George H. Smith

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Everything posted by George H. Smith

  1. Laure, Thanks for the kind remarks about Atheism: the Case Against God. It sometimes amazes me that the book has remained in print for 33 years, especially considering that I wrote most of it when I was 23. The writing of it, which took 14 months, spanned a period that was the most exhilarating of my life. In 1971, I left the University of Arizona and moved to Hollywood; this was a time when Southern California was an intellectual center for Objectivists and libertarians; the area was buzzing with activity, and I needed only to hop on my Yamaha 250 cc "two banger" and drive to various universities and meetings to rub shoulders with philosophers and other academics and activists who generally shared my enthusiasm and optimism for the future of reason and freedom. For libertarians and Objectivists, L.A. in the early seventies was akin to the Paris described by Hemmingway in A Moveable Feast. Some of the younger generation's best and brighest were there, such as Roy Childs and Jeff Riggenbach, as well as more established icons of the movement, such as the Brandens and John Hospers. You could easily attend two or more meetings or lectures per week, if you were so inclined, or you could print up some flyers, pass them around, and give your own lectures -- as I frequently did on such topics as "A History of Greek philosophy," "A Critique of Skepticism," "The Philosophy of History," "Objectivism as a Religion," and more. And believe it or not, you could usually get ten people or more to show up and thereby earn a few bucks. Then there was the office of Academic Associates on Melrose, run by Bob Berole and Barbara Branden, where you could stop by and often meet interesting people -- I believe I first met Jeff Riggenbach there -- and perhaps play a game of chess with the amiable stock room guy who should have been shipping books instead. And you could always submit some reviews for AA "Book News" and, if they were accepted, earn $25 a pop and learn a lot about writing from the expert editing of Barbara Branden. While writing ATCAG, I lived in the same Hollywood apartment building (near Selma and Highland) as the late, great Roy Childs, so we saw each other every day. Roy was busy writing his magnum opus against the state (published as a multi-part article in "The Individualist"), while I was busy writing my magnum opus against god -- so between the two of us we figured we pretty much had the enemies of freedom and reason covered. Those many hours I spent with Roy, Jeff (often at an IHOP on Sunset around 3 a.m., where we discussed literature and philosophy and pondered other deep thoughts), and other serious intellectuals were among the most intellectually productive of my life. It was a great time to be alive. Of course, we were almost always broke, but that didn't seem to matter. Ghs
  2. Ellen Stuttle wrote: "Oh. My. God. He snitched from George??!! That really takes the cake. (I'm cracking up already anticipating Ghs-style witticisms upon his hearing of this.)" "Back in awhile with the page reference." I've been too busy to keep abreast of threads, but Ellen alerted me to the issue of Victor's plagiarism. Victor's plagiarism is even more extensive than was originally indicated in the highlighted portions in his post from March 18, 2007; virtually his entire post is taken, nearly verbaim, from my book, *Atheism: The Case Against God.* The highlighted portion (subsequently quoted by other posters) is from pages 292-3 of ATCAG. Rather than bore readers with more of the same, I will merely cite two additional examples, which immediately follow the highlighted passages: Victor: "Man’s purposive nature means that man is goal-directed, that he is not bound to perceptual, range-of-the-moment responses. Man faces alternative and he is free to choose among them---if he conceptualizes his choice to think in terms of a purpose. A value preference necessarily implies a goal or end—that being: the object, process or state that is valued." ATCAG, p. 293: "Man's purposive nature means that man is goal-directed, that he is not (and cannot be) bound to perceptual, range-of-the-moment responses. Since man is faced with alternatives, and since he is free to choose among them, if he conceptualizes his choice he must think in terms of a purpose. A value preference (as it applies to and motivates human action) necessarily implies a goal or end -- namely, the object, process, or state that is valued." Victor: A summary: "A, man’s conceptual capacity is his ability to think in terms of principles. B, man’s volition necessitates that he think in terms of principles C, man’s purposiveness determines the content of those principles." ATCAG, p. 293: "To summarize these elements: man's conceptual capacity is his ability to think in terms of principles; man's volition necessitates that he think in terms of principles; and man's purposiveness determines the content of those principles." I'm afraid I don't have a witty response to this and similar incidents. I find the whole thing truly sad. I met Victor at a conference in Canada around five years ago, and I liked him a good deal. Moreover, I was very impressed with his caricatures of famous persons -- so much so that I recommended to Andrea Rich that she commission Victor to do a calendar for Laissez-Faire Books that featured similar caricatures of famous libertarian personalities. I thought this would be a popular item (especially since I didn't see any cruelty or vindictiveness in Victor's drawings), but nothing apparently came of this plan. I just don't understand why Victor would resort to such flagrant plagiarism. He could easily credit quotations from sources he agrees with, or he could have paraphrased the same ideas in his own words. He is an intelligent fellow, so I don't see any point to this pathetic business -- especially since ATCAG is pretty well known among Objectivist-types, and someone was bound, sooner or later, to notice the plagiarism. I am thus more dumbfounded and saddened than I am angry or offended. I have to think that there is more going on here that meets the eye. I know that Victor has been banned from posting here, but if he is still reading posts and happens to read this one, and if he would care to discuss this issue with me offlist, he can reach me at smikro@earthlink.net. Ghs
  3. I'm afraid I don't remember our conversation. The philosophic importance of "identity" is something I got from Rand. Actually, the importance of identity as applied to the concept of God is something I got from Nathaniel Branden's lecture on "The Concept of God," which is a lecture in his "Basic Principles of Objectivism" series. (I footnote this lecture on p. 41 of ATCAG.) Our conversation may have pertained specifically to the negative way, which is the attempt to define "god" solely in terms of negative characteristics. If so, I was correct to say that I originally became aware of the problems in this approach from Feuerbach; I read The Essence of Christianity (which I highly recommend) while in high school, during my "freethought" days, before I had read anything by Rand. The discussion by Antony Flew in God and Philosophy also influenced me. Many people have asked why I didn't include a discussion of the Ontological Argument in ATCAG. The major reason is that ATCAG was aimed at a general audience, and I regarded the Ontological Argument as a technical argument that is of interest only to professional philosophers and theologians. A related reason is that the argument never made much sense to me. Most arguments for the existence of God have at least a superficial plausibility, but when most people hear the Ontological Argument they react with, "Huh?" It takes a while just to explain the philosophical context of conceptual realism that gave the Ontological Argument some credibility when it was first proposed by Anselm. Nevertheless, in retrospect, I wish I had included a discussion of it in ATCAG, so I attempted to remedy this oversight by writing an entire chapter on it ("Metaphysical Muddles") in Why Atheism? Ghs
  4. My favorite "message" T-shirt was one I purchased many years ago in a speciality shop near UCLA. It sticks in my mind because I visited Barbara Branden once while wearing it. It made her laugh, shake her head, and say something to the effect of "That about sums it up." The message read: "Life is an audition." My second favorite T-Shirt was an elaborate Monthy Python shirt, one that was specially designed for their final performance at the Hollywood Bowl. This performance is sometimes played on cable television; if you ever see it, look for me in the audience. Having been a Python fan for decades, ever since their shows were originally aired on PBS, I sometimes wonder what this says about my "sense of life." I have encountered many Objectivist-types who are dedicated Python fans, so maybe there is some kind of logical connection. Has anything substantial ever been written on the Objectivist view of humor? Ghs (Note from Administrator: This post has been copied from here.)
  5. In 1974, shortly after my book was published, I debated Bourbon Street Bob Harrington on the "Tomorrow Show," hosted by Tom Snyder. Snyder interviewed me alone for the first 20 minutes, after which Bourbon Street Bob joined in for the rest of the hour. Although I cannot positively confirm this, I heard that poor Bob was caught with his pants down in a motel room with an underage girl. After his wife divorced him and he left the ministry, he became a car salesman. I also heard that he attempted to make a comeback (with the ministry, not with underage girls) some years later, but that the attempt fizzled out. Except for a brief interruption after Nash Publishing went belly-up (actually, it was absorbed by "Books for Libraries," which dropped a number of controversial titles from its list), ATCAG has remained in print since it was first published in 1974. This was the hardcover edition published by Nash. For some reason, the Prometheus paperback does not mention the original edition, which has left some people with the impression that the book was published several years later than it actually was. For those interested in book trivia, here are a few more details: My original contract with Ed Nash (who originally envisioned more of a monograph than a book) was for 4 months; in fact, the mansuscript took 14 months of full-time writing to complete. As I explain in "My Path to Atheism" (in Atheism, Ayn Rand, and other Heresies), the opportunity to write the book was quite accidental. I was due to leave Los Angeles to return to the University of Arizona, but Roy Childs (whom I had recently met) didn't want to lose his partner in conversation. Roy knew of a monograph (titled The Case for Atheism) that I had written and published (under the aegis of the UA Students of Objectivism) while I was in college. Roy used this to set me up with Ed Nash, and after that it took less than a week for me to have a contract in hand, signed, and ready to go. This kept me in L.A. for Roy's amusement. I got an advance of $2150 -- not much to live on for 14 months, to say the least. Nash had originally offered $2000, but I got him to throw in an additional $150 so I could purchase a typewriter. I ended up with Nathaniel Branden's Adler typewriter -- the same typewriter that he had used to write some of his articles during his years with Rand. I was very fond of that massive hunk of German engineering, which had a weight that was roughly equivalent to a Buick, both because of its reliability and its interesting provenance. The original title of the book was the same as my earlier monograph, i.e., The Case for Atheism. When I mentioned this title to Nathaniel Branden, he said that he liked the title The Case Against God better; he thought it was more dramatic. I agreed, but when I mentioned this new title to Sylvia Cross (my editor at Nash), she said that she wanted to have the word "atheism" somewhere in the title. I immediately said, "Well, how about Atheism: The Case Against God -- and that was that. The original print run was 4500 copies. All except around 700 of these were sold in pre-publication, so the hardcover version is somewhat rare. I know of a dealer in Los Angeles who sold a copy in good condition (with dustjacket) for $200, and that was over ten years ago. Ghs (Note from Administrator: This post has been copied from here.)
  6. Well, I have experienced one disturbing tendency. I find myself, more or less against my will, mentally composing a poem. It begins: "How do I hate the Brandens? Let me count the ways." Maybe I caught a virus or something. Let us hope it progresses no further than this. Ghs (Note from Administrator: This post has been copied from here.)
  7. I wish to thank everyone for the kind remarks and warm greetings. I am beginning to believe that I have found safe harbor -- that no one will ask me if I have read PARC. Well, after being hounded on SOLO, I finally read the damned thing a few weeks ago. I was repeatedly assured this would result in a profound personal transformation, but no such transformation occurred. I am the same person I was before I read the book. In case anyone is puzzled by this, I have an explanation, to wit: After getting through the first few chapters of PARC, I went to my basement to do some laundry. There I found a humanoid-shaped "pod" that looked as if were made of styrofoam. Well, at first I assumed that this pod had been placed there by my landlord, who uses my basement to store a lot of miscellaneous junk, so I didn't think much about it. But later, after I had read a few more chapters and returned to the basement to use the dryer, I noticed that this pod had taken on some distinctive facial characteristics that looked a lot like me. Naturally, I found this quite disturbing, and something told me I should do something about the pod before I fell asleep. I therefore took a rake, hacked the pod to pieces, and disposed of them. I believe that, had I not destroyed the pod, I would have become a changed man. But I discovered it in time, so here I am -- the same person I was before reading PARC. Ghs (Note from Administrator: This post has been copied from here.)
  8. I don't know if I am THE George Smith, but I am certainly THAT George Smith. I'm glad you enjoyed ATCAG. Unfortunately, my transformational powers appear to be spent; nowadays I mainly annoy people. Ghs (Note from Administrator: This post has been copied from here.)
  9. Jeeez -- a few unfortunate incidents with my chainsaw many years ago, and people never let you forget. Ghs (Note from Administrator: This post has been copied from here.)
  10. My favorite "message" T-shirt was one I purchased many years ago in a speciality shop near UCLA. It sticks in my mind because I visited Barbara Branden once while wearing it. It made her laugh, shake her head, and say something to the effect of "That about sums it up." The message read: "Life is an audition." My second favorite T-Shirt was an elaborate Monthy Python shirt, one that was specially designed for their final performance at the Hollywood Bowl. This performance is sometimes played on cable television; if you ever see it, look for me in the audience. Having been a Python fan for decades, ever since their shows were originally aired on PBS, I sometimes wonder what this says about my "sense of life." I have encountered many Objectivist-types who are dedicated Python fans, so maybe there is some kind of logical connection. Has anything substantial ever been written on the Objectivist view of humor? Ghs
  11. In 1974, shortly after my book was published, I debated Bourbon Street Bob Harrington on the "Tomorrow Show," hosted by Tom Snyder. Snyder interviewed me alone for the first 20 minutes, after which Bourbon Street Bob joined in for the rest of the hour. Although I cannot positively confirm this, I heard that poor Bob was caught with his pants down in a motel room with an underage girl. After his wife divorced him and he left the ministry, he became a car salesman. I also heard that he attempted to make a comeback (with the ministry, not with underage girls) some years later, but that the attempt fizzled out. Except for a brief interruption after Nash Publishing went belly-up (actually, it was absorbed by "Books for Libraries," which dropped a number of controversial titles from its list), ATCAG has remained in print since it was first published in 1974. This was the hardcover edition published by Nash. For some reason, the Prometheus paperback does not mention the original edition, which has left some people with the impression that the book was published several years later than it actually was. For those interested in book trivia, here are a few more details: My original contract with Ed Nash (who originally envisioned more of a monograph than a book) was for 4 months; in fact, the mansuscript took 14 months of full-time writing to complete. As I explain in "My Path to Atheism" (in Atheism, Ayn Rand, and other Heresies), the opportunity to write the book was quite accidental. I was due to leave Los Angeles to return to the University of Arizona, but Roy Childs (whom I had recently met) didn't want to lose his partner in conversation. Roy knew of a monograph (titled The Case for Atheism) that I had written and published (under the aegis of the UA Students of Objectivism) while I was in college. Roy used this to set me up with Ed Nash, and after that it took less than a week for me to have a contract in hand, signed, and ready to go. This kept me in L.A. for Roy's amusement. I got an advance of $2150 -- not much to live on for 14 months, to say the least. Nash had originally offered $2000, but I got him to throw in an additional $150 so I could purchase a typewriter. I ended up with Nathaniel Branden's Adler typewriter -- the same typewriter that he had used to write some of his articles during his years with Rand. I was very fond of that massive hunk of German engineering, which had a weight that was roughly equivalent to a Buick, both because of its reliability and its interesting provenance. The original title of the book was the same as my earlier monograph, i.e., The Case for Atheism. When I mentioned this title to Nathaniel Branden, he said that he liked the title The Case Against God better; he thought it was more dramatic. I agreed, but when I mentioned this new title to Sylvia Cross (my editor at Nash), she said that she wanted to have the word "atheism" somewhere in the title. I immediately said, "Well, how about Atheism: The Case Against God -- and that was that. The original print run was 4500 copies. All except around 700 of these were sold in pre-publication, so the hardcover version is somewhat rare. I know of a dealer in Los Angeles who sold a copy in good condition (with dustjacket) for $200, and that was over ten years ago. Ghs
  12. Well, I have experienced one disturbing tendency. I find myself, more or less against my will, mentally composing a poem. It begins: "How do I hate the Brandens? Let me count the ways." Maybe I caught a virus or something. Let us hope it progresses no further than this. Ghs
  13. I wish to thank everyone for the kind remarks and warm greetings. I am beginning to believe that I have found safe harbor -- that no one will ask me if I have read PARC. Well, after being hounded on SOLO, I finally read the damned thing a few weeks ago. I was repeatedly assured this would result in a profound personal transformation, but no such transformation occurred. I am the same person I was before I read the book. In case anyone is puzzled by this, I have an explanation, to wit: After getting through the first few chapters of PARC, I went to my basement to do some laundry. There I found a humanoid-shaped "pod" that looked as if were made of styrofoam. Well, at first I assumed that this pod had been placed there by my landlord, who uses my basement to store a lot of miscellaneous junk, so I didn't think much about it. But later, after I had read a few more chapters and returned to the basement to use the dryer, I noticed that this pod had taken on some distinctive facial characteristics that looked a lot like me. Naturally, I found this quite disturbing, and something told me I should do something about the pod before I fell asleep. I therefore took a rake, hacked the pod to pieces, and disposed of them. I believe that, had I not destroyed the pod, I would have become a changed man. But I discovered it in time, so here I am -- the same person I was before reading PARC. Ghs
  14. I don't know if I am THE George Smith, but I am certainly THAT George Smith. I'm glad you enjoyed ATCAG. Unfortunately, my transformational powers appear to be spent; nowadays I mainly annoy people. Ghs
  15. Jeeez -- a few unfortunate incidents with my chainsaw many years ago, and people never let you forget. Ghs