Rand and Darwin - Conflict or Not?

Doug Bandler's picture
Submitted by Doug Bandler on Fri, 2011-01-14 09:06

A common critique of the Objectivist ethics from evolutionary theorists is that it is in violation of the facts of biological reality. These critics say that Rand based her ethics on an Aristotelian meta-biology and not a Darwinian one. Thus for Aristotle, the teleology of an oak tree, the essence of the tree's existence, is the full grown tree itself. But Aristotle's biology has been replaced by Darwin's, in which an oak tree is an acorn's way of making more acorns.

The criticism is that Rand is wrong in one of her basic statements about life. She says that every function of a living organism is directed toward a single goal: the organism's survival. But this isn't true. Living organisms have reproductive organs, and the functioning of those organs is not directed to the organism's survival. Most living organisms spend a significant part of their lives living for the sake of something that will happen when they are no longer there to care about it, that something being the survival and reproduction of their descendants.

Thus the characteristics of living organisms are best explained by reproduction, not by survival. It is argued that this fact seriously undermines if not destroys the Objectivist ethics.

What are some opinions on this. I understand that Binswanger weighed in on this subject. Does anyone know what his answer was?


visual; anecdotal evidence...

Frediano's picture

...that gradients drive everything.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08...

What are those seasonally appearing 'dark bands' that appear on the slopes(ie, gradients)of Mars?

If there is a preferentially ideal concentration of species in solution, the dice are rolled way more than once on the slopes of those hills.

God was indeed brilliant, for coming up with gravity. Whoda thunk it?

Brant

Richard Goode's picture

test

You pass with flying colours.

test

Brant Gaede's picture

test

--Brant

Gregster - It's possible in

reed's picture

Gregster -
It's possible in early versions of the universe conditions...
In a universe without beginning there is no "early".

Not [a question] I wanted to jump into.
Fair enough.

I think that with your premises you can only arrive at a "first living thing" conclusion if you consider life arising from non-life impossible.

The Big Bang

Brant Gaede's picture

I have no position on the BB. I do have one on Bridgett Bardot. I do remember being in a theater over 50 years ago watching a preview of her squirming all over a bed and me squirming all over my chair.

As I underestand the BB, though, it does not suppose there wasn't a previous universe.

Anyway, the more we learn about the universe, the stranger it all seems.

--Brant

Brant

Richard Goode's picture

You are against what you call "philoso-babble" but God-babble all over this place.

I haven't actively promoted theism on SOLO.

I don't like to talk about God. Look at my last comment on this thread. It's in response to a direct question from Greg. (" How old is your God?") Notice how, after I answer Greg's question, I try to change the subject.

Objectivists like to talk about God. They're obsessed with God. (Why is that?) There's even a current thread devoted to God. Notice how no theists have commented on it.

It's not that you believe in God, it's that you don't believe in reason.

I'm reason's biggest advocate on SOLO.

Objectivism is a crime against reason. That's why I oppose it.

I suppose a basically disingenuous philosophy is a philosophy nonetheless. You cannot be here for ideas because your ratiocination default is calling me--anyone--a philoso-babbler.

What's disingenuous about my philosophy? I didn't call you a philoso-babbler. I called what you said just now philoso-babble. Because it is.

Existence is infinite in the sense you cannot get away from it.

You make existence sound like a bad smell that follows you around. Or like the tax department.

Existence has always existed

What are you actually trying to say? That the universe had no beginning? The Big Bang theory seems to suggest that the universe—and time itself—began 13.7 billion years ago. Problem?

Richard

Brant Gaede's picture

You are against what you call "philoso-babble" but God-babble all over this place. It's not a contradiction because the latter comes from the same place as the former. It's not that you believe in God, it's that you don't believe in reason. I suppose a basically disingenuous philosophy is a philosophy nonetheless. You cannot be here for ideas because your ratiocination default is calling me--anyone--a philoso-babbler. This fallacious argument has a name, not that you would care.

--Brant

Eternity

Richard Goode's picture

How old is your God? I take it it is eternal. It is infinite years old in fact.

Wikipedia gets it right.

While in the popular mind, eternity often simply means existence for a limitless amount of time, many have used it to refer to a timeless existence altogether outside time. By contrast, infinite temporal existence is then called sempiternity. Something eternal exists outside time; by contrast, something sempiternal exists throughout an infinite time. Sempiternity is also known as everlastingness.

Theists say that God is eternally existent. How this is understood depends on which definition of eternity is used. On one hand, God may exist in eternity, a timeless existence where categories of past, present, and future just do not apply. On the other hand, God will exist for or through eternity, or at all times, having already existed for an infinite amount of time and continuing to exist for an infinite amount of time.

God is eternal, as opposed to sempiternal.

The categories of past, present, and future do not apply to God. They don't apply to us, either. We live in a block universe.

Darren

Richard Goode's picture

Can I use that line?

Yes. Please do. Smiling

I'm interested in Objectivism

darren's picture

I'm interested in Objectivism in the same way the police are interested in crime.

I like that! Can I use that line?

No Goode

gregster's picture

How old is your God? I take it it is eternal. It is infinite years old in fact. Therefore it exists purely and as surely as a mathematical device.

Death to philoso-babble

Richard Goode's picture

Objectivism is philoso-babble.

You're the one interested in "philoso-babble."

I'm interested in Objectivism in the same way the police are interested in crime. And, let's face it, Objectivism is a crime—against reason. You have only to review its proponents contributions to this thread to realise that.

Richard

Brant Gaede's picture

You're the one interested in "philoso-babble." That's where you insist this discussion take place. But I'm not the fool to sanction it.

--Brant

Brant

Richard Goode's picture

So, you make a grandiose generalisation that "encompasses everything", but you can't come up with a single specific example?

The problem with this formulation might be...

that it's philoso-babble. Like I said.

reed

gregster's picture

I didn't miss it. It's a good one. Not one I wanted to jump into. Logically there indeed may not have been a first living thing, but I couldn't rule it out. Life follows from matter. It's possible in early versions of the universe conditions were inhospitable. I can't say.

Gregster You missed my

reed's picture

Gregster
You missed my question...

No there wasn't a first atom.
Yes there was a first living thing.

Logically, with your premises, you should think that there was no first Atom, no first molecule, no first star, no first planet and no first living thing.

Is there something special about living things?

Nope

Brant Gaede's picture

You can't give an example of nothing and "existence" encompasses everything.

The problem with this formulation might be that these are actually exclusionary concepts and that the nothing of non-existence cannot be the existential cause of anything and everything.

Existence simply is. We know only a little more about it, I'd guess, than Newton did. Just when we get our theories lined up in a row new data are produced. Right now it's giant non-orbiting planets with the clear implication of the existence of many smaller non-orbiting planets. They do, of course, orbit the center of the galaxy, one would suppose, just not single suns. This leaves open the remote possibility of one of these suckers suddenly appearing and knocking earth on its ass. Remote because it hasn't happened recently, altho something hit the earth early on making the moon.

--Brant

Brant

Richard Goode's picture

Existence has always existed because non-existence can't exist.

Can you give me a specific example of that?

?

Brant Gaede's picture

Read it a few more times, Richard; maybe you'll figure it out.

I'd respect you simply criticizing my first sentence; you know: thought and analysis.

--Brant

Brant

Richard Goode's picture

Existence has always existed because non-existence can't exist.

What existence consists of and when it consisted of it . . . ?

Existence is infinite in the sense you cannot get away from it.

The finite is the ability to measure and perhaps the measured. Or, the metaphysical is infinite and the epistemological finite; it's just that we know the former only in its particulars and only with the latter.

Philoso-babble.

And you know it.

Greg

Richard Goode's picture

Try not resorting to misquotes.

I didn't misquote you.

I'm doing you a favour, by making plain that you have arrived at a contradiction. Now it's up to you to confess the error(s) in your thinking. Here's one, right here.

The age of the universe is finite because it cannot be enumerated.

Enough said.

Gregster

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Baade claims the future has already happened, so you needn't take its pronouncements on time any more seriously than you'd take any of its other nonsenses.

It also just posted:

Rationality is a distinguishing feature of human beings, but so is an odd distribution of body hair (see A Guide to the Primates of Sol). Neither feature is fundamental. Neither feature is what constitutes man's essence or identity.

Rationality is fundamental because it explains the greatest number of other distinguishing features (not including what Baade claims is an "odd distribution of body hair," on which matter Baade should just speak for itself). Baade should study up on the difference between concepts and definitions.

Oh, and then there's this:

Man's essence is "membership in a population with a specific evolutionary history."

Really? How, one wonders, does that differ from a dog's essence?

One can't expect Goblian faith-mongers to be too bright, I suppose. Addled by all their mantra-chanting.

No Goode

gregster's picture

Try not resorting to misquotes. The age of the universe is finite because it cannot be enumerated. That doesn't mean to say it hasn't been around forever. And as the depth of your insight only resembles a Tui billboard slogan, your game needs raising somewhat.

I'll

gregster's picture

consider your assistance too Brant. At least you seem to get it, without word games.

Let me fix things up here

Brant Gaede's picture

Existence has always existed because non-existence can't exist.

What existence consists of and when it consisted of it . . . ?

Existence is infinite in the sense you cannot get away from it.

The finite is the ability to measure and perhaps the measured. Or, the metaphysical is infinite and the epistemological finite; it's just that we know the former only in its particulars and only with the latter.

--Brant
when you need me, turn on the signal!

Greg

Richard Goode's picture

Where is it that I have written "the past is only a potentiality"?

Although you didn't write those exact words, you said that the past is only a potentiality.

Just so with the time that matter has been around. It may well be going backwards forever but that number cannot be reached. It's only a potentiality.

You said that "the time that matter has been around" (or "that number") is "only a potentiality."

"The time that matter has been around" is the past. "That number" is the age of the universe.

So, I have said the universe is of finite age, and the matter it comprises is finite, and it's been around forever.

The universe is of finite age and it's been around forever. Yeah right.

I class you as somewhat of a fool.

Demonstrate No Goode

gregster's picture

Where is it that I have written "the past is only a potentiality"?

Gregster

reed's picture

Logic tells me this.
Are you sure it's logic?

Logically, with your premises, you should think that there was no first Atom, no first molecule, no first star, no first planet and no first living thing.

Is there something special about living things?

Enigmas inside of riddles

darren's picture

The past is only a potentiality. Yeah right.

Very good point. If it's the past, then it has already happened; if it has already happened, then it cannot also "potentially happen".

You've abdicated your mind, evicted yourself from the realm of reality, and taken historical revisionism to a whole new level.

More very good points.

Which raises the following question:

Speaking of "time", why, pray tell, are you wasting yours trying to reason with Randroids like gruntster? That's like trying to play chess with a gorilla: you make a carefully considered move, and he just throws the entire chessboard around, scattering the pieces everywhere, and it then becomes your responsibility to pick them up.

Greg

Richard Goode's picture

The infinite is potentially there but you can never reach it. Just so with the time that matter has been around. It may well be going backwards forever but that number cannot be reached. It's only a potentiality. So, I have said the universe is of finite age, and the matter it comprises is finite, and it's been around forever.

The past is only a potentiality. Yeah right.

You've abdicated your mind, evicted yourself from the realm of reality, and taken historical revisionism to a whole new level.

Goode God...

Marcus's picture

The paucity of evidence is why I have faith.

It's worse than I thought. We have a full-blown Kantian here...

Reed

gregster's picture

No there wasn't a first atom.

Yes there was a first living thing. But it is impossible to identify of course.

Think of it as if 5 million racehorses crossed the line to almost deadheat, the judge couldn't call it, the camera wasn't high enough resolution and there were not enough viewing platforms on course to capture the action.

Logic tells me this.

Getting ahead of yourself

gregster's picture

To arrive at a contradiction is to confess an error in one's thinking

Like the decimal numbers between any two whole numbers, they extend to infinity, do they not? 22.35262788333666677, 22.35262788333666678, 22.35262788333666679. But this is conceptually so. When counting stops then the actual is reached. The infinite is potentially there but you can never reach it. Just so with the time that matter has been around. It may well be going backwards forever but that number cannot be reached. It's only a potentiality. So, I have said the universe is of finite age, and the matter it comprises is finite, and it's been around forever.

Gregster - Assuming an

reed's picture

Gregster -
Assuming an eternal universe...

Do you think there was a first atom?
Do you think there was a first living thing?

Linz

Richard Goode's picture

What Rand claimed was that rationality is man's fundamental distinguishing characteristic ("essence" only in that sense). What she claimed is ... true, a fact.

What Rand claimed is... false, a Randroid factoid.

Rationality is a distinguishing feature of human beings, but so is an odd distribution of body hair (see A Guide to the Primates of Sol). Neither feature is fundamental. Neither feature is what constitutes man's essence or identity.

Can't say I recall the Theory of Evolution having much to say about man's "essence."

The theory of evolution is an account of man's origins. It describes and explains how the species Homo sapiens came to be. From it, we can infer man's identity or "essence". Man's essence is "membership in a population with a specific evolutionary history."

Evolution is a natural, biological process. Man is an end product of this process. The inference, from the theory of evolution to man's identity, is a particular case of inferring the essence or identity of a thing from the process which produced it. Some further examples are wood chips, metal burrs, nuclear waste and offal. Each of these is what it is in virtue of being an end product of the manufacturing process which produced it.

Of course, you could infer man's identity from some other set of facts, but you'd have to make a case for doing so. Rand, of course, did not infer that man's identity is rationality. She seized upon it, arbitrarily.

Weasel-worded crap. "Implies"?!

I meant "implies" in the sense of logical implication.

Much of this debate bespeaks a morbid confusion of categories morbidly exacerbated by morbid Goblinites trying to deflect attention from the morbid paucity of evidence for the Gobby to the idea of whose existence they are so morbidly addicted.

I'm not trying to deflect attention from "the morbid paucity of evidence for Gobby". In fact, I've drawn attention to it several times. The paucity of evidence is why I have faith. (I've drawn attention to the paucity of evidence for Objectivist ethics several more times than I can remember. The paucity of evidence is why you're deluded.)

Greg

Richard Goode's picture

(1) The universe is of finite age.
(2) The universe is of infinite age.

The two statements above contradict one another. You seem to be committed to both.

You say, "all matter has always existed" and you endorse the notion of "endless" or "eternal" cycles of expansion and contraction. From which it follows that the universe is of infinite age.

You also endorse Peikoff, who says, "A is A. Every entity, accordingly, is finite; it is limited in the number of its qualities and in their extent; this applies to the universe as well." From which it follows that the universe is of finite age.

To arrive at a contradiction is to confess an error in one's thinking; to maintain a contradiction is to abdicate one's mind and to evict oneself from the realm of reality.

Very baade codswallop

Lindsay Perigo's picture

What Rand claimed was that rationality is man's fundamental distinguishing characteristic ("essence" only in that sense). What she claimed is ... true, a fact. It is a fact irrespective of whether man evolved or was created by Baade's goblin.

The theory of evolution, however, implies that man's essence is "membership in a population with a specific evolutionary history." So Rand's ideas conflict with Darwin's.

Weasel-worded crap. "Implies"?!

Can't say I recall the Theory of Evolution having much to say about man's "essence."

The Theory of Evolution does say, explicitly, that man (whose distinguishing characteristic Objectivism identifies as rationality) evolved. Objectivism has, need have, and should have, nothing to say about that, apart from: whatever happened, happened. It's science's job to find out what that was, not philosophy's.

Much of this debate bespeaks a morbid confusion of categories morbidly exacerbated by morbid Goblinites trying to deflect attention from the morbid paucity of evidence for the Gobby to the idea of whose existence they are so morbidly addicted.

No Goode

gregster's picture

Let's not say "nothing can be infinite" how about "no thing can be infinite"? I will give you plenty of time when you're showing genuine interest, and such an elephantine memory!

I stand by the comment you linked to; "Infinity is a mathematics device. It cannot be shown to exist. It's invalid and therefore without identity."

Today I've said that all matter has always existed. That should be taken as my opinion, though I don't envisage it altering. It is a non sequitur to say that I'm contradicting myself. Matter is finite, and it has always been around. The time that it has been around is only finite philosophically speaking. That means it is immeasurable, and only a concept.

I welcome queries such as yours and Ellen's. Like the Pope I'm fallible.

May I point to an article in the April 2011 Scientific American by Paul J. Steinhardt. This guy may have been gaining pointers from all my previous posts on the subject.

“An alternative to inflationary cosmology that my colleagues and I have proposed, known as the cyclic theory, has just this property. According to this picture, the big bang is not the beginning of space and time [see “The Myth of the Beginning of Time,” by Gabrielle Veneziano; SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, May 2004] but rather a “bounce” from a preceding phase of contraction to a new phase of expansion, accompanied by the creation of matter and radiation. The theory is cyclic because, after a trillion years, the expansion devolves into contraction and a new bounce to expansion again. The key point is that the smoothing of the universe occurs before the big bang, during the period of contraction. Any procrastinating rogue regions continue to contract while well-behaved regions bounce on time and begin expanding, so the rogue regions remain comparatively small and negligible. “

I can’t find the full article, and if I could I'd write a full blog entry, as a link saves me typing, but it’s a very interesting article.

Tom

Richard Goode's picture

I don't see why the ideas of Darwin need conflict with those of Rand, given a full understanding of the arguments. Evolution is a process but does not, in my view, undercut the status of Man as a rational being with a certain type of consciousness.

The theory of evolution does not undercut man's status as a rational being with a certain type of consciousness. But Rand claimed more than this status. She claimed that man's essence is rationality. The theory of evolution, however, implies that man's essence is "membership in a population with a specific evolutionary history." So Rand's ideas conflict with Darwin's.

Rand's ideas about the (dis)continuity of Homo sapiens with the rest of the kingdom Animalia, and her idea that the human mind at birth is a tabula rasa, are also at odds with evolutionary theory.

a slight slight regarding slight

darren's picture

. . . verbal slight of hand.

SLEIGHT of hand.

Greg

Richard Goode's picture

It's been around for an infinite length of time, in other words. Is that what you mean?

yes, the matter that comprises the universe has always existed.

Here, you said that the Law of Identity states that nothing can be infinite.

And here, you quoted Peikoff in Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand.

“Infinite” does not mean large; it means larger than any specific quantity, i.e., of no specific quantity. An infinite quantity would be a quantity without identity. But A is A. Every entity, accordingly, is finite; it is limited in the number of its qualities and in their extent; this applies to the universe as well. As Aristotle was the first to observe, the concept of “infinity” denotes merely a potentiality of indefinite addition or subdivision. For example, one can continually subdivide a line; but however many segments one has reached at a given point, there are only that many and no more. The actual is always finite.

So, not only have you rejected "the most comprehensive and accurate explanation [of the origin of the universe] supported by scientific evidence and observations" (the Big Bang theory), you've also arrived at a contradiction by positing that the (matter in) the universe is of infinite age. To arrive at a contradiction is to confess an error in one's thinking.

What Ellen said.

Big Bang theory didn't come from creationist premises but from the implications of general relativity combined with observation. There was never anything "preposterous" about it. If it's to be replaced, a better theory is needed.

To me

gregster's picture

with what I have learned thus far, the full context of my knowledge tells me yes, the matter that comprises the universe has always existed.

Greg

Richard Goode's picture

Endless means eternal so it wouldn't be possible to be exact

So what you're saying is that the Universe has always existed. It had no beginning. It's been around for an infinite length of time, in other words. Is that what you mean?

Your unit

gregster's picture

Endless? That sounds like a long time. How long, exactly?

A trick question from Goode? Endless means eternal so it wouldn't be possible to be exact Smiling, therefore it's a concept without units, out of time.

the universe as a single point

Brant Gaede's picture

Take the universe as a totality and imagine you are outside it looking at it and it recedes from you until all you see of it is "a single point." To say what is and isn't possible from knowledge only of that single point, which is observable, not a pure abstraction, is arbitrary fantasy. The Big Bang itself is something of a fantasy along with all the other fantasies about what might have happened over 14 billion years ago to get things started for us, assuming something really did back then. Data is trailing the theorizing for sure.

--Brant

Greg

Richard Goode's picture

A more acceptable solution is that parts of the universe have differing life cycles, each one being an endless expansion/contraction.

Endless? That sounds like a long time. How long, exactly? (According to the Ayn Rand Lexicon, "every unit of time... has some specific duration.")

Cobblers

gregster's picture

It's not possible that the universe originated from one point, as simpletons such as Hawking propose. For this they suspend all known physical laws. It becomes their big exception. A more acceptable solution is that parts of the universe have differing life cycles, each one being an endless expansion/contraction. Explosion can be read as extremely rapid expansion, like an explosion. Hawking is a creationist. He comes too close without blatantly admitting it. The Big Bang theory did originate in creationist premises. Lemaitre was a priest who proposed the primeval atom Big Bang theory. And if it wasn't him, then it would have been someone equally conventionally religious. I don't call it sleight of hand, I call it directing one's equations to come up with the preconceived answer.

Cobblers?

Ellen Stuttle's picture

What's "cobblers," Greg, is your rendition (#98276) of Big Bang theory. Maybe you should find out what the theory really is. For instance, your reference to an explosion in describing the theory. (Maybe that was simply careless wording, but it doesn't sound as if it was from the rest of your comments. It sounds as if that's what you think the theory posits.)

I don't think Hawking was ever a creationist, btw. Big Bang theory didn't come from creationist premises but from the implications of general relativity combined with observation. There was never anything "preposterous" about it. If it's to be replaced, a better theory is needed. The alternative at the time the theory was proposed, Hoyle's steady state theory, required continual appearance of matter *ex nihilo*. You like that idea better, do you, than an initial *expansion* (NOT explosion)?

Hawking, currently, is positing something from nothing, although he does this by virtue of a mathematical line of reasoning which I suspect amounts to verbal slight of hand.

Ellen

Is There an Essential Human Nature?

Richard Goode's picture

Sex and Death

What makes someone a human being? The idea that each human being shares with every other human being but with nothing else some essential, human-making feature goes back at least to Aristotle. He thought that each species was defined by an “essence” — a set of properties found in each individual of the species, but only there. That essence makes it the sort of creature that it is. Today most people suppose this essence is genetic, and that the job of the Human Genome Project is to reveal the genetic essence of humans.

In reality, however, there is no such thing as the “genetic essence” of a species. A central aspect of modern evolutionary theory is population thinking (Mayr 1976b; Sober 1980). Each population is a collection of individuals with many genetic differences, and these differences are handed on to future generations in new combinations. Populations change generation by generation. In many contemporary views of the nature of species, there is no upper limit to the amount of evolutionary change that can take place within one species. Over many generations a species may be transformed in appearance, behavior, or genetic constitution while still remaining the same species...

It is not easy to repair Aristotle's idea in the face of this variation within species... [and] there is no good reason from biology to try to repair Aristotle's idea. Contemporary views on species are close to a consensus in thinking that species are identified by their histories. According to these views, Charles Darwin was a human being not by virtue of having the field marks — rationality and an odd distribution of body hair — described (in Alpha Centaurese) in A Guide to the Primates of Sol, but in view of his membership in a population with a specific evolutionary history.

The implications of this transformation of our view of species have been much discussed in philosophy of biology, although they have been surprisingly neglected in ethics. David Hull, in particular, has argued that nothing in biology corresponds to the traditional notion of “human nature” (Hull 1986). This idea is significant, for the concept of human nature has been historically important. It has underwritten the view that there is some way that human beings are supposed to be, and that other ways of being are deviant or abnormal. This view is still central to the thought of some contemporary moralists...

All For Healthy Maintenance

Newberry's picture

AR: "...directed to a single goal: the
maintenance of the organism’s life."

Does a good sex life add to the healthy maintenance of an organism's life?

Michael
www.michaelnewberry.com

From the Virtue of

Howard's picture

From the Virtue of Selfishness

"Only a living entity can have goals or can originate them. And it is only a
living organism that has the capacity for self-generated, goal-directed action.
On the physical level, the functions of all living organisms, from the
simplest to the most complex—from the nutritive function in the single cell
of an amoeba to the blood circulation in the body of a man—are actions
generated by the organism itself and directed to a single goal: the
maintenance of the organism’s life."

I dont know

Doug Bandler's picture

Doug: "She says that every function of a living organism is directed toward a single goal: the organism's survival."

That's actually a good question. I don't have the time to look that up right now but I will. I'll scan 'The Objectivist Ethics' to say what she actually said.

Every

Newberry's picture

Doug: "She says that every function of a living organism is directed toward a single goal: the organism's survival."

Did she use the word "every?"

Michael
www.michaelnewberry.com

too bad too much

Brant Gaede's picture

Why someone like Hawking thinks his ignorance is superior to anyone else's who isn't a scientist is arrogance. The God-people tell better stories.

Darwin and the idea of Man as a rational animal

Tom Burroughes's picture

I don't see why the ideas of Darwin need conflict with those of Rand, given a full understanding of the arguments. Evolution is a process but does not, in my view, undercut the status of Man as a rational being with a certain type of consciousness. Evolutionary psychology may be able to enlighten us about, say, certain traits to which humans are prone; as such, they actually help us be even more rational.

I occasionally, on web forums, come across people - sometimes outright racists, sometimes more obviously decent people - who argue that evolutionary ideas undercut the idea of Man as a sort of "blank slate" to such an extent that ideas of Man as a rational animal are no longer valid. I am not buying it.

Wheelchair science

gregster's picture

That's good to see that Hawking is seemingly less of the creationist he not long ago was. I class him as somewhat of a fool. He was saying a few years ago that the Big Bang was sensible and that matter - the Universe - exploded from what must have been a near infinitely dense point. Absolute cobblers, of course. The problem with physicists who theorize this type of nonsense is that they are beginning from a very conventional religionist perspective. Despite knowing the best of our current (contextual) knowledge, they posit this preposterous Big Bang idea. But in order to do so they must deny all of current knowledge, (matter conservation etc) and merely suppose that these physical laws which we know of, did not apply near the beginnings of their Big Bang. The man is a freak, even minus the wheel chair.

Stephen Hawking: 'There is no heaven; it's a fairy story'

Marcus's picture

Stephen Hawking: 'There is no heaven; it's a fairy story'

"A belief that heaven or an afterlife awaits us is a "fairy story" for people afraid of death, Stephen Hawking has said.

In a dismissal that underlines his firm rejection of religious comforts, Britain's most eminent scientist said there was nothing beyond the moment when the brain flickers for the final time...

"I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark," he added.

Hawking's latest comments go beyond those laid out in his 2010 book, The Grand Design, in which he asserted that there is no need for a creator to explain the existence of the universe. The book provoked a backlash from some religious leaders, including the chief rabbi, Lord Sacks, who accused Hawking of committing an "elementary fallacy" of logic.

The 69-year-old physicist fell seriously ill after a lecture tour in the US in 2009 and was taken to Addenbrookes hospital in an episode that sparked grave concerns for his health. He has since returned to his Cambridge department as director of research.

The physicist's remarks draw a stark line between the use of God as a metaphor and the belief in an omniscient creator whose hands guide the workings of the cosmos...

Hawking responded to questions posed by the Guardian and a reader in advance of a lecture tomorrow at the Google Zeitgeist meeting in London, in which he will address the question: "Why are we here?"

In the talk, he will argue that tiny quantum fluctuations in the very early universe became the seeds from which galaxies, stars, and ultimately human life emerged. "Science predicts that many different kinds of universe will be spontaneously created out of nothing. It is a matter of chance which we are in," he said.

Hawking suggests that with modern space-based instruments, such as the European Space Agency's Planck mission, it may be possible to spot ancient fingerprints in the light left over from the earliest moments of the universe and work out how our own place in space came to be."

Mrs. Garrison explains the theory of evolution

Richard Goode's picture

Brant

Ellen Stuttle's picture

to Darren: Since you're "not at liberty to say" then why are you at liberty to insult her the way you did in a public forum? It's the "liberty" of a coward.

Darren insults anyone with whom he disagrees. You might notice that he called me a "mensch" awhile down the thread when he liked something I posted. Now I'm a "yenta" -- a term he used describing me on another thread. The compliment is as worthless as the insult.

Ellen

LOL

Ellen Stuttle's picture

Darren: "So which Objectivist therapist were you seeing back in the '60s? Was it Branden? I really am curious."

Apparently your informant(s ) didn't tell you what you could have found out just by paying attention to my own posts: I didn't move to New York City until shortly after the split between Rand and the Brandens.

I saw Branden introduce Rand at the McCormick Place lecture in fall, 1963. I saw him about a month after that when he returned to Chicago to deliver live the opening lecture of a "Basic Principles" course which was starting. (I was going to school at Northwestern, in Evanston, at the time.) I didn't like him (and didn't like the sound of him from his articles).

I stepped back from a bookshelf I'd been looking at in the final days of the NBI closing-out sale and landed on his toe. I hadn't noticed that someone was walking behind me through the reception room.

I never met Branden to say hello to him until 1999, at a one-day TOC-sponsored event Larry and I went to New York City to attend. I saw Branden again in person in 2000 at the Summer Seminar in Vancouver.

To set your curiosity to rest, not that the question is any of your business of course: I wasn't a therapy client of any of them, or of anyone else "back in the '60s" or before or after.

Ellen

Since you're "not at liberty

darren's picture

Since you're "not at liberty to say" then why are you at liberty to insult her the way you did in a public forum?

What does one liberty have to do with the other? Nothing.

It's no insult to tell someone the truth. I'm just trying to be in "acting virtue" (as Peikoff would call it) of the O'ist Ethics. Maybe that's what you have a problem with.

Darren

Brant Gaede's picture

Since you're "not at liberty to say" then why are you at liberty to insult her the way you did in a public forum? It's the "liberty" of a coward.

--Brant

How do you know so much about

darren's picture

How do you know so much about Ellen?

I'm afraid that I'm not at liberty to say.

Or is my question too hard to comprehend?

No, not too hard to comprehend, just too stupid even for a mediocrity like you to have asked.

Darren

Brant Gaede's picture

How do you know so much about Ellen? Or is my question too hard to comprehend?

--Brant

You're right. Ellen was

darren's picture

You're right. Ellen was actually the #2 person in the entire hierarchy, and was privy to information that the other small-fry who wrote about the cult -- like the Brandens, Ann Heller, Jennifer Burns, et al. -- could only guess at, usually incorrectly. They are all unreliable, while Ellen is completely reliable.

You're so right, Brant.

Darren

Brant Gaede's picture

How do you know so much about Ellen?

You look awfully young to know about any "hierarchy" back then and who was privy to what and why and who hung with whom. Specifically, how do you know of her "then."

--Brant

The article is rife with

darren's picture

The article is rife with fabricatings -- from alterations of the particulars of reported incidents, to gross exaggerations, to outright invented claims.

Not so different from your own posts, when it comes right down to it. The difference is that Rothbard was able to leave the cult and you were not.

Hate to remind you of this, Ellen: you were never so high up in the hierarchy that you would have been privy to any special information. You were a gossip-monger then; you're a gossip-monger now. You cherry-picked evidence then; you cherry-pick it now.

Anyway, all Objectivists should read that article.

By the way, Henry Mark Holzer also claimed that Saturday evenings at Rand's apartment were like walking on egg shells. I love the story he relates about the Blumenthals arriving on a Saturday evening after having just seen the movie "Topaz". After enthusiastically relating a plot to Rand point about a Russian defector who is duly impressed by the plentiful access to goods, including luxuries, in the west, Rand hectors them for having swallowed "propaganda"; by her lights, by being impressed by western wealth, the spy supposedly suggests that only the materialistically greedy wish to defect to the west, as opposed to those who morally want freedom.

The Saturday night soirees sound absolutely horrible, and I have no doubt Rothbard was telling the hard truth about The Collective. A cult, pure and simple.

So which Objectivist therapist were you seeing back in the '60s? Was it Branden? I really am curious.

Rothbard again

Ellen Stuttle's picture

I re-read Rothbard's "The Sociology of the Ayn Rand Cult."

The version linked to by Darren, on the lewrockwell site -- see -- looks as if it's the original, 1972, version. I have a hard copy of a version copyrighted 1987 by Liberty Publishing. The later version has a number of minor improvements in wording details. However, nothing is added to the content reflecting Barbara Branden's meanwhile-published (in 1986) The Passion of Ayn Rand.

The article is rife with fabricatings -- from alterations of the particulars of reported incidents, to gross exaggerations, to outright invented claims.

Ellen

PS: Long voyage of thread drift from Darwin vs. Rand to Rothbard vs. Rand.

Brant

Leonid's picture

"To make man himself a godhead destroys the essential, basic moral equality of one person to another in the way contradicted at least by Christianity, wherein all are equal before God who is the objective judge of each. If I got this wrong, let me know."

Alas, you're still fighting the straw man.

Godlikeness

Newberry's picture

Brant: "Man as a godhead with say Galt as a god means starting out with a false foundation of artificially pumping yourself up to match up, hopefully, somewhat, with the ideal, but all you'll get is wasting your time in cultist behavior..."

That is a broad leap: fictional heroes result in cultists. Perhaps cultists already exist, regardless of what they are exposed to?

"... instead of building your life and character brick by brick as a true individualist. "

Reality is awesome, it kicks butt.

"Human accomplishments and ability are another category."

Genuine personal success = a moment of godlikeness.

www.michaelnewberry.com

Rothbard

Ellen Stuttle's picture

Darren: Yes, I hear that often [that Rothbard had a policy of deliberately fabricating about enemies]. But only from his enemies.

I've heard it from people who once were his friends but who broke with him because of the policy.

It's been a long, long while since I read "The Sociology of the Ayn Rand Cult." As I recall, there were things in it which I thought were false even when it appeared. I'll re-read it.

Ellen

road?

Brant Gaede's picture

Man as a godhead with say Galt as a god means starting out with a false foundation of artificially pumping yourself up to match up, hopefully, somewhat, with the ideal, but all you'll get is wasting your time in cultist behavior instead of building your life and character brick by brick as a true individualist. Human accomplishments and ability are another category. Those are my life-long passions. I intensely admire them and those responsible for them and what makes them possible. There is my own man-worship: after the fact of those, but never comparatively one person to another unless there is something negative and destructive going on. That's why when I look at the statue of The David I do experience "man-worship." Both as represented in the object of contemplation and the contemplation of its creator's genius. But while the statue and the creator are admired by me what I am worshipping is "man" in the broadest understanding of man encompassing these admired traits. Woman included, of course. The statue of Venus de Milo, for instance. All the same, basically.

Now, in the 1960s there was an article in "The Objectivist" objecting to the troubled look on The David's face. Take away that look and you take away his humanity and you get Soviet and Nazi realism and can see some of Darren's objections to Objectivism manifest themselves and why Objectivism is somewhat vulnerable to the fascist label, a smear first directed decades ago toward it and Rand. Galt was Rand's David, but she put to much on Galt ("You don't get too close to a god") and Objectivists generally have been too confused about this since a long time ago.

--Brant

"To make man himself a

Newberry's picture

"To make man himself a godhead...is a primary cultural aspect of Objectivism which I emphatically reject. It is not rationally justifiable. It is a gross rationalization that does not understand human beings."

Oh Brant, why do you want to take that road?

www.michaelnewberry.com

Murray Rothbard is possibly

darren's picture

Murray Rothbard is possibly the source least to be trusted. He had a policy of deliberately fabricating about enemies.

Yes, I hear that often. But only from his enemies.

Here's an early essay on Rothbard's experiences in the Group, entitled "The Sociology of the Ayn Rand Cult" (1972):

http://www.lewrockwell.com/rot...

Eh?

Ellen Stuttle's picture

Greg, your own quotes of definitions show the "bait and switch" Brant is talking about.

One look at an online dictionary and there we have it. Or did I miss something?

self•ish
–adjective
1. devoted to or caring only for oneself; concerned primarily with one's own interests, benefits, welfare, etc., regardless of others.
2. characterized by or manifesting concern or care only for oneself: selfish motives.

Yes, you missed something -- "regardless of others," "only for oneself."

This isn't what Rand meant, as the book itself makes plentifully clear.

Btw, it was George Walsh not John Hospers (Brant has edited the post) who did the dictionary search.

Ellen

Eh?

Brant Gaede's picture

Who wrote that, David Kelley?

Yep, Rand made good use of all her "online" dictionaries in 1964.

"Concern with one's own interests" is not your 1 or 2--re "only."

I know you understand the polemical power of "selfishness," especially in a title, compared to the jejune "concern with one's own interests" inside--and that there was a bait and switch. Rand was nothing if not a polemical writer. Good for her! Boy, was that needed back then! You have no idea how needed.

--Brant

Eh?

gregster's picture

What are you on about Brant?

There is no real "Virtue of Selfishness" in Objectivism, since Rand badly misrepresented what she was talking about in that book of her essays. There is no dictionary definition of the word like "concern with one's own interests." John Hospers [edit: I have been informed it was George Walsh] looked through over 200 dictionaries published since 1940 and could not find it or anything like it. Rand provided no reference. Rand was very good at not providing references.

One look at an online dictionary and there we have it. Or did I miss something?

self•ish
–adjective
1. devoted to or caring only for oneself; concerned primarily with one's own interests, benefits, welfare, etc., regardless of others.
2. characterized by or manifesting concern or care only for oneself: selfish motives.

NYC

Brant Gaede's picture

I think a word about how the comparative strength of Objectivist culture in the 1960s had a lot to do with how far you were from New York City, where it was the most intense by all testimony I've ever read and by my own experience, is appropriate here. Real strong in Boston, too.

--Brant

Chip Ahoy

Newberry's picture

http://www.solopassion.com/nod...

From a card carrier to a chip-on-the-shoulder cynic (my interpretation) you seem to throw the baby out with the bathwater. But I still don't see the intelligence in either being a card carrier to burning the card. Neither express what you actually know.

Your stance on some of Rand's evaluations can be justified, I don't like her comment about Rembrandt's Side of Beef, but aesthetics is an interpretive field, facts are hard to come by, common ground harder still - making a air tight package with a universal conclusion is a rare find and virtually impossible to confirm across the board. When it comes to aesthetic interpretations, I tend to enjoy reading the views of artists I already like, as it gives insights in how they approach art.

www.michaelnewberry.com

But they didn't...

Ellen Stuttle's picture

Darren (#97761):

How very, very odd, then, that they all had the same tastes [...].

There definitely were copycats, but you have a grossly exaggerated idea of the extent of the copycating.

Murray Rothbard is possibly the source least to be trusted. He had a policy of deliberately fabricating about enemies.

The story of Rothbard's being put on notice because of his wife's being a practicing Catholic has been denied by both Brandens. On the other hand, Rothbard minimized the plagiarizing charge, which they both say precipitated the break with Rothbard.

(Btw, how do you square Rothbard's tale with Joan Kennedy Taylor's report -- which can be found in her Full Context interview -- of Rand telling Joan to leave her father alone re his religious beliefs?)

Ellen

Done for political reasons by Romans.

Marcus's picture

Oh, Darren, do you doubt the holy text now?

Correct if I am wrong, but weren't the Pharisees and Jewish Priests the ones who ordered his death?

Didn't Pontius Pilate wash his hands of the execution calling upon the Jewish people (including Christians) to make the decision?

Darren, you need to get yo'self back to Sunday School.

Any evidence?

Just the good book, or should it be renamed the bad book?

Man Worship

Brant Gaede's picture

To make man himself a godhead destroys the essential, basic moral equality of one person to another in the way contradicted at least by Christianity, wherein all are equal before God who is the objective judge of each. If I got this wrong, let me know.

This is a primary cultural aspect of Objectivism which I emphatically reject. It is not rationally justifiable. It is a gross rationalization that does not understand human beings. Objectivism as a philosophy is overwhelmingly cultural. The real, intellectual philosophy is incredibly simple to understand and use. Reality and reason. Reason is logic applied to facts, real or imagined. The creative mind of course is much more complex and subtle, but the metaphysics and epistemology of Objectivism are the same as for science. Then we get ethics and politics, both of which at their roots are individualistic because, going back to epistemology, a reasoning mind is an individual mind. However, off the basis of egoism or rational self-interest comes man's social existence meaning the ethics cannot concern just any one man or woman but people socially interacting. Qua Objectivism this is grossly underdeveloped. The politics of laissez faire and the protection of individual rights means not that the page should be wiped clean and a rational order imposed, only that we know enough to strongly justify moving toward more and more freedom as a working political premise, feeling our way as we go, trying to avoid too much egg breaking to make the omelet. Many eggs need to be broken, especially amongst the political, power-mongering elite, but to make millions grossly and gratuitously suffer in the name of a "city-on-a-hill" is immorality incarnate.

There is no real "Virtue of Selfishness" in Objectivism, since Rand badly misrepresented what she was talking about in that book of her essays. There is no dictionary definition of the word like "concern with one's own interests." John Hospers [edit: I have been informed it was George Walsh] looked through over 200 dictionaries published since 1940 and could not find it or anything like it. Rand provided no reference. Rand was very good at not providing references.

Now, one might be like Leonard Peikoff and spend 40 years studying Objectivism and confessing lack of absolute mastery on a par with Rand or recognize that the philosophy of Ayn Rand was hers and no one else's.

--Brant

How about the murder of

darren's picture

How about the murder of Jesus?

Done for political reasons by Romans.

How about drowning people in the great flood?

Didn't know you actually believed that occurred. Have you any evidence?

How about Mohammed taking up the sword?

Islam.

How about the suicide martyrs?

Islam.

So far, Marcus, you haven't established that religion, per se, causes atrocities. You have managed, however, to highlight Islam, specifically, as a belief system of hate and intolerance.

A purist's dilemma

darren's picture

It seems like there is big defining difference between the pride and joy of being part of great achievements of the human race and freakish devotion.

As you put it: A purist's dilemma.

For the ideological purist is the one most inclined toward freakish devotion; conversely, the freakish devotee is one most inclined to think of himself as a purist.

Freakish

Newberry's picture

"You're speaking of "political systems""

Yes.

""I'm speaking of "societies." Atheist societies will "recognize" individual rights only to the extent they serve the state or the man in charge...The societies that have recognized individual rights in history and tolerated a person doing his "merry thing" have all been theistic."

Like a detective it would be interesting to sort through the history and the connection of ideas that led to individual rights. The the art of the Italian Renaissance was a fascinating mix of Pagan humanism and Christian belief systems, that often had internal clashes, but always beautiful. A purist's dilemma.

""Man Worship", as Rand called it, is the essence of cults, and is ultimately a call to some form or other of statism."

It seems like there is big defining difference between the pride and joy of being part of great achievements of the human race and freakish devotion.

www.michaelnewberry.com

Fine line

Newberry's picture

Brant: "As deep psychologically as I got into Rand and her Objectivist culture--and it was very deep--it was the cultists even deeper..."

It sounds like a fine line between an addiction and love.

www.michaelnewberry.com

Religion by itself has likewise never led to atrocities.

Marcus's picture

How about the murder of Jesus?

How about drowning people in the great flood?

How about Mohammed taking up the sword?

How about the suicide martyrs?

"I said that Objectivism has

Callum McPetrie's picture

"I said that Objectivism has precisely the same potential to commit such atrocities because of its militant atheism, and -- moreover -- that atheism leads to atrocities, not peace, tolerance, and goodwill."

"Atheism" by itself has never led to atrocities. (And you overlook the glaring fact that Atheism was never itself the driving principle of the Soviet, Nazi, etc. regimes. Some form of collectivism was.) Religion by itself has likewise never led to atrocities. What does lead to atrocities is some ideology coupled with the belief that implementing it requires and morally justifies the use of force.

Your Psycho-Epistemology is Showing

darren's picture

no one was under any requirement to adopt her tastes.

How very, very odd, then, that they all had the same tastes: she adored Rachmaninoff, they adored Rachmaninoff; she loved Victor Hugo, they loved Victor Hugo; she didn't like Beethoven (because it's obvious that his music expresses a "malevolent sense of life" and if you don't hear it, then you must be evading, and if you're evading, you have a flaw in your psycho-epistemology), they didn't like Beethoven (for the same reasons); she loved the paintings of Capuletti, they loved the paintings of Capuletti; she detested the paintings of Monet (because it's obvious that he was operating on the "perceptual level of consciousness" and doesn't paint clear "entities", Jawol!! We must have ENTITIES in our paintings with sharp edges and clear borders!), they detested the paintings of Monet (for the same reasons, of course). She smoked, they smoked; she despised religion, they despised religion.

Murray Rothbard wrote that he was almost a social outcast in the Inner Circle because he was one of the few who didn't smoke. He actually did become an outcast when he understood that they were trying to get him to leave his wife because she was a practicing Catholic, and obviously, if one is married -- happily, yet -- to a practicing Catholic and still claims to adhere to Objectivism, it must mean that one is evading, and if one is evading, one is flawed in one's psycho-epistemology, etc. Finally, Rothbard had had enough and said "To hell with you" and left.

Pure group-think cultism.

Rothbard later even wrote a satirical play about the whole thing titled "Mozart Was A Red". Here's a performance I found on YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...
Mozart Was a Red (original performance)

I believe this performance was done by students and friends of Rothbard's on the occasion of his 65th birthday. It's apparent that said friends and students had, ah, dined rather well that evening, but it's still, overall, quite amusing.

No, Rand didn't...

Ellen Stuttle's picture

...demand or need that you "like what she liked." She didn't like the ape-ists, and no one was under any requirement to adopt her tastes. I never pretended and never ran into any troubles with my O'ist friends. (I might have run into troubles with those in some of the O'ist subgroups, but then I wasn't interested in being friends with those people, so what might have happened if I'd tried to be was irrelevant to me.)

Ellen

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