Bret Weinstein

biologist, professor, public intellectual

Bret Samuel Weinstein (born 21 February 1969) is an American evolutionary biologist and podcaster who came to national attention during the 2017 Evergreen State College protests. He is among the people referred to collectively as the "intellectual dark web," a term coined by Weinstein's brother Eric Weinstein.

Weinstein holding a TEDx talk at the Evergreen State College in 2012

Quotes edit

  • There is a huge difference between a group or coalition deciding to voluntarily absent themselves from a shared space in order to highlight their vital and underappreciated roles... and a group encouraging another group to go away. The first is a forceful call to consciousness, which is... crippling to the logic of oppression. The second is a show of force, and an act of oppression in and of itself.
    • Letter to the Evergreen State College faculty (March, 2017) objecting to the "Day of Absence" change, requesting white students and faculty to stay at home, rather than the minority race participants remaining at home to highlight the minority's contributions. See Leonard Payne, A Glitch in the Matrix: Jordan Peterson and the Intellectual Dark Web (2019) p. 67.
  • I believe we have a very broken relationship, at least in the US but probably across the West, where we ask candidates for office about policies that they are going to enact. And it's like a reflex where we want them to tell us 'I'm going to do this this that you want' so they promise us stuff, it doesn't work, they don't have the power to enact it when they get in office or they never meant it in the first place. And we would be much better off, counterintuitive as this sounds, if we assessed their character and their patriotism instead of their policy proposals. My feelin is: I actually don't care what you think of policy. If you impress me, that you're a patriot, that you love the country that I'm a part of, that you want to see it improved, and that your values align with mine so that improved to you also means improved to me, then all I want to know is that you're good at evaluating what policies might get us there.

The reserve-capacity hypothesis (May, 2002) edit

:evolutionary origins and modern implications of the trade-off between tumor-suppression and tissue-repair Experimental Gerontology Vol. 37, Issue 5, pp. 615-627. Quotes are from the Abstract, unless otherwise indicated. Abstract source.
  • (3) These patterns are manifestations of an evolved antagonistic pleiotropy in which extrinsic causes of mortality favor a species-optimal balance between tumor suppression and tissue repair.
  • (4) With that trade-off as a fundamental constraint, selection adjusts telomere lengths—longer telomeres increasing the capacity for repair, shorter telomeres increasing tumor resistance.
  • (5) In environments where extrinsically induced mortality is frequent, selection against senescence is comparatively weak as few individuals live long enough to suffer a substantial phenotypic decline. The weaker the selection against senescence, the further the optimal balance point moves toward shorter telomeres and increased tumor suppression. The stronger the selection against senescence, the farther the optimal balance point moves toward longer telomeres, increasing the capacity for tissue repair, slowing senescence and elevating tumor risks.
  • (6) In iteroparous organisms selection tends to co-ordinate rates of senescence between tissues, such that no one organ generally limits life-span.
  • [C]aptive-rodent breeding protocols, designed to increase reproductive output, simultaneously exert strong selection against reproductive senescence and virtually eliminate selection that would otherwise favor tumor suppression. This appears to have greatly elongated the telomeres of laboratory mice. With their telomeric failsafe effectively disabled, these animals are unreliable models of normal senescence and tumor formation. Safety tests employing these animals likely overestimate cancer risks and underestimate tissue damage and consequent accelerated senescence.

The Personal Responsibility Vortex (April 16, 2012) edit

: Bret Weinstein at TEDxTheEvergreenStateCollege. A source.
  • [T]he boundaries of the evolutionary environment do not stop at the market's edge.
  • Strategies evolve within markets and their larger regulatory context.
  • [A]ll of our environmental problems look like... somebody making a profit for degrading what belongs to the rest of us. ...[T]his behavior should not be allowed within a marketplace. We are fracturing the world. We are liquidating it, we are draining it, we are denuding it, we are over-exploiting it. It is apparent to anyone... The idea that this should not be allowed is transparent.
  • We have to ask ourselves, what fraction of the economic activity that surrounds us is profitable only by virtue of the fact that those who make the money are externalizing the cost to somebody else. If we were to eliminate such behaviors, we would... reduce the amount of activity by a lot... but we would reduce it by exactly the fraction of activities that shouldn't have existed in the first place.
  • The agents in the market are responding to opportunities that we have left open. It makes no more sense to be angry at them... than it does to be angry at the mosquito for sucking your blood. ...[Y]ou have to close down the opportunity.
  • In the case that... what is good for the company is somewhat different than what is good for society, the ruthless corporation has the greatest advantage... because it can do anything it wants, and the corporation that is bound by what's good for society can't do anything. The corporation that tries to balance these concerns finds that it competes best with the ruthless corporation the more ruthless it becomes, and the outcome is predictable.
  • [I]n sectors of our economy where there is not a lot of room for utility-increasing innovations, we see an evolution towards ruthlessness... and that has interacted with... the central flaw in... our global system, with the U.S. at its head. What we have... are feedback loops... Wealth that is made in the market is capable of increasing one's power over regulation. Power over regulation allows increased opportunity to make money in the market. This is a positive feedback loop. That should scare any engineer of biologist because positive feedback loops that are not bounded by some negative feedback force are unstable. They detonate. They explode.
  • [T]his feedback loop has re-engineered our system cryptically and turned it into an engine for the concentration of wealth and power. ...It has installed amongst an unelected group of very powerful and wealthy people effective veto power over any attempt to change from the status quo.
  • [T]he personal responsibility vortex... sucks good people in... [W]e should redirect any effort that we are tempted to spend on personal responsibility, towards collective action... that can restructure the incentives that surround the market so that we... have a chance of altering the behavior.
  • [T]here are two types of systems... One type... the costs of sustaining the system go to the benevolent. That system will inevitably evolve toward ruthlessness and instability. The converse system... where the costs of maintaining the society go to the ruthless evolves towards benevolence and stability. Whenever policy is in question, we should ask ourselves, "Does the policy lead in the direction of the one type or the other.
  • We need to place a firewall that is impermeable between the marketplace and the regulatory apparatus.
  • [W]e need to rethink the way we keep track of behavior in the marketplace. We need full cost accounting... every cost that is generated by an activity in the market needs to show up in the balance sheet, whether that is borrowing from future generations, whether that is putting the population at risk. ...They need to be included in the price of the product or otherwise returned to those who decided to initiate the action. If we did that, the amount of activity would drop... to exactly those behaviors that are actually beneficial to society, leaving out all of those externalities that are generating so much profit with our current system.

On the 2017 protests at Evergreen State College edit

  • As far as the academy is concerned, these ideas are a direct threat to the ability of the academy to continue to teach. Because what we saw here, at Evergreen, was the descendants of critical theory challenged the right of students and faculty to engage in science. They actually confronted us as if science was just another mechanism of wielding power. And if they do that, if that happens across the country, collages and universities will not be the place where science happens. And science will continue, it will have to reformulate itself outside the collage and university system. And when it does that the justification for a collage and university system vanishes. Who's gonna send their kid to a collage that doesn't have science at its core? So anyway, I think this is actually a threat to the academy as a whole.

Oppression Disguised as Equity (May 22, 2018) edit

Testimony of Bret S. Weinstein, United States House of Representatives. A source. A video.
  • [O]ne can now advance... policies, and almost certainly succeed... if they are properly draped in weaponized terminology. "Equity", for example, has taken on special properties. If a person opposes an "equity" proposal, those advancing the proposal are secure in asserting that their opponent is motivated by opposition to racial equity itself: In other words, that they are racist. ...[O]ne’s right to speak is now dictated by adherence to an ascendant orthodoxy in which one’s race, gender and sexual orientation are paramount.
  • Is there a free speech crisis on college campuses? ...What is occurring on college campuses is about power and control—speech is impeded as a last resort, used when people fail to self-censor in response to a threat of crippling stigma and the destruction of their capacity to earn.
    These tools are being used to unhook the values that bind us together as a nation—equal protection under the law, the presumption of innocence, a free marketplace of ideas, the concept that people should be judged by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin. Yes, even that core tenet of the civil rights movement is being dismantled.
  • Weaponized "equity" is a means to an unacceptable and dangerous end, and it is already spreading from college campuses to other institutions... The emergence of this mentality, and this style of argument, at the highest levels of the tech sector and the press should alarm us greatly. The courts will not be far behind.
  • Something is seriously and dangerously amiss. At this moment in history, the center does not hold. Partisan polarization and political corruption have rendered government ineffective, predatory and often cruelly indifferent to the suffering of American citizens. Tribalism is a natural result.
  • The electorate is starved for honest debate and for the good governance that follows from it. My advice to this body is to put the nation and its core values ahead of partisanship and join us in the center to end this cultish power-grab, and return us to a forward path as a nation.

Speak Freely (Sept 14, 2018) edit

Lessons from Middlebury and Evergreen State. James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions, The Trustees of Princeton University. A source.
  • [F]ree speech is the wrong framework to be thinking about this, and... it has very little to do with college campuses. ...What happened at Evergreen that caused it to become a national story was that an unstoppable force met an immovable object. ...I was the immovable object ...for the moment, let's just chalk that up to a personality defect.
  • [I]mmovable objects are vanishingly rare in an academic context... If you're going to do it on the faculty side, you really need to have tenure, and in order to get tenure a lot of the things that you have to do train you not to be an immovable object. So there are very few immovable objects on college campuses, and that's a problem.
  • I stood up for three reasons. One... I felt an obligation to do it... it was the right thing to do. Two... manipulative bullies... Three, I thought that I was positioned to endure and repel the accusation that I absolutely knew was going to come back. Why did I think I was well positioned? ...I had tenure. I was well liked by students of every description, who knew me very well... and knew that I was not a bigot. I thought that would protect me. My own personal history was also completely inconsistent with the claim that I am a racist. ...I was wrong.
  • The thing that allowed me to endure the challenge of the phony equity and inclusion forces was that they were unable to keep the story in-house. ...Sam Harris, my brother Eric Weinstein, Dave Ruben and Joe Rogan ...took the video that the protestors themselves had posted and amplified it, and broadcast it. ...[T]here is a principle that applies to institutions like colleges and universities... It is  ... the ideal gas law... they turned up the heat and they added pressure, and that caused the vessel to explode, and when it did, my story became public, and survival became a possibility, because outside eyes... in reviewing it, the answer became obvious. I was not a racist. Something else was going on.
  • [T]he third point... What is taking place is actually a threat to the Republic... in one of two ways. The first possible failure mode is that some sort of a Maoist takeover could escape the colleges and universities and... it could take over the West... I find this unlikely... but what I do find very frightening is the possibility that the self-censorship is going to cause colleges and universities to fail in their mission to educate people how to think about difficult issues.
  • If the next generation of people to take over the West does not know how to think, western civilization will come apart and it will be replaced in the way that civilizations before it have been. ...What we face is a very dire problem.
  • Humans are exquisitely sensitive, for very good evolutionary reasons... to being excluded from a group. ...[T]hat's effectively fatal for a hunter-gatherer, so... we very naturally act in our own self-protection by doing whatever is necessary to rejoin. ...[Y]ou exist in a very large population. If you take up the habit—the rationality community... coined a term for this called steelmanning (the IDW has borrowed it)... [Y]ou do your best to present the argument, of those that disagree with you, so well that they recognize you as having done it right. ...If you do it out of habit, certain people will reject you. They're doing you a favor. They're telling you to seek higher quality people... [S]ome of the things that are hard in life will cost you friends, but the quality of your friend group will be upgraded by the process. It's very painful... but if you'll just trust that this process will result in people... that you want to find yourself around when things get really serious, then you'll be glad you've done it.

Bret Weinstein: Truth, Science, and Censorship in the Time of a Pandemic (Jun 25, 2021) edit

Lex Fridman Podcast #194
  • Human beings... we are not a blank slate, but we are the blankest slate that nature has ever devised. ...It's where our flexibility comes from. ...We are robots in which ...a large fraction of the ...behavioral capacity has been off-loaded to the software layer which gets written and re-written over evolutionary time. That means, effectively, that... the important part of what we are is housed in the cultural... and the conscious layer, and not in the hardware, or a hard coding way. That layer is prone to make errors... [C]hildren make absurd errors all the time... That's part of the process... It is also true that as you look across a field of people discussing things, a lot of what is said is pure nonsense, it's garbage. But the tendency of garbage to emerge and even to spread in the short term, does not say that over the long term, what sticks is not the valuable ideas. So there is a high tendency for novelty to be created in the cultural space, but there's also a high tendency for it to go extinct. ...Things are being created, they're being destroyed, and... obviously, we've seen totalitarianism arise many times, and it's very destructive each time it does. So it's not like... freedom to come up with any idea you want hasn't produced a whole lot of carnage. But the question is, over time, does it produce more open, fairer, more decent societies, and I believe that it does. I can't prove it, but that does seem to be the pattern. ...I don't know how strongly I believe that it will work, but I will say, I haven't heard a better idea.
  • [T]here is something very significant in this question of the hubris involved in imagining that you're going to improve the discussion by censoring... [T]he majority of concepts at the fringe are nonsense... but the heterodoxy at the fringe, which is indistinguishable at the beginning from the nonsense ideas, is the key to progress. So if you decide... the fringe is 99% garbage, let's just get rid of it. ...Yeah, but that 1% ... is the key. ...Eric makes an excellent point about the distinction between ideas and personal attacks, doxing... [T]here's no value in allowing people to destroy each other's lives, even if there's a technical legal defense for it. Now, how you draw that line, I don't know... Yes, people should be free to traffic in bad ideas, and they should be free to expose that the ideas are bad, and hopefully that process results in better ideas winning out.
  • [My] work... looked at the fact that telomere shortening was being looked at by two different groups... by people interested in counteracting the aging process, and... in exactly the opposite fashion, by people who were interested in tumorigenesis in cancer. ...Tumors ...always had telomerase active, that's the enzyme that lengthens our telomeres. So those folks were interested in bringing about a halt in the lengthening of telomeres... to counteract cancer, and the folks that were studying the senescence process were interested in lengthening telomeres... to generate greater repair capacity. ...[M]y point was evolutionarily speaking this looks like a pleiotropic effect, that the genes which create the tendency of the cells to be limited in their capacity to replace themselves, are providing a benefit in youth... that we are largely free of tumors and cancer at the inevitable late life cost that we grow feeble and inefficient, and eventually die. ...[T]hat matches a very old hypothesis in evolutionary theory by somebody I was fortunate enough to know, George Williams...
  • In the U.S. we have above 5,000 unexpected deaths that seem in time to be associated with vaccination... I've seen estimates of 25,000 dead in the U.S. ...[Y]ou can make the argument ...the necessity of immunizing the population to drive the SARS-CoV-2 to extinction is such that it's an acceptable number, but... If that was really your point that... many more will die if we don't do this... you would not be inoculating people who had had COVID-19, which is a large population. There is no reason to expose those people to danger. Their risk of adverse events in the case that they have them, is greater. So there's no reason that we would be allowing those people to face the risk of death if this was really about an acceptable number deaths arising out of this... set of vaccines.
  • I... struggle to find language that is strong enough for the horror of vaccinating children in this case, because children suffer a greater risk of long-term effects... this is earlier in their development, therefore it impacts systems that are still forming. They tolerate COVID well, and so the benefit to them is very small, and so the only argument for doing this is that they may cryptically be carrying more COVID than we think, and therefore they may be integral to the way virus spreads to the population. But if that's the reason that we're inoculating children... we were doing it to protect old, infirm people who are the most likely to succumb... What society puts children in danger, robs children of life, to save old infirm people. That's upside-down.
  • [T]here's something about the way we are... vaccinating... who we are vaccinating, what dangers we are pretending don't exist, that suggests that to some set of people, vaccinating... is a good in and of itself. That that is the objective of the exercise, not herd immunity.

Quotes about Weinstein edit

  • [T]he veterinary deworming drug ivermectin has become the new hydroxychloroquine in that it is being promoted as a highly effective treatment against COVID-19—and by many of the same people... despite evidence that is, at best very weak and at worst completely negative. Unfortunately, with the publication of two new and biased reviews, the "HCQ vibe" about ivermectin is stronger than ever. ...I concede that it is possible that ivermectin has clinically relevant in vivo antiviral activity against SARS-CoV-2. Based on current evidence, however, it seems unlikely that it does, when pharmacokinetics considerations are taken into account. As I routinely used to say when discussing hydroxychloroquine, I’d be happy to change my mind if compelling scientific evidence for ivermectin were published. It’s just that neither of these reviews qualify, nor do any of the clinical trials I’ve seen thus far. That’s why I agree that ivermectin shouldn’t be used to treat COVID-19 outside of the context of a well-designed clinical trial with a strong scientific rationale.
    Certainly, the conspiracy mongering by Bret Weinstein, Pierre Kory, and their fans are not leading me to reconsider that opinion.

See also edit

External links edit

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