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Evolution, Creationism, and Intelligent Design


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#121 Ted Keer

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Posted 21 September 2008 - 07:39 AM

My main philosophical concern is that [Rand's] views on sexuality seem to go hand in hand with her ignorance of evolutionary biology and lead to a rationalistic view of man as an (animate) reasoner rather than a (rational) animal. But that is quite a bit to get into here.


Ted, that is a very interesting, provocative comment. Could you please explain how seeing man as an "(animate) reasoner" is rationalistic?

I can see one way this might be so. "Animal" is the genus and "rational" is the differentia, making "rational animal" the species. So, treating "reasoner" as the genus, i.e., as more general than "animate", really is conceptually non- (even anti-) hierarchical.

"Reasoner" is a dead-end genus, and "animate reasoner" is the sole species under it. Now, if that is not exactly a floating abstraction, it sure comes close. So, yes, I see at least a sense in which "(animate) reasoner" is rationalistic.

But what are your thoughts on this? Thanks in advance....reb


Roger,

You have hit on my objection in essence. The scholastics viewed man, angels (and demons) and god as rational beings. Man was differentiated from the others as being animate/corporeal. I don't think Rand came anywhere near holding this view explicitly or consciously. But her view of man as essentially rational led to tensions. The relevant way here is that values are portrayed as resulting from beliefs and premises. This is problematic when one asks why babies value sweetness. Babies don't go through a process of thought and determine that since sugar is a necessary nutrient, and since sweetness indicates the presence of sugar, sweet foods should be sought out. [We don't choose to make sweetness taste good because we value the calories in sugar intellectually.] Humans simply like certain sensations becuase of their biological nature. If this were not true, dieting should be so simple that we would not even have a concept for it - we wouldn't try to avoid fattening foods, we would simply do it.

Sexuality, like taste in food, is in part learned, but it is prompted by one's biological/genetic nature and is also part of a bottom up process. People like sweet foods because they have sugar, rich foods because they have fat, tart foods because they have vitamin C, and so forth. They come to enjoy things such as spicy thai chicken because through experienece they learn that such foods are very satisfying of those basic cravings. A young child will not like spicy food, since he has not yet had the experience to learn such an acquired taste. Likewise, we are born enjoying the soft touch of another. As we mature we come to appreciate certain curves of bodies, certain smells. This is analogous to our desire for sweet food. We come to integrate our desire for certain touches, certain smells, and so forth, and find that we really like physical contact with certain individuals - and that our genitalia responds in a spontaneous way to such stimulus. Biological experiments have shown the genetic/chemical nature of our attraction to certain body odors. This is not the result of a person saying that because he is a woman worshipper he likes the way a woman smells. It is, in a sense, the other way around.

Rand is supposed to have said that NB should have worshipped her even if she were confined to a wheelchair - this comment shows exactly the attitude that I find wrong in her theory of sex. One does indeed form the best and highest relationship with those with whom one shares the highest values. Rotten (e. g., Bill Clinton?) people do find tawdry affairs easier than noble relationships. But that one finds a certain type of person physically attractive is a bottom up phenomenon. The trick is to find someone whom one finds both physically and spiritually attractive. Love at first sight is a physical attraction - infatuation - that becomes a spiritual attraction - romance. I have fallen for men and woman physically, only to find that their spirits don't live up to their bodies. But I have also been lucky enough to find a few men and women whose souls have lived up to their bodies. I am in such a relationship now for 14 years.



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#122 Brant Gaede

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Posted 21 September 2008 - 10:41 AM

How about one stage up axiom-wise?
Entities are causes.
Life is self-generated action.
Man is an end in himself.


Michael


Entities are causes: What about events? Sometimes entities are effects, as in the case of photons being produced by the collision of matter and anti-matter. Cause-Effect is not the property of just an entity, but of a relation between entities. Effects happen because entities (more than one) interact.

Life is self-generated action: A clear violation of the second law of thermodynamics. We are heat engines driven, in part, by processes outside of our bodies and outside of our consciousness. Here is a hint: Anything that violates or implies a violation of the laws of thermodynamics is likely to be bogus.

Man is an end in himself: Tell that to the IRS or a slave holder. The world over men and women are used and abused. Justice is notable for its scarcity.

I think the success of modern science has made shreds of the underlying metaphysics of O'ism. The only thing left intact is the law of non-contradiction which is not unique to O'ism. You know O'ism is loosing when it fights a loosing battle against modern science*. Conclusion: O'ism needs to be repaired (or discarded)**. Unfortunately the Faithful Remnant consider O'ism a closed system which cannot be amended, sort of like the Bible being the inerrant Word of God. Read some of the other O'ist boards to see that this is the case.

Ba'al Chatzaf

*There is another board which I shall not name, wherein the erroneous physics of Lewis Little (Theory of Elementary Waves) is heavily promoted. This is despair, not physics.

**O'ism has got politics and economics right so it should not be discarded in the entirety. A thorough repair job, however, is called for. As for aesthetics and morality, they are doxa and cannot be determined uniquely by some system of objective metaphysics and finite collections of fact. Rand's opinions on art and other techne (such as house building) are just that -- opinions.

To properly have a discusion with Michael on this you should have completely quoted him. I will, below.

--Brant

Rational Individualist, Rational self-interest, Individual Rights--limited government libertarian heavily influenced by Objectivism


#123 Brant Gaede

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Posted 21 September 2008 - 10:42 AM

Except that core concepts in Objectivism are proven wrong if Evolution is correct.

Bob,

Which core concepts? Here are a few (in layman's terms):
Existence exists.
Things are what they are.
Conceptual consciousness is the human means of knowing them.

How about one stage up axiom-wise?
Entities are causes.
Life is self-generated action.
Man is an end in himself.

That's pretty good for starters. Which of those are proven wrong by evolution? If none, what do you have in mind?

(If it is tabula rasa, I agree with you. Biology influences many things in a human being, even on the conceptual level. Babies might be born tabula rasa in terms of developed content, but I agree that there are seeds of knowledge that develop on their own with growth and without volition. Volition itself is one of them.)

Michael


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#124 Ellen Stuttle

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Posted 21 September 2008 - 05:40 PM

On Larry Arnhart's blog Darwinian Conservative, one of the "anons" said that Harry Binswanger said recently at the ARI that Rand said in later years that she accepted evolution.


My central biographical question is, is it that likely that her later private views were so different from her stated public views, (I do see this as possible,) and moreso, is Binswanger's softening of what are largely considered embarrassments to be trusted? Are we likely to hear, for instance, that she admired and approved of Thatcher as a woman executive?


I would not trust Binswanger's report on anything involving Ayn Rand. [....]

About the two issues that Binswanger commented on, purportedly saying that in later life Rand came to accept the theory of evolution, and that she became more accepting of homosexuality: I doubt both statements, although I can't claim first-hand knowledge of her views in those years.

With regard to evolution, I would think that if the theory were explained to her more accurately than her previous understanding of it, she would have granted the probability of aspects of it, but still have insisted that what she believed to be the distance in kind, not just of degree, between the consciousness of even the higher animals and the consciousness of man, could not be accounted for by strict adherence to evolutionary theory.


Two points about this report of Harry's re evolution:

(1) He is the person he credits with having swayed AR on evolution.

(2) I see no evidence that Harry well understands the subject himself. As to the "distance in kind," he still holds to that himself, so he could hardly have been effective in convincing AR otherwise.

Ellen

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#125 Ted Keer

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Posted 21 September 2008 - 06:57 PM

(1) He is the person he credits with having swayed AR on evolution.


Ah, the "goal-directedness of biological action"? I was not very impressed with this, although I had hopes, and found it at least a step in the right direction so far as interest in the subject. Rand having assented to his arguments would certainly not amount to her having accepted the neo-Darwinian synthesis.

As for a difference in kind, I prefer to see man's rational faculty as emergent, but his underlying nature as animal. Man is an animal in the full sense. But just as a bird can do things that a reptile cannot, man can do things that other animals cannot. Man is an animal that is different from all animals. But he does not transcend animality. Animality is still his kind.



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#126 Xray

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Posted 08 April 2012 - 03:23 PM

http://www.lewrockwe...e/reese452.html
Charly Reese:
There is nothing wrong with a person believing that a dinosaur evolved into a canary, but there is also nothing wrong with someone believing that God created the first man and woman. I've never seen any physical evidence to support either belief, and one is no more improbable than the other.


Fred Hoyle actually believed that:

The fossil Archaeopteryx was a man-made fake.[17] This assertion was definitively refuted by, among other strong reasons, the presence of microcracks extending through the fossil into the surrounding rock. http://en.wikipedia....wiki/Fred_Hoyle



#127 Xray

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Posted 13 April 2012 - 11:50 AM

<...>

THE MISSING LINK
Part II, May 21, 1973
Vol II, no. 17,
The Ayn Rand Letter
<...>
pg. 5-6, the concluding paragraphs

I am not a student of the theory of evolution and, therefore, I am neither its supporter nor its opponent. But a certain hypothesis has haunted me for years; I want to stress that it is only a hypothesis. There is an enormous breach of continuity between man and all the other living species. The difference lies in the nature of man's consciousness, in its distinctive characteristic: his conceptual faculty. It is as if, after aeons of physiological development, the evolutionary process altered its course, and the higher stages of development focused primarily on the consciousness of living species, not their bodies. But the development of a man's consciousness is volitional: no matter what the innate degree of his intelligence, he must develop it, he must learn how to use it, he must become a human being by choice. What if he does not choose to? Then he becomes a transitional phenomenon - a desperate creature that struggles frantically against his own nature, longing for the effortless "safety" of an animal's consciousness, which he cannot recapture, and rebelling against a human consciousness, which he is afraid to achieve.

For years, scientists have been looking for a "missing link" between man and animals. Perhaps that missing link is the anti-conceptual mentality.
.


Here's what emerged into central clarity for me: She did not understand what the issue of the "missing link" was all about. It was basically a past-tense issue, though lots of details were still unclear, by the time she wrote that article -- had been for more than a decade. But she didn't understand what it was. You see, she so completely believed her own theory of the difference between animal and human consciousness, she was thinking of the issue in terms of a missing consciousness link. Instead, the issue was transitional forms, the gap in the fossil record. There was the search for transitional skeletons leading to the human anatomy. The gap had started to be filled in by the early 60s.

What the passage indicates is how far she was from understanding the theory of evolution, or the problems evolutionists were considering in regard to human evolution. So I think that whatever she "picked up" on the subject from readings and conversations, she must have been mostly not interested and the details weren't registering.
<...>


But can't what Rand calls "breach of continuity between man and all the other living species" be traced back to the human brain having biologically evolved to a stage where a higher developed degree of consciousness will invariably manifest itself, i. e. its development is not volitional?
For example, every human being whose brain is not impaired and which has matured to a certain stage will have developed consciousness of all humans having a limited life span. But this consciousness is in no way 'volitional'.

I think what Rand means by [man] "must become a human being by choice" is more a personal value judgement influenced by what she believed to be the "right" kind of consciousness: A consciousness based on and reflecting the "right" philosophy: Objectivism.

#128 whYNOT

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Posted 13 April 2012 - 03:58 PM

But this consciousness is in no way 'volitional'. I think what Rand means by [man] "must become a human being by choice" is more a personal value judgement influenced by what she believed to be the "right" kind of consciousness: A consciousness based on and reflecting the "right" philosophy: Objectivism.


Ouch.

There I was nodding to this (agreeing, agreeing - not falling asleep).

When AR was wrong, she didn't go half- way.

And then you have to spoil it with the conclusion. "The "right" philosophy: Objectivism."

Cheap shot, no?
"To know that we know what we know, and to know that we do not know what we do not know, that is true knowledge". Nicolaus Copernicus (An original objectivist) 1473-1543 ***No man may be smaller than his philosophy...***

#129 Xray

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Posted 14 April 2012 - 06:32 AM

But this consciousness is in no way 'volitional'. I think what Rand means by [man] "must become a human being by choice" is more a personal value judgement influenced by what she believed to be the "right" kind of consciousness: A consciousness based on and reflecting the "right" philosophy: Objectivism.


Ouch.

There I was nodding to this (agreeing, agreeing - not falling asleep).

When AR was wrong, she didn't go half- way.

And then you have to spoil it with the conclusion. "The "right" philosophy: Objectivism."

Cheap shot, no?

i was arguing from Rand's perspective in an attempt interpret sense into what she said (again, from her perspective, for no doubt she saw the Objectivist philosophy as the via regia to developing a 'fully rational mind').

It is interesting to also study interpretations of Rand's words by others, like for example here:
From Robert Campbell's blog on SOLO about Neil Parille's article "Ayn Rand and Evolution" http://rebirthofreas...Evolution.shtml

[Parille's article caused some controversy, R. Campbell's references to Diana Hsieh and Don Watkins are in the context of this controversy].

Robert Campbell (blog entry on on SOLO, Thu, 2006-04-06 17:01) http://www.solopassion.com/node/798
"I further note that Ms. Hsieh, following Mr. Watkins, avoids mentioning a section in Mr. Parille's essay that covers Rand's (self-described) speculation to the effect that some members of species Homo sapiens are, well, not fully evolved. While outwardly normal they are not entirely human, for they have not yet ascended beyond a "preconceptual" or "missing link" stage to a fully "conceptual" stage. (The speculation can be found not just in a journal entry from the mid-1940s, but also in the 1973 essay "The Missing Link," which was later included in a 1982 anthology.) The "missing link" speculation is more than a little weird, in my opinion, as well as hard to square with what can be learned from paleoanthropology or developmental psychology. In any event, Mr. Parille was well advised to draw attention to it. Should we regard the "missing link" speculation as the work of Ayn Rand at her best? Is it an isolated speculation, or does it have connections with her views about creators and parasites, leaders and followers, or human history and social dynamics? Mr. Parille doesn't offer an answer to those questions, but they are certainly worth asking."

Imo this interpretation also addresses Rand's moral value judgements possibly factoring in.

Here R. Campbell describes a stage of his own 'philosophical journey':

Robert Campbell (blog entry on on SOLO, Thu, 2006-04-06 17:01) http://www.solopassion.com/node/798
As for why an essay like Mr. Parille’s is worth writing, let me note that as a young Objectivist, I took it for granted that Rand's philosophy would square nicely with evolutionary theories (indeed, I assumed it would have to) and was thoroughly mystified to read her disclaimer in that 1973 essay, "The Missing Link." Around that same time, I read Mortimer Adler's book The Difference of Man and the Difference It Makes, which used to be recommended in the NBI days, and noted an undertow of doubt about the possibility that human cognitive capabilities are a product of evolution (indeed, Adler began his career with a book arguing for the fixity of species). So Mr. Parille's approach looks to me to be a completely legitimate one.


Here is another interesting exchange betwen Ellen Stuttle and Dragonfly:

I don't know what Rand thought about issues of biology and evolution, beyond what I've cited. I've never been able to make sense of her supposed "biological" basis, from the first time I read Atlas Shrugged, in early June 1961, when I was 18 1/2, since I was so well familiar with Darwinism by then, she seemed to me outmoded.

I've also found Rand's attitude with regard to evolution puzzling, it's as if she was uncomfortable with the idea. I think that her outlook was in essence religious, only did she replace the supernatural God by "Man", and she probably preferred to think that the existence of man was just a metaphysical given, some primary fact not to be probed deeper. One of her arguments against a God was the fact that the concept of God is insulting and degrading to man, it implies that the highest possible is not to be reached by man, that he is an inferior being who can only worship an ideal he will never achieve. This is of course not a rational argument, it is a religious argument, even if her god is not a supernatural being, but "man". On the other hand she must somehow have realized that explicit rejection of evolution would make her look bad as a proponent of rational thinking, which might explain her wishy-washy attitude with regard to evolution.



#130 whYNOT

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Posted 14 April 2012 - 09:03 AM

But this consciousness is in no way 'volitional'. I think what Rand means by [man] "must become a human being by choice" is more a personal value judgement influenced by what she believed to be the "right" kind of consciousness: A consciousness based on and reflecting the "right" philosophy: Objectivism.

Ouch. There I was nodding to this (agreeing, agreeing - not falling asleep). When AR was wrong, she didn't go half- way. And then you have to spoil it with the conclusion. "The "right" philosophy: Objectivism." Cheap shot, no?

i was arguing from Rand's perspective in an attempt interpret sense into what she said (again, from her perspective, for no doubt she saw the Objectivist philosophy as the via regia to developing a 'fully rational mind'). It is interesting to also study interpretations of Rand's words by others, like for example here: From Robert Campbell's blog on SOLO about Neil Parille's article "Ayn Rand and Evolution" http://rebirthofreas...Evolution.shtml

[Parille's article caused some controversy, R. Campbell's references to Diana Hsieh and Don Watkins are in the context of this controversy]. Robert Campbell (blog entry on on SOLO, Thu, 2006-04-06 17:01) http://www.solopassion.com/node/798 "I further note that Ms. Hsieh, following Mr. Watkins, avoids mentioning a section in Mr. Parille's essay that covers Rand's (self-described) speculation to the effect that some members of species Homo sapiens are, well, not fully evolved. While outwardly normal they are not entirely human, for they have not yet ascended beyond a "preconceptual" or "missing link" stage to a fully "conceptual" stage. (The speculation can be found not just in a journal entry from the mid-1940s, but also in the 1973 essay "The Missing Link," which was later included in a 1982 anthology.) The "missing link" speculation is more than a little weird, in my opinion, as well as hard to square with what can be learned from paleoanthropology or developmental psychology. In any event, Mr. Parille was well advised to draw attention to it. Should we regard the "missing link" speculation as the work of Ayn Rand at her best? Is it an isolated speculation, or does it have connections with her views about creators and parasites, leaders and followers, or human history and social dynamics? Mr. Parille doesn't offer an answer to those questions, but they are certainly worth asking."

Imo this interpretation also addresses Rand's moral value judgements possibly factoring in.


Xray,

I really do not understand how Rand correlated Man's (qua man) emergent consciousness with
each individual's conceptual, volitional, faculty. That is a distinction she should have seen, of all people.
It appears she didn't grasp the missing link theory, and placed her own hypothesis upon it, rationalistically.
Even with the advantage of further knowledge and hindsight today, this is astonishing.

Wrong in one place, doesn't mean wrong everywhere. Your argument is a non sequitur, which you repeat now
with "for no doubt she saw the Objectivist philosophy as the via regia to developing a 'fully rational mind'.
Cart before horse. Developing a rational mind is the primary. Not Objectivism, per se. She clearly stated
and inferred this constantly.

"I think what Rand means by [man] "must become ahuman being by choice" is more a personal
value judgment influenced by what she believed to be the "right" kind of consciousness:
a consciousness based on and reflecting the "right" philosophy: Objectivism." [Xray]

-- is more non-sequitur, with strawman. You might disagree with her 'consciousness by volition' position -
or indeed, against all evidence, with her entire concept-formation epistemology - but her singular error in evolution and the missing-link, is disconnected from it, and does not prove it wrong.

"This interpretation addresses Rand's moral value judgments possibly factoring in". [Xray]

--Rationalistic, possibly rationalizing too, I'd agree with you. However, "moral value judgment"?
I think it was an epistemic and metaphysical error.
"To know that we know what we know, and to know that we do not know what we do not know, that is true knowledge". Nicolaus Copernicus (An original objectivist) 1473-1543 ***No man may be smaller than his philosophy...***




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