2+2=5? - Anti-Woke Math Whizz James Lindsay Is Pissed Off


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James Lindsay is a colleague of Helen Pluckrose, who was on the podcast just a few weeks ago. Together with Peter Boghossian, the group faked woke – or social justice – academic papers and got them published in prestigious journals. These included bogus ideas like that dogs engage in rape culture and that men could become less transphobic by inserting things up their back passage. The idea was to show that there is a bias in academia towards social justice ideas.

James has a doctorate in math(s) – there’s an S at the end the word, American listeners – and a background in physics. He also has a huge following on Twitter, and recently caused a storm by arguing that 2+2 does indeed equal 4. This may sound obvious, but his critics, including many respected academics have been suggesting it could also equal 5 – in a worrying echo of the kind of doublethink described in George Orwell’s 1984. James is suggesting that this is part of the problem with how woke people think, and how they’ll twist words and meaning to suit their agenda.

This week, James and Helen have a book coming out; it’s called Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything about Race, Gender, and Identity—and Why This Harms Everybody. Make sure to get hold of it.

The podcast does get a little mathematical early on, and if you listen closely, you can actually hear the moment my brain begins to melt, just as he talks about two concatenated ones. But we do start to move away from maths after a few minutes.

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37 episodes