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This question is addressed those who are expert on what positions Ayn Rand took on various issues:

Did she have a stand or opinion on the theory (or the fact) of evolution and if so what was it?

Thanks in advance.

Bob Kolker

Edited by Robert J. Kolker
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She didn't have a view on evolution, since she didn't know enough about it (she says this explicititly in Philosophy: Who Needs it, I think.)

About creationism, Ayn Rand wrote this (in The Age of Mediocrity):

"To claim that the mystics' mythology, or inventions, or superstitions are as valid as scientific theories, and to offer this claim to the unformed minds of children, is a moral crime. Is the child expected to make a choice? Only a very unusual, very intelligent and self-confident child would make the right choice in such a case -- and he would despise his teacher as a fool or a liar. But to the extent that a child trusts his teacher, he would be inclined to accept him on faith and to doubt his own mind (which, of course, is the result sought by Immanuel Kant, by the militant mystics, and by the 'creationists')."

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She didn't have a view on evolution, since she didn't know enough about it (she says this explicititly in Philosophy: Who Needs it, I think.)

I vaguely recall something anecdotal where she said to someone else, in a personal conversation(peikoff maybe?)that she did not think evolution to be likely to be correct, though I can't for the life of me remember the source. Does anyone else recall this and more specifically where it was from?

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I was actually reading up on the Kelly/Peikoff split and I read This (I believe it was from another source) I think that that may be what you were thinking of.

I remember being astonished to hear her say one day, "After all, the theory of evolution is only a hypothesis." I asked her, "You mean you seriously doubt that more complex life forms — including humans — evolved from less complex life forms?" She shrugged and responded, "I'm really not prepared to say," or words to that effect. I do not mean to imply that she wanted to substitute for the theory of evolution the religious belief that we are all God's creation; but there was definitely something about the concept of evolution that made her uncomfortable.[2]

Oh, and I would have given the link to the source at nathanielbranden.net but It didn't work as a link.

Edited by Guruite
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I was actually reading up on the Kelly/Peikoff split and I read This (I believe it was from another source) I think that that may be what you were thinking of.

Oh, and I would have given the link to the source at nathanielbranden.net but It didn't work as a link.

Yeah...that seems familiar. Maybe it was in Judgment Day.

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I think that's from Branden's website; for that reason, I wouldn't trust it. I believe Diana Hsieh has some commentary on Branden's claims about Ayn Rand's views on evolution.

I have never visited his site, so it must be elsewhere. The only thing by him I have read is Judgement day and a few essays in the presplit era. Could have been another website, but I don't thinks so.

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I have never visited his site, so it must be elsewhere. The only thing by him I have read is Judgement day and a few essays in the presplit era. Could have been another website, but I don't thinks so.

It was in Judgement Day. Nathaniel Branden said Ayn Rand always seemed reluctant to accept evolution as being true because she hoped humans weren't linked with all the other species; that humans are more special in that sense. That's what Branden said at least.

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It was in Judgement Day. Nathaniel Branden said Ayn Rand always seemed reluctant to accept evolution as being true because she hoped humans weren't linked with all the other species; that humans are more special in that sense. That's what Branden said at least.

Ok...sounds right. Thanks Progressive. I no longer have the book so I couldn't look it up.

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  • 3 weeks later...
This question is addressed those who are expert on what positions Ayn Rand took on various issues:

Did she have a stand or opinion on the theory (or the fact) of evolution and if so what was it?

Thanks in advance.

Bob Kolker

How about I copy/paste some very interesting comments of hers that I've found:

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

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

Men's intellectual capacities have always been so unequal that to the thinkers the majority of their brothers have probably always seemed subhuman. And some men may still be, for all the evidence of rationality, or lack of it, that they give. 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 push them still farther back to the pre-human stage.) But we do know that mankind as a whole and each man as an individual has a chance to survive and succeed only to the degree of their general and individual intelligence. That is all that a rational man can deal with, count on or be concerned with. Let him, without wondering about actual numbers or percentages of intelligence in others, act on the basis of "addressing himself to intelligence"-and he will win. And he will find that he does not have to fear stupidity. (Most men now are rational beings, even if not too smart; they are not pre-humans incapable of rational thinking; they can be dealt with only on the basis of free, rational consent.

If it's asked: what about those who are still pre-human, or near enough to it, and incapable of rationality as a method to guide their lives? What if such do exist among us? The answer is: nothing. Their way of living is not ours; in fact, they have no way of living, no method or means of survival—except through imitating us, who have acquired the human method and means. Leave us to our way of living, man's way—freedom, individual independence-and we'll carry them along by providing an example and a world of safety and comfort such as they can never quite grasp, let alone achieve.

We do this—but even if we didn't, so what? If those creatures incapable of rational existence are sub-human, are we to sacrifice ourselves or be sacrificed to them? Are we to descend to their level? Are we to make them the goal of our existence, and service to them our only purpose? If these pre-humans are incapable of rational thinking and of independence, and therefore they need an enslaved, controlled, regimented, "protective" society in order to survive—we cannot survive in such a society. By definition, we are then two different species. Their requirements are opposite to ours. They'll perish without us, anyway. But we will not he sacrificed to them. We will live in freedom—whether or not others will or can live that way.

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. It is possible that there was a sharp break, that the rational faculty was like a spark, added to the animal who was ready for it—and this would be actually like a soul entering a body. Or it might be that there is a metaphysical mistake in considering animals as pure matter. There is, scientifically, a most profound break between the living and the non-living. Now life may be the spirit; the animals may be the forms of spirit and matter, in which matter predominates; man may be the highest form, the crown and final goal of the universe, the form of spirit and matter in which the spirit predominates and triumphs. (If there's any value in "feelings" and "hunches"—God! how I feel that this is true!)

Edited by intellectualammo
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Evolution is junk science. I'm sorry, but evolution is such a slap in the face of science and the scientific method that it is akin to Al Gore's global warming tripe. BTW, I am not a creationist, I just can't buy into the sloppy 'science' of evolution.

Are you going to back those statements up with some actual reason?

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Mimpy,

Yes, you can read 'The Origin Of Species' to start. Also, beginning with raw chemistry, living things have to have acquired, over time, the myriad complex systems so common to us today. But for every postulated evolutionary advance, for the acquisition of every new system, an increase of information is required. This is because biological systems, like cars, derive from information. They do not come out of thin air. The information comes before, and gives rise to the systems. Thus, to get new systems you first of all need new information. Evolution has no way to get either any initial information, or the information necessary for each increase in complexity.

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Mimpy,

Yes, you can read 'The Origin Of Species' to start. Also, beginning with raw chemistry, living things have to have acquired, over time, the myriad complex systems so common to us today. But for every postulated evolutionary advance, for the acquisition of every new system, an increase of information is required. This is because biological systems, like cars, derive from information. They do not come out of thin air. The information comes before, and gives rise to the systems. Thus, to get new systems you first of all need new information. Evolution has no way to get either any initial information, or the information necessary for each increase in complexity.

This analogy is wrong on so many levels. Before I get into an actual argument: are you a creationist?

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Evolutionary systems aren't closed systems. They get new information from external non-evolutionary influences. Ray Kurzweil gives a good discussion of evolution's increasing order in the first chapter The Singularity is Near. He's not an Objectivist, but his analysis on this point makes sense.

~Q

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Mimpy,

Yes, you can read 'The Origin Of Species' to start. Also, beginning with raw chemistry, living things have to have acquired, over time, the myriad complex systems so common to us today. But for every postulated evolutionary advance, for the acquisition of every new system, an increase of information is required. This is because biological systems, like cars, derive from information. They do not come out of thin air. The information comes before, and gives rise to the systems. Thus, to get new systems you first of all need new information. Evolution has no way to get either any initial information, or the information necessary for each increase in complexity.

I don't see how you can reject Evolution based on its (current) failure to explain some very difficult scientific questions (i.e. how did the first cells evolve?). These events happened a long time ago, so it's not so simple to figure out how exactly that took place. However, even though we don't know how that works, there is still an incredible amount of evidence supporting this theory, and you're basically rejecting it because it cannot explain everything. But what do you then support that better explains these events?

There is no direct evidence contradicting evolution; that I know of anyway. Using the lack of an explanation as a refutation of a theory (or a person's argument) is what I think is known as an argument from ignorance. Until someone has direct evidence against Evolution you really shouldn't reject it because it cannot yet explain everything; not when it's so vastly superior to every other alternative theory that is presented (like ID and so on). Evolution helps us understand reality far better than any of its "alternatives" could ever do, in my not so humble opinion.

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I don't see how you can reject Evolution based on its (current) failure to explain some very difficult scientific questions (i.e. how did the first cells evolve?). These events happened a long time ago, so it's not so simple to figure out how exactly that took place. However, even though we don't know how that works, there is still an incredible amount of evidence supporting this theory, and you're basically rejecting it because it cannot explain everything. But what do you then support that better explains these events?

Darwin, himself, never attempted to account for the origin of life ab initio. He assumed initially there as a simple life form on this planet, or a few simple life forms. His agenda was to account for how these simple life forms which originated somehow, became the varieties of life we see today by natural processes. Like Newton who did not hypothesize causes for gravitation, but described gravitation accurately, Darwin does a similar thing for life. He does not hypothesize a cause for life, but accounts for how it is by purely natural processes.

What is interesting to note is that Darwin never postulated a mechanism for inheritance. There is no genetics was we know it postulated in -Origin of Species-. In fact, Darwin alludes to a process of use and disuse (in part) of characteristics which is more like Lamarck's theory. Darwinian inheritance is more Lamarckian than Mendelian. Apparently, Darwin, was not familiar with Mendel's findings. Mendel published in a very obscure Czeck journal and his works were if not lost, misplaced until rediscovered by De Vries in 1908. Only after the rediscovery of inheritance by genetic allele by De Vries, did it come to light that Mendel first hypothesized genes in the 1860's.

Many people who are opposed to the theory of evolution (particularly Creationists) attack Darwin's theory because he did not account for how life came about in the first place. That is analogous to attacking the Mendele'ev periodic table for not being a complete theory of atoms (which was not given until after quantum physics was discovered).

Bob Kolker

Edited by Robert J. Kolker
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Actually, I think Darwin had some idea of genetics, around the same time as Mendel. I don't have time to watch through it all now, to find the specific point, but it's in this talk Richard Dawkins gives on Neo-Darwinism. I submit such a video also as proof that Dawkins is much better at Popular Science than at Philosophy.

http://video.google.co.uk/videoplay?docid=...h&plindex=5

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Actually, I think Darwin had some idea of genetics, around the same time as Mendel. I don't have time to watch through it all now, to find the specific point, but it's in this talk Richard Dawkins gives on Neo-Darwinism. I submit such a video also as proof that Dawkins is much better at Popular Science than at Philosophy.

http://video.google.co.uk/videoplay?docid=...h&plindex=5

Darwin's idea of inheritance involved "mixing" of the characteristics. But this would lead to producing offspring at the average for each characteristic which does not happen. This concept of inheritance does not stand up to empirical scrutiny. Darwin had no more idea of the underlying mechanism for inheritance than Medele'ev had of the Pauli Exclusion Principle. However Darwin hit the jackpot with his notion of natural selection from naturally varied characteristics, however inherited. What Darwin did was to imagine nature as an animal or plant breeder who selectively breeds and culls to produce an output. In fact the first chapter of -Origin of Species- is about what plant and animal breeders do. This sets him up to analogize natural selection to conscious man-made selection to an extent (Darwin does not say there is a Purpose to changes that occur to species, but there is selection).

Bob Kolker

Edited by Robert J. Kolker
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Darwin, himself, never attempted to account for the origin of life ab initio. He assumed initially there as a simple life form on this planet, or a few simple life forms. His agenda was to account for how these simple life forms which originated somehow, became the varieties of life we see today by natural processes. Like Newton who did not hypothesize causes for gravitation, but described gravitation accurately, Darwin does a similar thing for life. He does not hypothesize a cause for life, but accounts for how it is by purely natural processes.

What is interesting to note is that Darwin never postulated a mechanism for inheritance. There is no genetics was we know it postulated in -Origin of Species-. In fact, Darwin alludes to a process of use and disuse (in part) of characteristics which is more like Lamarck's theory. Darwinian inheritance is more Lamarckian than Mendelian. Apparently, Darwin, was not familiar with Mendel's findings. Mendel published in a very obscure Czeck journal and his works were if not lost, misplaced until rediscovered by De Vries in 1908. Only after the rediscovery of inheritance by genetic allele by De Vries, did it come to light that Mendel first hypothesized genes in the 1860's.

Many people who are opposed to the theory of evolution (particularly Creationists) attack Darwin's theory because he did not account for how life came about in the first place. That is analogous to attacking the Mendele'ev periodic table for not being a complete theory of atoms (which was not given until after quantum physics was discovered).

Bob Kolker

Perfectly put, Bob. Though Mendel and Darwin were contemporaries, Mendel's work was not discovered until much later. Their research put together explains evolution well. Darwin describes how evolution works on a large level. He had no idea how it worked biologically, though. I often wonder what would have happened if Darwin and Mendel would have come onto the scene at the exact same time. It would have been explosive.

Edited by Mimpy
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Also, beginning with raw chemistry, living things have to have acquired, over time, the myriad complex systems so common to us today. But for every postulated evolutionary advance, for the acquisition of every new system, an increase of information is required. This is because biological systems, like cars, derive from information. They do not come out of thin air. The information comes before, and gives rise to the systems. Thus, to get new systems you first of all need new information. Evolution has no way to get either any initial information, or the information necessary for each increase in complexity.

Sounds to me like the typical creationist fallacies about the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics combined with the special definitions of information and entropy in information theory to make an even more potent brew of codswallop for the unwary. First, entropy can decrese in open systems if there's net energy flow into the system, a bit of thermodynamics that's been perfectly clear at least since 1931, when Lars Onsager pulished his work on reciprocal relations (he won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1968 for that), and especially after the development of non-equilibrium thermodynamics--for example, Ilya Prigogine's work on dissipative systems, for which he won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1977, work that is basic in the study of self-organizing systems: chemical systems (chemicals in a flask, which is I assume what "raw chemistry" means) in which there is an increase in complexity and decrease in local entropy so long as there is energy flow into the system. (So yeah, the claim that the "new information" has to come from somewhere, and the implication that that "somewhere" has to be an intelligent designer and not something in nature or the surroundings, is false--experimentally proven to be so--for "raw chemistry," and is equally so for life, which is, after all, simply one special subclass of not-so-raw chemical systems.) This includes the Earth, because of that big bright thing in the sky pumping out vast quantities of radiant energy. But of course creationists are too stupid (or, in the case of the handful of actual scientists who publish creationist tracts, too dishonest) to realize their thermodynamical arguments have been obviously false for well over seventy years now. Second, "information" and "entropy" in information theory are defined in terms of the number of bits (binary choices) necessary to specify a signal; the latter is only mathematically similar to thermodynamic entropy (more precisely, entropy in statistical thermodynamics), and the former is only named "information" because it's similar to what information in an intuitive sense would consist of in that specialized context. It's a basic error of which at least some textbooks on information theory make a point of disabusing you early on that "information" is actually information in the usual, informal sense; it's not. So what you're saying actually comes down to misunderstood thermodynamics combined with a basic misunderstanding of information theory, with your terms chosen in the way most attractive to intelligent designists and other cruder creationists. Impressive--just not favorably so.

Edited by Adrian Hester
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