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This is going to be a long diary. The first part will be about how I came to be an Atheist and the second section will discuss some of the differences between two major branches in Atheism the Ayn Rand Objectivism version and the more popular and common Humanism that I practice. If you don't care about my journey than feel free to skip below the fold...

All my life I've been working toward becoming an Atheist and it finally took in the early part of the new Millennium. My father was a strong and vocal Atheist and I always wondered how he could be so sure. I dabbled in Buddhism, Taoism and read a fair amount about Christianity. My favorite form of fiction has always been that which manages to blend religion and science fiction as the great author Roger Zelazny did so well. His two seminal works, Lord of Light and Creatures of Light and Darkness helped shaped my early philosophy as an adult and sent me on the road to learning more. Robert Heinlein also was an early and powerful force in creating my belief structure, but I ended up outgrowing him.

After Dad passed away suddenly in January 1999 I found myself adrift and missing my anchor. Dad and I were very close, doing lunch weekly for most of the previous decade. After my hearing loss, in 1996, Dad carried me at one of the lowest points in my life. After his influence suddenly disappeared from my life I found myself wanting to learn more about Dad's conviction. As I said, Dad was an Atheist and a card carrying member of the AHA. He had long before accepted that we are all one and done. There ain't no god; there ain't no afterlife; there's only this life then we're worm food.

Like many other people it was hard for me to make that leap and accept that truth because the fear of running out of time is strong. The survival instinct is powerful in all animals and the self-aware human animal knows the end is coming. Everywhere we turn, people are promising us life everlasting and eternal joy. Join the right religion and do something special and when you die there will be hoards of hot nubile virgins just waiting to do whatever you tell them. And of course for those who don't believe, there's that flaming pit of eternal agony waiting for you. It isn't easy being an Atheist we don't get much positive press and many of us still live in the closet afraid to come out to friends and family though in recent years it's becoming more common thanks to some positive marketing work by the AHA and writers like Richard Dawkins.

For me the final steps in accepting there is no god and that the universe is a purely natural phenomenon came from two sources. One was an article my sister found on how to view our death from a natural perspective. In short it eloquently stated that death is merely our prepaid admission to the wonderful ride we call life. If you don't buy the ticket, you can't ride the ride and eventually everyone has to turn that ticket in. The second was an article which had a purely natural explanation for the beginning of the Universe. One little random quantum fluctuation, under the right conditions and pop, 13+ billion years later, here I sit at my keyboard typing to all of you. Between those two formative articles as well as some other explorations plus my memories of conversations with and articles/magazines from Dad through the years I was finally able to put aside my dabbling with other religions and accept that I was an Atheist.

Edit: It turns out the article my sister sent me was actually from Dad (go figure) and she managed to dig it up and then find a link to it online. Isn't the Internet wonderful? So here's that first article on how to think about our purely natural and inevitable death.

Recently Atheism is back in the news and unfortunately much of what's being presented is Ayn Rand's version. I admit I've never read her books. I've never done more than peruse quotes from Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. I have no desire to do so either. However, the recent selection of Paul Ryan for GOP VP nominee brings Ayn to the forefront of any discussion on politics, libertarianism and Atheism and thus I have been doing some research on her writings and attempting to find out exactly what the hubbub is all about.

In a short article summarizing her beliefs Ayn states:

Man—every man—is an end in himself, not the means to the ends of others. He must exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself. The pursuit of his own rational self-interest and of his own happiness is the highest moral purpose of his life.
This is the core of Objectivism and the basic premise behind Libertarianism. Everyone get their own and don't worry about the other guy. I do agree that seeking one's own happiness is important, but the simple fact is the rest is pure crap. It doesn't even stand up to scientific analysis because if you truly believe that humans are a natural creature caused by billions of years of evolution than you have to reject this philosophy on the surface because humans are primates and primates are pack animals. The one thing humans have done is expand the concept of what constitutes "our pack". In fact, we are as close as ever to the day when we view all the humans in the the whole world as one pack. Pack animals (and primates in particular) don't only look out for themselves. They all eat. They all drink. No animal goes hungry or thirsty and the sick get looked after (at least in primate groups).

Humanism on the other hand accepts those facts and then takes them another step forward. In the Humanist Manifesto it states:

In the place of the old attitudes involved in worship and prayer the humanist finds his religious emotions expressed in a heightened sense of personal life and in a cooperative effort to promote social well-being.
and
We assert that humanism will: (a) affirm life rather than deny it; (b) seek to elicit the possibilities of life, not flee from them; and (c) endeavor to establish the conditions of a satisfactory life for all, not merely for the few. By this positive morale and intention humanism will be guided, and from this perspective and alignment the techniques and efforts of humanism will flow.
Those choices are pretty self explanatory, Objectivism calls for everyone to watch out for themselves first, last and always while Humanism calls for people to work together to help each other out and act cooperatively. In fact one of the driving aspects of Humanism is to argue that it doesn't take god to be good, that ethics have been around since the first Hominid evolved and will continue to be around long after humans have gone extinct or evolved into whatever comes next. Objectivism clearly doesn't get that and even argues for laissez-faire capitalism.

From that above linked article:

The ideal political-economic system is laissez-faire capitalism. It is a system where men deal with one another, not as victims and executioners, nor as masters and slaves, but as traders, by free, voluntary exchange to mutual benefit. It is a system where no man may obtain any values from others by resorting to physical force, and no man may initiate the use of physical force against others. The government acts only as a policeman that protects man’s rights; it uses physical force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use, such as criminals or foreign invaders. In a system of full capitalism, there should be (but, historically, has not yet been) a complete separation of state and economics, in the same way and for the same reasons as the separation of state and church.
Now I imagine this is the section that really draws in the small government/Libertarian crowd. I also imagine it's the part that caused Paul Ryan to claim Ayn was a major driving force in his philosopy until he disavowed her this past spring after the Catholic Church called him out on the nasty way his budget hammered the poorest Americans. The simplest point of all though is when you combine self interest with little government oversight into economic transactions, very shortly the rich run off with all the money and leave the poor to fend for themselves. We've seen this exact situation play out in the last few decades as we've cut back regulations and lowered taxes and watched the rich get VERY rich while the middle class has taken hit after hit after hit.

Now compare that to the Humanist philosophy:

The humanists are firmly convinced that existing acquisitive and profit-motivated society has shown itself to be inadequate and that a radical change in methods, controls, and motives must be instituted. A socialized and cooperative economic order must be established to the end that the equitable distribution of the means of life be possible. The goal of humanism is a free and universal society in which people voluntarily and intelligently cooperate for the common good. Humanists demand a shared life in a shared world.
It's almost like the rallying cry for the 99% and the polar opposite from the "everyone get their own" version of Atheism that Rand was peddling. In addition, Humanism  works best with a strong secular government that promotes innovation, ethics and fairness.

This is the basic difference between Humanism and Objectivism. One asks us to be part of a cooperative, collective society where everyone has a chance and the other calls for everyone to do what they want so long as they get theirs and for the government to let that happen. While I do agree people and the government should only be using force in retaliation to force used upon us, I cannot condone the sad selfish world that Ayn Rand (and at least at one time Paul Ryan) believed in. Just because I don't believe in god doesn't mean I don't care and that's not only because I'm a Humanist, it's because it's the best way for our species to advance and fulfill our destiny to colonize the solar system and then outward to the stars. As an Atheist I hope someday we outgrow the need to put our faith in god first and learn to trust in ourselves, but I also hope believers can come to accept that not all Atheists are Ayn Rand acolytes and maybe we can find a way to reach across the aisle and build a better planet for us all.

Originally posted to justjim35 on Tue Aug 14, 2012 at 08:01 PM PDT.

Also republished by Street Prophets and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Ryan's philosophy is "obstructivism". (7+ / 0-)

    You can't make this stuff up.

    by David54 on Tue Aug 14, 2012 at 09:00:42 PM PDT

  •  One of the best diaries today on the hot topic of (14+ / 0-)

    Ayn Rand.  Well done!  Recced.

    I commented in another diary, trying to explain Ayn Rand's use of the word collectivism and her opposition to it.  On the one hand, when she compares collectivism to racism and nationalism and certain other isms, she makes a good case.  From there she jumps ahead to suggest a slippery slope from collectivism to Nazis and Soviet communism and the evils thereof.  However, humanism poses a real problem for that, because in humanism, all humans are part of the collective.  Objectivism's definition of evil may seem like a good and adequate one when it can encompass such things as the Nazis, but when it includes humanism at the same level of evil, it quickly stops making any sense.

  •  catching lazy Randians in their own trap: (24+ / 0-)

    Most of Rand's followers are engaging in the intellectual and practical laziness of expecting something for nothing.

    In the quote below, the first sentence is ontological: Rand's statement of "what is."  The second sentence is an ethical injunction: thou shalt do X, thou shalt not do Y.  The third sentence is teleological: a statement of final goals.

    "Man—every man—is an end in himself, not the means to the ends of others. He must exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself. The pursuit of his own rational self-interest and of his own happiness is the highest moral purpose of his life."

    And here we catch lazy Randians by the barn-mice dozen:

    We frequently hear Randians going on and on and ever onward about the first half of Rand's ethical injunction:  "neither sacrificing himself to others," or to state it in conventional form, "thou shalt not sacrifice thyself to others."  This is the core expression of Randian selfishness, that grants Rand's followers open license to disregard others in their pursuit of self.

    But take a look at the second half of Rand's ethical injunction, "nor sacrificing others to himself," or to state it in conventional terms, "Thou shalt not sacrifice others to thyself."  This point is a check and balance on the first point.  It obligates Randians to not exploit others.  

    Yet do Randians go on and on and forever onward about that?  Hell no.  Because if they did, they would find themselves in a logical bind.  They would have to set limits on their own self-satisfaction, in order to not "sacrifice others."  

    They would have to refrain from all forms of fraud, they would have to pay their employees dignified wages, they would not impose externalized costs (including ecological externalities) on others.  In short, they would have to work harder and take less, in order to not sacrifice others for their own benefit.  

    Smart business owners & managers know this and refer to "enlightened self-interest" and "responsible corporate behavior."  Ethically consistent libertarians do likewise, and are willing to live with such laws and regulations as prove necessary to prevent "sacrificing others."

    But the lazy ones look only at the payoffs of selfishness, and not at the efforts of responsible behavior toward others.  

    Springing the trap.  

    We can refer to Rand's quote, ask them if they agree with it, and then ask them, pointedly and repeatedly and in increasing degrees of detail, what steps they believe are necessary to prevent "sacrificing others."  And we can refer to the recent financial collapse and fraud scandals, to ask them in detail what steps they are willing to accept when the empirical facts make clear that self-regulation has failed to the point of crashing the economy.  

    Key phrases that come directly from libertarianism or are a direct outgrowth of it (you can shift the debate from "objectivism" to "libertarianism" and proceed with these):

    "Crimes of force or fraud."  The phrase that is the basis of libertarian ideas of criminal justice.  The law should only prohibit crimes that involve thwarting the free will of others and taking from others, either by direct harm (murder, rape, etc.) or threats of harm (robbery, extortion, etc.), or by cunning and trickery (cons and scams).  

    "Consenting adult transactions."  Everything is permissible between freely consenting adults.  Handing over your wallet to a robber is not a "freely consenting" transaction to avoid getting stabbed or shot.  Signing documents that contain cleverly hidden lies is not a "freely consenting" financial transaction.

    "Externalities constitute forms of force and fraud, because they violate the principle of consenting adult transactions."  Externalities are costs imposed on third parties against their will: such as ecological damage.  

    Then you can shift back to Rand and ask, for example, "how is it not sacrificing others to write fraudulent mortgages or impose ecological externalities that harm their health?"

    Get in practice by taking this stuff to Randian and libertarian blogs, and then you're ready to use it in debates and arguements that could shift votes.  

    "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

    by G2geek on Tue Aug 14, 2012 at 09:12:25 PM PDT

    •  Trapping libertarians... (17+ / 0-)

      It all depends on how dogmatic they insist on being.  I posted this in one of the other myriad Rand diaries today:

      Did a predatory lender dupe you..." etc. (0+ / 0-)

      Ayn Rand was more a godmother to the libertarian movement than to modern conservatism.  I was involved in libertarianism deeply and long enough that I can tell you how they would try to answer all that.  (And no, this is not MY answer):

      "Did a predatory lender dupe you into taking a sub-prime mortgage that you couldn't afford, leaving you with balloon payments that forced you into foreclosure?"

      The answer to that and most of the others is a cop-out with the following pattern: "None of this would have happened if it weren't for GOVERNMENT INTERFERENCE IN THE PURE CAPITALIST SYSTEM!"

      There was a time when I might have actually believed that.  I sat through seminars where they taught us how, for instance, monopolies aren't even POSSIBLE under REAL capitalism because natural market forces would prevent it, and that it's only the government that creates the conditions for which real monopolies can exist.  There were a million variations on this argument, only with it applied to different situations.

      For instance, they might say, "Under a REAL lassez-faire capitalist system without any of those nasty regulators, market forces would create more options for borrowers, and people would choose to borrow money from reputable lenders, thus making them more profitable and driving out the bad ones, bleh bleh..."

      Which is all bullshit.  Sometimes these arguments make good sense, actually.  But in the milieu in which I was immersed in with the true believers, forcing every problem into this kind of template was like the standard exercise.  For all Ayn Rand's talk about importance of rationality, for all the libertarian movement belabors and enshrines rationalism, at that ideological level, it's actually a very mystical, almost religious movement with its own dogma which, if you question it, they will just look at you with their mouth open as if they can't believe you would say something sooooo wrong!  

      And thus we get the creation of a whole alternative theory of how economies work that throws out all the unpleasant and dissonant lessons of the Great Depression and the rest of history and substitutes its own history, its own conclusions, its own starting premises which contaminate the rest of the discussion so they're always right, even when they are wrong.

      This alternative economics (I'm looking at you, Fresh-Water Economists!) is more appealing to big banks, who would rather listen first to an economist who thinks the most important thing for fixing a bad economy is paying off the big banks.  You can imagine the banker hearing this from the economist, nodding his head, and saying, "You know, I always thought that was probably the right solution, too.  Paying me first is an excellent idea!  Here's a big check for your think tank!"

      (And good to see you again, G2.  Check out my latest mad philosophy rant.)
      •  it's the "No true Scotsman" fallacy: (11+ / 0-)

        "No true laissez-faire system..." is precisely equivalent to what dogmatic Marxists do in making excuses for Stalin and Mao.

        "That wasn't real socialism."

        Right.

        All of them live in a world where theoretical ideals are determinative, and humans always behave accordingly (and for those humans who don't behave accordingly, we have "thought reform camps").  

        The answer to that stuff is to just say, derisively, "be realistic!"

        If pressed, "you sound like a silly undergrad Marxist."

        "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

        by G2geek on Tue Aug 14, 2012 at 09:53:47 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  You'd have to write letters to economics journals, (10+ / 0-)

          then.  The last time I heard this "it's because of big government" bullshit was just a week or two ago in a link through Atrios's Eschaton, a link to a conservative economic journal that explained away the problems of late 2008 not on the lack of regulation but on the government for overregulating in previous years.

          They really do believe this, deep down, so deep you can't discuss it rationally (and they love that word, rational).  Because they are so certain of the purity of the unregulated market, they start from that premise and it becomes a difficult burden at times, to find the right reason, but they always find one.  And they are sincere.  Just really fucking stupid.  And more powerful than you and me.

          They ruined the economy of EU in record time.  You would think they would learn a lesson or two from that, might have changed their mind about at least a few tiny things, maybe a few creeping doubts to temper their advice, but these are people constitutionally INCAPABLE of learning from their mistakes because their most basic sense is that this thing they believe in, laissez-faire, is always right and all other truths derive from that.

          Now those are the SINCERE ones. Then there are the insincere ones.  I have a bug up my ass about Halliburton and Blackwater.  In one alternate universe were they good examples of free enterprise?  They were purely creations of crony capitalism.  In the case of Haliburton, their ex-CEO was vice president.  The CEO of Blackwater was married into the DeVos family, the puppetmasters of the Republican Party.  What is Laissez-faire about that?  

          Any "libertarian" conservative that didn't scream bloody murder about that is just a shill, because even Ayn Rand would have had a hemorrhage over it.  (I think -- I can't channel her).  

          They're laissez-faire when it benefits them, and they only pretend to be laissez-faire when it benefits them not to be.

          •  Greenspan was a former True Believer. (5+ / 0-)

            He was also a personal friend of Ayn Rand, and even participated in editing her manuscripts.  He was ultimately forced to admit, in front of Congress and television cameras, that his pet theory didn't work.  

            It would be interesting to interrogate a bunch of 'em under oath and in front of television cameras, to see how many are able to get over their dogma and deal with what really happened.  

            The disingenuous ones IMHO are just scum with excuses, and ought to be locked up for fraud.  They will say anything to justify their depredations of others, and they are too big a hazard to the general public to be allowed to run around free.

            "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

            by G2geek on Tue Aug 14, 2012 at 11:06:12 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I'm all for locking 'em up. (7+ / 0-)

              I think I still have the original Capitalism The Unknown Ideal in boxes somewhere.  That was way back when I still believed that shit.  Greenspan contributed at least one chapter, one about the necessity of returning to the gold standard.  He might also have been the one that blamed the Great Depression on the government for hoarding gold reserves.  Whatever. The result is, of course, the government caused the Great Depression (so predictable) and if our great titans of industry had just been allowed to keep sucking up the gravy, it wouldn't have happened because of the magic of market forces and abracadabra this hocus pocus that.   Eenie meenie chili beanie.

            •  Did he ever actually renounce objectivism? (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Dumbo, Tennessee Dave

              Greenspan is as shallow as a Kansas mudpuddle.  He acknowledged a "flaw" in his analysis, but I am not sure he renounced objectivism. I think he is still a true believer.

              I'm truly sorry Man's dominion Has broken Nature's social union--Robert Burns

              by Eric Blair on Wed Aug 15, 2012 at 08:51:01 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  I can't find it right now, but (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Dumbo

              Greenspan has tried to retract his admission that his system of false hypotheses gave aid to the banksters. He will try to weasel his way out of any acknowledgement that his worldview is false.

              Might and Right are always fighting, in our youth it seems exciting. Right is always nearly winning, Might can hardly keep from grinning. -- Clarence Day

              by hestal on Wed Aug 15, 2012 at 08:58:54 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  Purity of the unregulated market is predicated on (3+ / 0-)

            honor and honesty.

            The truth is, there is no, and there has never been, honor among thieves nor honesty in high finance transactions.

            So, human nature by itself dooms an unregulated marketplace, and by extension the 99% who are caught under the boot of an unregulated marketplace.

            •  In the deeper recesses of libertarianism where (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              happymisanthropy, Rashaverak

              they take this seriously, they argue for the necessity of civil trial courts and tort laws. One reason for this, is so that they can phase out the government and get rid of government police, etc.  Replace it all with civil trial courts, make everything a tort.  If you kill somebody, you get sued and pay for it so severely that you can do no more damage.  Nice idea, but, maybe you can see, how utopian and playful this all is, and how divorced from the real world it is.

              But even here, we need some kind of court system that resolves lawsuits.  Many conservatives are OPPOSED to lawyers and tort laws and people suing corporations for not fulfilling their contract.  That is inconsistent with the deeper levels of libertarianism.  It's just catering to the class that gets them elected.  

              Because if you're a small government libertarian and you're opposed to people stealing property from other people, and you're opposed to the heavy hand of government intervention, you HAVE to have some recourse to protect you from fraud.  The system doesn't work if you don't.  Without it, you really do just have gang rule.

              Capitalism is based on the concept of private property.  Absolutely essential.  Everything else emerges from that. The basic idea that I get to own some things, you can't have it without my consent.  Without fraud laws, you no longer have private property.  You have legalized theft.  Calling a system that doesn't punish theft capitalism is a contradiction.  

              And yet, that's what has happened.  IT has turned into a system of looting of the poor by the rich and then excusing it away through campaign donations that the poor can't match.

              •  Excellent, excellent post! (0+ / 0-)

                Truly.  This demolishes the notion that:

                The ideal political-economic system is laissez-faire capitalism. It is a system where men deal with one another, not as victims and executioners, nor as masters and slaves, but as traders, by free, voluntary exchange to mutual benefit. It is a system where no man may obtain any values from others by resorting to physical force, and no man may initiate the use of physical force against others. The government acts only as a policeman that protects man’s rights; it uses physical force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use, such as criminals or foreign invaders. In a system of full capitalism, there should be (but, historically, has not yet been) a complete separation of state and economics, in the same way and for the same reasons as the separation of state and church.
                If:

                a.  someone borrows money to buy a house; and

                b.  the lender takes a secured interest in the house (a/k/a a mortgage lien); and

                c.  the borrower defaults on the loan; and

                d.  the lender forecloses; and

                e.  the home is sold at public auction, and

                f.  the original borrower simply stays put in the house,

                then what is to be done, and who is to do what?

                No possibility of eviction, backed up by physical force (the sheriff)?

                If the Law of Torts is to take the place of the Criminal Law, how does one collect on a judgment if the defendant/tortfeasor simply declines to write a check to cover the liability imposed upon him by the court?

          •  Remember that (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Dumbo

            Economics is a theoretical exercise, unlike evolution.  

            Violence is the last resort of the incompetent. - Asimov

            by nolagrl on Wed Aug 15, 2012 at 01:53:41 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  Huh. (0+ / 0-)

          So, what exactly is the appropriate response to some peabrain who thinks that pointing to Stalin or Mao is some sort of compelling argument against government owning and/or operating very industrial operations for the benefit of the general citizenry?

          To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

          by UntimelyRippd on Tue Aug 14, 2012 at 10:19:13 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  And by the way, an important distinction between (7+ / 0-)

          the attitude of the Randian and the general application of the No True Scotsman fallacy (neverminding Stalin or Mao) is this:

          Anything remotely resembling a True implementation of Rand's prescription would result in a humanitarian disaster of Biblical proportions. They aren't just sort of in denial, or turning a blind eye to the negative aspects of a Randian society: They are 100% pure-D wrong. Randian libertarianism, like all libertarianism, isn't just impractical in its ideal form; it's a bad idea in almost all but the most attenuated forms it could take. The problem isn't just that, as in Christianity, there are always going to be Christians who seem rather less than Christian, and thus who corrupt any attempt at some sort of Christian paradise on earth. The problem is that Rand's envisioned paradise is actually a hellhole.

          To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

          by UntimelyRippd on Tue Aug 14, 2012 at 10:36:23 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  sure it would. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Shockwave

            It would be a Hobbesian nightmare: the war of each against each and all against all.  Somalia is the current example.

            "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

            by G2geek on Wed Aug 15, 2012 at 12:38:15 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  False fallacy (3+ / 0-)
          precisely equivalent to what dogmatic Marxists do in making excuses for Stalin and Mao.

          "That wasn't real socialism."

          Sorry, that's not an excuse for Stalin and Mao. It's a condemnation. You are misapplying "No true Scostman" here.

          Knowledge is a responsibility. Therefore, ignorance is not a right.

          by rmoore on Wed Aug 15, 2012 at 09:45:30 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Here is how the lie works... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Panurge, happymisanthropy

        The best lies are lies that are premised on truths that are arranged in an deceitful way.  They don't lie as much as they obscure or omit the truth.  

        For example, it is a common lie that if a company's cost increases, they will have to increase their prices.  That sounds intuitive doesn't it?  It does happen in rare cases but that is not the way it ususally happens and here is why.  Business owners price goods at the highest level that the market will bear (market includes competitors which is another myth I will deconstruct next).  If they think that their widget will get $100 each, they will charge $100 each regardless of what it costs to build.  If their cost goes up or down, it only effects their profit, not the price because it is already as high as the market will bear.  But what about the competition?  If the competition can sell it cheaper, won't they be forced to lower their prices?  The short answer is "No".

        Back in the seventies, when the fuel shortages hit, there was a common practice of price wars.  Gas stations would compete for business by lowering their prices.  The result was consumers won and the businesses lost.  Let's do some math.  Let's say there is a potential of 10,000 customers divided among four gas stations.  If they divided their customers equally and each customer bought on average 10 gallons of gas a week at $0.10 profit per gallon, that is $2,500 profit a week for all three stations.  Now, let's say one of the gas stations lowered their price $0.01 per gallon to get a bigger market share.  They would have to attract an additional 278 customers just to break even.  What happens when their competitors lower their prices to match it so they can get their customers back?  They all lose $250.00 per week.  How many times are they going to do that before they realize it is self defeating?  If they cannot lower prices to attract more customers and therefor make more money, what do they do?  They raise prices together.  Wait, you might say, that is an anti-trust violation.  Technically you are right if they communicated directly and if you can prove it and if the government had any interest in enforcing these laws but, thanks to the game theory, they do not have to talk directly.  They can use a very detailed and established method of raising and lowering their prices to communicate what prices to set their product at.  Instead of lowering their price and all businesses losing, they all get to raise their prices and everybody's profit increases while the consumer loses.  

        This not only works with gas, it works with all consumer goods.  Companies like Walmart can afford to operate at a loss so much easier than a small business person that they can price anyone they want out of business.  They allow a certain level of competition as long as that competition follows the rules and prices their goods slightly higher than Walmart.  If a business starts to gain market share, Walmart will punish them by running a sale and wiping out a large portion of the small business's revenue.  When the punishment has sent the message, small companies fall in line by raising their prices or go out of business.

        These are examples of the lies that libertarians tell.  They seem to be intuitively true but if you understand how it really works, their lies fall apart.  Unfortunately, you cannot explain these micro economic principles on a bumper sticker nor will they create a visceral reaction in someone like telling people they should fight for their economic freedom.

        "Perhaps the sentiments contained in the following pages, are not YET sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favour..."

        by Buckeye Nut Schell on Wed Aug 15, 2012 at 09:19:54 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  I think you are almost entirely wrong (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Shockwave, A Citizen

      in the thesis that underpins this comment.

      I don't know how well your trap works in the actual event, but if I were, sky-grampy help me, an Objectivist, I would respond with, "Don't be an idiot, that isn't what she meant by
      'sacrificing others to himself.'"

      It is quite clear that Rand viewed the slow and the meek and the unimaginative and the less-than-energetic members of the human race to be the natural and appropriate instruments of the brilliant, bold, imaginative, go-getters. This wasn't asking them to sacrifice themselves, this was employing them under the terms and circumstances appropriate to their relative virtues, or lack thereof. She believed entirely and completely in the power of the "earned" dollar.

      To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

      by UntimelyRippd on Tue Aug 14, 2012 at 10:29:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  post hoc, ergo propter hoc. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Shockwave, Citizenpower

        After, therefore because-of.

        That aspect of Randism is also a rejection of morality and ethics in favor of retrospectively justified happenstance.  

        But as for "that's not what she meant," cornering Randians to explain themselves will usually reveal that they have a predilection to view humanity as a food chain, and other humans as their food.  

        Taking such a person on a ride to the nearest ghetto, to explain their theories to poor black teenagers, may be a useful remedy.  

        "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

        by G2geek on Wed Aug 15, 2012 at 12:41:43 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Good comment (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      happymisanthropy

      Her whole philosophy is a house of cards.  You really laid it out.

  •  No one holds Ayn Rand against you (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    G2geek, vahana

    "Atheist" and "sociopath" are not synonymous.  Thanks for the very interesting explanation of atheism, and for your refutation of objectivism.  As with you, I find the culture of greed to be morally repugnant.

    Since I'm agnostic, I obviously don't believe morality is in any way grounded in religion.  I can navigate all 10 Commandments and the Golden Rule just fine without assigning them any spiritual significance at all.  They're simply the 11 Really Good Ideas.

    What passes for my spirituality can be explained in last weekend's hunting trip up the slopes of Mt. Tebo on the Olympic Peninsula.  Mt. Tebo looks as if the glacier that formed it left a post-it note promising to be right back.  It's high, wild, and wonderfully sculpted.  A forgettable little creek, Lebar Creek, drains the basin and if one is willing to work hard enough, there are a few small cutthroat trout making a go of this tough, tough environment.

    The area is still scarred by the heavy logging that went unabated until some enterprising DFH's won a lawsuit to protect the spotted owl.  (Thank you, DFH's!)  However the scarring cannot hide the grand beauty of this place.  As my son and I struggled up old logging roads to a saddle near the summit, I was all agog at everything from tiger lilies to lupine.  Summer was out in fine form and nature was making its slow but inexorable erasure of the works of man.  If there is a Creator, she is both master sculptor and a master healer.

    We took so much from this area, from the Skokomish watershed, and we took so stupidly.  And as we took, we wrote it off as manifest destiny when it should have been manifestly obvious that our greed was going to foul the very system that sustained us.

    Manifestly obvious.  Yet none of the churches in my hometown were preaching against rapacious logging back in the 1970's when there was still a little left to save.  How could the religion of the 10 Commandments manage to fuck this up?

    To me the morality of self-restraint is manifestly obvious.  To not foul that which supports us is common sense.  Yet the paragons of morality in my hometown missed this.

    "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win". Mohandas K. Gandhi

    by DaveinBremerton on Tue Aug 14, 2012 at 09:19:06 PM PDT

    •  self-restraint = "satiety" = "enough." (4+ / 0-)

      "Self-restraint" is the ethical value that operates in conjunction with the neurophysiology of "satiety" or "satiation."  

      Normal human brains have negative (limiting) feedback mechanisms for a wide range of activities that are otherwise intrinsically positively reinforcing.  The first slice of pizza is delicious, the second is wonderful, the third is good, and by the fourth slice you're full and don't feel like having a fifth: your brain has detected an increase in blood sugar and a full stomach,and put the brakes on.  

      So it goes for everything else that humans desire and seek to obtain: there is always a point of "enough" where the desire and the seeking-to-obtain get switched off.

      Self-restraint as an ethical value, recognizes that reality and willingly sets an even lower limit: you're on a diet so you only eat three slices of pizza rather than four, or you're aware of climate change so you cut back nonessential car trips.  

      The problem with the plutocrats is that they have a defect in their brains, and the empirical science will ultimately support this conclusion beyond any reasonable doubt: their satiety indicators are mis-calibrated, in a manner analogous to the mis-calibration of serotonin levels in people with depression or anxiety disorders.   In a very physical way, they have no grasp of what "enough" means.  

      "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

      by G2geek on Tue Aug 14, 2012 at 10:21:29 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Capitalism is not about "enough": (3+ / 0-)

        or maybe, more precisely, it's about deforming any natural sense of satiety we might possess in order to obliterate our self-restraint, thereby liberating our money from our pockets as we rush to buy The Latest Must-Have ThingTM the plutocrats have to sell.

        Capitalism's advertising system has perfected means to induce anxiety and depression in people by fixing an advertisement's viewers' attention on something they lack or something [about them] that is "wrong." Of course, this problem can be EASILY solved just by buying The Latest Must-Have ThingTM.  "Ah, what a relief it is!" to own The Latest Must-Have ThingTM. Oh, wait, what's that over there? Oh, no, that new ad's describing me, too. Wow, I see now why I'm not as good as the happy people in the commercial, but I can fix that problem with my credit card because I know better than to "Leave Home Without It"!

        While I agree with your assessment of plutocrats' short-circuited brain chemistry, I suggest that their capitalism is designed to warp our brains, too, transforming us from humans (for whom humanism is appropriate) into "consumers," units who consume (for a price) what the producers, their betters, have produced.  This economic transformation, from human to consumer, is a form of dehumanization--alienation, if anyone wants the traditional Marxist term--that changes the producers' perceptions of the people they serve.  Since it's a perception akin to the objectivizing that, according to (heterosexist) feminism, makes complicated, real-life, three-dimensional women into sex objects, Rand's choice to call her philosophy "Objectivism" doesn't surprise.  As a brand name, it associates with the producers' elitism, as in, because they Make Things That Make the World Go Round, they have proven abilities to set and achieve  objectives. "Objective" is also Rand's way of positioning her ideas to be seen as non-ideological, disinterested, scientifically rational, and just plain TrueTM. But, sloppy thinker that she was, she didn't notice or--because Karl Marx was right--didn't want to see that the economic transformation of some humans into "consumers," this alienation that sacrifices the consumers' own productive capabilities for the benefit of other producers, is capitalism's most essential objective.

        Although it's really more complicated than this, it's still fun to say that capitalism has to make the 99% crazy to buy the stuff made by the 1%.

        No one elected Grover Norquist anything. If everyone ignored him, he would dry up and blow away.

        by vahana on Wed Aug 15, 2012 at 10:30:42 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  I don't think the first commandment (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DaveinBremerton

      is a Good Idea... just saying...

      •  The absence of a God handles it nicely (0+ / 0-)

        For the God-inclined, monotheism deals with it since "God" is an inspecific term.  For the ancient greeks, this is indeed problematic.

        "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win". Mohandas K. Gandhi

        by DaveinBremerton on Wed Aug 15, 2012 at 05:23:05 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Thou shalt have no God but Truth (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          DaveinBremerton

          is one way of looking at it. The idea is that the concept of God is one that should be purified according to the ideals of human beings.

          There is no reason to be afraid to say that God is a human projection, even for a believer.

          The thing is that a true theist will not abdicate reason.

  •  About atheism and natural phenomona and God etc... (6+ / 0-)

    Unfortunately, most discussions of religion nowadays end up reduced to primitive terms because it all comes down to supernatural creatures who make the universe from up high. Miracles and afterlives and all that.  IT doesn't have to be that way.  For myself, I consider the question of whether there is an afterlife to be a primitive and uninteresting one.  On the other hand, I don't think a purely naturalist common sense worldview of what constitutes reality can allow me to pose more interesting questions.

    Let's consider Guth and the cosmic expansion and quantum phenomena.  The idea that the universe began as a random quantum event.  That's fine with me. I'm familiar with it.  There's an alternative interpretation of quantum theory, Everett-Wheeler's MWI, however, offers a competing interpretation of the random events of quantum mechanics -- everything that can happen DOES happen, and rather than random events happening, what really happens is that the universe splits in multiple directions every time a quantum event takes place.  This has the effect of getting rid of the randomness and making the world deterministic again, with the difference being that there are multiple versions of you and me being created every time a particle decays with different histories.  

    It takes awhile to absorb all the non-scientific implications of that.  It changes how we evaluate things.  Including how we evaluate the begining of the universe.  In the article linked to, Guth theorizes that there will be other universes created through the same means.  The MWI suggests there are MANY MANY universe-histories that were created from the same root source.  In fact, just about any universe and history that could have been created was created at somewhere/somewhen.  It all sounds very sci-fi channel when you're first exposed to it, but this is actually the trending view.

    And what does that mean?  Well, I can point out one big problem it poses for certain philosopies, like Objectivism and Radical Individualism.  For instance, the idea that there is one Objective Reality (the premise for the name) suddenly becomes fragile.  There are multiple realities and histories being created all the time, according to MWI, and it's the SUBJECTIVE view of the observer within them that distinguishes one from another.

    And just what does it mean to be an individual when there's a gazillion yous?  There's a universe somewhere/somewhen, in which you asked that girl out for the prom and she said no, some synapse in her brain had a quantum twitch that made her say yes.  You went on to marry her, had a bunch of kids, and started a boy band with them.  So is that you YOU also?  How many yous are there?  How different does a you have to be before it's not really you at all?  

    And I've thrown this idea out there a few times.  IT poses some serious questions I think for Objectivists and the virtue of selfishness:  Quantum Roulette.  I even wrote a diary about it but don't want to go digging for it.

    Assume we have a special gun that shoots both ways.  When a quantum particle decays a certain way, there's a fifty percent chance it will shoot the guy to the right, and an equal chance it will shoot the guy to the left.  But not both simultaneously.

    Now, what I might want to do is this:  You and me, we play Quantum Roulette for car pink slips, and anything else we have that's cool and worth keeping.  In one universe, I get killed and you walk away with my pink slip. In another one, you die, and I get to walk away with your pink slip.

    According to MWI, each of us will win!!  You'll win, I'll win -- just in different universes.  

    But what about the dead bodies!

    Well, fuck, bury them.  What do I care?  I got the pink slip, didn't I?  And in some universe, you got mine and you're burying my body.  

    But... aren't we separate individuals from those dead bodies?

    Interesting question, isn't it?  Maybe we're not.  Maybe it doesn't matter.  

    If you get to that point, where you really wonder about something like that, the kinds of questions that naturalist-style atheism addresses don't seem adequate, and the answers that a philosophy like Objectivism offers seem extremely inadequate.

    •  Nice post (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      martini

      I am very familiar with this theory. I've read tons of Science fiction where it's a popular theme. I cannot accept that it's an actual valid explanation for things though. I think it's just that something we see right now makes it seem possible, but when we get a deeper understanding of the universe we will see it's something else altogether. It's similar to the issue with photon tracks where observation APPEARS to alter the outcome. You can then interpret that in layman's terms to mean human perception of events alters reality and from there it's a hop skip and a jump to the universe is all a dream in some giant creatures head.

      The word "appears" is obviously the key word in that sentence. In reality it's much more likely we just don't understand why these things appear this way and when we finally do we'll all slap our collective heads and go "D'oh!" Until we can actually measure and control gravity we are working with one eye closed in a smoky room with a single bulb hanging somewhere near the center. We just don't have near the tools yet to really explain this all. Hopefully the Higgs Boson (if they did indeed actually find it) will unlock some of these mysteries.

      Until then from inside his box, Schrodinger's cat says, "meow"...

      Progress 365 not just a slogan a goal - 300 progressive seats in the House and 65 progressive seats in the Senate.

      by jusjtim35 on Tue Aug 14, 2012 at 10:01:18 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Oh and one more thing (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Dumbo, martini

        The Guth article is obviously a decade old by now. I don't believe it's the only explanation out there, it was merely the first one I encountered that seemed plausible that I could understand and wrap my head around. Thus for me it was formative, but I'm sure it's not the only explanation, just the one that allowed me to make that final leap away from God...

        Progress 365 not just a slogan a goal - 300 progressive seats in the House and 65 progressive seats in the Senate.

        by jusjtim35 on Tue Aug 14, 2012 at 10:03:00 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  There are other explanations out there. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          martini

          In fact, I'm surprised at the way they seem to be proliferating right now.  It's getting a little weird.

          This is the one that seems to be getting the most lip service, the colliding 11-dimensional superstring theory, called M-theory.  I first heard this about twelve years ago.  Here's a boiled down version I found, although there are plenty of other sources explaining it in greater depth.  And other theories, too.

          http://www.tellmehowto.net/...

          One interesting implication of this is time and occurrences before the big bang, which runs contrary to what I was taught when I was younger -- that to ask what happened before the big bang is meaningless, like asking what is north of the north pole.

          As for the MWI and its correctness...  There's an aha experience that has to happen for you to really get it.  It snuck up on me.  I suddenly realized (and there was nothing terribly mystical about this, although it is mind-blowing) that it doesn't MATTER whether or not you can test or prove MWI.  It just basically is true.

          Imagine you were a character in a novel (or in a different comparison, a Sim character in a complicated video game).  Would your world seem real to you?  Yes.  So how do you know that you're not in a consistent and complicated tale told in something like a book, or an NPC in a complicated game?  Because you experience it as real?  That means absolutely nothing.  You would experience the world as real even if it was all a big simulation.  Next, you might ask, but who would run the simulation?  Who would create the simulation? I say it doesn't matter for the purposes of this exercise.  JUst as the reality of a character in a book is real to him regardles of whether you read him or not, it's real to him whether somebody writes the book or not.  And so, any world we can imagine (and many we won't even bother to imagine) where a character analogous to you ponders whether his world is real or not will always come to the conclusion that his world is real.  Just like you are doing right now about our world.  If there's no difference, then there's just no difference.

          An intersting Aha! moment is required here.  No belief in the unprovable is required here.  There's no difference.  The only roadblock left is our perception of ourselves as individuals in the one real world.  

          •  This is where I gave up on Heinlein (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            A Citizen

            From is "Number of the Beast" novel and on he started writing about the multiverse where fictional characters are real and I couldn't go there. It's an interesting thought exercise nothing more for me.  I did find the novel by Zelazny "Donnerjack" which was finished posthumously by Jane Lindskold (sp?) which dealt with crossover between the "real" and fictional worlds fun and cool, but just as a story.

            You are correct, it doesn't matter from the perception of the character in the "story" but characters in novels and games don't have free will. In theory we do. I liken this to conversation in games. My character in one game is always promising people to go kill the evil giant horrifying beast, while I sit at the computer screaming at the NPC assigning the quest, "NO! Go kill it yourself you lazy bastard!" Characters in games/novels have no ability to say that, they are purely a victim of the writer's control. This is a major difference. A puppet in a puppet show has the same perception, that doesn't mean his world is real...

            Progress 365 not just a slogan a goal - 300 progressive seats in the House and 65 progressive seats in the Senate.

            by jusjtim35 on Wed Aug 15, 2012 at 08:47:36 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Heinlein may have been a little silly. (0+ / 0-)

              The whole parallel universes thing has become such a cheap fiction device that it loses its seriousness.  When I was a tot, the Silver-Age DC comics had parallel universes (where Lex Luthor had superpowers and Clark was powerless but evil, for instance) in just about every other issue.  I didn't take it very seriously back then, either, and I was still in elementary.

              But we don't have to indulge in silly stories where unlikely things happen.  That contaminates the discussion.  I only brought up the subject of characters in novels to illustrate the concept.

              I offered a different mind experiment in this diary:

              http://www.dailykos.com/...

              I asked the question of, what if there was a game, like The Sims, which was much more powerful, which created a simulation of a universe that was so good that it included, over the course of eons of wolf-runs, the evolution of intelligent life, not through hamhanded intervention by the programmer, but through a natural evolution based on the starting conditions of the game.  The analogy I'm making, obviously, is to our own universe.  The program in this case, is analogous to the physical laws of our universe.

              If that's too silly for you, then imagine this.  Imagine that we had a very large program that simulated our actual universe, that could run on a computer so big, with such ridiculous amounts of memory and addressing that it actually could simulate the history of our universe from its beginnings.  Including all the possible universes that could have happened.  Since the goal of physics right now is to come up with a formula that would explain everything, that could be used to predict everything that has happened and could happen, this isn't silly.  The size of the computer required might be prohibitive, but that's only a practical matter, not a theoretical glitch in the exercise I'm suggesting.

              If we had such a computer, and we had such a program, our universe would exist... inside a program.  Just as a Sim exists in his little virtual world.  However, the sim people in our computer would be just like us because they would have evolved in an identical universe.  Trapped as they are in their simulation, they look at the universe around them and experience the same questions about who, where, and what they are that we do.  Except -- we can see that they are all in a computer simulation.

              Are they real people?  I'm going to guess that you say yes.  Just not real in that they can jump out of the computer and punch you, perhaps.

              Now here's where the AHA! moment is required.  Suppose...  suppose, now that we know we can do this with a computer of a certain type with a program of a certain type, and that IF we ran it, it would generate a universe with a fifteen billion year history and little people that are just as real (to themselves, certainly) as us...  Suppose that we did not run the program.  

              Got that?  Suppose we don't run the program.  Now, I ask the same question.  Are the people that that program would have generated still real?  Do they still exist?  Do I have to actually turn on the computer and run the program for them to be real?  

              Now, I would argue (and this is where the real crunch comes) that they are real anyway.  That even if you don't ever run the program, they are still just as real simply because it's possible to run the program and generate them and their universe.  YOu neer have to run it.  You don't even have to build the computer.  And if the program is possible, you don't really need to have somebody write the program.  They are real.

              How can I support that argument?  Well, let's say that this program generates the same universe (or set of parallel universes) every time we run it.  It's like putting the same DVR on the TV over and over again.  Every time we run it, it creates the same analogous virtual people, including a Sim-Dumbo who is just as real as me.  Same Sim-Dumbo.  He does the same things.  Since they are always the same, then, are they independent Sim-Dumbos, or the same Sim-Dumbo?  If I turn off the program in mid-simulation one time and not the other, do I terminate the life of one Sim-Dumbo and not the other?

              I would argue that they are all the same Sim-Dumbo, all equally real.  And since any one of them is real, the reality of ANY ONE INSTANCE of that Sim-Dumbo is irrelevant.  Sim-Dumbo's existence and realness doesn't depend on any one run of the computer.  And since his realness doesn't depend on any single run... It doesn't depend on ANY RUN AT ALL.

              Now, back to parallel universes.  Schrodinger's Cat, in the MWI interpretation, will die in one universe, and live in another.  But we open the box and see that he's dead.  Does that other universe exist where he's still alive?

              Well, this universe and that potential universe both start from the same initial conditions and use the same laws of physics.  One is tangible and actual to us, obviously, because we have to bury the cat's body.  But we know now that the other universe WOULD exist and continue if we simulated it, and that our analogues would be petting the cat right now.  What is the difference between that universe and ours other than that?

              "Well," you might say, "there can be only one real history, and I'm here pondering the matter, and the cat is dead, in front of me, so that's the difference, and that means my universe is real and that other one is a figment of my imagination.  I have no way of knowing that those other histories REALLY do exist, so that's all weird speculation."

              I don't think so.  Either you see, AHA!, that there's no difference, or you don't get it yet.  Even if there is only one history, if MWI is fake, you could still be in an alternate universe to the real universe.  "But that's impossible!  I feel real!"  Fake people in theoretical universes will always feel real.  That means jack shit.  Your sense of realness doesn't make you MORE real.  Just as Sim-Dumbo's sense of his realness in that computer simulation doesn't make him more real than you or me.  

              If you follow that, and agree with what I've said, then reconsider MWI again and what's happening.  It defies your common sense.

              We can take this much further, though, than just parallel universes from MWI.  That's just a good start.  I would suggest reading up on Tegmark's Ensemble of Universes theory, which is another hot topic in physics, and then modal realism, which is a hot topic in metaphysics.  Modal realism is the least bound to physics of these discussions.  It basically says that anything logically consistent that could be or could happen is just as real as what we can see exists or what we know has happened.  That sounds too spacy to grasp or take seriously, I know, but it's a conclusion that MWI leads you towards.

              •  Try Asimov (0+ / 0-)

                Around 1948, "Let their be light." The premise was exactly this, though pretty brilliant considering it was well before the advent of most computer technology.

                The alternative realities theory of course is pretty much Hinduism and Buddhism. Like try Vasistha Ramayan for a good example. The idea of transmigration fits into this also.

                But in my opinion, none of this solves the true existential reality of where you are now and the moral choices you must make here and now. Nor does it change the problem of ultimate purpose, which is where your moral choices are meant to lead you.

                Funnily enough, I agree with Rand that human life is meant for happiness and that promises of such happiness coming after death are really not about happiness at all. Nevertheless, they ARE about morality.

                Who does not admire Bradley Manning or Julian Assange for the risk they put themselves for the sake of a higher truth and general welfare. We may not be able, due to our atheist convictions, to promise them a reward in heaven, but in our hearts, do we not pray for them?

                And, of course, to whatever extent we can, follow the moral imperative that they exemplify?

                The trouble with atheism in general is that atheists always substitute something for God... evolution is a favorite. But in fact, these arguments do not resolve anything. They just set back the question one step further.

                It is not that God can ever be known. Most of the world's religions and mystics have always known this, at least. Religions are human social movements and nothing more. They are subject to the laws of evolution.

                As far as I am concerned, most of the atheists on this site are  damned sight more religious than many of the so-called Christians who are not truly committed to Truth or Love, but are merely poseurs.

                Attempts to socially organize belief-systems result in religions. They can be good or bad.

            •  Number of the beast (0+ / 0-)

              That was pretty bad. I read it thinking "Oh, I get where he's going... no, he's not going there... NOW I get where he's going... not going there either." In the end, the book went nowhere, just a romp with his favorite characters.

              The wolfpack eats venison. The lone wolf eats mice.

              by A Citizen on Wed Aug 15, 2012 at 04:03:07 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Yep (0+ / 0-)

                And every book that followed was pretty much the same. It led me to look back on his earlier works much more skeptically and in the end I found myself feeling a bit duped.

                Progress 365 not just a slogan a goal - 300 progressive seats in the House and 65 progressive seats in the Senate.

                by jusjtim35 on Thu Aug 16, 2012 at 09:29:45 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

    •  the macroscopic implications of Many Worlds... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Dumbo, martini

      .... are somewhat problematic and contrary to common sense, but so is precognition (though perhaps the former somewhat solves the latter, indirectly).  

      If you take MWI to its logical conclusion, information about every possible outcome is already present in a kind of implicate order.  In which case time is irrelevant, all of those possible outcomes already exist, and "time as normally perceived" consists of switching through a given series of "outcomes" which are actually coexistent.

      The key problem with all of this is, from where do we get the energy needed to keep splitting material universes at every point of every wave-function collapse?  Would "vacuum energy" (zero-point energy) be sufficient?  And how is it that enormous energy fluctuations aren't observed at each point, or perhaps it turns out that those fluctuations are what create matter in the first place?

      Lastly, how would MWI be falsifiable?  And if it's not, then how do we consider it physics rather than metaphysics?

      "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

      by G2geek on Tue Aug 14, 2012 at 10:55:07 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It is metaphysics . (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        G2geek, martini

        Pure and simple.  

        On the one hand, it's a more elegant solution to the problems posed by quantum randomness.  On the other hand, it implies a lot of things that are outside our sphere of material influence.

        However, there IS one way to test it.  Not necessarily a very satisfactory way.

        Remember that quantum gun?  Point it at yourself and pull the trigger. There's a 50% chance you'll be snuffed. Pull it again.  And again.  And again.  And again.  However many times you have to do it to prove to yourself that there's always going to be a you that survives.  

        But... how would you know for sure it wasn't sheer luck?  Well, do it again!  REpeat the experience.

        Maybe you could have an audience for your demonstration.  But watch out -- you might have an audience member who wants to try it out too.  So he/she steps up, takes the gun, pulls the trigger once, pulls it again... OOPS!  Somebody get a mop.  

        Now you have to explain to your disturbed audience that there's probably some other universe where that person is still alive and bowing to take applause.  LIkewise, there are 2 to the n (where n is the number of times you pulled the trigger) audiences in other universes that are crying their hearts out because you splattered them with your blood.

        So this is verifiable. It just takes big brass balls to verify it.  And at the end of it, you might still argue with yourself over whether or not you killed yourself or not.  It depends on how you define you.

        I've asked around about how I could make a quantum coin-flipping device -- not to make a quantum roulette gun, but just because it would be kind of cool.  One way, I think, would be to buy (or even make, although it's not easy) a cheap geiger click-counter.  Establish a background radiation level (X) in terms of clicks per second or some other unit of time.  Now take a measurement.  If you get more than X clicks in the allotted time, you have heads. If you have less than or equal to X clicks, then you have tails.  

        I don't even think it matters if it's verifiable or not, or even if a test came up that said it's not.  MWI is true on a different kind of plane. In a way, this is similar to modal realism (google David Kellogg Lewis) and to Tegmark's Ensemble of Universes Theory.  Its truth depends entirely on its possibility and on the fact that an observer within another universe would perceive his universe as real to him.  If you can establish parity between his situation (that imaginary dude in an imaginary alternate universe) and your universe, then, I think, it's proven, case closed.

        As for where the energy comes for split universes.... I don't know. We know from Young's Double Slit experiment that a photon moves like a wave, creating a probability wave of where the full impact of its photon will impact.  Other models like Copenhagen explain this in terms of probability waves.  It's hard to say that's more satisfactory.  We might only be protecting our own imperfect sense of what is common sense by shoehorning things into models that allow us to retain our sense of individuality in a solid universe.

        •  making a QM coin-flipper, and what to use it for: (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          vahana, Dumbo

          Get a solid state geiger counter: these don't use actual Geiger-Muller tubes (that eventually wear out and have to be replaced), they use solid state detectors.  

          Take the ambient background reading in counts per minute over a period of let's say ten minutes.  Divide down to the quantity of time where your probability of getting a count in that amount of time is 50%.  Write a simple piece of software that'll do all of this for you automatically.  

          Even simpler: use the electrical noise from a back-biased diode, which is "white noise," the equivalent of listening to the output of the geiger counter on fast-forward.  This lets you decrease your sampling interval to a point much smaller than a human can trigger with a button-press.  Thus any button press will produce a sample that is valid for use as a measurement.

          With some simple circuits or software, you can have the system produce a result of a 1 or a 0 every time you press the button or trigger a sample.  

          Alternately, you can probably buy devices that'll do this for you, already built.  Pure software random generators are not QM devices, they're algorithmic.  What you want is hardware that uses a physical random process.  

          OK, so here's a wild thing you can do with this:

          Assume you have it set up so every time you press the button, the device takes a sample of noise, compares to a test interval, and produces a physically random 0 or 1 as an output.  

          Create a simple form you can print out at home.  Print a bunch of them.  At the top of the form:  space for date and time of day.  Next, the word "mood" and digits 1 - 5 with spaces between them and a note to yourself saying "1 = very bad mood, 3 = neutral, 5 = very good mood."  Next, three columns:  in one column, the digits 1 - 10.  In the next two columns, label them "call" and "result", and have lines adjacent to the digits.  

          Do the following whenever it occurs to you to try it:

          First, fill in the date & time.  Next, circle a number that approximates your mood from lousy to excellent.  

          Next, get your random number generator, call out 1 or 0, write it on the line under "call" next to the digit 1.  Then press the button on the random device.  Note whether it produces a 1 or a 0, and write that down on the same line under the column for "result."  Repeat until you've filled in all ten rows.  Put the filled-out form in a physical folder somewhere.  

          Whenever you feel like doing it again, use a new form, fill it out the same way.  

          Once you've got a couple hundred of these things filled out, which might take a few months or a year or however-long, go back and sort them into five piles, based on the "mood" ratings at the top of each page.

          Score the results as follows:  

          Add up the number of "hits" (calls that were matched by results) on each page.  Then add up the total for each pile of forms: total number of calls (10 per page), total number of hits.  

          When you're done you'll have five results:  number of hits and number of calls for each mood rating.  

          Use any statistical test you like, to compare the results between the categories of mood ratings.  

          All other factors equal, they "should" all produce results of 50%, and the statistical differences between each of the piles of forms "should" be insignificant.  But what actually comes out may surprise you.  At which point you'll have encountered one of the more interesting puzzles of existence.

          "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

          by G2geek on Wed Aug 15, 2012 at 01:35:59 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  so about those other observers: (0+ / 0-)

          Here's a thought-experiment for you:

          Consider the implications of the fact that semantic information (any meaningfully-ordered configuration of a bit-stream) doesn't care about the "flow" of time.  This isn't as far-fetched as it seems, because there's provably no thermodynamic entropy penalty for semantic information, and "time" is the product of thermodynamics.  

          Now consider two universes:  You1 is in Universe1, You2 is in Universe2.  These universes split at some point in the recent past and you're not quite sure when it occurred.

          Now consider a "many worlds telegraph."  You1 has a device, and the universe splits, so now You2 has a device also.  

          Any point in time before Universe1 and Universe2 split, is in the common "past" of both universes, thus it could serve as a "relay."   If you were able to transmit the configuration of a bit-stream backward in time to the common point, and forward from the common point, you would have a means of communicating between the split universes.  

          "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

          by G2geek on Wed Aug 15, 2012 at 02:47:42 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  True... but (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            G2geek

            I don't think that's possible.  I would question that.

            And, too, there's a question whether there's just one original branch point common to parallel universe-histories.  (I think the term universe-history might be the better term, although I'm not consistent with that).  We're talking about it as if all of history is a gigantic binary tree of quantum split points.  That''s good enough, but the truth may be a bit more diffuse.

            •  yes and yes. (0+ / 0-)

              If every wave-function collapse spawns a new universe, then there would already by a huge number of branchings between You1 and You2, and tracing the path back to a common point in the shared past would be intractably difficult.  

              Wild fiction idea: time-war.  

              Upon discovering that there are universes in which Hitler won WW2, our intrepid team of time-warriors sets forth in their time-craft to find those universes and assassinate Hitler in each of them.  

              Hitler himself, alive and ruling the world in some of those universes, learns of the effort and seeks to block it by sending forth his own time-warriors.  A full-on arms race ensues, and now you have time-warriors from each side popping in and out of various universes to attempt to destroy each other.    

              Keep in mind that when they time-travel, they also have to adjust their spatial coordinates to match.  So these time-craft will be popping into universes where they're in space somewhere in Earth's orbit of the Sun, and have to find Earth again to complete their mission each time.  

              This could also be turned into a reasonably interesting video game, just as long as it didn't devolve into just another "first-person shooter."

              "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

              by G2geek on Thu Aug 16, 2012 at 03:50:18 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  You're nutz ;-) (jk) (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                G2geek

                YGM (remember that old aol voice: You've Got Mail)?


                "When the powerless are shut out of the media, we will make the media irrelevant" ~♥~ Anonymous ~♥~

                by Lisa Lockwood on Thu Aug 16, 2012 at 06:03:51 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  OT/This is a test of image embedding- (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  G2geek

                  attempting an easier method of posting images in comments from the image library rather than the current workaround which is rather cumbersome.
                  Just posting this here because it's kind of a dead thread ;-)

                  And voila, it woiks ;-D
                  Now just gotta resize the darn thing. Hope I didn't break the page borders.


                  "When the powerless are shut out of the media, we will make the media irrelevant" ~♥~ Anonymous ~♥~

                  by Lisa Lockwood on Thu Aug 16, 2012 at 08:07:40 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  it worked; and i got your message last night. (0+ / 0-)

                    If you replied, i'll reply to that tonight.  

                    "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

                    by G2geek on Thu Aug 16, 2012 at 02:23:46 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

        •  Meta Physics, more like? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Dumbo

          Less new age than most "metaphysics", more physics-oriented...

          •  Well, yes. Metaphysics means (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            happymisanthropy, martini

            beyond physics, but that doesn't mean it's not connected to the real world.  

            One of the criticisms for years now of the search for a string theory grand-unified-theory formula for the universe is that it's not physics, but metaphysics.  It's metaphysics IF there is no way of testing it.  Since much of it is based on the creation of mathematical models, and multiple models may be possible to give us the same observation of the universe, choosing between models becomes almost a matter of taste and practicality.  11-Dimensional membranes?

            That, too, is what happens when we look at possible models for explaining quantum mechanics.  Copenhagen is disturbing because it talks about probability waves that collapse in a way that seems to make no sense, but it works as a theory if you just do the math and use it to make predictions.  MWI does the same thing, but it doesn't depend on probability waves.  It assumes that there is no collapse, just multiple results, all but one in universes we don't participate in.  It's a big debate over which is most compatible with Occam's Razor.  It's almost at the level of a personal aesthetics issue.  

  •  interesting. None of my discussions about (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dumbo, G2geek

    religion (and I have TONS of them) have anything to do with supernatural beings, afterlives, miracles, or any of that stuff.

    Most of them deal with the other sorts of thoughts you have in that comment.  Metaphysical, if you will....and sometimes community, history, reason, custom, practice, etc.

    But rarely the magical stuff.

  •  Rand created an alternative, competitive humanism (0+ / 0-)

    I suspect that Rand really bothers the left because her influence shows the limits of progressive social engineering and indoctrination. She bypassed the left's propaganda channels in education, academia and government by going straight to the market with her alternative humanism, and she found enthusiastic customers who bought her works with discretionary income and studied and thought about them on their own initiative, when they clearly didn't have to. The Rand phenomenon provides an example of a Hayekian spontaneous order: No central planner mandated the introduction of her philosophy into the culture. People responded to her message organically and authentically, and in defiance of what progressives want them to believe and do.

    Progressives and many conservatives try to dismiss Rand, with some justification, as a kook, a sociopath and an ignoramus. But her success in culture-jamming progressivism while energizing a certain kind of conservatism shows that her world view must have some compelling things going for it, despite its deficiencies. What does it say about progressivism that her philosophy looks like a better deal to many Americans, even if they don't buy the whole Randian package?

    •  Define "Many"... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Bob Duck

      You really think more people in America want Ayn Rand instead of Progressive values? Well I guess we are going to find out this November. I know what side I'm betting on...

      Progress 365 not just a slogan a goal - 300 progressive seats in the House and 65 progressive seats in the Senate.

      by jusjtim35 on Tue Aug 14, 2012 at 10:08:36 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Rand upsets the left because she was an evil (5+ / 0-)

      monster whose philosophy, whenever and wherever it comes close to being practiced, invariably results in large-scale human suffering.

      Sure, her world view has some compelling things going for it -- it satisfies the need that some people have for some way to justify their otherwise inexplicable elevated socioeconomic status. That her philosophy looks like better deal to many Americans than does progressivism says very little about progressivism, and a whole lot about many Americans -- espeically, many Americans who have been raised under a relentless onslaught of propertarian propaganda.

      To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

      by UntimelyRippd on Tue Aug 14, 2012 at 10:16:44 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The renowned naturalist, E. O. Wilson (2+ / 0-)

      has just published a book called, "The Social Conquest of Earth." It will gradually be accepted as a masterpiece. In it he describes the two kinds of human beings: those who work for the common good, and those who work selfishly for themselves. He says that these two kinds of humans are constantly at war with each other and will always be so.

      Wilson did not say what I am about to say, but in my view, those who are naturally selfish and self-centered naturally subscribe to Rand's nutty ideas. And, over time, social engineering will take these human distinctions into account and become more effective at constructing a better world for us all, and Rand's followers will fight such progress all along the way.

      Might and Right are always fighting, in our youth it seems exciting. Right is always nearly winning, Might can hardly keep from grinning. -- Clarence Day

      by hestal on Wed Aug 15, 2012 at 09:09:19 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Culture-jamming progressives? (0+ / 0-)

      I was a Randhead when I was a teenager, back in the 60s and 70s, when Rand was very popular, and still alive.  And on the outside, not trying very hard to get on the inside of the system.  She has been jamming CONSERVATISM for a long time.  If, with the recent selection of Ryan, she seems to be culture-jamming progressives, this is an interesting development but not one that happened or was sought during her lifetime, when he fight was with conservatives, who she spared no effort to criticize and condemn.  

      She even criticized the libertarian movement and wanted nothing to do with it!  Called them a bunch of hippies who wanted to smoke pot.  Think about it...  If she rejected mainstream conservatives and libertarians, just where the hell was she politically?  

      So she's a very interesting character, and the people who follow her are sometimes interesting as well, but to the extent that she may represent some segment of the Republican Party or conservatism, that's purely an anomaly, one she would have been uncomfortable with.  I'm sure if she was still alive she'd be picking Ryan apart in insulting terms, because that was the way she operated.

      So this vision of yours of her "bypassing left propaganda" isn't well-informed about her history or track record or who her opponents were.  She was most comfortable operating from the fringe like a right-wing Noam Chomsky (an analogy I have made here before, which made some people uncomfortable).  

      And there are some aspects of her beliefs I still find myself more comfortable with.  I don't believe in altruistic foreign policy.  That's how we get into wars like Iraq, with people like Bush wringing their hands over those poor Iraqis that he's going to liberate as he prepares to bomb them, kill their children through collateral damage, and torture prisoners in the same Abu Ghraib dungeons that Saddam used to torture his.

      Too bad we couldn't convince Republicans of that, though.  I don't think that was the result of left-wing propaganda.  The movement conservatives just pick and choose things cafeteria style, regardless of the inconsistencies, that will help them promote their position. How else do we get contradictions like that blowhard Rush Limbaugh quoting Ayn Rand and then criticizing Democrats for hating Jesus?

  •  Ryan's earlier statement that reading Ayn Rand (4+ / 0-)

    shaped his desire for public service, is incongruous on its face. Her philosophy is the antipathy of any true desire for public service. For an acolyte of Rand, the ONLY call to public service is the potential for self-enrichment at whatever cost to society as a whole.

    •  Not true. (0+ / 0-)

      I read Atlas Shrugged a few years ago, and what I got out of it as far as public service is this: no one should be FORCED or COMPELLED to do public service.  If, however, you desire to do public service because you find it to be personally fulfilling and it makes you happy, you should do it.

      So yea, technically this is a form of self-enrichment, but don't most people do public service or donate to charity in part because it makes them feel good to do so?

      "Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it... unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense." -The Buddha

      by Brian A on Wed Aug 15, 2012 at 09:55:41 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Let's be fair. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Desert Scientist, Dumbo

    Point 4, which follows the third point you call the "core" of Objectivism (what happened to points 1 and 2?):

    The ideal political-economic system is laissez-faire capitalism. It is a system where men deal with one another, not as victims and executioners, nor as masters and slaves, but as traders, by free, voluntary exchange to mutual benefit. It is a system where no man may obtain any values from others by resorting to physical force, and no man may initiate the use of physical force against others. The government acts only as a policeman that protects man’s rights; it uses physical force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use, such as criminals or foreign invaders. In a system of full capitalism, there should be (but, historically, has not yet been) a complete separation of state and economics, in the same way and for the same reasons as the separation of state and church.
    Rand's point three contains so many subjective terms in it that it's almost meaningless aside from its tone.  And Rand's philosophy obliterates governing structure as a matter of principle, not as a practical exercise in efficiency.  But it almost certainly does not say "[e]veryone get their own and don't worry about the other guy."  Can't really deal with the other guy in " free, voluntary exchange to mutual benefit" if you don't worry about him to some extent.

    What I find more annoying is Randian insistence that this synthesis of positivism and radical libertarianism is somehow new, deep or interesting thought.  Or, given how much they like to talk about philosophy, of any practical value whatsoever.

    •  Rand's philosophy does not take .... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Pete Cortez, Anna M, happymisanthropy

      human nature into account.  She assumes that all true Capitalists are ethical, but (as pointed out here) to follow only one's narrow self interest one will always be tempted to cut corners, thereby injuring others.  Rand was terribly naive in apparently dismissing the very human tendency of some to cheat, thus requiring agreed upon regulations to protect other people from victimization.  Rand's society as she envisioned it was hopelessly utopian.

      Her dismissal of collective effort would seem to doom any cooperative projects, as each person would be weighing their advantage over others (without actually physically hurting them.)  As Woody Guthrie said "Some kill with a six-gun, some with a fountain pen", or perhaps a "Fountainhead".

      As for religion I am an agnostic, pretty close to being an atheist, but I don't see religion going away any time soon.  Some of my friends are priests, rabbis, ministers, and priestesses.  I certainly have no monopoly on truth, religious or otherwise, but I do hate being told what to think by anybody!

    •  I agree with most of what you say, but (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Pete Cortez

      I have been acquainted with some libertarians for nearly thirty years now and their philosophy is exactly as you stated, "everyone get their own and don't worry about the other guy."

      In the beginning, I had many long talks with these men about their system and they never worried about its shortcomings and its lack of human caring. Now, I keep in touch with some of them just to see if any have changed. None have so far.

      Might and Right are always fighting, in our youth it seems exciting. Right is always nearly winning, Might can hardly keep from grinning. -- Clarence Day

      by hestal on Wed Aug 15, 2012 at 09:15:25 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Well, Jeez, I was a libertarian for many years, (0+ / 0-)

        paid for seminars, raised funds, took it seriously, was a Randhead when I was a kid.  I wouldn't have ever described it that way to you.  I've never lacked for human caring, not back then, not now that I'm not a libertarian and am, instead, a pesky liberal that people shut up at family get-togethers.  

        There is nothing fundamentally wrong with libertarians as people other than their belief system.  Why do people insist on trying to make it out otherwise?  It's not just rude and unfair -- which I could deal with -- but it's, well, kind of ignorant and superior.  Which bothers me more.

        I tipped a post above that described it as utopian.  Libertarians that stick around and read the literature tend to be utopian idea of what's right based on a one-size fits all conception of morality and economics based on the idea that helping others always backfires so you shouldn't even bother.

        •  Then you were the exception. (0+ / 0-)

          These men were serious freeloaders. They wanted the free use of everything but they did not want to pay for anything. And this is the rule down here in Texas. In fact, you may recall that from time to time some of them decide to secede from the United States and they print their own legal documents and ignore the ordinary things that the rest of us willlingly do as part of living in a society.

          I am not being rude or unfair as you charged, but I am simply reporting what I saw over a period of years in which I met with these men three or four times a month. They were employees of mine and I visited them that often to check on their work. I knew them well, and Ron Paul and his son are just like them. Poppa even speaks the same lingo as those men I knew. The message, the chant, has not changed.

          But, not to worry, they will never get enough power to do too much damage, and they will never serve as good examples to our children.

          Might and Right are always fighting, in our youth it seems exciting. Right is always nearly winning, Might can hardly keep from grinning. -- Clarence Day

          by hestal on Wed Aug 15, 2012 at 07:13:59 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Secular Humanism without the Humanism (4+ / 0-)

    What Ayn Rand believed in seems to be Secular Humanism without the Humanism.

    What Paul Ryan believes in seems to be Christianity without the Humanism.

    The latter seems to me to be even more dangerous.

  •  Diarist admits to not reading Rand (4+ / 0-)

    I made a serious effort to slog through Fountainhead. Made about 400 pages at which point it was redundantly clear that it would be more and more of the same until the end. Fifty pages of Atlas Shrugged were identical.

    Rand wrote juvenile fiction. The intended audience was 14 year old boys. Insecure and sexually frustrated boys. The endless power fantasies and paeans to masculinity are masturbation fantasies. The endless misogyny is so clumsy and parodic it made me laugh out loud.

    These are not serious books. They are propaganda and plainly meant to be propaganda. She propagandizes adolescent boys to be boys, to be pigs, to be blockheads and bullies. Some boys are happy to hear that. Any adult should be amazed that any of this drivel is taken seriously.

    Rand is an incredibly bad writer. She clearly spoke English as a second language. She uses prose as a blunt instrument. The didactics are always out in the open. No editor worth the name would read any of her work to the end in manuscript.

    No one of average intelligence and mature years would read Rand's tripe. Adults who consume Rand eagerly are men with problems. Severe sexual problems. That we have had, for example, a Chairman of the Federal Reserve, who was a disciple of Rand shows how degraded our institutions and our public discourse have become.

    If you think I exaggerate go pick up a copy. Don't waste money. If there's no copy lying about for free there are stacks for $1 or less at any used book store. Were Rand not so popular and unfortunately relevant her books would not meet standards for public libraries.

    •  I am an avid reader. I have read (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      oldhippie, RMForbes, happymisanthropy

      most of the science fiction writers that are mentioned in this thread. In college I tried to read one of Rand's books, it was the one that was published in 1957, and I could not finish it. It was boring, really boring crap.

      By the way, I started to college in 1957 and one of my professors told the class that we should try Rand's book. When the class discussed it, I gazed out the window and thought about girls and golf.

      Might and Right are always fighting, in our youth it seems exciting. Right is always nearly winning, Might can hardly keep from grinning. -- Clarence Day

      by hestal on Wed Aug 15, 2012 at 09:20:23 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I tried to read Rand 30 years ago myself (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      oldhippie, Eric Blair

      It was some difficult slogging.I gave up as well.
      I didn't have the terminology for it at the time but it seemed very selfish. Today I would call it narcissistic.

      That grown men fall for this is very depressing.That they have the ability to influence our fiscal policies is frightening.

      They would have been better off studying the Greek philosophers and sharpened their reasoning skills. A little
      time spent on surveying the great philosophers of the world would have given them the depth of understanding they need to govern. Our own founding fathers actually did do this. They were learned men who read from a wide variety of sources. They debated the kind of government they wanted for months. What we ended up with is really a pretty decent result.

      As thinkers go, Ryan is about ankle deep. His moral development is stunted by his lack of reasoning and compassion. He will have to be very adept at lying his way out of this mess. He won't fool many of us but he might fool the general populace. We all need to collectively dust off our cob-webbed brains (at least,I do)
      to do battle with the nonsense we are going to hear for the next 12 weeks.

      When in doubt, fall back on ol- fashioned ethics and morality. It just isn't decent to let other people fall through the safety net when we are a country of such great wealth. That is what my granny would say.

    •  Good response (bought mine as Library (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      oldhippie

      discard); could not really read it. I think we need a blog site or meme called Atlas Shrugged Shredded, or some such.

    •  I think she's a great writer. (0+ / 0-)

      I can say that and not be an Objectivist, not stop being a liberal. I loved the Fountainhead.  Atlas Shrugged I have described as propaganda.  Fountainhead was just a great novel.

      If you didn't like that, try We the Living.  Made me cry when I read the ending.

      I think people here take a little to much pleasure in knocking her fiction and writing style and viciously characterizing the people who like her books as if that furthers the goal of debunking her philosophy, which it doesn't at all.

  •  Heinlein on Rand (3+ / 0-)

    In Citizen of the Galaxy,  Heinlein has a character Ziggy, who is a petty thief who befriends the protagonist.  When the protagonist needs some help (the slavers are after him)  he rejects his own idea, commenting that Ziggy would sell his mother for $.02;  and Ziggy thinks "anyone who doesn't look out for himself first, last and always is a sucker."  

    Even a libertarian like Heinlein thought Rand's proclamations espousing selfish behavior were a poor working model for any rational human being.  

    I think "Selfism" is a better name for Rand's worldview than her own word choice.

  •   The pursuit of... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    happymisanthropy

    ... own rational self-interest and of own happiness is the highest  purpose of ones life.(this text slightly modified)

    WOW!How could Rand so accurately describe my ten year old grand kids without ever knowing them?

  •  "Do what thou wilt is the whole of the law"- (0+ / 0-)

    Aleister Crowley, noted wackadoodle spiritualist and satan-worshipper.

    Obviously, this kind of 'objectivist' (more accurately, pure infantile selfishness) will lead logically to all kinds of horrific actions. I mean, what the hell; why not pitchfork your neighbor's toddler just to see what it's like? Why not enslave an entire nation and sell them for their organs?

    There's no bottom to how low you can go.

  •  Pure capitalism is a fraud because it is (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RMForbes, happymisanthropy

    based on theft. Goivernment doesn't exist to prevent theft, but to preserve the spoils fo the first theives. Man cannot create matter out of thin air without massive technology which has accumulated through a spoils system. Back at day one, all property came as a theft of the commons. Perhaps it was enhanced, modified, improved, recast of whatever, but nobody possessed a spear handle that wasn't, at some point, abrogated by force from the commons, though, at early times there ws such an abundance in most places that this was not deemed objectionable.

    That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

    by enhydra lutris on Wed Aug 15, 2012 at 10:10:49 AM PDT

    •  Want a vision of "pure capitalism" per Liberta (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      enhydra lutris

      rian Grand Masters? Here's what you would get:

      http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/...

      It's a sort of long read, in 5 parts, but we might ask ourselves if this is a kind of structure in which we would care to live. Not too far from what we have already, privatized prisons and a huge private-public "states security" apparatus and all, and are trending toward in any event...

      "Is that all there is?" Peggy Lee.

      by jm214 on Wed Aug 15, 2012 at 10:48:56 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for this nice summary (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    leema

    I've had debates from time to time with other atheists who love Rand and can't stand my Humanism.

  •  Objectivism Is Just Evil (0+ / 0-)

    Period.

  •  Keep in mind (0+ / 0-)

    that we use solitary confinement as an extreme punishment.

    We are social animals. Selfishness is self destructive.

    Who is John Galt's dentist?

    Violence is the last resort of the incompetent. - Asimov

    by nolagrl on Wed Aug 15, 2012 at 01:50:23 PM PDT

  •  Thanks for this diary and (0+ / 0-)

    for the link to your Dad's writings, which I will take the time to enjoy later.

    I take a different view here.  I don't think Ayn Rand's atheism is that well connected to her economic views and I am very concerned about people making that link. There are comments on this sight where Christians are discussing using Ayn's atheism as a political weapon against Paul Ryan by reminding the public of his connection to her and the evils of godlessness.  The last thing atheists need now is for liberal Christians to use this tactic against Ryan, as it will add to the hostility against atheists.  We don't need more of this and I would encourage any atheists on this thread to challenge this political tactic.

    •  Just to clarify (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Fishtroller01

      Dad didn't write those articles, he merely shared them...

      Progress 365 not just a slogan a goal - 300 progressive seats in the House and 65 progressive seats in the Senate.

      by jusjtim35 on Wed Aug 15, 2012 at 03:08:38 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I think it's very important to understanding her. (0+ / 0-)

      She begins FIRST by rejecting classic Judeo-Christian morality with the whole virtue of selfishness business, and then uses THAT as a justification for a philosophy of radical individualism, and then that as the justification for laissez-faire capitalism.

      In Ryan's own words, Ayn Rands lays down the basic MORAL justification for capitalism.  So that means going to the roots.

      I understand you don't want to taint atheists, and that's fine, you're fine, everybody's fine.  You know who is not fine with atheists?  Religious-right Christians of the type who turned out in large masses for George W. Bush because he was going to immanentize the eschaton and get 'em all raptured faster than they can shake a snake at a tent revival.  THOSE people really could benefit from being confronted by the atheist philosophy that stands at the very root of the moral system that many of their puppet masters believe.

      Somehow, right now, Republicans manage to keep the Randheads like Ryan and the millenialists in their camp without ever letting them talk at the same time and spooking each other.

    •  Yes, but . . . (0+ / 0-)

      Rand's atheism is an embarrassment to a lot of atheists as well as a deal breaker for the RR people.  "Imagine there's no heaven" isn't an anthem for blind self-interest; it's a plea for mercy toward everyone in this world, in the only life we know we all have. Why not out Ryan AND his disagreeable muse?  (Yeah, I know, you can't do both in a single soundbite.)

      •  You can out Rand's (0+ / 0-)

        economic ideas without emphasizing the atheism part because her ideas are anti-humanistic. They are anti-human caring and anti-compassion. They are anti-community.  Tying all that to her atheism will create more backlash against the atheist community.

  •  Rand's economics (laissez-faire) doesn't logically (0+ / 0-)

    follow from her ethical philosophy. She never bothers to prove that every individual's self-interest is contradictory to every other individual's self-interest. She merely assumes that.

    This is called the philosophy of the undistributed middle term.

    "Mistress of the Topaz" is now available in paperback! Link here: http://www.double-dragon-ebooks.com/single.php?ISBN=1-55404-900-8

    by Kimball Cross on Wed Aug 15, 2012 at 03:46:29 PM PDT

    •  Nothing can be derived from A=A (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      happymisanthropy

      Descartes attempted to prove the existence of God from the premise "I think, therefore I am," yet he failed, because even if this cannot be doubted (some philosophers have doubted this) you just can't use it to create conclusions that cannot be doubted.

      Similarly, A=A doesn't prove anything, it doesn't get you anywhere.

      The wolfpack eats venison. The lone wolf eats mice.

      by A Citizen on Wed Aug 15, 2012 at 04:10:42 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Excuse me. I meant to say, (0+ / 0-)

      the fallacy of the undistributed middle term.

      "Mistress of the Topaz" is now available in paperback! Link here: http://www.double-dragon-ebooks.com/single.php?ISBN=1-55404-900-8

      by Kimball Cross on Thu Aug 16, 2012 at 04:28:54 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I read Ayn Rand as a teenager in HS. (0+ / 0-)

    I am an atheist...and a grandmother.  Was raised in a non religious family that practiced compassion and empathy.   Had one Catholic grandmother working hard to get us back in the fold.   But I formed my own philosophy thru time.   I boiled it down in My Philosophy Song when I thought I was dying ...but it turned out to be neuroborreliosis ( lyme disease) ...back in the late '90s.    

    My Philosophy Song

    We share the Earth, the Sea, the Sky
    We share it one and all.

    We seek to learn just how it works
    This world of ours, so small.

    We face it square: our joys, our woes
    We need no magic sign.

    We live, we die
    Our genes go on...
    And our atoms recombine!

    We have one chance to love and learn
    And to make a better world.

    So Rejoice in life.
    Rejoice in life
    .....ReJoice...in ...Life!

    "I think it is much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers that might be wrong." Richard Feynman

    by leema on Wed Aug 15, 2012 at 04:03:22 PM PDT

  •  Hindsight is easy now (0+ / 0-)

    and the ideas of Socialism were quite different when Rand was growing up.  Her philosophy should be put into the context of those times.

    Remember, Ayn Rand was product of the Soviet Union and saw the effects of Communism first hand.  A lot of what she wrote was probably a reaction (or likely an overreaction) to the Soviet Era of Stalin - with his brutal hyper-collectivism and very centralized economy and Five-Year Plans.   Her books were written during the heyday of the Cold War, where American capitalism was still young and hadn't overstepped (like it is now).  

    What's interesting is comparing her old ideas to those of Karl Marx - he wrote that capitalism would at first succeed and grow very well by means of capital investment in new technology and improved ways of production.  Everyone in the early capitalist society would prosper.  However, as time goes on certain capitalists will appropriate more and more profits and income from the economy for themselves and laborers would have increasingly less and less.

    Over time, after vicious cyclical swings from boom and bust, the process of capitalism would result in ever richer capitalists and ever poorer working classes, until finally at some point, laborers would revolt and take over the means of production, causing Socialism to ensue as a result.

    Probably going off-topic a bit, but I think Marx was a much better predictor of the future than Ayn Rand.  She didn't take her ideas to the ultimate conclusion - that ultimate selfishness will result in a cold heartless society.  And a lot of cold, angry, heartless people.

    •  You're on to something there with the Marx (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Anna M

      business.  I see an element of unintentional parody in Ayn Rand's work, the phrasing of it, the manifesto writings, the attempts to reinterpret history in a different economic light, the liberal quoting of other philosophers in justification.  The formation of the Objectivist organization, too, is a parody of Marx's early organizing tools.

  •  What is good (0+ / 0-)

    And who defines it? You speak of good as if it's something to strive for, as if mankind will nod their heads and say yes, this is approvable. But it's not, because there is either good or there isn't, and if good means something that a portion of people will say yes to, there's another portion that will say no to it. That's not good. Selfish and caring are terms people use to label behaviors they don't approve of. Looking out for one's self above all else is nothing more than behavior we find all throughout the natural world. You're not required to care about anyone else beside yourself, nor is doing so any more morally 'better' than caring for the collective, except in the selfish sense that looking out for the collective may in turn protect your own self interests. If you want to make an appeal for collective protection because it protects self interest, including those of people you care about such as family, I can find that logical. I don't understand appointing approval stickers on arbitrary frameworks of behavior that some find more acceptable than the other.

    •  Required? No... (0+ / 0-)

      I was merely explaining the difference. Most people probably agree (and it's part of our genetic code) that looking out for more than just our own self-interests is a good idea...

      Progress 365 not just a slogan a goal - 300 progressive seats in the House and 65 progressive seats in the Senate.

      by jusjtim35 on Wed Aug 15, 2012 at 08:03:04 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  ayn rand is despicable (0+ / 0-)

    as is any person who is motivated by her trash

    "The real wealth of a nation consists of the contributions of its people and nature." -- Rianne Eisler

    by noofsh on Wed Aug 15, 2012 at 07:34:26 PM PDT

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