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Is Reproduction the ultimate value? Or Life?

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I'm so disheartened and disappointed. Evolution seems to reject the Objectivist position that life is an end in itself. Isn't our purpose as biological beings to reproduce? After all, why do we have reproductive organs? Someone please explain to me how evolution is compatible with objectivism. I have searched the forum and Peikoff's podcast's but it is taking too long to find an answer.

Thank you,

Cory

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I'm so disheartened and disappointed. Evolution seems to reject the Objectivist position that life is an end in itself. Isn't our purpose as biological beings to reproduce? After all, why do we have reproductive organs? Someone please explain to me how evolution is compatible with objectivism. I have searched the forum and Peikoff's podcast's but it is taking too long to find an answer.

Thank you,

Cory

Evolution is a scientific systems process, not an ethical code. Ethics only refers to the entity which is capable of having choice, which is the individual. Evolution is an emergent process which occurs when many individual entities interact with each other. It has no "purpose" or "goal," it is just the result of automatic biological action.

When an individual acts, he does so by the standard of his life, not reproduction. The individual human is only concerned with the evolutionary advance of his species to the degree which it enhances his own existence (which is to say, generally not at all).

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Try this: http://www.peikoff.c...the-human-race/

You should also ask yourself, what makes something an ultimate value/an end in itself? Aristotle would answer, that that thing must be “that which is always desirable in itself and never for the sake of something else," and he's right. The only thing that fulfills those criteria is happiness. The fact that the nature of life and the universe has resulted in organisms that have a tendency towards passing on their genes, does not mean that passing on your genes is any sort of value. Values need to be of value towards some individual. Any alleged value that is independent of living organisms would require some sort of supernatural explanation.

Edited by oso

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Why Rand's Hesistation about Evolution?

First, evolution is generally seen as a deterministic and ultimately hostile to free will. (Machan, Ayn Rand, pp. 142-43.) [...]

Second, if biological evolution is true, then many areas of philosophy might need to be reexamined. For example, how can man have a qualitatively different value from animals if he is every bit a part of nature as animals? [...]

Third, Rand may have been fearful of creating a biological or secular equivalent to original sin. Rand’s opposition to original sin is well known, but her opposition to original sin would apply to any argument that proposes a biological weakness in man’s will. [...]

Fourth, it is also possible that Rand may have believed that biological evolution did not present any problems for Objectivism, but hoped that followers more knowledgeable in biology would resolve whatever tensions exist.

-RoR

Anyone know if there are any paper(s) discussing the points brought up in this article?

Edit: The most interesting part of this article is the section called 'The Missing Link.' It raises a lot of points I see used regularly on oist forums. People refer to 'moochers' and 'looters' as almost non-humans, with evil intents, no reasoning skills, hardly any brains, etc. Animals are considered sub-human (ie: they only exist for human pleasure, they should be controlled, etc):

Rand mentioned evolution a few times in her journals. She writes in 1945: “Perhaps we are really in the process of evolving from apes to Supermen—and the rational faculty is the dominant characteristic of the better species, the Superman.” (Harriman, ed., Journals of Ayn Rand, p. 285.) In her notes for Atlas Shrugged in 1946, she writes:

The supposition of man’s physical descent from monkeys does not necessarily mean that man’s soul, the rational faculty, is only an elaboration of an animal faculty, different from the animal’s consciousness only in degree, not in kind.”
(pp. 465-466.)

Her most interesting comment on the implications of evolution may be the following, also from her notes for Atlas Shrugged:

We may still be in evolution, as a species, and living side by side with some “missing links.” [. . .] We do not know to what extent the majority of men are now rational. (They are certainly far from the perfect rational being, and all the teachings they absorb put them still farther back to the pre-human stage.) . . . . (Most men are rational beings, even if none too smart; they are not pre-humans incapable of rational thinking; they can be dealt with only on the basis of free rational, consent.) (p. 466-67.)
[5]

She goes on the same entry to describe those incapable of rational life as “sub-human” who need to be “enslaved” and “controlled.” (p. 467.)

Rand discusses evolution twice in For the New Intellectual, published in 1961. In her discussion of Attila and the Witch Doctor, she states: “If a missing link between the human and the animal species is to be found, Attila and the Witch Doctor are that missing link—the profiteers on men’s default.” (pp. 21-22.) The second mention of evolution is in the discussion of Herbert Spencer’s philosophy, in which she makes clear her opposition to Spencer’s use of evolution as the organizing principle of philosophy. (p. 37.)

Rand’s most detailed published discussion of evolution is in her 1973 article entitled “The Missing Link,” which is reprinted in Philosophy: Who Needs It? Rand discusses the anti-conceptual mentality. Readers should keep in mind that Rand denies that animals think conceptually. In a passage that is somewhat hard to understand, she states:

I am not a student of the theory of evolution and, therefore, I am neither its supporter nor its opponent. But a certain hypothesis has haunted me for years; I want to stress that it is only hypothesis. There is an enormous breach of continuity between nature and man’s consciousness, in its distinctive characteristic: his conceptual faculty. It is as if, after aeons of physiological development, the evolutionary process altered its course, and the higher stages of development focused primarily on the consciousness of living species, not their bodies. But the development of a man’s consciousness is volitional: no matter what the innate degree of intelligence
he
must develop it,
he
must learn how to use it,
he
must become human by choice. What if he does not choose to? Then he becomes a transitional phenomenon—a desperate creature that struggles frantically against his own nature, longing for effortless “safety” of an animal’s consciousness, which he cannot recapture, and rebelling against a human consciousness, which he is afraid to achieve. (Rand,
Philosophy: Who Needs It?,
p. 45.)

Although Rand presents this hypothesis tentatively, it appears that she places man himself as an agent of evolution along side the “evolutionary process.” Evolution took a different course because man chose to think “conceptually.” I take this passage to mean that Rand’s hypothesis consists of the following: (1) the evolutionary process was first focused on the development of animals’ bodies; (2) the evolutionary process then focused on animals’ consciousness; (3) man (or some version of him) had a body like ours, but a non-conceptual consciousness; and (4) finally, some men chose to think conceptually, thus completing the creation of man. What is most curious about Rand’s hypothesis is her statement that it has “haunted” her “for years.” One wonders if what haunted Rand is the implication of her theory (which she made explicit in her journals) that at least some non-rational human beings are literally sub-human.

Rand’s sentiments concerning evolution have an echo in her frequent statements in her essays that equate non-rational men to animals. It is striking how often Rand compares irrational people to non-human animals. Two examples must suffice:

Man cannot survive as anything but man. He
can
abandon his means of survival, his mind, he
can
turn himself into a subhuman creature. (Rand,
The Virtue Of Selfishness
, p. 24.)

To an animal, whatever strikes his awareness is an absolute that corresponds to reality. . . . And
this
is the Witch Doctor’s epistemological ideal
, the most of consciousness he strives to induce in himself. (Rand,
For the New Intellectual
, p. 17.)

Professor Eric Mack notes that in a recent popular presentation of Objectivist ethics, parasitic people are described as literally dead. (Mack, “Problematic Arguments in Randian Ethics”, Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, Vol 5., No. 1, p. 24.)[6]

Keeping in mind Branden’s point that Rand did not wish to replace evolution with creationism, it is nonetheless interesting to note that Rand’s view of the uniqueness of man (given the gulf that separates man and other animals) has a certain resemblance to anti-Darwinian religious thought. G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936) wrote:

Most philosophers have the enlightenment to add that a third mystery attaches to the origin of man himself. In other words, a third bridge was built across a third abyss of the unthinkable when there came into the world what we call reason and what call will. Man is not merely an evolution but rather a revolution. (Chesterton,
The Everlasting Man
, p. 26.)

Rand likely would have agreed with Chesterton’s phrase “man is not merely an evolution but a revolution.”

Edited by mdegges

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Evolution has no overt purpose. Reproduction isn't even a purpose. More or less, evolution is just an explanation of how it is that certain traits and even species of animal manage to develop over time. Genetic fitness is also part of that. Better traits usually lead to survival, and the relevant evolutionary factors. Reproduction then carries on these traits. However, this does not necessarily say anything about behavior or even volition - behavior is only deterministic from evolution for behaviorists. Behaviors don't have to follow a goal of reproduction. By the way, not even Darwin believed there was a "final purpose" to evolution.

Possibly useful link: http://www.victorianweb.org/science/darwin/diniejko.html

The most interesting part of this article is the section called 'The Missing Link.' It raises a lot of points I see used regularly on oist forums.

Hmm, do you have any questions to ask about regarding what you quoted?

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Hmm, do you have any questions to ask about regarding what you quoted?

Erg, the last paragraph I wrote must have been cut off. I was wondering if the bolded parts are correct interpretations of Rand's works. My problems with them are as follows:

  1. This is definitely not compatible with evolution, and I have no idea where Rand would have gotten the idea (and- where is the logic behind it?): "(1) the evolutionary process was first focused on the development of animals’ bodies; (2) the evolutionary process then focused on animals’ consciousness; (3) man (or some version of him) had a body like ours, but a non-conceptual consciousness; and (4) finally, some men chose to think conceptually, thus completing the creation of man."
  2. Maybe I am overly optimistic, but I always thought Rand was using a metaphor when she referred to certain types of people as 'subhuman' 'moochers' and 'looters'.. (ie: she did not literally mean that people who don't agree with her or her philosophy are not men). I take her statements to mean that people who support the idea of an entitlement state are wrong, NOT that they are somehow less human than the rest of us and need to be controlled/put in line. "Man cannot survive as anything but man. He can abandon his means of survival, his mind, he can turn himself into a subhuman creature. (Rand, The Virtue Of Selfishness, p. 24.)"
  3. I don't have the text with me to verify if this is correct, but this is a very disturbing statement: "She goes on the same entry to describe those incapable of rational life as “sub-human” who need to be “enslaved” and “controlled."

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Ok, I understand that evolution simply describes a scientific process. I also understand that evolution does not provide man with an ethical system by which to make choices. Ethics is only possible to an organism that must exercise its means of survival by choice.

Still, Rand states: "[the actions of all living organisms] are actions generated by the organism itself and directed to a single goal: the maintenance of an organism's life."

This is obviously incorrect. What about reproduction? The physical reproductive parts of an organism do not maintain that organism's life. Those parts are for mating with others.

My question is: how does reproduction maintain an organism's life? Child-rearing is obviously very hard work in any species.

Finally, since human beings are rational animals, perhaps reproduction is the end in itself. We obviously must maintain our own lives in order to reproduce, but reproduction is the ultimate goal of any biological organism.

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Someone please explain to me how evolution is compatible with objectivism. I have searched the forum and Peikoff's podcast's but it is taking too long to find an answer.

Thank you,

Cory

Once upon a time (1976 and 1990 going by the copyrights) Harry Binswanger wrote a PhD thesis and later a book entitled "The Biological Basis of Teleological Concepts". The specific question you ask is well covered, along with others that you haven't thought of or written down yet (such as individual versus group survival).

Given the context of non-human organisms which are not volitional and thus genetically determined, quotes beginning on page 154 are as follows:

"Contemporary biologists, consequently, tend to look upon genetic selection as differential reproduction, and include survival as one requirement of reproduction (since a dead organism cannot reproduce). It is equally possible, however, to look at the same phenomenon from the other direction and describe genetic selection as differential survival, including the individual's genesis as a requirement of its present existence. If a genetic unit increases the probability of reproductive success, then ipso facto it increases the probability of the offspring's creation and development. Clearly the goal of "reproductive success" is not attained if the offspring cannot mature and survive. A gene allele which increases mating activity but causes all the progeny to be stillborn will have a reproductive fitness of zero and will be rapidly eliminated from the population. "Reproductive success" is understood as success in producing viable (and fertile) descendants If this is so, then it is impossible to distinguish benefits to reproduction from benefits to the lives of the descendants."

To emphasize a point here: the concept of survival must include genesis in order to be fully symmetrical to the perspective of reproduction that includes survival.

Binswanger goes on also to emphasize this point:

"The equivalence of the two ultimate goals—survival and reproduction—is obscured by the fact that "survival" is usually understood to mean the continuation of the life of a presently existing organism. If, however, we include X's being conceived as a contribution to X's survival (or perhaps the better term would X's life) the equivalence becomes apparent."

In the causal sequence ... → eggN → henN → eggN+1 → henN+1→ egN+2 ... (setting aside the rooster's role) past acts of reproduction in the ancestral line of hens have survival value to the present henN, and the reproductive acts of henN are caused by the same genes that caused mating (or "reproductive fitness" more generally) in prior hens. Reproductive fitness up to eggN is included in survival value to henN, and survival value to henN is included in reproductive fitness for eggN+1.

Thats enough for now.

Edited by Grames

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Responding to mdegges:

1. What's wrong with that line of reasoning? Certainly, Rand said hypothesis, so some of the paraphrased points can be argued, but the point is that evolutionary processes led to the development of the mind, which later developed into being able to provide conceptual thinking. Whether the focus *really* started with animal's bodies as a focus is kind of irrelevant.

2. I think it's metaphor too. If one doesn't use reason, they are as good as subhuman, but it doesn't mean that they are not human without rights.

3. Even if it was what she said and what she meant, Rand wrote it in a journal. If she meant it, I think she changed her mind later, perhaps after she wrote more of Atlas Shrugged.

We obviously must maintain our own lives in order to reproduce, but reproduction is the ultimate goal of any biological organism.

What leads you to conclude this? I addressed it in my previous post basically.

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After all, why do we have reproductive organs?

You're asking the wrong question. Your question assumes that there is a reason why we have reproductive organs. There isn't.

There is a cause, but the correct way to ask for the cause of something is "How did it come to be?", not "Why did it come to be?".

The answer to How? is pretty simple: all the lifeforms without reproductive organs died without passing on their genetic material. It stands to reason that, therefor, such lifeforms exist very rarely, compared to lifeforms with reproductive organs.

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Well, I'm trying to understand "Serial Thinker's" comment. It's late and I have ADD, so it is very difficult to grasp the concept. It sounds like a complete rationalization to me, but maybe my IQ is not high enough to understand. If anyone would like to clarify, I would be grateful. BTW, thanks to everyone who submitted a reply.

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Ok, I've been searching for answers. The ARI eStore has a .99 download of a Q&A with Leonard Peikoff. He specifically answered my question along with many others.

Basically, animals have no idea why they reproduce. They don't care- they're just living their lives. You cannot approach an animal and ask: "What is your ultimate goal?" The animal is unable to answer, he is just enjoying himself.

Also, reproduction is inherent in the nature of life. That is just how the system works.

Here is the podcast: https://estore.aynrand.org/p/121/cultural-commentary-q-a-mp3-download (around the 33 min. mark)

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Hmmm... reproduction or life... seems to me you can't have one without the other. Every individual is a reproduction of their parents, so even the act of choosing life as ones highest value is preceded and dependent on another valuing reproduction. Being both someones child and someones parent I'm biased on this issue, but I think choosing life acknowledges reproduction as an equal value.

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Hmmm... reproduction or life... seems to me you can't have one without the other. Every individual is a reproduction of their parents, so even the act of choosing life as ones highest value is preceded and dependent on another valuing reproduction. Being both someones child and someones parent I'm biased on this issue, but I think choosing life acknowledges reproduction as an equal value.

Even if an individual human chooses not to have offspring the very cells of his body will keep on replicating until the telomeres on the chromosomes are used up at which point a normal cell ceases to reproduce. BTW our body cells are good for about fifty replications. The only cells that reproduce themselves after that point are cancerous which will kill the entire organism in good time.

We are biologically programmed to die, eventually

ruveyn1

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We are biologically programmed to die, eventually

I know what you are saying but I don't think it is accurate. Using your terminology it would be more accurate to say: We are biologically programmed to live.

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I know what you are saying but I don't think it is accurate. Using your terminology it would be more accurate to say: We are biologically programmed to live.

The telomeres degrade with each duplication. After 50 duplications or so the daughter cell of the 51 st generation (or so) dies. Unless it is cancerous in which case the entire organism will die of the cancel. Any activity which is a physical consequence of the underlying substance or object can be said to be "programmed". The laws of physics and chemistry are the ultimate "program" of the cosmos.

Bottom line. We are all doomed. But that is a good thing in the large. That assures there will always be room for New Stuff as long as the Sun shines, which is not forever. The Sun is programmed to die. It will die in about 5 billion years or so. But humans will not be around to enjoy the show.

ruveyn1

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The telomeres degrade with each duplication. After 50 duplications or so the daughter cell of the 51 st generation (or so) dies. Unless it is cancerous in which case the entire organism will die of the cancel. Any activity which is a physical consequence of the underlying substance or object can be said to be "programmed". The laws of physics and chemistry are the ultimate "program" of the cosmos.

Bottom line. We are all doomed.

Unfortunately, it hasn't been proven that telomere shortening is the cause (or even so much as a contributing factor) of aging.

I say unfortunately because, if your description were accurate, then we would be that much closer to slowing down the aging process. The enzyme telomerase (which is active in reproductive cells - sperm and eggs - and in cancer cells, and is what causes them to be "immortal") has in fact been used to keep other cells dividing beyond their normal lifespan, in lab experiments.

So, if what you're saying were fact, we'd be the opposite of doomed.

http://learn.genetic...aits/telomeres/

Edited by Nicky

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Unfortunately, it hasn't been proven that telomere shortening is the cause (or even so much as a contributing factor) of aging.

I say unfortunately because, if your description were accurate, then we would be that much closer to slowing down the aging process. The enzyme telomerase (which is active in reproductive cells - sperm and eggs - and in cancer cells, and is what causes them to be "immortal") has in fact been used to keep other cells dividing beyond their normal lifespan, in lab experiments.

So, if what you're saying were fact, we'd be the opposite of doomed.

http://learn.genetic...aits/telomeres/

Do you know any human people who are over 200 years old? If not, do you wonder why?

ruveyn1

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Even if an individual human chooses not to have offspring the very cells of his body will keep on replicating until the telomeres on the chromosomes are used up at which point a normal cell ceases to reproduce. BTW our body cells are good for about fifty replications. The only cells that reproduce themselves after that point are cancerous which will kill the entire organism in good time.

We are biologically programmed to die, eventually

ruveyn1

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That life isn't immune from death hardly indicates a program to end program. Programming is dependent on the existence of a programmer whose intentions (or goals) are reflected in the operation of the program. In the context of mortality, the identity of the programmer is usually taken to be Nature's God in one form or another, and the goal of the program is to be fruitful and multiple, i.e. to reproduce in order to preserve the continuity of life.

We (all mortals) are biologically enabled to preserve life in a mortal context where death is a consequence, but not a goal. The continued existence of mortal life, however diminished by harsh realities (e.g. plague, famine, predation) implies a biological goal to transcend mortality; or if ruveyn1 is correct, to endure beyond our biological programming.

Edited by Devil's Advocate

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Still, Rand states: "[the actions of all living organisms] are actions generated by the organism itself and directed to a single goal: the maintenance of an organism's life."

This is obviously incorrect. What about reproduction? The physical reproductive parts of an organism do not maintain that organism's life. Those parts are for mating with others.

My question is: how does reproduction maintain an organism's life? Child-rearing is obviously very hard work in any species.

Finally, since human beings are rational animals, perhaps reproduction is the end in itself. We obviously must maintain our own lives in order to reproduce, but reproduction is the ultimate goal of any biological organism.

The reason you want to reproduce is because it's built into your DNA, through evolution, to do it. There is no ethical or moral component to why you desire that. Just as there is no ethical or moral component to the law of gravity. Just because that ball you dropped from a third-story window went down because of the force of gravity, doesn't mean it ethically SHOULD go down. This is the famous "is/ought" problem, or "natural law fallacy" problem. People see an "is," and then they jump to an "ought." The desire you have to put your semen in a place closest to an ovulating egg is just reaction created by the fact that you come from a long line of people who have done that same thing, and therefore that desire is also written into your DNA code as well.

Rand was a little off in the quote you posted, and slightly off (but only slightly) in general with her philosophy precisely because she didn't understand (no one did at that time) evolutionary psychology. I think her philosophy is only improved when adjusted for the fact of evolutionary psychology. She was correct in understanding that the only objective moral value is that to live is better than to not live, and therefore anything that destroys an individual's life is objectively morally wrong. And any other moral value is simply an offshoot of that primary moral value.

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Rand was a little off in the quote you posted, and slightly off (but only slightly) in general with her philosophy precisely because she didn't understand (no one did at that time) evolutionary psychology.

Actually, I just think it needs to be pointed out, evolutionary psychology is flawed in many ways, most of all because we don't have any observations of primitive humans. That would be impossible without a time machine. At least in this context, people have such considerable control over behavior due to cognition that speaking of desires in the same way as say, chimpanzees, is not applicable to the same degree.

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I'm so disheartened and disappointed. Evolution seems to reject the Objectivist position that life is an end in itself. Isn't our purpose as biological beings to reproduce? After all, why do we have reproductive organs? Someone please explain to me how evolution is compatible with objectivism. I have searched the forum and Peikoff's podcast's but it is taking too long to find an answer.

Thank you,

Cory

Hi Cory. Objectivism advocates that an individual's life is an end in itself, not "Life" per se as you indicated.

"The Objectivist ethics holds man's life as the STANDARD of value - and HIS OWN LIFE as the ethical PURPOSE

of every individual man." [VOS]

(Excuse the scare caps.)

Man (qua man) means all men who have been, are, and will be. "Standard" relates to the fundamental nature of all men.

Then there's you and I.

The rational, individual man has as his "central purpose"[AR] - productiveness, which precedes and supports all further purposes or values. (The 'fountainhead' of them, perhaps...)

Reproduction and parenting may well become a purpose and value in his life - but is not an automatic imperative. I think a biological faculty is of no value, intrinsically, until it is given value, consciously and volitionally, by this one man or woman.

Anything beyond this admits an obligation and duty to a collective mankind.

Edited by whYNOT

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