to keep the baby. You have to keep this kid.” They say everything, except, “This is a child of God.”
Once we go in, we know what their tactic is. It is a separation of church and state issue. It is very heavy-handed rightwing Christian ideologue religious beliefs that are getting in the way of essentially liberty. I have no issue with Christians being against abortion. It is internally consistent with the beliefs.
I think their beliefs are overall wrong. I don’t think they reflect how reality actually is. But I am also a person who cares enough about liberty to say, “You have the right to practice certain ideological beliefs.” But then there is always a proviso that comes with it, “So long as your beliefs do not harm others or other species.”
When they shut down abortion clinics and open Christian advisory clinics in the guise of being unbiased and neutral and whatnot, now, they are harming. Because what is going to happen, the pre-availability of abortion levels before Morgentaler’s 1988 court ruling, R v Morgentaler,  1 SCR 30, came into effect to allow Canadian women to seek out and access safe abortions.
You will see a lot of young women and maybe girls seeking out abortions from people who are highly unqualified and will unquestionably cause the same type of harms that we saw prior to the legalization and standardization of these kinds of procedures.
Add to that, the increase of unwanted pregnancies and magnify the type of complication that could be raised with a household that does not want the children or can’t care for them. What will happen to them? What quality of life will they have? It doesn’t make a lot of sense.
If you’re a Christian and if you put forward your political and social ideologies to stop women from getting abortions because you believe you are saving the souls of babies, you are creating far greater harm.
We have every right to call this out and turn over the rock into the light of day, and what harm is actually being done in the name of one particular Christian viewpoint. That is what is going on in the States now in several states. Alabama and others are following suit. Most of the people doing this are white males. If you look at it, they are white guys.
It is weird that these guys think they can have a claim over what women can do with their own bodies. Irony is very much lost in Alabama in that respect. So, we need to approach the issue of abortion and try to understand it in terms of the least amount of harm, and what is the greatest fairness and justice to all concerned when it comes to abortion.
You have a complex issue, but not so complex that we cannot make up our minds and generate laws to allow people, especially women, the freedom to exercise their decisions in a safe and effective way.
So, that is abortion. The anti-vaxxers, we are seeing measles on a 25 year high. Why is this happening? Because people have a little knowledge, which is a dangerous thing. The thing that scares me from the anti-vaxxer media.
For the longest time on public media, I have been seeing a lot of shows on CNN, MSNBC, Fox, where anti-vaxxers were given equal time to say their point. It is not as though I think they do not have a right to say what they believe.
But it is when they state the same premises over, and over, and over again that have been falsified. The media is unable to understand the basics of critical thinking. The conclusion is obvious: to not vaccinate your child. What are the premises? “That stuff, we don’t know what it is.” No, you know exactly what it is. You can go to the CDC website. You can ask your doctor. You doctor will tell you exactly what is in it.
The media hardly ever tells the public what a vaccine is and how it works. To me, this is the most fundamental thing that you have to do. If you have a story of vaccination and anti-vaxxers, how is a vaccine made? How does it work? Once you explain this in 30 seconds, you can present the arguments.
If you don’t know what is in it, here is what is in it. At that point, what can you say? If you just look at the numbers, the likelihood of adverse effects from a vaccine, on average through a world population, is 1 in a million.
The death of a child by measles is 1 in a thousand. So, if you just look at the numbers alone in terms of the parenting giving their child a vaccination, the number is with the vaccination. We cannot go off herd innoculations anymore, as this has dipped below 95%.
Herd inoculation if only around 95% of the public is vaccinated. 5% can say, “No.” The last calculation was around 92%. The 3% is the reason why we’re seeing the increase in mumps, measles, and rubella.
It is funny. Some say, “Don’t even have an argument with an anti-vaxxer.” You have to have the argument. It is about how to voice the conversation. I don’t think I have the solutions to all of these things, but I want to make an effort to, at least, try to cross the bridge and try to connect with the anti-vaxxers.
Because if you don’t, they’re going to just dig in more. More and more children will suffer because of their ignorance. This is a really interesting time in human history. These people are not stupid.
These people are often educated. They are literate. But they read the wrong kind of things. Then the confirmation bias gets so insulated. It gets so built up. How do you get through the insulated ignorance to penetrate to the core of the belief system to inject a little bit of reason? So, it can, hopefully, multiply and collect within their collective intelligentsia.
So, they can try to better understand what is actually at play here. Friends of mine who were born in Africa and live in Canada. They are amazed that people would not get inoculated. They do not know why people would not want to get proper vaccinations.
They would tell me stories of lining up for half of a day to get inoculated because they knew that this was going to keep them alive. In a way, it is a privilege over here. You can choose not to vaccinate your kid. They are quite surprised by those decisions.
Jacobsen: It seems like a problem quintessentially found in North America, first world or developed countries. The idea of malnourished fat people in the population. We have this. Similarly, we have the option to comfortably throw up perfectly good meals. Although, granted, it comes in a disorder in bulimia, bulimia nervosa.
It can come in situations in individuals who have the option to just be insulated in their informational networks and then deny really essential healthcare for kids to stay alive.
DiCarlo: Oh yes.
Jacobsen: You mentioned the death of meritocracy. In the academy or in Academia, what defines meritocracy in a brief definition? Then, what are some symptoms you noticed earlier on in the academic career previous?
DiCarlo: In Academia, meritocracy, merit is fairly objectively determined. It is who you worked with as a Ph.D. student, what university you graduated from, where you did your post-doc, what have you published, where you have published, where you have taught, have you gotten any grant funding, what conferences have you spoke at, what do people in general think about you.
So, those are the types of things that you see on a C.V. When they come across a desk, there are pretty obvious ways in which you can tell the merit of a person. If you are hiring someone to be a professor, you bring them in and say, “You published this. You published here. You’ve got so many books. You’ve got so many peer-reviewed articles. You’ve attained so much money from this organization and this type of government granting organization and whatnot. Great, how well can you teach? So, you can teach fairly well. You’re the complete package. You’re the right person for the department.”
That’s how it was done in the 70s. This was in the beginning of the 80s and prior. Once political objectives became entrenched within departments, it became really skewed. So, entire departments got taken over by either political ideologies, nepotism, or both.
Here is an example: go to any sociology department in Canada and the United States, England, ask how many rightwing professors that they have on staff. If you go to Guelph, let’s say 40 professors, they’d be lucky to have one, if that.
It is probably not even that. The university sings a good song about diversity. That might work for skin color, ethnicity, gender, ability. That kind of diversity, absolutely. Political, philosophical, ideological, no, no, pretty much every sociology department – not everybody, but pretty much – in Canada and the United States will be extreme left-leaning and very, very much involved in social justice from the point of view of a Marxist-Feminist approach.
Nothing wrong with that. It is another model. It is another way of looking at things. But everybody looking at things like that? That’s pushing it. So, it doesn’t matter what merit a person might have. If they are outspoken, or if they let us know that they are an atheist or even centrist, or who would even consider if there is any value to a rightwing idea, they are considered anathema.
Immediately, they are out of the door. A blind eye will be turned to the merit in those respects for political reasons. The nepotism is pure and simple. I just watched so many people [Laughing] get hired out of candidates. It is just how things get done at certain levels.
The old saying, “It is not what you know. It is who you know.” Yes, I have watched, in some cases, women get hired still doing their Ph.D. over people who have had 15 to 20 years of experience and written several books and whatnot.
It does not matter what the merit is. Somebody wanted that person for what ever reason, political or nepotistic reason. I kid you not. The person not even with a Ph.D. in hand gets hired. It is like, “Okay, at the point, there’s no hope for merit. The decision has been made for them. Why make an effort to accomplish anything if it is never going to recognized on a system that has been built over hundreds of years?”
That is the situation in Academia now in the liberal arts and the humanities. The students are going to suffer. The students will suffer. When they get out into the real world, the problem is going to be exacerbated, right? It is so unfortunate.
That we’re basically closing the minds of our youth. We are not giving them the tools to critically evaluate information. Instead, we are spoon-feeding them – vanilla mediocrity.
Jacobsen: If we look at the very sincere and different concerns of different constituents of the culture, one will be economic. Another will be intergenerational as expressed just then.
Another will be cultural health with culture defined broadly as arts, humanities, sciences, etc., in the general population having at least a working knowledge of those things and the processes that bring about that knowledge.
What would be an economic consequence of this or has been an economic consequence of this? What has been or is a cultural health consequence of this?
DiCarlo: So, economic, I think if you teach people false information about human nature and then that trickles out into the political realm, where laws are being developed and norms are being established for certain types of behaviours that don’t fit with reality.
That are developed through ideological-based reasoning and is an inaccurate way with how the real world functions. Then you’re always, as a society, going to be playing catch-up. You’re always going to be putting fires out.
If you have an ideological version of crime, one of the universities I worked at. I was brought in to help with the critical thinking and ethics for a criminology department. They were all Marxist-Feminist. They said, “Basically, capitalism is bad and the patriarchy out there.”
I said, “What does that mean?” They said, “If the world wasn’t so controlled by money, and if the world was not so controlled by men, then crime would be less.” I said, “How do you know this?” They said, “Come on, it’s obvious.” I said, “Really? How?” If we were communist and led by women, there would be a lot less crime.” They said, “Yes.”
I said, “I don’t think so. I think communism, at least socialism in certain levels, was a bit of a failure. I am all for social democracy. People should be able to make as much money as they want, so long as they are not harming others. We should help those who cannot help themselves. There is absolutely no question about that. But why do you think if you think there was no such so-called patriarchy that there would be less crime? Can you actually guarantee that?”
I looked at crime from a very broad, collaborative, interdisciplinary view. I want to look at neuropsychology. I want to look at genetics. I want to look at developmental behaviour. I want to look at nutrition. I want to look at sleep.
I want to look at economics. I want to look at history. I want to bring a bunch of different disciplines to the table when we’re talking about criminology. Because that’s what is there. You want to look at the complete aspect of human behaviour, not just capitalism and patriarchy.
Those might be important. But they are not the only things that we have to look at. If they keep cranking students at in this field, and if those students go into whatever branches of government, policing, or law, and if they try to put a square peg into a round hole thinking this is how human nature actually works, they are going to be woefully surprised.
What will happen, a huge amount of dollars will go into trying to put a square peg into a round hole. Now, we will try to play catch-up because that is not the way people are. We need to understand them in a more comprehensive way. Humans are more complicated than that. We need to be fairer in understanding human nature.
I’ll give you an example. A colleague of mine when I was at this particular university in the criminology faculty. I asked straight out, “I know we can’t put a figure on it. If you had to, nature-nurture, give me some numbers.” She said, “Oh! That’s easy. Nurture 99% and nature 1%.” I said, “You can’t be serious.”
She said, “What are you talking about?” I said, “Really? Everything is nurture. So, anyone can change at any time.” She said, “Yes.” I said, “So, why didn’t oppressed homosexuals when they were being murdered for simply being gay? Why didn’t they just choose otherwise if nurture is 99% of human behaviour? What about a serial killer? We find they have a grapefruit-sized tumour near the cerebellum. It made them think that God was talking to them. That he had to carry these things out. Or Vince Li, the Canadian, who killed that kid on the Greyhound bus because God told him he was sitting next to the Devil?”
If nurture was 99%, he should have been able to stop himself, but he was schizophrenic. Serial killers and even pedophiles have been found to have major impairments with their brain function. That alone should indicate to you that you’re wrong.
By the time I left the university, she changed her mind somewhat. She came to me and said, “I think nurture is 98% and nature is 2%.” She gave me a percent by the time I left. That type of thinking is going on. To me, it is just wrong. It is just factually wrong.
We know that culture and biology play equal roles or roughly equal components. Your biology dictates an awful lot about your behaviour. Your culture frames the way in which the behaviour manifests itself.
To me, it is the most responsible way in which to see and understand human behaviour. When you don’t and try to teach students that you can do and be anything, and can change, you have total freedom over who you are and what you will become.
I think it is so wrong. When they get out into the real world and try to make the real world fit with the mistaken ideology, it is really messing things up. Now, we are putting out fires because these people are in charge.
They are in HR. They are trying to hire on these bizarre political and philosophical ideologies. It is in the court system. It is in the schools. Really? This is how you think the world works and how humans behave. Where did you get your education?
What is happening, if merit is gone, and if this ideological hiring continues, it is just weakening the very fabric of society, the very understanding of society, and the ways in which we try to help individuals within society.
That is how I see that’s going to be a major factor in terms of its effects throughout society in general.
To speak to the last one, cultural health, it will lead to a greater weakening of humanity if we don’t understand ourselves honestly, warts and all. We have to understand the uglier side of humanity as much as we want to elevate the greater side of humanity as well if we wish to be fair
If we don’t wish to be fair, that’s fine. Let’s admit to that right now, but let’s stop being hypocritical and admit that we don’t care about fairness in hiring of staff. Clearly, they don’t care about it in the distribution of information.
Don’t forget, I did my Ph.D. thesis on evolutionary epistemology. That looks at the ways ideas survive in a Darwinian model, an evolutionary model. The ways ideas compete and survive. If you get enough people in a particular area maintaining that certain ideas are better than others to the exclusion of the truth, you can see what is going to happen with the bogus concepts of human nature.
That are going to hold us back further, and further, and further. I am going to go so far, right now, as to tell you. The central problem in the humanities and the social sciences – liberal arts, humanities, and the social sciences – is that nobody is willing to talk about the elephant in the room.
The groups in power now in these faculties – sociology, history, philosophy – or these disciplines, now, have a great deal of difficulty coming to grips with this central problem, which will be the topic of my next book. It is this topic of free will.
They are running from it. They are all running from it. The simple fact is, nobody has been able to disprove the position of hard determinism. I am willing to accept that we have freedom in some unbeknownst way.
That we, in some way, choose. But if we are being honest with ourselves, we have reached a point in our evolution as a species that we pretty much know all effects are the result of prior causes. If that is the case, then there is very little real choice that we can make.
It can seem like it. In some ways, I think it is important for societies to live out that illusion. But people really don’t like this conversation. I brought this up at one of the Imagine No Religion conferences. I gave a talk.
Then Daniel C. Dennett and I got into a scrape over it. Were you there?
Jacobsen: No, I could see the outplaying of this conversation, or dialogue, or scraping given the prior knowledge that I have of the two of you.
DiCarlo: Dennett has this weird soft determinism. That we choose. I kept asking him, “Of what is the will free?” He wrote books on it. I don’t fully understand it. Others don’t fully understand it. He said, “Christopher, you gave the example of the person with the tumour. Naturally, they weren’t free. Because they had the tumour. I, to my knowledge, do not have the tumour and, therefore, I am free.”
I tried to explain to him, “Whether you have the tumour or not, your brain is the function of prior causes to which you are completely out of control. So, it doesn’t matter whether you have a tumour or not. The same rules apply.”
The reason [Laughing] why you get to behave in ways where you don’t molest young children is because you don’t have the tumour, not because you don’t want to. It is not that you don’t choose to not have the tumor. You have a bunch of chemicals, neurotransmitters, coursing through your brain that keep you attracted to your wife or keep you attracted to yourself where you’re a prolific masturbator.
DiCarlo: Whatever it is, you are only in control as much as you think you are. The fact of the matter is: whether you have a brain tumour or not, you are still controlled by prior causes. They are inescapable. They dictate the effects of your capacity.
If I think that I am a good person right now because I obey the law, do not fool around on my wife, treat my kids with respect, and love my dog, and all of that, people look at me and say, “There is an upstanding civilian in the grand city of Guelph Ontario.”
How much credit do I get to take for that? What if the situation was really different? What if, for whatever reason, I am living under a bridge, lost my family, addicted to crystal meth, have several types of socially transmittable diseases, and people drive past me and think, ‘What a despicable character that is’?
How much control do I have choosing to eventually go that way if I lost my job, my wife walked out on me, my kids thought I was a moron, and my dog bit me and ran away? It turned into a country and western song.
DiCarlo: Right? How much control do we really have over what is the complete person right now? To me, that is at the very core. It is the elephant in the room of the social sciences and liberal arts professors, and humanities professors. It is what they will not talk about.
When you push them, they get a little scared. They get bothered, by it. It is a bit like death. Nobody wants to talk about death. We all ignore it. Until, we come close to it, somehow. There is a lump. It turned out to be benign, “Oh jeez.” You had a bad accident. You walk out of it.
We tend to push death off because are too busy trying to live here. It is a bit like determinism. It looks like I chose to have pancakes and syrup today. For breakfast, that I chose that. The fact of the matter, if I were born in Calcutta as a young Indian boy, I probably wouldn’t be eating pancakes and syrup for breakfast.
So, how much choice do I have for all these types of things? The fact of that matter is that I don’t. This is what I think is really at the heart of what is going on in Academia. When they see guys like me come in and I am a pretty decent critical thinker, and I can hold their feet to the fire about what they claim, the university does not want Renaissance men.
They do not want people who rock the boat. That is most university’s. That is not the University of Chicago. They are the exact opposite. The president came out and said, “If you come to this university, you are going to be challenged. If you cannot handle it, move on down the line to somewhere to where they will look for triggers warnings, things that might upset you and whatnot.” A lot of universities have become very soft.
They have become so mired in mediocrity and are serving pablum, vanilla-based pablum, to their clients. They are not students anymore. They are clients. It is so unbelievably distasteful that we have let them down.
For me, to watch this happen, and to suffer, my family and I are in such considerable debt because I have been fired from so many universities. You never get hired. I am never going to get hired. I think I should have had a fairly decent career as an academic and should have been tenured years ago.
That has been robbed. The books that I should have written. The students that I should have counselled and supervised and mentored. All of that has been lost over the last 20 or 25 years. I think, “Should I sue the ministry of colleges and universities for this kind of thing?” But I have enough on my plate trying to survive day to day.
The fact of the matter is, I do not have the time for that. But what a sad reflection on what has happened to our university system over the last 25 to 30 to 40 years, it is sad. It is unfortunate.
Jacobsen: Did you ever hear the joke about how to feel happy?
It is to listen to a country music song backwards. He gets his dog back…
Jacobsen: …he gets his job back. His house is not burned anymore. His wife comes back.
DiCarlo: That’s right.
Jacobsen: I am sorry. I know a few stories at this point. Some are public. Some are not. I will take a step back. Some are more public. Some are less public. This is on the left and right – socially, economically, politically, religiously. What does this portend if we look to the future of the nation-state here – if we look at the economic consequences, the intergenerational consequences of the clients, and the cultural health with the decline with, as you defined, meritocracy in Academia over time since the early 80s?
DiCarlo: Yes, I think it is both a crime against humanity. It is both a crime against information itself, especially if we allow it to take its furthest level of influence – which is to literally rewrite the past. It will be unfortunate if too much of the watered-down vanilla-flavoured mediocrity gets too ingrained into the intelligentsia of the public or the polis.
Then we can kind of do a lot of revisionist history stuff. We can rewrite a bunch of stuff. We can say whatever we want because it will satisfy the political ideology of the time. We will pat ourselves on the back.
The problem is, if we continue to be blinded, to allow ourselves to be blinded, to some of the harsher truths of human nature, we will do so at our peril; we will come to regret it. I am involved in mental health. I am the Ethics Chair for CMHA. I do a fair amount of private therapy with various clients to try to help business as much as I can.
Sometimes, I see things in the mental health field, where I wonder where some of these people have been educated and who have educated them. Some are very good. Some are very knowledgeable.
Some are so old school that they want to stay in their silo. They want to just do what is necessary from 9 to 5 and then go home. But mental health [Laughing] doesn’t shut down at 5 in the afternoon. We need a collaborative effort in understanding the complete human.
We need to have a system in which the psychiatrist can talk to the psychologist can talk to the neurologist can talk to the family doctor who can talk to the dietitian and the physiotherapist, and the occupational therapist and the housing person.
We need those people collected as a collaborative team if you really want to help that person. If that person does not have a house or a place to go to or lives on the street, they will constantly wonder where they will sleep at night.
If they have a drug issue, they will have to figure out how to make money to get their drugs. Then they will see the psychiatrist who will say, “I will take you off this medication and put you on the other medication. You have to get off pot.” Who is going to do this?
It is such a lack of understanding of human nature. So many mental health patients self-medicate that it is not funny. I hold the medical establishment accountable for this and big pharma a little accountable for this. I am not a huge hater of big pharma. I know we need them.
I know they are valuable. What bothers me about big pharma is that they create medical or psychiatric disorders without understanding that these patients will self-medicate with booze or other forms of drugs, they should know this.
All psychiatrists say the same thing, “We have to get you back to baseline. You have to get off all your drugs.” Are they even listening to themselves? Do they even think that these people are going to do that? Why would they? Their life is shit.
They are going through all kinds of horrific things. They are self-medicating with drugs. The reason is to escape the situation that they are currently in. The people who are involved – some of whom are great and others I have question where they got their education – are assuming that they can change, can just choose, a different lifestyle. I am thinking, “Are you out of your mind?”
How much of this is biologically based? The brain is the seat of all human experience. Except, you have gone through a 4-year education program to become a mental health worker on the frontline. You think these people are going to change for some bizarre reason? No! We need a far greater understanding of human behaviour, so we can best treat the complete, whole person.
That means that we have to understand them from the inside out – figure out what is going on in terms of understanding the mechanics of their bodies and then the interaction of those bodies with the cultural influences and the various systems through which they have to navigate.
If we can do that, we are doing the very best that we can for that person. Believe it or not, what I have been trying to do while here is that there is a place on the outskirts of town, it used to be a Catholic monastery called Ignatius College.
Let’s face it, there has been a decline in enrollment to become priests and monks. So, it has been sitting fairly dormant. Small businesses are renting from the archdiocese. But I have collaborated with a realtor, a local realtor.
A guy named Mark here. He has been able to convince the diocese to transform the building into housing, which is very much needed in the city. I went to him and said, “From where I am sitting as the Ethics Chair at CMHA, let’s turn the monastery into a new mental health facility, a world-leading and cutting edge mental health facility that does intake, assessment, treatment, housing, and employment all in the same place.
It can hold at least 75 beds. The infrastructure is fairly sound. So, I have been meeting with MPs and MPPs trying to get a hold of Doug Ford’s health minister to start this up with some government funding to get some private donations and philanthropic interests to further this along for, at least, a 3 to 5-year pilot project.
Every politician said the same thing, “This is a great idea. This is exactly what we need to do with mental health.” They always stop short. They send the letters to the minister of health and copy me.
I send notice after notice after notice. I say, “This will make you look real good.” Believe it or not, it would be a win-win for the city of Guelph, the families, and it is actually a win for the Catholic Church.
They get to say, “Look at what we did with one of our old monasteries.” I would want to coordinate with the University of Guelph with the psychology department and make this a research facility and treatment facility as a world-class institute for mental health. Everyone is sitting on their hands. I cannot get anyone to do anything.
Here is where I have used all my powers of critical thinking and insight into the mental health problem in my local area here. I have seen what appears to be a pretty decent solution to what any government should warrant as a 3-year pilot project. I cannot get anyone to move on this.
It is just so disheartening to see so many people fall through the cracks and either commit suicide or devolve into a state of being what you would never hope for or wish upon your enemies. We have the capacity to help them.
Everyone knows this could be a very good project. It is just sitting there. Nobody is doing anything, we are doing the same old, same old. I liken it to the analogy of being at sea on a wooden ship carrying a load of lumber. But you have to repair the ship while at sea.
You do not have time to dry dock and rerelease it, then get it going. The mental health profession is ongoing. You have to repair the ship while you’re at sea. I think this is a pretty good way to do that. I still can’t get [Laughing]…
DiCarlo: …these people to get any kind of serious traction on this. That lets you know one example within my little part of the world or what I am trying to deal with here, trying to make this world a little bit better of a place.
That’s my situation here.
Jacobsen: Time’s up. Any final feelings or thoughts in conclusion based on the conversation today?
DiCarlo: To me, if you want a better society, you have to teach critical thinking fairly young. So, we are better enabled and more empowered to use information more clearly. So, we can utilize the best information and the best practices to be able to care more effectively.
One of the movements that I am very much involved with now is EA. It is called Effective Altruism. It is the idea that it is not enough anymore to just be compassionate and fair about issues. If you really want to make a difference, you really have to know how to be effective. You have to know how to make good working business models that allow that to occur.
I am seeing an enormous amount of waste. It is good intentions, but, nonetheless, wasted efforts in trying to make the world a better place. The core of this is critical thinking. If you teach this clearly enough, you will have a more compassionate world, a calmer world.
But also, a world in which people can speak their minds about what they feel is objectively relatable and accountable for helping humanity and other species on the planet. Until that point, we will continue in the current way that we’re going with constantly putting out fires and constantly repairing this ship at sea without the ship sinking before we get to where we’re going.
Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Dr. DiCarlo.
DiCarlo: My pleasure!
Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-books, free or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.
Do not forget to look into our associates: Godless Mom, Nice Mangoes, Sandwalk, Brainstorm Podcast, Left at the Valley, Life, the Universe & Everything Else, The Reality Check, Bad Science Watch, British Columbia Humanist Association, Dying With Dignity Canada, Canadian Secular Alliance, and Centre for Inquiry Canada.
Other Resources: Recovering From Religion.
Photo by Penguinuhh on Unsplash