The Parasitic Mind: How Infectious Ideas are Killing Common Sense
An interview with Dr. Gad Saad.
Gad Saad is a Lebanese-Canadian intellectual and evolutionary psychologist. He was raised Jewish in Lebanon and migrated to Canada at the age of eleven. Dr. Saad’s perspective on the world is nuanced and multi-faceted. He is as well-known in the United States as he is in Canada, where he is a professor of marketing at the John Molson School of Business at Concordia University. In his most recent book, The Parasitic Mind: How Infectious Ideas Are Killing Common Sense, he exposes how bad ideas, or idea pathogens, are spread unchecked in our culture.
Dr. Saad is a wholesaler in the realm of cognition. He ties together the fundamental premises that unite promulgators of idea pathogens. In the process, he reveals their motives and goals. In Dr. Saad’s view, the advocates and spreaders of the idea pathogens are rooted in the ethical relativism of postmodernism, which denies the existence of an objective reality. With this as the philosophic grounding that operationalizes all their goals as social and existential disruptors in society, Dr. Saad allows us to see connections among seemingly disparate groups. Their goal is the destruction of key foundational tenets of Western civilization. The consequences of their actions are the annihilation of common sense, respect for science, individual rights and human dignity, as well as a wholesale war against reason and the idea of truth. A war on freedom of speech and thought is the method used by these intellectual terrorists to spread these idea pathogens and infect those most vulnerable: young persons and children in the West. The incubators for these idea pathogens are the universities - which have become indoctrination centers that are turning our youth into enemies of the state and destroyers of the values that undergird our civilization.
I interviewed Dr. Saad via Zoom to discuss these ideas that are brilliantly explicated and analyzed in his book. His call to action is inspiring. The West cannot be lost.
Jason D. Hill: You laid out the evidence for how to seek truth, so my question for you is: How many of the intellectual infections caused by these idea pathogens that you address are caused by willed self-deception, that is, a desire not to know, or are made through genuine errors of knowledge?
Gad Saad: When I was first laying out the notion of idea pathogens, I was trying to look for what makes them similar to each other. So, if we look at postmodernism, social constructivism, biophobia, cultural relativism, and radical feminism, and if you look at cancer, each cancer is different but they do share at least one mechanism which is unchecked cell division. So, too, there is this one commonality across pancreatic cancer, leukemia, and melanoma. When it comes to idea pathogens, I think what they all share is the desire to be freed from the shackles of reality. In that sense, it's a complete attack on your sense making and folk knowledge. You’re rejecting knowledge that is as clear as the existence of gravity. There are no such things as male or female. You are not shackled by your genitalia. Your child could have been the next Michael Jordan had he been socialized properly. There are no innate biological differences, for these people; so, it's a real rejection of truth because postmodernism rejects that there is objective truth. I call it intellectual terrorism, because in the same way that the 9/11 hijackers flew planes into our buildings, so postmodernism flies planes of BS into the edifices of reason.
Hill: Here is what I’m getting at: Are some people infected by these idea pathogens because they just don't know they are ignorant? As far as some of my students go, I present facts to them and some just don't want to know the facts. They hold on to their epistemic ignorance willfully. How much in your experience as a teacher and as a public intellectual is the spread of idea pathogen based on willed ignorance?
Saad: I get forty to fifty years old adults with supposedly functioning brains saying “I just wanted to know, because you're an evolution behavioral scientist, is it OK for me to say that only women menstruate, or is that no longer accepted?” If an adult at fifty writes me to receive my imprimatur as a professor and evolutionary behavioral scientists to know if it’s OK for him to say that only women menstruate—then, that gives you a sense of the extent to which these idea pathogens have crystallized in people. So, I think it's a bit of both. Some are willful in their desire to destroy our edifices of reason, but I think our poor hapless young students are passive receptacles of the BS.
Hill: Good, that’s what I needed to understand. The second question I have is: Have we reached a stage in the West given the implacability and the violence and intolerance of, let's say, the Islamic Jihad, and the war of the progressive Left that you so eloquently described in the book, where we need to stand much more robustly against intolerance? You endorsed the view that tolerance of intolerance is cowardice. You paint a lovely picture in the end in your call to action. This is quite optimistic; but in the previous chapters that I read I saw a dismal picture of intransigence on the part of these systemic nihilists. Have we reached a point where we must be stronger against both the systemic nihilism and the sort of intolerance that we find manifesting itself both on campuses and in the larger public sphere?
Saad: The reason that I wanted to precisely end with a sense of optimism in is because I think it's important for people to feel that there is a possibility of a light at the end of the tunnel. If you diagnose all these mind illnesses and then say well: “I've got nothing for you, so good luck with your infection”, then I don't think that's really a solution. I genuinely think that we can turn the tide around; but to your question about whether we've reached the stage of violence I keep my fingers crossed that we haven’t, but we are quickly galloping towards that position. Good people are not going to silently be quiet while they are told that they are diseased by virtue of their whiteness. People who are not in the least bit bent toward violence will say—I’ve had enough. I don't want to live under existential guilt because someone who shared my skin hue, hundreds of years did some bad things and by virtue of that I'm guilty. I do worry that in ten to fifteen years we will have a repeat of what I escaped from at age 11. People sometimes say: “Professor aren’t you being hyperbolic, aren't you exaggerating?” I'm not.
I lived in the perfect manifestation of what a culture that is organized along identity politics looks like. It’s called Lebanon. Every single dynamic in Lebanese society or in the Middle East is viewed through this prism. In this case it’s your religious affiliation: We saw what happened in Lebanon, Rwanda, and Iraq. We saw it happen in the Balkans. We are recreating that. I'm not saying that tomorrow they'll be a repeat of Lebanon, but given enough time—the next 100 years you will get that. I don’t think we are going to have mass violence you know in the next two weeks but if we continue at this pace—it will happen. Therefore, I am clear to people: Don't diffuse responsibility of your voice onto others; don't be cowardly and don't be apathetic. Whatever sphere of your influence, however small or however large you can affect change. When your professor in class says something that appears questionable to you, challenge them politely. When your friend on Facebook says something that strikes you as insane, challenge them politely. Take every opportunity to at least engage your opponent in the battle of ideas. You don't have to be a fancy professor to participate in these important debates.
Hill: This is a great way to lead into my third question. In your call to action, you state that the university needs to return to the meritocratic ethos it once had. How is this possible given that the administrators are the purveyors of this sort of malarkey? They advocate and support the decolonization of courses; they uphold cancel culture, and ethical relativism that all undermine the foundational principles of our western civilization.
And the second question is: Do you think that the age of the university is already over? Is the educative mission still possible?
Saad: If donors withdraw their money and a whole bunch of parents say this is going to end, things will change. We see this with all the parental responses across the United States standing up against Critical Race Theory. If you compared things to a month ago, then yes, it is a completely different battlefield (for the better). How can we defeat this when it is the administrators who are pushing this on us? Well, if they eventually see that they are on the losing end of how the wind is blowing they will quickly reverse course. So in a sense that's why I'm optimistic. I don't really see them as true ideologues. When I receive a wonderful email from someone and then they finish with that last disclaimer: Please don’t mention that I believe in meritocracy, I can do two things at that point. I could just say thank you so much for the lovely words, I appreciate it. But I write back and say: “Let me ask you something. Those young men who landed in Normandy, were they guaranteed safe passage when they landed? They did it knowing that they were going to be mowed down like little mosquitoes by machine guns. Don’t you think that maybe you could muster the courage to not put a disclaimer.”
I think it's just incessant trench warfare. You must constantly implore people to get engaged. You must be tenacious; you have to be persistent. It is really akin to a tsunami. It starts off small and it grows, and it grows.
Hill: I've written that Europe is over culturally and politically; that it's just a museum showpiece. The continent is so Islamized and destroyed by multiculturalism that I don't think it's a player any longer. What’s your response to this? And further: If you had to make invidious comparisons, where is the decline of the West the worst? It is in Europe, Canada, or the United States?
Saad: Worst is Europe. Canada would be number two, and the United States, third.
This is why I fight. I don’t want to see these idea pathogens permanently alter our great societies. I must intervene every time I see truth being raped, I must intervene every time I see human dignity being attacked, I have to intervene every time I see imbecilic suicidal nonsense being espoused to our children. I'm glad that at least I have the temperament to do it. I'm sort of the lifeguard of reason. I’m always looking out into the horizon to see who I need to save next because I'm always on alert. My cortisol levels are always up because I'm looking for the next fight, not because I'm cantankerous, but because I despise hypocrisy. I am just a fighter for truth and for better or worse I can’t disengage from the battle of ideas.
Hill: So, one last question: Since many intellectual warriors and other closeted warriors are going to be reading this, I’d like to know what keeps you grounded? How do you not burnout?
Saad: I’m going to try to discuss that question in my next book. I talk about how to live a life of enrichment and happiness and so forth. I think, overwhelmingly, the fact that I have a wonderful home life. There is the outside world where all the fighting is happening, and then there is home life which becomes kind of the place of solace. I have young children that hopefully I'm raising to be good citizens. I have a very close relationship with my wife. I think I've got this wonderful home life that allows me to disassociate from the ugliness of the outside world and allows me to have kind of a schism between all the fighting out there in the ugly impure world. The home life is the place where I can relax, read books, and have fun.
Hill: Thank you very much for your brilliant book from which I have learned so much. You have a magnificent way of distilling the craziness without succumbing to despair and bitterness. That’s a gift to all of us.
Jason D. Hill is professor of philosophy at DePaul University in Chicago, and a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center. His areas of specialization include ethics, social and political philosophy, American foreign policy and American politics. He is the author of several books, including We Have Overcome: An Immigrant’s Letter to the American People (Bombardier Books/Post Hill Press). His new forthcoming book is What Do White Americans Owe Black People: Racial Justice in the Age of Post Oppression. Follow him on Twitter @JasonDhill6.