Rand failed to deal with evolution. Why?

Posted by Esceptico 4 years, 7 months ago to Philosophy
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Festinger’s Question comes from his famous 1956 book, "When Prophecy Fails." Suppose (1) an individual believes something with his whole heart and soul; (2) he has taken irrevocable actions because of it; and (3) he is then presented with evidence, unequivocal and undeniable evidence, evidence he himself fully accepts as true, that his first belief is wrong. Festinger’s question is: What will happen?

The answer, well documented by six decades of subsequent research, shows people respond to dissonant beliefs by using three key strategies.

First, they can ignore the dissonant belief. In essence saying, I don’t want to believe it, therefore it isn’t true. This, as the psychologists would say, is a form of repression. We Objectivists recognize this as subjectivism, holding the primacy of consciousness to be true, instead of the primacy of existence.

Second, they can reduce the importance of the conflicting belief. This is evident by phrases such as “I’ll think about it tomorrow,” meaning I have more important things to consider. This, as the psychologists would say, is a form of evasion.

Third, they can make the newer conflicting belief consistent with the older existing belief by twisting the evidence, then claiming the beliefs are not really in conflict. This, as the psychologists would say, is rationalization. Michael Shermer calls it “motivated reasoning.”

What Festinger did not expect, was people did not question their beliefs. Quite the opposite. Researchers were astonished to find people became stronger in their irrational beliefs after having been presented with unequivocal and undeniable evidence the subject himself fully accepted as true. For example, if they believed in the flat earth, then were presented with the undeniable evidence of the spherical planet, they became stronger in their flat earth belief.

The most difficult beliefs for people to examine are those beliefs which have been (1) held for a long time; (2) adopted before age of reason; and (3) most often repeated.

This explains why it is impossible to have a conversation on the two subjects one should never discuss socially: Religious and political beliefs, both of which are drilled into children from the time they are born.

One may easily say, “every belief should be open to reexamination upon the presentation of credible evidence,” but attempting to live up to that standard is difficult and takes a concentrated effort.

Which brings me to Ayn Rand.

A tenet of Rand is man was born tabula rasa [Rand, Ayn. The Virtue of Selfishness. New York: Signet. Chapter 1, “The Objectivist Ethics,” p. 28. Sorry, my copy is so old there is no ISBN. Rand also said this in the August 1970 issue of “the Objectivist” at page 3. Yes, I have the original copy I subscribed to and got in 1970.] and humans have no instincts. [Rand, Ayn. Atlas Shrugged. New York: Random House, 1957. P. 1013. Again, my copy is pre-ISBN. Hell, even my Spanish copy is pre-ISBN.]

The Theory of Evolution holds humans are not born tabula rasa and we do have instincts. Instinctive behavior is the inherent inclination of a living organism to act in a particular manner. An instinctive behavior is a fixed action pattern in which a sequence of actions are carried out in response to a clearly defined stimulus. For example, a dog shaking water from wet fur.

The role of instincts (genetically determined behaviors) in determining the behavior of animals varies from species to species. The more complex the neural system, the greater the role of the cerebral cortex and instincts play a lesser role.

Do humans have instincts? The answer is, in 2016, clearly yes. Humans seem to be mentally “hardwired” regarding many observable activities, such as the False Positive or False Negative responses to signs of danger such as the rustling of shrubs ahead. Is the rustling from the wind or a predator?

Humans tend to elect the false positive, which means we fear the worst, but the rustling is only the wind and we go on to make love and make babies. The species continues. Animals which selected a false negative, the ones who thought it was the wind when in truth the rustling was a predator, were lunch for the predator. They did not make love and have babies. The species ends. Natural selection.

These are dissonant cognitions. As Rand points out in Atlas, if there are two sides, at least one is wrong (both may be wrong, but one must be wrong if the positions are mutually exclusive). How did Rand resolve the problem? She refused to take sides. “I am not a student of the theory of evolution and, therefore, I am neither its supporter nor its opponent.” Ayn Rand Letter, Vol II, No. 17, May 21, 1973. We are talking 1973, not 1873, and Rand does not take a stand on one of the most important discoveries in history. Incredible.

In my research I did not find Rand even mentioned Darwin. I am not the first to discover this omission. Neil Parille, in his essay, “Ayn Rand and Evolution” (http://rebirthofreason.com/Articles/P...) presents an interesting explanation of why.

As time went on Rand and her lap dog Peikoff seemed driven more deeply into her tabula rasa and lack of instincts beliefs. This comports with the findings of Festinger. I think she was smart enough to know better but was unable to cope with the evidence due to cognitive dissonance.

This leaves Rand as (1) an individual who believes something with her whole heart and soul; (2) has taken irrevocable actions because of it by publishing her thoughts to the world and her followers; and (3) refused to even examine evidence to the contrary.

What would possibly drive Rand to ignore the theory of evolution, which was the most culturally changing theory in history, placing science before religion and illustrating religion’s claims for creationism to ring hollow?

Did she (1) say I don’t want to believe it, therefore it isn’t true; (2) reduce the importance of the conflicting belief and say “I’ll think about it tomorrow,” meaning I have more important things to consider; or (3) try to make the newer conflicting belief consistent with the older existing belief by twisting the evidence, then claiming the beliefs are not really in conflict; or (4) what?

To me, Rand selected door number 2: “I’ll think about it tomorrow.” In doing so, she reneged on a fundamental principle of her own philosophy: “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 realty.” Atlas, at pages 1016-1017.

Here us the question I ask the Gulch: In failing to deal with evolution, did Rand abdicate her mind and evict herself from the realm of reality? Or, is there some other explanation for her omission?


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    Posted by Zenphamy 4 years, 7 months ago
    Rand didn't state opinions about thousands, or more, of things that she hadn't studied in her life or had little or no interest in. Nuclear Physics/Chemistry, Big Bang vs Static Universe, and on and on.

    I'm not sure why you would assume that she should, or why you find fault with her for not doing so.
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    • Posted by ewv 4 years, 7 months ago
      Ayn Rand did not "fail to deal" with evolution any more than, as you said, she didn't "fail to deal" with countless other scientific matters. She recognized it as biological science and did not speculate. She knew that science does not determine the content of general philosophy and that philosophers speculating about science are Rationalism, which she rejected.

      "Tabula rasa" means born without ideas, i.e., cognitive content, not a dog instinctually shaking water off.

      Esceptico "finds" fault in Ayn Rand for the same reason he gratuitously smears Leonard Peikoff as a "lap dog" and seriously questions if she "abdicated her mind and evicted herself from the realm of reality." His snide posts attacking Ayn Rand and Objectivism are characteristic of him.
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      • Posted by Zenphamy 4 years, 7 months ago
        This is the 1st of his that I've seen that is so 'obviously' anti-Rand. It's the first anti criticism that I've encountered based on something she didn't voice an opinion on.
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        • Posted by 4 years, 7 months ago
          I gave the quotations and citations because I expected to be attacked by people in the Gulch as misquoting Rand. I was meticulous about that to forestall any attack about what Rand said. I am not anti-Rand (your conclusion). I simply want to explore the areas where she made errors without denigrating the good she did. Unfortunately, your response seems to me to say any objective analysis of anything Rand did or said is to be anti-Rand. Such is not true and does not move Objectivism forward.
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          • Posted by ewv 4 years, 7 months ago
            You gave one quote of Ayn Rand saying she is not a student of evolution. The rest was rambling speculation with 'scare quotes' that she did not say, psychologizing, speculation and venomous insults. Your posts are full of such personal attacks. Rejecting that is not "any objective analysis of anything Rand did or said is to be anti-Rand".
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    • Posted by $ puzzlelady 4 years, 7 months ago
      Indeed. She established the system of Objectivist epistemology, which is the framework for fitting all knowledge in its proper place within Reality--named, known, as yet unknown, fiction and fact. It did not require her to name specifically every single bit of data in the entire Universe and in all of Earth's history. Not citing some specific thing is not an "error". Is Wikipedia in error for not having already included every piece of knowledge ever to be discovered, created or evolved over time? Sheesh. Talk about a straw-man argument.
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    • Posted by 4 years, 7 months ago
      We are not talking about the weather, but about a theory that changed the intellectual world. For this reason, Rand should have examined the issue. Perhaps she did, I suspect she did, but the result was as I said initially.
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      • Posted by Zenphamy 4 years, 7 months ago
        Darwin's papers and book came out in 1858--59, and while I can agree that his and Wallace's work were significant, I wouldn't agree that it changed the intellectual world. Certainly not to the extent that the Enlightenment of the 17th Century and early 18th. Darwin's work would not have been possible without that of the Enlightenment, nor would the unique intellects of Jefferson, Madison, Adams, and Franklyn etc.

        To Rand, the developments put forth by the Enlightenment and Aristotle were of more importance in her development of her Philosophy of Objectivism than was Darwin's work and particularly the petty squabbles of religionists and scientists.

        As to your arguments and terminology used in them, you seem to want to toss instincts, beliefs, and cognitive dissonance into the mixture as if those have anything to do with Rand. Rand argued against beliefs as nothing more than pretend knowledge gained through faith or revelation. She saw instinctual reaction as something to be recognized and analyzed by the reasoning mind to be weighed against rationally obtained facts and knowledge before acting. And cognitive dissonance was simply the result of attempts by the mind to resolve contradictions in ways that avoid the reexamination of premises.

        I fail to see anything in your Post or replies that should cause any concerns about Rand or the integrity of her thinking and development of her philosophy. I just don't understand your viewpoint as being serious or worthy of much thought.
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        • Posted by 4 years, 7 months ago
          Darwin certainly changed the intellectual world if you remain in the context of the history of humans, and that is the subject under discussion — not the Enlightenment in general. My understanding is Rand did not argue against beliefs qua beliefs, but only true verses false beliefs. For example, she believed A is A. You say “She saw instinctual reaction as something to be recognized and analyzed by the reasoning mind to be weighed against rationally obtained facts and knowledge before acting.” I have not found where she said anything close to this. Please provide a citation to her statement or your basis for making this claim.
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          • Posted by Zenphamy 4 years, 7 months ago
            If you don't understand that Rand's extensive discussions and analysis of the sources of rationally reasoned knowledge being facts of reality perceived through man's five senses, tested in reality and logic, and their relation to knowledge derived from beliefs being untested/untestable hypothesis, I doubt that we can have a meaningful discourse. Your continued description of Rand's Philosophy of Objectivism as her beliefs, and other Objectivists as cultists places you outside the groups of individuals that I take as men of reason. I have no further interest in this type of sophist, anti-Randian nonsense.
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            • -2
              Posted by 4 years, 7 months ago
              I never said all Objectivists were cultists. I did say some are. I stand by my statement.

              Ayn Rand offered an incredible and rational vision, but she made errors. In this pursuit advancing Objectivism I point out items to change, eliminate, modify, add to or amplify. Unfortunately, for the majority of Randians I am attacked as “anti-Rand” and learned for those Randians the idea to even question what Rand said is to challenge god and they allege I am immoral for doing so. So be it.

              The Bible contains many contradictory passages. If one argues the Bible holds a particular position, it’s very easy for those who disagree to quote a conflicting verse. The works of Ayn Rand are not entirely different. One could quote passages in “The Fountainhead” or “Atlas Shrugged” contradict other messages contained in those books.

              If Objectivism is to advance, these conflicts must be corrected. To do so is not anti-Rand.
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              • Posted by Zenphamy 4 years, 7 months ago
                In my Objectivist world, if you are to question Rand's work (not her 'off the cuff' remarks and responses, but the entirety of her work), you must first demonstrate to me that you fully understand Objectivism, down to the metaphysical and up, and that you do so accepting her word and concept definitions. She insisted strongly in and assiduously applied word definition and usage Not just that you've read her books and can find quotes that supposedly contradict some concept you've formed and formatted such as why she didn't opine on the significance of 'Evolution' and it's impact on the intellectual world of the 19th Century.

                Your arguments seem to include definitions of words such as belief that are in opposition to or slightly twisted from the definitions and context accepted in common by Objectivist. True, those definitions were provided by Rand, but without those definitions, discussion of her ideas and philosophical developments are impossible. Your approach to this Posting and commentary is at best Sophist, either intentionally (which I suspect) or Sophomoric. It strikes me that you have approached your studies and readings of Rand's works as a critic searching for any minor or major discrepancy with which to argue that the Queen has no clothes, not to advance Objectivism, but to bring Rand down to your level.

                Sorry to be the one to tell you, but you're not going to be the one that does that. And I seriously doubt that you can ever accept that.
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                • Posted by 4 years, 7 months ago
                  First, to respond to your post. I do understand Objectivism and have been an Objectivist since 1962, but that is not relevant. One need not understand “everything” to challenge one or more points. Rand did make errors and here I address only one of them, evolution, upon which she did write and I quoted her. Finally, without knowing anything about my position vis-a-vis Rand, you conclude I am anti-Rand.

                  Why you, and so many here in the Gulch, engage in ad hominem attacks (not only against me but against others) escapes my understanding. But, so be it. I question what your goal might be in making the statements as you phrase them. If your goal is to change the mind of a reader, then I think the style is misplaced.

                  If your goal is to convince a person of another orientation, then attacking the person you want to change is not likely to lead your objective. I suspect you know this, and I can dismiss it as the motive of your comment.

                  If you feel better by putting other people down with bromides and pontificating, then I suggest you place a lot of mirrors in your house and run from one to the other reciting your slogans. You may wish to video them. But do not pretend to yourself the exact nature of your motives and goal.

                  If, however, you genuinely want to communicate, and not play a role of being the heroic, right-thinking, all-knowing seer without whose words others will wither, suffer and die, then you must end role playing and posturing. Treat people as equal humans and enter into discourse.

                  As Eric Hoffer said: “The less justified a man is in claiming excellence for his own self, the more ready is he to claim all excellence for his nation, his religion, his race or his holy cause.” You sound dogmatic to me.
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                  • Posted by Zenphamy 4 years, 7 months ago
                    There was really no need to respond.
                    As Ayn Rand said: "Reason is not automatic. Those who deny it cannot be conquered by it. Do not count on them. Leave them alone.”
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          • Posted by lrshultis 4 years, 7 months ago
            Please note that A is A is a static axiom, meaning that at a particular time an existent cannot be something else. At that instant it will have definite properties. Over a period of time it may have properties within definite ranges of values. Take a fluid of a special kind which sits there clear for 30 seconds, then it changes to another color for 30 seconds, and then to another color for 30 seconds, and then changes back to clear again for 30 seconds and begins the oscillation over and over again until something happens withing the fluid and it becomes stable. The fluid is what it is but it has ranges of properties over periods of time.
            As for beliefs, there are beliefs where one has evidence or valid proof for them and there are other beliefs which are believed for some reason other than evidence or valid proof. I do not recall Rand writing anything about beliefs not including true beliefs..
            Like everyone who is not mentally impaired, Rand had emotions driving her personal life, both good and bad. One does not act other than by reflex without an emoting influence which causes action or can be inhibited consciously. Emotions increase in intensity as they are acted upon and decrease in intensity as they are inhibited. I doubt that Rand was perfect in her emotions being only rational.
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            • Posted by 4 years, 7 months ago
              I am not clear as to how your comment relates to Rand not taking a position on evolution.
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              • Posted by lrshultis 4 years, 7 months ago
                OK, Rand considered evolution to be a hypothesis probably because she did not take time to understand that it was well enough understood to be considered a theory. I doubt whether she had anything against Darwin or Wallace and probably did not spend her time wondering how the Universe came about or how life and human animals came into existence. She seemed to have a concept of human or man as being separate from animals since she would explicitly say something like 'man and the animals' just as Peikoff does. I am not sure why some people do that but it might cause one to want to avoid believing that man and animals could come from the same process, evolution, just as some religious people get up tight with the 'man evolved from apes' misunderstanding. It is best that she did not comment on of what she was not sure. I doubt that she would avoid mention of Darwin since he said he could not give up the belief of a possible god's existence.
                You have have probably seen this article:

                http://rebirthofreason.com/Articles/P...

                As for instincts, I see rand as believing that humans do not have instincts to just mean that humans are born tabula rasa. Whether they have any instinctual actions which are from inborn knowledge would be hard to prove as it is sometimes hard to do in other animals. There can be inborn complex activities which would not be considered knowledge since knowledge implies consciousness.
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                • Posted by 4 years, 7 months ago
                  First, thank you for not attacking me as so many here have. Second, I also thank you what I consider to be additional possible insight as to Rand’s thinking. It is this type of response I had hoped to generate. I think you are correct for all except the last paragraph dealing with instincts and I disagree there because, as I read it, you are mixing definitions. If consistent, I think I would agree with you completely.

                  Let me take the liberty to restate your paragraph. As for instincts, I see Rand as believing that humans do not have instincts to just mean that humans are born without conceptual knowledge, and in that limited sense tabula rasa. They have inborn instinctual actions, such as for nursing, but no formed concepts. These inborn complex activities which would not be considered knowledge since knowledge implies consciousness.
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                  • Posted by lrshultis 4 years, 7 months ago
                    Don't worry about the knee jerk true believers that sometime lurk here. They are mostly of the closed Objectivism kind. One told me get off his post when I did not agree with him, as though you have to be invited to comment to him.

                    I would disagree a bit here. Depends upon how you define knowledge. Knowledge is a kind of a wide ranging concept. It deals with everything from percepts to concepts and maybe even to the level of sensations, usually in a fully functioning brain in animals. Instincts deal with everything from inborn complex behavior to built in basic means of knowing. Inborn nursing activity does not require any kind of knowing at all. Same for salmon activity of returning to the original spawning stream. I was watching the DC eagle cameras to see how the eaglets behaved with respect to the nest. When chicks they just lay around with feeding reflex operating their bills when the parents returned with fish. After several weeks with the parents having repairing the nest by replacing sticks, the eaglets started moving out of place sticks out of the way after finding that it would not work if being stood upon. Such a way of behaving may be complex but is more like patterning after others like young humans do without any innate knowledge.
                    The discussions on instincts usually deal with inborn knowledge and not with built in complex biological action sequencing or complex reflex strings of action or even in non humans of nest building, etc. There is no other knowledge than perceptual and conceptual knowledge. Perhaps memories can be considered as driving some kind of instinctual activity.
                    In fact, it is the concept of consciousness that makes the concept of instinct possible, since the concept of knowledge presupposes the concept of consciousness and the concept of instinct presupposes the concept of knowledge since without concept of knowledge there would no way to make a sub-concept of a different type of knowledge as of instinct. Instinct cannot be a type of complex reflex actions since reflexes are non-conscious actions. So by definition, instincts are closely related to some kind of knowledge and cannot be built in at birth other than as some kind of tabula rasa potential devices for complex actions but that seems to be just what a human animal and other animals seem to be.
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                    • Posted by 4 years, 7 months ago
                      This would be a good forum topic sometime, someplace. Thank you for the encouragement about the closed Objectivists, which are, hopefully, the minority. To me, every belief should be open to change upon the presentation of newer, credible evidence, or a better way to view existing evidence. Such was the preaching of Rand, but not the way Rand actually treated questioners.
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      • Posted by Maritimus 4 years, 7 months ago
        Darwin's theory of evolution is NOT a philosophy. Similarly, Einstein's theory of relativity and Heisenberg's uncertainty principle (both Nobel awardees) certainly "changed the intellectual world" (whatever that means) but certainly do not represent philosophical discoveries.
        Your style of writing unmistakably conveys a desire to attack what you perceive as a cult of Ayn Rand, whether you truly intend it or not. Your denials, to my ears, sound insincere.
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        • Posted by 4 years, 7 months ago
          Nobody I know of claims the theory of evolution is a philosophy. It is science. The question I put before the group is why did Rand evade the very well known and controversial issue of evolution.

          As to the cult of Rand, I think any dogmatic group is a cult by the very definition of cult. Shermer did a chapter in his book "Why People Believe Weid Things" analyizing what we would call "closed" Objectivism. It is to that I was referring.

          Not long ago I took a course in communication. One of the things I learned was whenever you say something, if there is any possible way for another to misunderstand what you say, you will be misunderstood in the worst possible way, at the worst possible time, and then they will tell you what you “really” meant by your message. The reason is other people attach their meanings to your words. I believe this is the case here.
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          • Posted by Maritimus 4 years, 7 months ago
            "... if there is any possible way for another to misunderstand what you say, you will be misunderstood in the worst possible way, at the worst possible time, and then they will tell you what you “really” meant by your message..."
            81 years of my life consistently disproves that statement. My hunch is that you are relatively poor "listener", i.e. reader of disagreeing ideas and I definitely think that whoever was your teacher in that course did a very bad job of teaching, communications of all things!!
            Good bye. I had enough.
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  • Posted by dbhalling 4 years, 7 months ago
    "The Theory of Evolution holds humans are not born tabula rasa and we do have instincts. Instinctive behavior is the inherent inclination of a living organism to act in a particular manner."

    This is a different definition of instinct than Rand used.
    "An “instinct” is an unerring and automatic form of knowledge. A desire is not an instinct. A desire to live does not give you the knowledge required for living. And even man’s desire to live is not automatic . . . Your fear of death is not a love for life" Galt’s Speech,
    For the New Intellectual, 121

    The premise of your argument is flawed.
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    • -1
      Posted by 4 years, 7 months ago
      My example of the dog shaking does not conflict with either Rand’s limited definition or the Oxford English Dictionary. Dogs have an unerring and automatic form of knowledge to shake when wet. New born humans have an unerring and automatic form of knowledge where to find milk from mama.
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  • Posted by $ CBJ 4 years, 7 months ago
    Let’s evaluate Ayn Rand’s (non) dealing with evolution using the parameters you set up in the first paragraph.

    “Suppose (1) an individual believes something with his whole heart and soul; (2) he has taken irrevocable actions because of it; and (3) he is then presented with evidence, unequivocal and undeniable evidence, evidence he himself fully accepts as true, that his first belief is wrong.”

    (1) What, exactly, did Ayn Rand “believe with her whole heart and soul”? Tabula rasa and lack of instincts? Tabula rasa, as portrayed by Rand, refers to a person at birth possessing consciousness and a cognitive mechanism, but lacking content. Ayn Rand never denied that the human body has automatic processes, but these are not the same as “instincts” in the way Objectivists typically use the term. The Ayn Rand Lexicon defines instincts as “an unerring and automatic form of knowledge.”

    (2) What “irrevocable” actions did Ayn Rand take? Writing and publishing something is not irrevocable. A person can always amend something she wrote or said earlier, in light of additional knowledge. Ayn Rand never considered errors of knowledge to be moral failures.

    (3) What evidence was presented to Ayn Rand that her belief (tabula rasa and human lack of instincts) was wrong? Evolution has nothing to say on either subject. One can argue the merits of Ayn Rand’s belief as applied to the human beings of today, but neither the presence nor the absence of instincts or tabula rasa are evidence of whether or not humans and other life forms evolved.

    To sum up, I don’t think you have made a case that, on the subject of evolution, Ayn Rand abdicated her mind and evicted herself from the realm of reality. As for why she did not discuss the subject, there could be any number of explanations, but there is no way to know for sure.
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    • Posted by dbhalling 4 years, 7 months ago
      Point 1 hear hear

      Point 3: I disagree. From an evolutionary point of view what makes us unique is that goals (ethics) is not hardwired and our knowledge is also not hardwired. This is a huge evolutionary experiment, but it is what makes Humans so different. I discussed this in detail at Atlas Summit and the link to following post also explains this https://hallingblog.com/2016/02/29/ec...
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      • Posted by $ CBJ 4 years, 7 months ago
        Re point 3, “From an evolutionary point of view what makes us unique is that goals (ethics) is not hardwired and our knowledge is also not hardwired.” I agree, but this is looking at it from an evolutionary perspective, assuming beforehand that evolution is a valid theory. A creationist could also agree that these two facts make us unique. My point is that our uniqueness does not prove or disprove either evolution or creationism.
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    • Posted by 4 years, 7 months ago
      (1) Rand referred to “automatic” operations of the body as being physical, such as the stomach. As to anything else, she denied instincts or other attributes humans have which came from evolution. As to (1), we need only examine the “hard wired” responses humans have to many situations, most notably the response to potential danger I mentioned.

      (2) Technically you are correct. Psychologically, once a person has committed himself, as did Rand, to a specific belief as strongly as Rand did, then it becomes irrevocable in their minds. While Rand never considered errors to be moral failures, she did consider disagreeing with her conclusions as moral failures. This is one of the “cult” features of the Randian Objectivism.

      (3) Sorry, but I am not clear as to what you are saying. Sometimes I am a bit slow. Evolution does deal with instincts and tabula rasa and while “neither the presence nor the absence of instincts or tabula rasa are evidence of whether or not humans and other life forms evolved” that is not the point. Evolution is accepted as a scientific fact. Instincts and tabula rasa are a part of understanding the theory of evolution, just as air flow is part of understanding the theory of aerodynamics.
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      • Posted by $ CBJ 4 years, 7 months ago
        (1) Ayn Rand used the word “instinct” to mean “an unerring and automatic form of knowledge.” This is not the same thing as the “hard wired” responses you refer to. Your definition of “instinct” may not be the same as Rand’s, but we’re talking about her beliefs at the moment. When you say “she denied instincts or other attributes humans have which came from evolution,” you are projecting your definition of instincts on to her, which invalidates your argument. Also, according to the logic of your statement above, evolution necessarily leads to instincts, and the existence of instincts proves that evolution is a correct theory. I don’t think either statement is necessarily true, and I believe in evolution.

        (2) RE: “Psychologically, once a person has committed himself, as did Rand, to a specific belief as strongly as Rand did, then it becomes irrevocable in their minds.” This theory may be well supported, but it does not necessarily apply to everyone and it differs in degree across individual cases. There is no way you can know Rand’s state of mind or mental processes before, during or after she formed her beliefs. There is no way you can know whether she even brought up in her own mind the issue of instincts and tabula rasa in relation to the theory of evolution, much less that she abdicated her mind and evicted herself from the realm of reality in regard to this issue.

        (3) Evolution is accepted as scientific fact, but it is perfectly explainable without reference to instincts or tabula rasa. Even creationists can agree (or disagree) about the presence or absense of instincts and tabula rasa without disturbing their religious beliefs.
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        • -2
          Posted by 4 years, 7 months ago
          (1) I quoted and gave the sources for my quotations of Rand. I used Oxford English Dictionary definitions to interpret what she wrote. I did not project my definition of the terms. If Rand meant something else, then she should have so stated --- as did with the word altruism, for example. I think you err when you say about me: “evolution necessarily leads to instincts, and the existence of instincts proves that evolution is a correct theory.” From my understanding of evolution, the first part is correct --- in that evolution leads to instincts. But to then claim the existence of instincts proves evolution is correct, is an error in logic. We agree on that.

          (2) You are correct I cannot know the state of mind of Rand. I am looking at the objective manifestations of subjective intent: her writings.

          (3) I think my point was not clear enough, but evidently you are missing it. I did not say one needs instincts or tabula rasa to explain evolution. What I did say is: “A tenet of Rand is man was born tabula rasa.” This statement by Rand is in error. I did say Rand claimed: “humans have no instincts.” Here, again, I think Rand is in error.

          My conclusion from Rand’s writings is she, as are we all, was faced with two cognitions which were mutually exclusive and she chose to handle the dissonance by, as I said above reducing “the importance of the conflicting belief and say ‘I’ll think about it tomorrow,’ meaning I have more important things to consider.”
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          • Posted by $ CBJ 4 years, 7 months ago
            Based on your original post, you also apparently concluded that Ayn Rand abdicated her mind and evicted herself from the realm of reality in regard to this issue. To me the evidence is too weak and the assumptions too many to support such a strong statement. And Ayn Rand did state what she meant by the word instinct: "an unerring and automatic form of knowledge". This definition is different from the Oxford Dictionary definition that you used to interpret what she wrote.
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  • Posted by Tuner38 4 years, 7 months ago
    This diatribe is another weak attempt to discredit Ayn Rand. What she provided was a far more fundamental discovery that should lead someone to reject the mysticism of creationism and its offshoots. Evolution is a scientific theory not a pholosophical one. As of Tabula Rasa that can be understood by introspection. You were not born with any automatic knowledge. Emotional conclusions don't count.
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    • -1
      Posted by 4 years, 7 months ago
      Interesting comments, but I do not think in accord with science. To explore errors of a person’s writings is not to denigrate the person at large. Rand did a lot of good, but, as we have seen on this post, she was human and made mistakes.
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  • Posted by ProfChuck 4 years, 7 months ago
    The fundamental problem here lies in the difference between believing something and understanding it.
    The primary definition of "Believe" is::
    " verb (used without object), believed, believing. 1. to have confidence in the truth, the existence, or the reliability of something, although without absolute proof that one is right in doing so: "

    While this definition may describe a mental process that has survival value it cannot be described as objectively rational. However, To believe that all tigers are man eaters may not be true but failing to let this belief determine your behavior could cost you your life.

    We are hard wired to allow such concepts to over rule careful analysis for the simple reason that time is of the essence when it comes to avoid being eaten. This "belief" structure is an example of inherited hard wired behavior.

    The difficulty lies in the fact that to "believe" in evolution is fundamentally irrational while understanding the principals of evolution is part of our understanding of the relationship between our models and underlying reality.

    It is quite possible that Rand realized that she did not have a level of understanding of the principals of evolution that were sufficient for her to make decisions or evaluations that were logically consistent.Our current understanding of evolution is described by an extraordinarily complex set of both static and dynamic models that go far beyond Darwin's observations. As such these models form a set of testable criteria that are consistent with observation. However, for a layperson to pretend to understand these models in depth and to base moral judgement upon that understanding would be intellectually dishonest. Ayn Rand made every effort to be as intellectually honest as possible.
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    • -1
      Posted by 4 years, 7 months ago
      It could be “Rand realized that she did not have a level of understanding of the principals of evolution that were sufficient for her to make decisions or evaluations that were logically consistent” or it could be evolution did not fit her concept of reality and she rejected it using what I have been calling Option #2: evasion.

      You confuse me when you say: “The difficulty lies in the fact that to ‘believe’ in evolution is fundamentally irrational...” I say exactly the opposite, to believe, that is to accept as true, the theory of evolution is fundamentally rational.

      As to her honesty, as Branden put it: “It would have been wonderful, given how much many of us respected and admired Ayn Rand, if she had encouraged us to develop a more open-minded attitude and to be less attached to a model of reality that might be in need of revision. But that was not her way. Quite the contrary. Other people’s model of reality might be in need of revision. Never hers. Not in any fundamental sense. Reason, she was convinced, had established that for all time. In encouraging among her followers the belief that she enjoyed a monopoly on reason and the rational, she created for herself a very special kind of power, the power to fling anyone who disagreed with her about anything into the abyss of “the irrational”—and that was a place we were all naturally eager to avoid.”

      Your use of “moral judgment” on the subject of the validity of evolution is interesting. No matter which side of the argument one might find himself, it is sure as hell not a moral judgment. One of the great defects of Rand, to me at any rate, was if you disagreed with her you were immoral. I wonder how many thousands of people she drove from Objectivism with this single edict.
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      • Posted by ProfChuck 4 years, 7 months ago
        To "believe" in anything is fundamentally irrational. Because to believe is to accept as true on the basis of authority but without evidence or proof. That includes evolution as well as anything else. Belief is a metaphysical concept and is not subject to rational analysis. Understanding the principals of evolution is an entirely different matter. It is a vital distinction.
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        • Posted by 4 years, 7 months ago
          I disagree with your definition. To believe, according to the Oxford English dictionary, is to accept something as true. It has nothing to do with why a person believes, but simply the person accepts whatever it is under discussion as truth. It does not deal with rationality. Whether a belief is true or false, now that deals with rationality. http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/...
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          • Posted by ProfChuck 4 years, 7 months ago
            As a scientist I prefer understanding to believing. "Believe" is a word I use rarely and with great care. The reason for this is that believing in something doesn't produce results the way understanding it does. I have used this example before but I think it clarifies what I mean. I was once asked if I believed that two plus two makes four. My answer was "No!" But because I understand the principals of mathematics I understand WHY and under what circumstances two plus two makes four. If I simply believed it I would never make the effort to understand it.
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  • Posted by philosophercat 4 years, 7 months ago
    I spoke with Miss Rand about this in 1967 and she was clear that she understood evolution but it does not matter to the derivation of her Philosophy from a set of axioms. She told me that Objectivism did not need to be validated by science. She was right and my research in evolutionary theory and biothermodynamics confirms her view that science is not necessary to derive a philosophy of man precisely because man has free will and must choose all of the tenets of a philosophy. No ideas are passed through genes which are just a catalogue for proteins. What science does is confirm that all the basic premises of Objectivism which predicate properties to man are scientifically correct. She did not ignore evolution she simply understood what we choose to think is more important than how we got to think.
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    • Posted by ewv 4 years, 7 months ago
      Ayn Rand did not say she 'derived her philosophy from a set of axioms'. She developed it inductively based on facts. Otherwise I agree with you.
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      • Posted by philosophercat 4 years, 7 months ago
        What do you think "existence exists, existence is identity, consciousness is awareness of identity" are in Rand's philosophy if not axioms? Binswanger and Peikoff both describe the derivation of the philosophy from these axioms. Gal'ts speech is a tribute to the primacy of existence. I think she realized that inductively existence had to be an axiom..
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        • Posted by ewv 4 years, 7 months ago
          They are axiomatic concepts, crucial to conceptualization and implicit in all knowledge. The role of the axioms is described in her Introduction to Epistemology, chapter 6, "Axiomatic Concepts". She did not derive or deduce her philosophy from axioms, as for example Euclid derived the theorems of geometry, and neither Leonard Peikoff nor Harry Binswanger described them that way.
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          • Posted by philosophercat 4 years, 7 months ago
            Rand as a philosophy major at Leningrad and studying classical philosophy systems realized she could not ground her philosophy in terms which had a genus and axioms have no genus only differentia. So she constructed her system from axioms. Read OPAR on Peikoff's restructuring of Rand's axioms to see how it is derived.
            This is the "closed" philosophy issue as a system logically derived from axioms is complete and many want to change some part but run into the logic. of where to change. I was there when Peikoff explained why he had to change Rands order of the axioms to complete the logical derivation of Objectivism. Binswanger in How We Know spends a great deal of time on the role of axioms in deriving the terms of the philosophy.
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    • Posted by 4 years, 7 months ago
      Great information. I find it shocking in 1967 she says she understands evolution and in 1973 she refused to take a position on such an important issue, a central issue of religion and which shoots down the entire creationist concept.

      I can understand it does not affect the development of philosophy. But if she knew enough to claim she understood evolution, then why would she say she would not take a position? This refusal baffles me. She sure wrote enough about politicians during that time period.
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      • Posted by philosophercat 4 years, 7 months ago
        Miss Rand wisely declined to get into a discussion about evolution because she did not have command of the research to support the science. I was doing work in evolutionary theory at the time and in our short discussion she only needed to affirm I was correct in its conclusions she did not need to defend them.
        Personally I have never met any non-scientist who understands evolution as it is far broader than Darwin's natural selection as a means of speciation. Read Robert E. Ulanowicz on "The Third Window" to get a broader perspective on evolution. Remember Darwin did not answer why life or evolution only the formation of species in the Origin.
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        • Posted by ewv 4 years, 7 months ago
          Yes, her general understanding of what evolution is does not mean a claim to know the details of the scientific basis. She chose not to explore it further, just as she chose to spend her time on what she did and not explore other sciences. That is not a "failure".
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        • -3
          Posted by 4 years, 7 months ago
          In “The Benefits and Hazards of the Philosophy of Ayn Rand a Personal Statement,” Nathaniel Branden says: “I [Branden] remember being astonished to hear her say one day, “After all, the theory of evolution is only a hypothesis.” I asked her, “You mean you seriously doubt that more complex life forms—including humans—evolved from less complex life forms?” She shrugged and responded, “I’m really not prepared to say,” or words to that effect. I do not mean to imply that she wanted to substitute for the theory of evolution the religious belief that we are all God’s creation; but there was definitely something about the concept of evolution that made her uncomfortable.”

          To me this sounds as if Branden was as shocked as I am to find her taking the 5th Amendment regarding evolution and sounds to me she did not claim lack of knowledge, she simply could not confront the issue. Again, this goes back to Option #2: evasion.
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  • Posted by dbhalling 4 years, 7 months ago
    In my opinion Rand draws heavily on the ideas of evolution for her meta-ethics. See https://hallingblog.com/2016/02/29/ec.... In addition, new research has been consistent with her ideas including Tabula Rasa, when properly understood.
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    • -1
      Posted by 4 years, 7 months ago
      I read your article. In my view there are a number of errors, some of which were pointed out in the comments to it, and none of which are relevant here. Setting that aside for the moment, and agreeing Rand may have used evolution in her ethics or anything else “if properly understood” --- which is what all religious people say about their holy ones — then Rand chose evolution. But, and this is a big but, Rand did openly and clearly, state as to evolution she was an agnostic. We don’t need to “properly understand” her because her words are too clear to misinterpret.
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  • Posted by OldScar 4 years, 7 months ago
    You don't 'believe' in evolution, you observe it. Your belief in objective fact (tautology, sorry) is generally irrelevant except as it supports your rational philosophy.
    As for instinct: I am diabetic. My instinct is to eat lots of sugar. My reason tells me that's really bad thus promoting my continued life as a rational being. As animals we inherited lots of stuff from our ancestors (there's that evolution thing again), not all of it good. Not all of it relevant to life as a rational being. We may have instincts but they are not what define us as human.
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    • -1
      Posted by 4 years, 7 months ago
      A belief is an acceptance that a statement is true or that something exists. The belief can be true or false, if true then one has knowledge. Yes I agree, we have instincts, but the issue here is not that instincts define us as human, but the mere fact we, like other animals, have instincts and were not born tabula rasa as Rand claimed.
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      • Posted by $ puzzlelady 4 years, 7 months ago
        How many more times do we have to define our terms here? Instinct is not knowledge; it is a built-in function of the autonomous nervous system that is part of our animal evolution that serves survival. Instinct is not knowledge and cannot substitute for guiding the cognitive functions of the more highly evolved human brains.

        Knowledge is the acquired content of consciousness after birth, the higher function of cognition that eventually becomes free will and the ability to reason. The brain arrives with an operating system, if you will, with which to process the sense data from the environment into which a baby is born. The operating system is the blank slate, the empty folder which receives the input and arranges the received data to form concepts and mirror the outside reality.

        Another way I describe this function is that the received data consists of "memes" that become part of the human software. Integrating received knowledge without contradiction is the essence of Objectivist psycho-epistemology.
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        • Posted by 4 years, 7 months ago
          I think you did a nice job here of clearing the air. I agree with most of what you say. I think you are saying we do have instincts, and I agree with your analysis.

          Perhaps Rand did not use the word "instincts" in the way we receive the word and it is a pity she did not elaborate more on that, but what she sid make clear is she believed humans do not have instincts. If she meant something else, I missed it.

          As I mentioned before here, whenever you say something, if there is any possible way for another to misunderstand what you say, you will be misunderstood in the worst possible way, at the worst possible time, and then they will tell you what you “really” meant by your message. All this happens because the listening people attach their own meanings to your words.
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  • Posted by salta 4 years, 7 months ago
    To understand the world, Rand advocated reason over faith.
    There has never been a non-faith-based idea to compete with evolution. Rand's comment on the specifics would have been redundant.
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    • Posted by 4 years, 7 months ago
      This does beg the question: Then why did Rand openly and clearly, state as to evolution she was an agnostic?
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      • Posted by ewv 4 years, 7 months ago
        She didn't know about the science and did not speculate.
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        • Posted by 4 years, 7 months ago
          As good an excuse as could be made on her behalf.
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          • Posted by salta 4 years, 7 months ago
            Anyone should check the "don't know" box, on subjects they do not know about. That is what agnostic means. Being agnostic on a subject does not denegrate that subject.
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            • Posted by 4 years, 7 months ago
              I suppose it depends upon the circumstances. Ask me about quantum physics or the string theory, and I check the “do not know” box. But evolution is not such subject because it is so commonly discussed and its concepts easily understood. Even in the 1960s and 70s. I think Rand did not like possibility science may contradict what she preached.

              As Branden put it: “It would have been wonderful, given how much many of us respected and admired Ayn Rand, if she had encouraged us to develop a more open-minded attitude and to be less attached to a model of reality that might be in need of revision. But that was not her way. Quite the contrary. Other people’s model of reality might be in need of revision. Never hers.”
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              • Posted by salta 4 years, 7 months ago
                Science has never contradicted Rand's ideas. Science is also based on reason.
                You are the only one attempting to contradict her (and failing spectacularly). In desparation you even resorted here to an irrelevant quote from her jilted lover (unless you are suggesting Branden was referring here to her ideas on evolution! I don't think so)
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                • Posted by 4 years, 7 months ago
                  The scientific establishment of instincts and the lack of tabula rasa does contradict Rand. My quotation from Branden was to merely show I am not the only one with the viewpoint that she does not handle contraction well and in the case of evolution, she chose Option #2: evasion.

                  My point in all this, as I have said here, is Ayn Rand offered an incredible and rational vision, but she made errors. In this pursuit advancing Objectivism I (and others) point out items to change, eliminate, modify, add to or amplify. Unfortunately, the majority of Randians attack me as “anti-Rand” and I learned for those Randians the idea to even question what Rand said is to challenge god and they allege I am immoral for doing so. So be it.

                  The Bible contains many contradictory passages. If one argues the Bible holds a particular position, it’s very easy for those who disagree to quote a conflicting verse. The works of Ayn Rand are not entirely different. One could quote passages in “The Fountainhead” or “Atlas Shrugged” contradict other messages contained in those books.

                  If Objectivism is to advance, I believe these conflicts must be corrected. To do so is not anti-Rand.
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                  • Posted by salta 4 years, 7 months ago
                    When the usage and meaning of a phrase like "blank slate" changes over the half century since she addressed the subject, that is not the same thing as a contradiction, however desparate you might be to interpret it that way.
                    You say "she made errors", yet you are focused here on the fact that she DID NOT WRITE anything on a subject which was out of her field and she was not interested in. If you are trying to classify that as an "error", you are mistaken, but I think you are realizing that by now.
                    I would not care if you are anti-Rand, but you are definitely not "advancing Objectivism" by using irrational arguments.
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                    • -2
                      Posted by 4 years, 7 months ago
                      First, to respond to your post. I did not change tabula rasa definition over time. If you belief such, then you misunderstood me. Rand did make errors and here I address only one of them, evolution, upon which she did write and I quoted her. Finally, without knowing anything about my position vis-a-vis Rand, you conclude I am anti-Rand.

                      Why you, and so many here in the Gulch, engage in ad hominem attacks (not only against me but against others) escapes my understanding. But, so be it. I question what your goal might be in making the statements as you phrase them. If your goal is to change the mind of a reader, then I think the style is misplaced.

                      If your goal is to convince a person of another orientation, then attacking the person you want to change is not likely to lead your objective. I suspect you know this, and I can dismiss it as the motive of your comment.

                      If you feel better by putting other people down with bromides and pontificating, then I suggest you place a lot of mirrors in your house and run from one to the other reciting your slogans. You may wish to video them. But do not pretend to yourself the exact nature of your motives and goal.

                      If, however, you genuinely want to communicate, and not play a role of being the heroic, right-thinking, all-knowing seer without whose words others will wither, suffer and die, then you must end role playing and posturing. Treat people as equal humans and enter into discourse.
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                      • Posted by salta 4 years, 7 months ago
                        Thou doth protest too much. I did NOT suggest you were anti-Rand. You did. You said you had been attacked as anti-Rand, I simply said I don't care if you are. Many people are. It does not change the validity of her ideas when people disagree.
                        You also trying to place yourself as the victim of an ad hominem attack, after I explained only how your ARGUMENTS were irrational. That is NOT an ad hominem. I'm sure your use of standard formulaic troll comments is pure coincidence as well. (BTW to call you a troll WOULD have been ad hominem)
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                        • Posted by 4 years, 7 months ago
                          I was answering several comments, and I may well have not had your comments fully in mind when I answered. I apologize. I have been attacked in this thread, and you can verify that by reviewing all that is written here. Your point “It does not change the validity of her ideas when people disagree” is exactly one of the items I wanted to project. Instead I was attacked. To that extent, yes, I am the victim of ad hominem attacks calling me all sorts of evil things.

                          This post taught me something Wiio was right. Osmo A. Wiio, a Finnish professor of communication, developed communication “laws” which I have found to be true:
                          (1) Communication usually fails, except by accident.
                          (2) If a message can be interpreted in several ways, it will be interpreted in a manner that maximizes damage.
                          (3) There is always someone who knows better than you what you meant by your message.

                          I will restate his laws, borrowing from Murphy: Whenever you say something, if there is any possible way for another to misunderstand what you say, you will be misunderstood in the worst possible way, at the worst possible time, and then they will tell you what you “really” meant by your message.

                          Disagreeing with one’s views is not the same as being against the people that hold those views. Human beings have rights and are entitled to respect. Books and beliefs don't and are not due the same respect. Books and beliefs are to be challenged and examined.

                          Once the forms of civility are violated by the discussion participants by resorting to name-calling, little remains of hope to return to kindness or decency. The ad hominem attacks upon me were impolite, but consistent with the dogmatic attacks I have received previously in the Gulch and illustrate why Objectivism works to exclude others rather than teach. Objectivism is failing to attract people. Rand was almost proud of that. I am not. Objectivist dogs need to wag more, bark less.

                          I don't usually engage in too much back-and-forth blogging, since this rarely results in more light than heat. Certainly true here.
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  • Posted by Riftsrunner 4 years, 7 months ago
    It seems to me that Rand did what any intelligent person should do when they have no knowledge on a subject. She said she didn't know and thus could not express an opinion either way. It may have been incumbent for her to investigate to actually mitigate any difference between her philosophy and reality. However, because she didn't, we cannot speculate that she was being dishonest in her views.
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    • -1
      Posted by 4 years, 7 months ago
      Yes, and if the issue was a minor one I could easily understand. I do not understand why one of the crucial issues separating faith from reason is creation versus evolution, a person who championed the mind would refuse to take a position. I don’t think Rand was dishonest (though I would not rule that out due to lack of evidence), but I do think she was faced with an issue of cognitive dissonance and she should to disregard the conflicting evidence by saying she would think about it later: evasion. She was very much against evasion of thinking. As she said in Galt’s speech: “In any hour and issue of your life, you are free to think or to evade that effort. But you are not free to escape from your nature, from the fact that reason is your means of survival—so that for you, who are a human being, the question ‘to be or not to be’ is the question ‘to think or not to think.’” She talked about relative trivia, such as politicians during elections, but never mentioned Darwin or evolution. I can only wonder why and will never know for sure.
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  • Posted by mia767ca 4 years, 7 months ago
    I suggest you read David Kelley's "Evidence of the Senses"...knowledge is based on reality...beliefs are not based on reality...reason vs faith...
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    • Posted by 4 years, 7 months ago
      Kelley, like Rand, holds properly held beliefs must be based upon rationality, and I agree. A belief is: An acceptance that a statement is true or that something exists. But there are billions of people who deeply hold irrational beliefs, such as religion. I think we can agree a “true” belief is knowledge, and there are false beliefs. Kelley points out, at page 243-244, “We know that people are more likely to be nonobjective about an issue if they have strong feelings or beliefs about it, just as people are more likely to be dishonest if they stand to gain from a lie.” This is exactly the cognitive dissonance problem I mentioned with Rand and evolution.
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      • Posted by $ Thoritsu 4 years, 7 months ago
        A "true" belief is knowledge? Not at all. Absolutely not. A "true" belief is a supported hypothesis, whose grounds remain unsubstantiated.
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        • Posted by 4 years, 7 months ago
          In the context here a belief means an acceptance that a statement is true or that something exists. The foundation of the belief is not in question. A “true” belief is one which is in accord with the facts of reality. A “false” believe is one which is not in accord with the facts of reality. For example, a person may believe with all his heart and soul that the sun revolves around the earth. That is a false belief.

          “Knowledge” is . . . a mental grasp of a fact(s) of reality, reached either by perceptual observation or by a process of reason based on perceptual observation.” Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, “Concepts of Consciousness,” page 35. This definition comports with generally accepted definitions, one of which Rand quotes: "All knowledge is in terms of concepts. If these concepts correspond to something that is to be found in reality they are real and man's knowledge has a foundation in fact; if they do not correspond to anything in reality they are not real and man's knowledge is of mere figments of his own imagination." (Edward C. Moore, American Pragmatism: Peirce, James, & Dewey, New York: Columbia University Press, 1961, p. 27.)
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          • Posted by $ Thoritsu 4 years, 7 months ago
            Seems like you are agreeing with me, but I'm not certain. If a belief is true as you define, then that particular belief is accurately represented in reality. However, it is still just a belief, with no logic behind it connecting it to facts.
            I often say in engineering that doing the right thing for the wrong reasons is an accident, not a good design practice. The same is true here. One could argue that being lucky is better than being good, but that colloquialism doesn't hold in the the long run. Knowledge comes from facts, logic and reason. A hypothesis can come from a belief, and a belief can turn out to be specifically true, but a belief can never be knowledge until reasoned out.
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            • Posted by 4 years, 7 months ago
              I think (dare I say “believe”?) we are close. Where you say: “a belief is true as you define, then that particular belief is accurately represented in reality,” I say there may be a semantic difference which is important. My take is a belief is true IF that particular belief is accurately represented in reality.” To me there is a significant difference between the two statements.
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              • Posted by $ Thoritsu 4 years, 7 months ago
                Let's take a specific example. At one point people believed that evil spirits flew into your mouth when you sneezed. The data said people who sneezed often got colds, which they believed came from evil spirits. (This is the genesis of "god bless you"). One could argue it was true. However, it was not correct. Even the term "cold" comes from the belief that a chill causes the malady, but we know now it is caused not by temperature, but bugs, better passed on when lots of people are confined together...in the winter.

                None of these represent knowledge, but until logic drives down the the details, they would represent "true" beliefs.

                No one knows everything, and everyone must make decisions on less than complete data (sorry physicists the world is about engineering (intended to precipitate entertaining dialog)). Setting aside a unknown for a belief or hypothesis is a requirement of daily life. However, beliefs are never knowledge. They are like remembering where the furniture is as you fumble in the dark.
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                • Posted by 4 years, 7 months ago
                  I argue correct (true) beliefs are knowledge and incorrect (false) beliefs are not knowledge. That, I believe (joke here) brings us to a definition of knowledge. How do you define knowledge?
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                  • Posted by $ Thoritsu 4 years, 7 months ago
                    Good question. I would start with what I define it is not, which is an incorrect belief or a narrowly correct belief. Perhaps: "Knowledge is both a known set of facts and generalities defined by facts, laws and logical inference". I reserve the right to edit my definition, based on having had two glasses of wine after a very tough day! I "believe" my present definition represents my best effort.
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                    • Posted by 4 years, 7 months ago
                      To me, the word "known" is a different noun for the word "knowledge." So, one can say: "a set of facts within my knowledge." And, I would add, my two Margaritas trump your two wines.
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                      • Posted by $ Thoritsu 4 years, 7 months ago
                        Perfect! An example of being right...but...
                        The variable you might have been ignoring...the size of my wine glasses. Mine were nine ounces. A "standard" margarita is 1.7 drinks (another assumption), compared to a 6 oz wine glass. Even though mine were 1.5, you were still ahead. Until I had two more little 6 ounce-ers on the plane!
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                        • Posted by 4 years, 7 months ago
                          Mine were double calafate Margaritas, a new drink I created by replacing Pisco with tequila in a Pisco Sour because Pisco is so expensive in the US. Also supplies vitamin C.
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  • Posted by jdg 4 years, 7 months ago
    I don't see evolution as potentially affecting the validity of Objectivist thought. At most, evolution might tell us that (1) for certain of our ancestors it is open to doubt whether they were or were not intelligent and thus ethically human beings (but those beings are dead now anyway), and (2) that we have inherited some behaviors and/or beliefs as instinct (but that doesn't imply we don't have moral responsibility for them anyway, if we fail to overcome them). Big deal -- not.

    That said, Festinger was right that the correct response to his hypothetical is to rationally re-evaluate all the beliefs that you have derived from the overturned one.
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    • Posted by philosophercat 4 years, 7 months ago
      Remember 5% of your genes come from your ancestors frisking around with Neanderthals and raising the resulting kids as ours. They were cognitively volitional as are all animals but did not have instincts in the sense of stored passed on behavioral knowledge. Instincts as cognitive information gets in the way of solving real time problems.
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      • Posted by 4 years, 7 months ago
        A common misconception is homo sapiens “fooled around” with the human species commonly known as Neanderthal. Modern DNA has demonstrated even if true, the offspring would have been sterile. Like mules. We are separate species. We homo sapiens do have some common genetic material with Neanderthals. We also have common genetic material with bananas. Yup, about 25%. Since we are off topic, scientists now think Neanderthals could be taught to fly airliners but could design them. May that give you some comfort on your next flight.
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        • Posted by philosophercat 4 years, 7 months ago
          How would sterile kids pass on their genes? Check out the genetics and you will see that we have many genes in common with Chimps but the Neanderthal genome and human genome are unique to each species by descent and we did not descend from Neanderthals so the only way we could get theirs and not a common ancestor is through sex and viable offspring joining our tribe.
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          • Posted by 4 years, 7 months ago
            Sterile kids could not pass on the genes, which is exactly my point to illustrate we did not come from Neanderthals.

            Neanderthals and homo sapiens did have a common ancestor, which, as with the banana, gives us genes in common. By the way, we did not come from bananas, either.

            When Creationists ask me who was the first human, I point out to them there wasn’t one and then explain evolution at a more basic level.
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            • Posted by philosophercat 4 years, 7 months ago
              Then where did the Neaderthal genes in the human genome come from? Genes are only passed on by sex. They can make it into the genome if there is wide interbreeding and the inherited genes must be favorable.
              If you study species how do they start at two members of the species on the first mutation?
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              • Posted by 4 years, 7 months ago
                I think the error in communication is I said Neanderthals and homo sapiens share some common genes, as we do with bananas. I did not say we had Neanderthal genes.
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    • Posted by 4 years, 7 months ago
      The question has nothing to do with “affecting the validity of Objectivist thought.” It does have to do with how Rand reconciled dissonant cognitions, and my conclusion was she chose option #2 to evade.

      I do not understand why one of the crucial issues separating faith from reason is creation versus evolution, a person who championed the mind would refuse to take a position. I don’t think Rand was dishonest (though I would not rule that out due to lack of evidence), but I do think she was faced with an issue of cognitive dissonance and she should to disregard the conflicting evidence by saying she would think about it later: evasion. She was very much against evasion of thinking. As she said in Galt’s speech: “In any hour and issue of your life, you are free to think or to evade that effort. But you are not free to escape from your nature, from the fact that reason is your means of survival—so that for you, who are a human being, the question ‘to be or not to be’ is the question ‘to think or not to think.’” She talked about relative trivia, such as politicians during elections, but never mentioned Darwin or evolution. I can only wonder why and will never know for sure.
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      • Posted by philosophercat 4 years, 7 months ago
        For those of us who knew Miss Rand your thoughts are disjointed and irrational.
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        • Posted by ewv 4 years, 7 months ago
          His thoughts are baseless speculation of motives and psychologizing strained to rationalize accusations of "failure" because she did not discuss what he prefers she had discussed, all posturing as "objective analysis". The disjointed nature of his insulting polemics are secondary.
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        • Posted by 4 years, 7 months ago
          I had no direct experience with Rand, but my ex-in laws were part of the Rand Inner Circle and that gave me a pretty good idea of what was going on behind the curtains. For you to say because you knew Rand and I did not makes my “thoughts are disjointed and irrational” commits enough fallacies to fill Kelley’s book “The Art of Reasoning.”
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          • Posted by ewv 4 years, 7 months ago
            One of the fallacies in that book is the fallacy of ad hominem, and gossip from ex-inlaws does not justify your speculations about motives "behind the curtains" for her intellectual positions or the accusation that not discussing what you want her to have discussed means "failure" and "cognitive dissonance". Comparing that with what philosphercat observed first hand is not a logic book full of fallacies.
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            • Posted by 4 years, 7 months ago
              By “behind the curtains” I meant how she privately behaved and her attitude toward others. Very dogmatic. I will ignore your attacks upon me.
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              • Posted by $ puzzlelady 4 years, 7 months ago
                Private behavior, attitude toward others, dogmatism... as reported by disenchanted former associates who have reason to denigrate someone with whom they had a falling-out. Consider the source.
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                • Posted by 4 years, 7 months ago
                  I saw it at the time (1960s) because I called myself an Objectivist, not a student of Objectivism. For this transgression alone, I was called a number of nasty names.
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                  • Posted by $ puzzlelady 4 years, 7 months ago
                    Ah, I understand. There was only one true Objectivist, namely its author and founder, Ayn Rand. All other mortals were merely students of her work. This has to do with intellectual property. Whether since then sympathizers, partisans, students, followers, fans, acolytes, endorsers, adherents, practitioners, what-have-you, are allowed to call themselves full-fledged Objectivists is still an issue, and the cause of the great divide between ARI and TAS. Should philosophers be made to call themselves only "students of philosophy"?

                    Ayn Rand named her system Objectivism, virtually a proprietary trademark. Yet she also stated that she did not have an exclusive monopoly on truth, that truth belonged to all who came to it of their own mental effort. After her death, when no new authentic material could be added to her opus, those who had been "students" and had internalized the full philosophy began to declare themselves graduated to full stature as complete Objectivists. If this is objectionable to the keepers of the estate, they are wrangling over her legacy and its monetizable assets.

                    This, too, is a product of evolution--the evolution of ideas and a form of tribal heritage. In the final analysis, if you are a rational, ethical human, you are a practicing Objectivist whether you have even ever heard of it or define yourself as such or not.

                    It is in the nature of memes (idea software) to take on a life of their own and to defend themselves and to attack deviations. If people could only understand that such is the source of all conflicts, we could finally evolve to a stage of peaceful co-existence, constructive cooperation for mutual benefit, individual freedom, and unhampered creative productivity.

                    I'm sorry you had a bad experience with the slavish adherents. Or was it Ayn Rand herself who called you names?
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  • Posted by ScintiaSitPotentia 4 years, 7 months ago
    First, I admire your research into this topic, I myself can not understand why objectivists are attacking another. Does Ayn Rand not teach us that we must hold reverence for each other? This is our social contract and separates us from those who lack both vision and motivation. We as individuals and collective strive and work in our own endeavors and by doing so we benefit each other. His struggle here is trying to truly understand the complex mind of Rand. To provide a perspective on your question I believe Ayn Rand choose to discuss what she was educated about, so that she could debate with those who chose to attack our ideals. I believe it was a strategic gambit used by one who understands man and the battle field that is Rhetoric.
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    • Posted by 4 years, 7 months ago
      Thank you. I was hoping to spark some insight, not fight. Unfortunately, it seems people of the Gulch prefer to fight from a dogmatic position than to investigate. Whatever Rand’s reason for not discussing a topic hot even in her day, evolution, to open a line of inquiry is not to attack her and certainly no basis to attack me. I found too many Gulchers behaved like dogmatic evangelicals than seekers of truth.
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      • Posted by khalling 4 years, 7 months ago
        You do not seem to want insight. You want support for your POV while at the same time maligning AR on an AR site. There is a great body of work to go through and integrate with Rand, and I see many contradictions, conflations of arguments and back handed swings. All of these are evidenced easily in the comments where you have particularly lost points.
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        • Posted by LibertyBelle 4 years, 7 months ago
          There was really no necessity for Ayn Rand to pro-
          nounce upon evolution. She said, as I recall, "I have read a lot of evidence to support it, and, at
          present, it is the only scientific theory in the field."
          As a philosopher, there was no need for her to deal with it. She was dealing with man as he
          already exists; she was denying, for valid reas-
          ons, his having come from some supernatural
          Being. Her philosophy was "for living on earth",
          not investigating obscure evidence as to his or-
          igin.
          How much better for her to behave on the
          matter as she did, then for her to pontificate on
          it, and come up with wild theories!--The evolu-
          tionary argument has already been presented.
          There was no need for her to try to do the histor-
          ians' or biologists' job for them.
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          • Posted by 4 years, 7 months ago
            I never found your quote: "I have read a lot of evidence to support it, and, at
            present, it is the only scientific theory in the field." Can you give me a citation to it? Thank you.
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            • Posted by LibertyBelle 4 years, 7 months ago
              I think it was in an article in the periodical "The
              Objectivist Forum"; there was later a periodical
              "The Intellectual Activist" (one was supposed to bephilosophical, the other a sort of warning about political measures coming up, but "The Objectivist Forum" quit publishing, and so "The Intellectual Activist" sort of took over its func-
              tion). Anyway, as I remember, the remark came
              from a speech Ayn Rand gave. But, I'm sorry,
              I don't remember the name of the article. I think
              she may have been talking about education in
              the public schools. And that may be the article
              in which she said that, with people reaching
              sexual development earlier, and some people not wanting sex education taught in the schools,
              it was as if they were trying to create "sexual
              disasters". But I am not certain that it was the
              same article.
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        • -1
          Posted by 4 years, 7 months ago
          Disagreeing with one’s views is not the same as being against the people that hold those views. Human beings have rights and are entitled to respect. Books and beliefs are not due the same respect. Books and beliefs are to be challenged and examined. I think Rand erred regarding evolution. Nothing more. Nothing “anti-Rand” as you put it. To question does not malign her.

          I do not understand your reference to “many contradictions, conflations of arguments and back handed swings.” If find your comment offensive, yet consistent with too many participants here at the Gulch who view any question of anything done by Rand to be treason to some sort of unstated, dogmatic, allegiance to anything she said or did.

          Then you go on to say “All of these are evidenced easily in the comments where you have particularly lost points.” The idea was not to "win" points or anything else. The purpose was to examine what is, to me, one failing by Rand.

          As to insight, I did gain insight from some of the participants who were interested in discussing the subject as distinct from protecting an idol. Read the entire blog and you may find the insights as well. In this regard, I accomplished my purpose. The cost was too much time spent with too many people in an adversarial context of dogmatists and too few people who had an intellectual curiosity as to the question. So much for “open” Objectivism in the Gulch. I found this experience to be, with few exceptions, as closed as ARI. Which is to say, the emotional reactions uniformly along the line if Rand said “it,” then “it is true; if Rand did not say “it,” then “it” is false and to question the Prophet is to seek death.
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          • Posted by khalling 4 years, 7 months ago
            this is a long comment. I stick with my initial statement- "lapdog" is not disagreeing with one's view.
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            • Posted by Zenphamy 4 years, 7 months ago
              Notice in the 'long comment' that in his own words, he condemns himself: " Human beings have rights and are entitled to respect."

              There is no such thing as Human rights that include any entitlement to respect or anything else. Respect must be earned. That's progressive socialism think.
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              • Posted by 4 years, 7 months ago
                In the legal sense, true. In the context of civilized discourse, then no.
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                • Posted by Zenphamy 4 years, 7 months ago
                  That's very like a kid getting a trophy just for participating. There are only Individual Rightsall deriving from the Individual's ownership of his life. There are no other rights. There can be no right that places an obligation on others such as satisfying an entitlement to respect.
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                  • Posted by 4 years, 7 months ago
                    I fear you misunderstood me, my fault for not being clear. My point is one must always keep what goal you have in making statements. If your goal is to change the mind of a reader, then I think an aggressive, belittling, style is misplaced because it will close the ears of a listener. A person does have a right to be an uncivilized ass, but cannot expect others to participate in the discussion. In a discussion, one must treat people as equal humans. George Washington put it this way: “Every action done in company ought to be with some sign of respect to those that are present.” David Kelley, echoed this when writing: “The rational individualist is not the enemy of benevolence or civility, but their truest exemplar.”
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                    • Posted by Zenphamy 4 years, 7 months ago
                      Oh my, how awful, non-PC, and thus uncivilized of me to have not read your Esceptico Rules of Discussion and granted you your entitled human right of respect and treatment as an equal human, and I assume from that to have also not considered your denigrating comments and judgements of AR, her work, and those of us on this site that take pride in calling ourselves Objectivists and students and defenders of the philosophy--as serious and an amazingly erudite presentation and defense of your world changing discovery that Ayn Rand didn't do something that you insist she had to do to avoid your astounding criticism of her work. And I'm so very appreciative of your astute observations of my lack of proper communication skills and uncivilized ass style of written communication instead.--Not

                      The content of your Post criticizing Rand and your defense of that content has not earned my respect and you and I are in no way equal humans nor equal anything else. While I'm sure that Rand was a human being and made many if not all of the mistakes that human beings make, as a script writer, an author, and a philosopher--she had few if any equals. While you on the other hand attempt to belittle her by attacking her for not doing something that you think she should have done in order to satisfy your asinine and sophist determination of what the developer and describer of a philosophy must do, from whatever lofty perch you imagine yourself on.

                      If you have determined from my written comments and replies to you on this post, a lack of respect and an assertive communication style that you feel (OhOhOh) doesn't recognize you as an equal---you're certainly perceptive at least.
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                      • Posted by 4 years, 7 months ago
                        You use the word “respect” in more than one meaning. In the context here, I use it in the sense of granting civility, as does Washington and Kelley. You apparently did not have the good fortune I had, which is to have been raised by parents who taught me to be polite. But, you are in luck. Amazon features many books on the subject you can use for self-study.
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  • Posted by $ sjatkins 4 years, 7 months ago
    It is obvious that the human species is a product of evolution from the apes. With the ability to sequence the genome the last of the legitimate imho doubts were put to bed.

    I don't tabula rasa means or was ever meant to mean completely blank slate with no mental content at all. Clearly even without evolution every baby is born with powerful build in programming allowing phenomenal learning and growth intelligence about the world. Clearly every human being has certain drives and general psychological parameters in common.

    But this does not matter imho to what was meant by Rand about tabula rasa and "self made soul". It is not the given common aspects of being human that were of importance to her but that which each individual human chooses to do within their human context and the radical importance of the each individual living their life as fully as possible as the best they can become by their own determination of what they value and deep honesty.
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  • Posted by $ AJAshinoff 4 years, 7 months ago
    Interesting read. I think the matter comes down to the futility of taking a definitive stance on something when there is no conceivable way of proving it or disproving it. The jury will always be out on creation-evolution until such time man can re-create life from the molecule forward but there is no denying the adaptability of animals and, moreso, Man to its environment and surroundings

    Weak homage to MichealAarethun: Something about Man's Lego's is quite different, significantly so, than everything else on this planet.
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    • Posted by 4 years, 7 months ago
      The jury has long been in regarding evolution. There is no scientific dispute.
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      • Posted by $ AJAshinoff 4 years, 7 months ago
        I spent a week discussing evolution with a die hard atheist only to find out we were talking about 2 different things. His evolution was biological adaptability over time and not the beginning of man on Earth.. I don't buy into the creation-jackpot theory but I can easily see biological adaptability through time.
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        • Posted by 4 years, 7 months ago
          I don’t know what a “die-hard” atheist is as distinct from some other class of atheist. Usually, either one believes or one does not. I suppose you may be relating to the strength of the belief. Anyhow, I have been using the meaning of evolution in Darwin’s sense. The premise of Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection is that all life, from mammals to single celled organisms, is related through descent with modification from common ancestral stock. The mechanism he proposed to explain descent with modification was natural selection. I suppose this equates to what you are saying, but I do not understand you mean by a “creation-jackpot.”
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  • Comment hidden by post owner or admin, or due to low comment or member score. View Comment
  • Posted by $ MichaelAarethun 4 years, 7 months ago
    Ayn Rand Institute.

    The path was long and arduous and you can't afford the book anyway.

    Step One

    Darwin and the Discovery of Evolution

    by Keith Lockitch | March 18, 2008
    Share

    The theory of evolution is often disparaged by its opponents as being “just a theory” — i.e., a speculative hypothesis with little basis in hard, scientific facts. But this claim carries with it the implied accusation that Charles Darwin was “just a theorist” — i.e., that he was merely an armchair scientist and that his life’s work was nothing more than an exercise in arbitrary speculation. A look at Darwin’s pioneering discoveries, however, reveals the grave injustice of this accusation. Darwin was not “just a theorist” and evolution is not “just a theory.” In this talk, Dr. Lockitch explores Darwin’s life and work, focusing on the steps by which he came to discover and prove the theory of evolution by natural selection. (Recorded March 18, 2008.)

    Which leads us to the Natural Selection in this case 'man' nor humankind.

    Animals survive by adjusting themselves to their background and man survives by adjusting his background. FNI" 10 PB 15.

    Step Two see page 272 Lexicon last three paragraphs.

    Find volitional consciousness, volitional choice and "an instinct of self preservation is precisely what man does not possess....and the rest in the last para on that page not ignoring the whole paragraph and continue for the next page or three.

    Works for me animals have instincts and humans have the ability to think and reason but also the choice to do so or not. As they do tht their basic fund of knowledge, skills, experience expands and enlarges as does the abilty to learn assuming they make that choice. Those that do survive and prosper naturally and continue to do so generationally.

    Ergo Sum the human path to Evolution is by reasoning and thinking. the rest of the animals kindom bilogically speaking do not.

    Step Three

    However per Law Number Two the testing requried of any observation and it's nature is continuous as more is discovered of the nature of things and life itself more testing to answer the question 'is it useful' is required. thus to Law Three and all because of Law One.

    Step Four initial conclusion and possible explanation.

    There was no omission and your premise is indeed flawed.

    Step Five.

    Why didn't she not mention it more directly. I submit 'time' was a factor. But when you have produced one percent of what Rand produced in your life time you might possibly more likely probably will have failed in any number of subject areas. Basic research being one that comes readily to mind. (Total time using the same resources 37 minues 20 looking and the rest thinking about it.)

    Step Six Completing the research

    Tabula rasa refers to the epistemological idea that individuals are born without built-in mental content and that therefore all knowledge comes from experience or perception. Wikipedia

    I first assumed it was either or both of a. a subject not immediately important or b. a subject already covered in anohter way using other words. That seemed logical given the the triple linguistic ability of AR. The Lexicon and a simiple google search 'Ayn Rand on Evolution.' provided the clues and the pathways that eventually in a few minutes led to the cites and sources provided. Applying Law Two assiduously and completely it may not be the whole answer but was enough to show the premise was false.

    How to phrase the question differently?

    Initial obvsercation: Ayn Rand never addressed evolution. Questions True or not True. Why? Given the nature of AR it seemed implausible but that would be subjective and not answer nor serve. But my goal was an initial answer and perhaps more can be discovered by our more learned members. I have to desist and go shopping. Out of grapefruit and that will never do.

    Enjoyable exercise. I 'feel' like I may be getting the hang of this



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    • Posted by philosophercat 4 years, 7 months ago
      Please remember that John Locke in Book One of the great Essay proved that man is tabula Rasa and he is confirmed by genetics biology, and information theory. Rand followed Locke and Aristotle.
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      • Posted by 4 years, 7 months ago
        John Locke did not “prove”man is tabula rasa, he alleged it without evidence, though Rand may well have followed him, I do not know. Locke was ahead of his time politically, but he was pre-Darwin and pre-modern understanding of neurology or brain functioning, not to mention evolution. We have learned a lot in the last 250 years since Locke.
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        • Posted by philosophercat 4 years, 7 months ago
          E
          You underestimate Locke. His evidence is persuasive and has been since 1690.Locke was a Doctor and studied with Thomas Willis who in 1663 with Locke's two best friends, Richard Lower and Sir Christopher Wren conducted the first anatomically accurate dissection of the brain. Locke saw there is no way into the brain except by experience. Willis' book "Cerebral Anatomy" was the standard text for 200 years. Locke saw there is no way to put information into the brain until the neural connection to the senses are active hence there is no possiblity innate ideas. His politics followed from his observation of the brain. Each person is tabula rasa and sovereign hence must be free to build the content of the minds and select the actions of their bodies for their survival and to flourish. AS one who has been in the field for 60 years I can tell you we have learned not one thing to contradict Locke in essence. Darwin and Newton are very limited as they cannot explain life so good luck as you come up the ladder of knowledge.
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          • -1
            Posted by 4 years, 7 months ago
            I hope this does not shock you, but science in all fields has progressed since 1690, including neurology and psychology. When you say you have been in the field for 60 years, exactly what field is it to which you refer?
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            • Posted by philosophercat 4 years, 7 months ago
              Since you did not read my comment accurately as I said science has not falsified Locke. You really must learn to read. My lab works in systems biology and biothermodynamics what is your lab doing? We are leaders in the new science of biothermodynamics and would be glad to explain contemporary science to you.
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              • Posted by 4 years, 7 months ago
                Gee, sorry I misread. That happens to us low lives. Are you also saying science has not advanced past Locke? I am not clear as to exactly what you are saying and how it relates to Rand not taking a position on evolution.
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      • -1
        Posted by $ sjatkins 4 years, 7 months ago
        This has no meaning. A human infant obviously is "programmed" with substantial ability to abstract and do some level of subconscious deduction and abduction or they would be unable to learn language and the rest. Tabula rasa cannot mean completely blank.

        Also evolution of species from earlier species is established fact.
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        • Posted by philosophercat 4 years, 7 months ago
          Dear dear, the brain is busy from its earliest formation in the womb but it has no concepts, idea, or thoughts until it learns language which it can only do when its ears respond to air waves not the fluid of the womb. It as Locke and Rand used the term in philosophy and biology means a blank slate cognitively not functionally. The brain runs the body in utero only sight and sound let in the language of mom and dad on speaking that starts reasoning one word at a time.
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          • Posted by $ sjatkins 4 years, 7 months ago
            There is ample evidence that the fetal developing brain is not blank or doing no cognition at all. Yes, their is not language yet. But it is not reasonable to suppose language is required to form any deduction, induction or abduction at all from sensory information.
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          • Posted by 4 years, 7 months ago
            It is certainly possible Rand meant the term tabula rasa to mean only cognitions learned after birth. But she did not say so, and that is (in part) what lead to the instant discussion. I am not convinced your statement an infant “has no concepts, idea, or thoughts until it learns language” because of recent fMRI (and other) findings as to brain activity at birth, but you well be correct. That still leaves the issue of instincts. I used tabula rasa and instincts merely as examples of Rand evading the issue of evolution, to get into a discussion as to the validity of either. There are other instances of Rand evading the evolution issue, and that is what primarily interested me. It was not until another person in this thread, after my initial post, pointed me to Branden’s comments about Rand being uncomfortable with evolution that I was even aware of her discomfort.
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  • Posted by Herb7734 4 years, 7 months ago
    That is a subject that has been groveling around in my mind for years. It manifested itself in a somewhat different way when I questioned Branden What was Objectivism's attitude toward reality in regards to quantum physics. He used #2 excuse promising to deal with it later. I thought the answer was very #2.
    But, that didn't deter me from all the brilliant illumination I got from Rand on other topics. To me, very few come even close.
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  • Posted by $ Olduglycarl 4 years, 7 months ago
    I think she may have thought both were false but each might hold a few clues. I say this because it's something I saw in her and not because I ended up, in my work, coming to the same conclusion. ( we obviously do have instincts...but we didn't come from monkeys)

    Because we can't say positively, logically or objectively...we keep it under raps until the facts or at least a plausible theory is found; and the best way to do that is to just look at what is there.
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    • Posted by 4 years, 7 months ago
      The theory of evolution never said humans came from monkeys. I don’t understand what you mean that “we keep it under wraps.”
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      • Posted by $ Olduglycarl 4 years, 7 months ago
        Kept it to our selves or herself in this case... is what I meant...hell, I can't even discuss my theories on quantum physics without getting attacked.
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        • Posted by 4 years, 7 months ago
          Sorry I was not clear. What is "it" that was kept under wraps?
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          • Posted by $ Olduglycarl 4 years, 7 months ago
            The subject matter, (our own thinking on the subject)...creation versus darwin...in this case, what might be of value and what may not, but because there is so little to go on...one should just keep an open mind. Darwin was mostly wrong but did contribute to the probabilities of how each species with in itself adapts.
            Note: the fittest doesn't always survive or at least our impression of fitness...sometimes, I would imagine, the weaker survive cause everyone else is fighting it out or needs more resources than is available. Good example would be the Nephilim and the dinosaurs.

            The only dinosaur to survive to date is our very own Allosaur.
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            • Posted by Animal 4 years, 7 months ago
              "The only dinosaur to survive to date is our very own Allosaur."

              False. There are dinosaurs all around you, every day. In fact, there are more species of dinosaurs alive today than mammals.

              We call them birds.
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              • Posted by $ Olduglycarl 4 years, 7 months ago
                That's very unlikely but to the point...I was referring to a prized Gulch member...it was supposed to be funny...
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                • Posted by Animal 4 years, 7 months ago
                  I was aware of the reference, yes. But as for birds being dinosaurs - it's not only anything but unlikely, it's likely to the point of being almost universally accepted by paleontologists and evolutionary biologists. In fact, there are now so many examples of feathered dinosaurs and primitive birds that it's difficult to draw a dividing line between the two - which is precisely what you'd expect, if you had studied biology.

                  A is A.
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                  • Posted by $ Olduglycarl 4 years, 7 months ago
                    I predict that much of today's understanding of evolution and our past will change dramatically.

                    Darn...seems to do that from time to time...among other things, I study the fringes too...open mindedly of course...not ready to jump on anyone's bandwagon yet...maybe never.

                    PS. you haven't accounted for the past mass extinctions...and not all were due to asteroids or meteor's.
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                    • Posted by Animal 4 years, 7 months ago
                      I predict it won't. Our understanding the history of life on earth has been continually refined over the last 150 years or so, and there's no scientific evidence pointing to any dramatic change. Allele frequencies in populations change over time; that is 1) a fact, and 2) evolution.

                      Still, science is by nature tentative. If you would like to win a Nobel prize, produce such a dramatic change in our understanding of every facet of modern biology, and your name will assuredly ring bells in Stockholm.

                      And can you describe what past mass extinctions have to do with the dinosaur-bird lineage? Please be specific.
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            • Posted by $ sjatkins 4 years, 7 months ago
              Case closed. We have looked at the genome of various species. Evolution is a fact. There is much to much to go on supporting evolution. Note that evolution does not say anything about how life came to be or how the universe itself came to be. It only says there is evolution of species from other species. That is it. And that is fact.
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              • Posted by $ Olduglycarl 4 years, 7 months ago
                Inner or like species but no enter species. Of course each species has evolved...just look at the evolution of the different blood types in response to the changing environments and different foods eaten....see eat right for your type...give the history of that evolution.
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                • Posted by $ sjatkins 4 years, 7 months ago
                  New species evolve from previously existing species. That is what the facts say. I forget who it is attributed too but it comes to mind in this discussion, "Stop philosophizing about how many a teeth a horse should have and instead simply look its mouth and count." :)
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            • Posted by 4 years, 7 months ago
              Darwin was not only incredibly correct, but there is so much “to go on” that only religious Creationists claim there is anything else. Your “note” indicates to me you misunderstand the theory of evolution. Perhaps Rand did, too. There are many sources to learn what it actually is, as distinct from what you presently seem to believe it is, and one excellent source is Richard Dawkins’ books on the subject. https://richarddawkins.net/
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              • Posted by ewv 4 years, 7 months ago
                Dawkins' 1986 The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe without Design is especially good.

                One of the interesting explanations is why 'design' versus 'random chance' in the metaphysical sense is a false alternative.

                Another is how discoveries in genetics go far beyond what Darwin knew in support of his theory.
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              • -1
                Posted by $ Olduglycarl 4 years, 7 months ago
                No misunderstanding here and we have a difference of opinion with darwin and the academy of science of the times.
                We still have to account for the Book of Enoch.
                So much of OT history was accurate - events- not their interpretation...to understand that, study Julian Jaynes. There is a big difference between, events, interpretations, and a pagan organization of it all that ended up holding the human species back for their own self interested purposes.
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                • Posted by 4 years, 7 months ago
                  Book of Enoch? Are you saying you rely upon this gospel? Are you for real or just pulling one of my extremities? In any event, I truly think you misunderstand the theory of evolution.
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                  • Posted by $ Olduglycarl 4 years, 7 months ago
                    Don't be silly...in these matters we can't rely on anything...it's only a consideration because some of it can be confirmed and now that I understand the OT brain set, thanks to Julian Jayne's work...it begins to show our history during the times described. One thing we do know is we were created in a puff of dust, which is what the mystics think...even the Hebrews know that. Interesting to note is that if you want to understand those times and the language...ask a Rabbi...As most of us awake have suspected all this time is that much has been mistranslated and some of it on purpose.

                    Here is an interesting thing I ran across recently...the earths rotation was fasted than today back a few billion years ago. Also interesting to note also is that in the last 5 or more years scientist have observed the rotation of Venus has sped up and Venus came into our solar system recently, maybe around the flood, which accounts for the Egyptian and Mayan pictographs.

                    It pays to be open minded about these things...there is nothing to fear here.
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                    • Posted by $ Olduglycarl 4 years, 7 months ago
                      PS. The OT is not "gospel" (or more reasonable, knowledge from the voice in there heads...which we know was their own...not something outside them).
                      The OT is simply history recounted by the people of the time.
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        • Posted by $ Dobrien 4 years, 7 months ago
          OUC , when discussing theories that challenge prevailing view points you will often find stiff resistance.
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          • Posted by $ Olduglycarl 4 years, 7 months ago
            Thanks Dobrien.
            Cognitive dissonance?...like the other discussion recently posted...I avoid most of that by thinking I am the dumbest among us and trying to prove myself wrong. A good percentage of the time my vision usually prevails but I rarely will wear it on my sleeve. Either way...it's not easy.
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    • Comment hidden by post owner or admin, or due to low comment or member score. View Comment
    • Posted by $ MichaelAarethun 4 years, 7 months ago
      I'll wait until Esceptico gives us the answer although he hinted at it quite transparently - as usual. He wants us to do his work being unable to accomplish the act of thinking and reasoning on his own. Nothing new here. Tell you what. You can buy the book - when we publish it.
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  • Posted by ScintiaSitPotentia 4 years, 7 months ago
    It is simply put like this, Ayn Rand did not battle on the grounds of Evolution to protect her validity. Why? She was not educated in the matter, therefor she could not make a statement. She was an individual who worked with reason, if she was not educated in the matter then she would not tackle it. Reality is how humans perceive it, once it provides stimuli we react accordingly cause and effect. When Rand met this theory on the battlefield of the mind, she did not face it why? For the reason stated above she had no knowledge in the field.To debate over the science and the findings is fruitless. 1+1 does equate to 2 and when you look at the equation given above its rudimentary. I will leave you to find the solution.
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    • Posted by 4 years, 7 months ago
      I think you present a red herring. I did not say any of what you are explaining, justifying or excusing Rand. There was no battle. Rand had to do no fight. On a very well known issue (evolution) she chose to make no decision.

      Moving on, I certainly think you are wrong when you say “Reality is how humans perceive it” because this is the non-objective primacy of consciousness concept. Rand, and I, hold the primacy of existence is true.
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      • Posted by ScintiaSitPotentia 4 years, 7 months ago
        Esceptico, your inquiry was this “In failing to deal with evolution, did Rand abdicate her mind and evict herself from the realm of reality? Or, is there some other explanation for her omission?” I as a fellow objectivist will hold you in high regards for you have struggled in your endeavors to find information and present it to the gulch. I however find it quite weary watching others trample across your work. When I say the battle, I suggest the fact that in Ayn Rand’s campaign she spread her word, and with it placed in the hands of the people a choice to be one who follows reason or to follow fallacies of their emotions and cognition. (We all know the criticisms produced by the doubters.) While on her path Evolution was present. It suggest according to you. “The Theory of Evolution holds humans are not born tabula rasa and we do have instincts.” Now lets look at these parameters. Evolution suggests man has evolved based off Natural Selection, based off the species with superior genetic information. Ayn Rand did not have the education to take on this theory, so which is more efficacious in keeping ones validity. To discuss and fight with those who do not see reason in something you know little about, or to simply recognize it has the theory that it is and spread your ideals with your validity still intact? It was a gambit. Ayn Rand did not choose to remove herself from reality, far from it, she accepted the reality that Evolution was here to stay, (which based off of the psychiatry reality is what we perceive it.) Ayn Rand new, and if we look at the facts Evolution and science still do not undermine Ayn Rand’s views, nor do they weaken them. Man has a choice, we choose to perceive reality based off of the state of awareness in one’s world, consciousness. So I submit my conclusion , her so called “omission” of evolution is she accepted what others lay before her and she simply brushed it aside, to allow the objectivists to continue because it has no impact on us. Why because at the end of the day, we still have a choice. We choose, we progress, we do not simply choose based off of genetics, because of some rudimentary instinct.
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        • Posted by 4 years, 7 months ago
          Thank you for your comments. I cannot put my finger on the place where Rand even alluded to her acceptance “that Evolution was here to stay.” I discovered since posting my question, others have also looked at this question and they cannot find such a statement by Rand.

          I agree with you that science and evolution to not weaken Rand’s thoughts. That was not my question. My question is why was she so evasive about a subject that is so important?

          I agree with part of your conclusion, “her so called ‘omission’ of evolution is she ... simply brushed it aside,” but I disagree the theory of evolution “has no impact on us.” One does not have to look far to see how much creationism / evolution underlies so much dissension between atheists (of which Objectivists are one group) and theists.
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          • Posted by ScintiaSitPotentia 4 years, 7 months ago
            I see your points, but in the end does it truly matter? At the end of the day you choose, humans are beyond that of Evolution, we rationalize, science has no impact when it comes to Evolution, Psychology and Sociology are on the finer paths to unlock the secrets that humanity contains. This only a perspective, but I appreciate the topic quite invigorating.
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            • Posted by 4 years, 7 months ago
              You are probably right, what does it matter? After all, people lived a long time believing the earth was flat and 18% of Americans still believe the sun revolves around the earth. It is too early here in Arizona for a drink, though. I guess I'll go to the movies and see "Hillary's America" for some tragic relief
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              • Posted by ScintiaSitPotentia 4 years, 7 months ago
                Ah, now the ego comes out to play, When I say What does it matter, its simple, people are to involved in what the perceive to be important and what is correct to them. Other than the people here debating this, who else would care? non this is the world that Ayn Rand wanted to draw a picture in Atlas Shrugged. Why Galt's Gulch was built. I myself truly care about the subject but find it to be quite self explanatory.
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  • -2
    Posted by $ Temlakos 4 years, 7 months ago
    I recall Nathaniel Branden specifically saying Rand said to him, "After all, the Theory of Evolution is only an hypothesis." "There was something about the theory of evolution," said he, "that made her uncomfortable." I know what that was. Evolution does indeed say we are no better than animals. Rand sought to set human beings apart from animals.

    In this, I own, Rand was correct. But: having rejected orthodox evolution, she had no alternative consistent with her basic premise. Hence she ignored the question.
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    • Posted by ewv 4 years, 7 months ago
      Nathaniel Branden's interpretative paraphrasing is not a source of what Ayn Rand said or thought, especially when he was in feuding attack mode as he was in that recording.

      Ayn Rand did not "seek" to set human beings apart from animals. She observed, along with Aristotle, that man is the rational animal, i.e., one kind of animal, distinguished by the essence of his rational, conceptual faculty. Evolution does not say we are "no better than animals" -- by what standard? Both evolution and Ayn Rand recognize that different species have different abilities and strengths. Ayn Rand explained in what way humans are the highest form of animal. She did not reject "orthodox evolution" and did not ignore the question. She stuck to philosophy and did not speculate about sciences with philosophic Rationalism.
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      • Posted by 4 years, 7 months ago
        I see it differently. Please point to me to the place where "She did not reject "orthodox evolution" and did not ignore the question."
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        • Posted by ewv 4 years, 7 months ago
          What you see is wrong. Her own statement contradicts what you wrote about it. Otherwise, your demanding to point to "the place" where she "did not" do something is irrational.
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          • -1
            Posted by 4 years, 7 months ago
            It is with great restraint resulting from education and experience of dealing with irascible people that I do not retaliate to your ad hominem attacks. What, exactly, do you expect to gain from them?
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    • Posted by $ sjatkins 4 years, 7 months ago
      Actually it does not say we are no better than animals. We humans have the ability to do abstract thinking to a level far different than any other animals. We have the ability to use language and writing to preserve our knowledge from generation to generation. We have an unprecedented ability to use our reason to better ourselves and our world.
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    • Posted by 4 years, 7 months ago
      That is the best explanation I have heard. Thank you. Where did you get the Branden information? I’d like a copy.

      I suppose this also means Branden was an agnostic on the evolution issue. Incredible.
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      • -2
        Posted by $ Temlakos 4 years, 7 months ago
        Find his essay, "The Benefits and Hazards of the Philosophy of Ayn Rand." He recounts that anecdote in that essay--which began as a lecture.
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        • Posted by 4 years, 7 months ago
          Thank your for this. I have that article and pulled it up. Here is the entire quotation: “I [Branden] remember being astonished to hear her say one day, “After all, the theory of evolution is only a hypothesis.” I asked her, “You mean you seriously doubt that more complex life forms—including humans—evolved from less complex life forms?” She shrugged and responded, “I’m really not prepared to say,” or words to that effect. I do not mean to imply that she wanted to substitute for the theory of evolution the religious belief that we are all God’s creation; but there was definitely something about the concept of evolution that made her uncomfortable.”

          To me this sounds as if Branden was as shocked as I am to find her taking the 5th Amendment regarding evolution.
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          • Posted by $ puzzlelady 4 years, 7 months ago
            You might as well claim that she may have thought humans came from extraterrestrial visitors! Branden’s testimony is tainted by his emotional antipathy toward a former mentor whom he betrayed. Better not rely on his texts for accurate interpretations of Rand’s views.

            About evolution: given enough time, our origins in the singularity of microorganisms that developed connections and assembled themselves in ever more complex groupings eventually led to the forms we are today, with trillions of cells, more than half of which are not even our own human DNA but symbiotic bacteria and microorganisms that inhabit our bodies and help to keep us alive. .

            What I love and admire about Ayn Rand's thinking is that it gives us a vision of what we can evolve into when our marvelous brains are still more fully developed, as they have been doing for the last 100,000 years. Ask yourself why human brains are so much more capable than chimps' and even bonobos'.

            We are indeed in the next stage of evolution now. The Age of Reason has just begun, even with all the setbacks we see around us. Rand was a pioneer, a forerunner, an outpost, an echo from the time of Aristotle, a gifted visionary impatient to see the "ideal man" appear in reality. If Atlas Shrugged is a type of science fiction, imagine how much more humans will be capable of when traveling into space, when we can move past our primitive violence and mutual destruction to a stage of mutual benefit and collaboration.

            If Ayn Rand was “uncomfortable” about evolution, it may just have been impatience that it took so long.
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            • Posted by 4 years, 7 months ago
              I do not see Branden has having betrayed Rand. If anything, Rand betrayed her own work. She was a pioneer, not the be-all-end-all of Objectivism. My memory for the time was he, in wanting to make Objectivism “open” and advance it, challenged some of what Rand held dear. In doing so, Rand’s reaction was what I call a Festinger cognitive dissonance Option 2. She chose to evade any contrary evidence, become more dogmatic, and sought ever greater purges within her inner circle. In doing so, she and he went their separate ways. Rand was the one who became publicly vindictive, not Branden. In fact, I don’t recall him saying much until 1984 when he wrote about the benefits and dangers of Rand’s Objectivism. Even then, his article did nothing but (rather un-emotively) recite their differences. Since I had witnessed much of what he wrote about, I thought he did a remarkable job of not attacking Rand.
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              • Posted by $ puzzlelady 4 years, 7 months ago
                He cheated on her with a younger woman, a breach of trust and integrity. He was afraid of telling her the truth and so tried to get away with living a lie. It was a totally dishonorable way for him to deal with reality. Whether it was to hold on to his position of prestige under her umbrella or for the financial gain he could make thereby, it was a betrayal of her and of the values he professed to share.
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                • Posted by 4 years, 7 months ago
                  Let’s see here, this thread has changed the focus from Rand’s refusal to take a position on evolution to the psychology of sex, the branding of Branden as a whatever and ignoring Rand was a cougar. Perhaps we should be examining Rand’s stated concept of sex and love as compared with her actual lifestyle. Of course, then we would have to ignore she seemed to write her sex scenes more in a BDSM style than love — if we assume consent on the part of the woman — or outright rape. Definitely a separate topic.
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  • -3
    Posted by BradSnipes1 4 years, 7 months ago
    The theory of evolution, like the theory of man-caused global warming have not and cannot be proven. Where are the missing links or transitional life forms. If evolution were true, there would be transitional life forms living today. They do not exist.
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    • Posted by philosophercat 4 years, 7 months ago
      Brad, relax it is proven beyond a shadow of a doubt and the current research actually confirms the process is active and observable. See a copy of EVOLUTION the Journal of the Society for the Study of Evoltion for just how advanced it is. I also suggest that you broaden your narrow views by looking into the problem of how cells divide and why they divide. Thermodynamic systems cannot start them selves unless they are already running. That's why cells are all descended from LUCA. Take a look at cladistics to begin to see how complete evolution is. .
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