Atlas Shrugged: Meet Francisco d’Anconia

Atlas Shrugged, part I, chapter V

When Dagny gets back to the office, Eddie shows her a newspaper saying that after seizing the San Sebastian mines, the Mexican government has discovered that they’re worthless: there are no copper deposits there and there never were. D’Anconia Copper spent millions of dollars to cut empty mine shafts, seemingly for no reason at all.

The government of the People’s State of Mexico was holding emergency sessions about their discovery, in an uproar of indignation; they felt that they had been cheated. [p.88]

When Dagny finds out about this, she decides she has to get some answers. She makes an appointment to see Francisco d’Anconia, who’s staying at a hotel in New York.

This is the cue for an extended flashback explaining their personal history. Dagny Taggart, Francisco d’Anconia and poor, tragic Eddie Willers are childhood friends, and young Dagny and Eddie always looked forward to the one month each summer they spent with him on the Taggart family estate:

There was a birch tree on the hillside, halfway between the road and the house; Dagny and Eddie tried to get past the tree, before Francisco could race up the hill to meet them. On all the many days of his arrivals, in all the many summers, they never reached the birch tree; Francisco reached it first and stopped them when he was way past it. Francisco always won, as he always won everything. [p.89]

This is Rand’s cue to tell us about Francisco, who “could do anything he undertook, he could do it better than anyone else, and he did it without effort”. Dagny and Hank are merely implausibly competent, but Francisco is impossibly competent. She spends many pages telling us about all his talents: learning to speak five languages, driving a motorboat the first time he sits down at the controls, teaching himself electrical engineering and automotive mechanics, and at one point, getting hired as a call-boy for Taggart Transcontinental without anyone’s knowledge (somehow – we never find out how – “he had managed to by-pass all the child labor laws”).

Here’s a typical example:

Dagny and Eddie spent their winters trying to master some new skill, in order to astonish Francisco and beat him, for once. They never succeeded. When they showed him how to hit a ball with a bat, a game he had never played before, he watched them for a few minutes, then said, “I think I get the idea. Let me try.” He took the bat and sent the ball flying over a line of oak trees far at the end of the field. [p.91]

But the deliriously, transparently ridiculous height of this must be the part where he independently reinvents calculus at the age of twelve:

…a complex system of pulleys that Francisco, age twelve, had erected to make an elevator to the top of a rock; he was teaching Dagny and Eddie to dive from the rock into the Hudson. Francisco’s notes of calculations were still scattered about on the ground; her father picked them up, looked at them, then asked, “Francisco, how many years of algebra have you had?” “Two years.” “Who taught you to do this?” “Oh, that’s just something I figured out.” She did not know that what her father held on the crumpled sheets of paper was the crude version of a differential equation. [p.92]

This is a good place to bring up the concept of the Mary Sue. A Mary Sue is a character who’s implausibly perfect, lacks any significant weaknesses or flaws, and is praised and beloved by all the other protagonists. The concept came out of Star Trek fan-fiction, as a way of mocking devoted fans who wrote themselves into their own stories as wish-fulfillment fantasies, but the meme has become more mainstream as it’s recognized that even canonical characters can be Mary Sues.

Francisco meets every criterion for Suedom: Dagny and Eddie dote on him, he’s an instant expert at everything, he never fails or makes mistakes, and he has no weaknesses or flaws. Rand herself points it out: “It was as if the centuries had sifted the family’s qualities through a fine mesh… and had let nothing through except pure talent” [p.92]. And the most amusing thing is that he isn’t even the most Mary Sue-ish character in the book. (We haven’t yet met the one who is, but you can probably guess his name. Who is John Galt?)

A Mary Sue character is usually just a sign of bad writing, but Rand is a better writer than that, so I think we have to look deeper for the cause. As I said last time, accepting Rand’s philosophy requires her devotees to view themselves not just as skilled or talented people, but the indispensable elite – the keystones without whom civilization would collapse. Obviously, that’s not plausible for merely run-of-the-mill human beings. If her protagonists could be replaced by any of millions of people who would do just as good a job, their threat to go on strike and withdraw from society would be meaningless. For them to be irreplaceable, they have to be superhuman. It’s Rand’s bad philosophy that leads to bad writing, not the other way around.

This ties in with another common thread here, which is that Rand isn’t good at writing children. Even when they’re physically children, her characters are never child-like – they’re just miniature adults, with exactly the same desires, personalities and interests as their grown-up selves. (We saw this in an earlier scene showing Dagny at age nine.) Since Rand never had children of her own, it’s likely she lacked the first-hand experience that would have made for a more realistic depiction of them. But again, it could also be bad philosophy that’s at fault: how can an Objectivist worldview, built on a bedrock of rational selfishness and trading value for value, accommodate the inherently altruistic task of raising children as they really are?

Other posts in this series:

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • Speedwell

    how can an Objectivist worldview, built on a bedrock of rational
    selfishness and trading value for value, accommodate the inherently
    altruistic task of raising children as they really are?

    Rand herself, quoted in a Playboy interview (the question was whether a full-time mother is “immoral” for devoting herself to home and family instead of a career):

    “Not immoral—I would say she is impractical, because a home cannot be a full-time occupation, except when her children are young. However, if she wants a family and wants to make that her career, at least for a while, it would be proper—if she approaches it as a career, that is, if she studies the subject, if she defines the rules and principles by which she wants to bring up her children, if she approaches her task in an intellectual manner. It is a very responsible task and a very important one, but only when treated as a science, not as a mere emotional indulgence.”

    We’ll see more later when Dagny meets the mother in Galt’s Gulch, but I’ll let you address that when you come to it.

  • busterggi

    Well if Francisco is secretly a Kryptonian that would make sense. Even Doc Savage had to train for years & continue exercising his mind & body as an adult to come close to SuperFrancisco.

  • GubbaBumpkin

    getting hired as a call-boy for Taggart Transcontinental

    What? I’m going to assume that “call-boy” is not equivalent to “call-girl.”

  • smrnda

    Yeah, this is getting to the point of near total implausibility. It’d be one thing if he independently figured out some of the principles of calculus, as bright kids to stuff like this all the time. (Perhaps Rand doesn’t know enough about mathematics to realize that independently discovering something isn’t really that monumental.) But the whole ‘perfect performance first time’ – please, read a few biographies of people who achieved things.

    On the ‘kids as a science’ – Rand is living in a world which your average Vulcan would find too emotionally sterile. At the same time, she isn’t really more rational or logical, she’s just finding elaborate ways to rationalize and justify considering other people to be disposable rubbish, and finding all sorts of fudge words she can later use to ex cathedra denounce or affirm anything while pretending she’s being totally consistent the whole time.

    But the ‘science’ and ‘rules and principles’ you use to raise children? I’d say that Rand is trying to argue that everybody else, with their mushy emotional needs, are inferior to her, but she just strikes me as a really insecure, narcissistic person who can’t survive without constantly putting others down. Rather than a ‘mover’ and a ‘leech,’ Rand is just basically a ‘hater.’

  • Jason Wexler

    Being somewhat skeptical of the practice of psychology, I often wonder if certain diagnoses and pathologies described by the DSM aren’t really just subjective value judgements. This hypothesis is borne out for instance with the change in 1973 regarding homosexuality, and there already exists an Aspy pride movement which views their Aspergers condition as being no different or worthy of comment then left handedness as opposed to being a psychological pathology.

    Many people have been commenting through out this series of posts that Rand is attempting to give cover or comfort to psychopaths. I wonder if Objectivism and Libertarianism isn’t a sort of Psychopath Pride movement, a rejection of pathologizing the assorted psychological conditions which are grouped together as psychopathy. I would point out that according to some data sets most people who have those psychopathy conditions have fairly mild versions and don’t engage in the kind of abhorrent behavior often associated with psychopathic sadists and murderers. Just as most gays aren’t pedophiles or cannibals, most people with mild psychopathic disorders have at worst a different world view. My only nagging objection to my own argument here is that I strongly disagree with that world view, and even believe it in many cases to be objectively bad.

    Homosexuality was deemed to be nonpathological in 1973, not because it was natural but because it failed to be maladaptive, and by that logic Aspergers could probably be de-pathologized. However, we were only able to prove homosexuality to be non-maladaptive after it was mainstreamed, and homophobia was pathologized as the real problem. Could the same happen to/for psychopathy if we chose to mainstream it? Is that what Rand is attempting to get us to do? After-all if we buy (as many of us do) into Stephen Pinker’s “Better Angels” hypothesis, we don’t have to go too far back in history to find cultures in which “psychopathy” was normal and healthy and what we would now call “compassionate civilization”, would have been the mental disorder.

    I know this comment isn’t particularly pertinent to this post, but it does dovetail with many of the themes being discussed within this series of posts.

  • Carol Lynn

    The concept came out of Star Trekfan-fiction, as a way of mocking devoted fans who wrote themselves into their own stories as wish-fulfillment fantasies, but the meme has become more mainstream as it’s recognized that even canonical characters can be Mary Sues.

    Star Trek fandom didn’t invent the concept of Mary Sue, they just gave her a name. (I’ve been around. I remember fan fiction before slash and when Mary Sue had no name.)

    A lot of Rand characters are very Sue-ish.

  • Russell Wain Glasser

    I have to say it… every time I see a title that simply says “Meet [person]“, I instantly hear the Team Fortress 2 theme song in my head.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=geNMz0J9TEQ&t=1m10s

  • http://patheos.com/blogs/hallq/ Chris Hallquist

    I’m really grateful for this series, and agree with most of what you say, but re: the children thing, I have to quote what Orson Scott Card said about this issue in the introduction to Ender’s Game: “Because never in my entire childhood did I feel like a child. I felt like a person all along—the same person that I am today. ….The nasty side of myself wanted to answer that guidance counselor by saying, the only reason you don’t think gifted children talk this way is because they know better than to talk this way in front of you“.

  • smrnda

    I never finished my studies, actually owing to psychiatric issues of my own, but at one time I studied psychology and it’s a debate well acknowledged within the field. This actually comes up even for supposedly straight-forward diagnosis – one psychiatrist that I saw kept putting me down as being manic and overtly hostile, whereas the one I see today just thinks I’m active and confident.

    Mentioning Pinker’s “Better Angels” made me think that our standards of heath have probably changed a lot over time – how many physical illnesses would we diagnoses the average peasant of the dark ages as having, even when that person, by the standards of their time, would appear healthy enough? In times of mass illiteracy, how do certain learning disabilities even make sense? Doctors can’t even seem to agree on who is overweight or not.

    Another point might be that being a psychopathic individual might be a far better survival strategy in some environments.

  • Azkyroth

    Orson Scott Card said about this issue in the introduction to Ender’s Game: “Because never in my entire childhood did I feel like a child. I felt like a person all along—the same person that I am today

    That explains SO much…

  • Jason Wexler

    It does about Ender, maybe or maybe not for Mr. Card himself. Ender really was written as something special, he was a third child to a family that lived in a society which strictly monitored reproduction and usually limited families to one child unless special permission was given because the family was producing evolutionarily exceptional children; or were reproducing illegally although to be third from that method would be practically impossible. He grew up being constantly reminded that he was a third and treated differently by other children because of it.

    Speaking from personal experience as someone who was obviously different from other children (for other reasons…) and treated as such growing up, I can say that, that really does affect ones frame of view and how one learns to perceive oneself.

  • James_Jarvis

    Francisco clearly shows that Ayn Rand clearly believed that some people are born to greatness and are meant to rule the masses. A sort of divine right of kings with the theological justification. Once more we see that Objectivism is more of a religion that a philosophy. Also, anyone one who has ever had children would find her idea that raising children could be done scientifically laughable. No plan for parenting ever survives contact with actual children.

  • Nonnie

    I always thought Mary Sue referred more to a character that everyone thinks is awesome and special despite the fact that they’re completely unremarkable. Or maybe it’s just that most authors don’t think of themselves as kickass superheroes…

    Well I cede that he’s fully implausible, but Francisco is probably the most likable character in the book and the source of the best dramatic moments (though also boringly speech-y).

    By the way.. at this rate I assume you’re planning to finish the book sometime in 2020 or so?

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Adam Lee

    In context, I believe it’s someone who helps a dispatcher send out orders to train crews.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Adam Lee

    Yes, I’ll address that (brief) scene in more detail when I come to it. However, given that Rand’s philosophy counsels rational selfishness as the highest moral ideal and that making a profit is the surest sign of a worthy endeavor, I don’t see how she can justify anyone taking time off from the workforce to raise children, whether you do it “scientifically” or not.

    Child-rearing requires you to place the needs and comforts of another person above your own desires, and it’s not a profitable enterprise; far from it. I would think that any consistent Objectivist should find parenthood to be anathema for those reasons.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Adam Lee

    I anticipate it’ll take several years for me to recap the whole book, yes. Fine by me, I’m not going anywhere. :)

  • Leeloo Dallas Multipass

    In most books, if you introduced a character like this he’d grow up to become the world’s greatest detective, or invent a time machine, or something. He might also get incredibly rich, but almost incidentally–he’d work out how to do it, do it, and move on, letting his systems pile up money on their own. He might be a massive Mary Sue, but at least the book might be interesting anyway.

    I got a chance to see the movies today. Spoiler alert: they’re not very good. And I’m looking forward to when we get up to some of the stuff the government gets up to, because it’s weird. I assumed the bad guys would be socialists, but they’re “socialists” in the same sense as the “scientists” in a Chick tract are scientists: a weird mish-mosh of stuff that sounds kind of collective-y with no understanding of what socialists/progressives/liberals would actually want. At one point, the government outlaws inventing things. What?

  • Jeff

    It seems like she conflates the chosen means of socialism with its desired ends. The desired ends of socialism (in a nutshell) are reduced wealth disparity, greater class mobility, and a healthy society in which each person’s most basic needs are provided for no matter what. The chosen means to accomplish that is a progressive tax structure that increases rates as gross income rises, with the revenue being managed and directed by a robust government that wields substantial regulatory influence over industry and business. Understood that way, socialism more or less makes sense (whether or not a person agrees with it is another argument entirely).

    When the means and ends are conflated, we end up with villains like in Atlas Shrugged. Socialism stops being “tax high income at a higher rate than low income because we are trying to improve life for everybody” and it turns into “tax high income at a higher rate than low income because we are trying to take money away from the wealthy to give it to the poor.” Business regulation is less about curbing harmful practices than it is about holding back the achievers because we’re jealous. If you assume that the only point of socialism is to take away from the people who have the most, then ideas like the Anti Dog-Eat-Dog Rule seem like entirely reasonable ideas of what a socialist would support

  • J-D

    How children think of themselves is not the whole truth about how they are. That equation’s not true for any of us.

    If children don’t perceive differences between themselves and adults, that doesn’t mean those differences don’t exist.

  • David Simon

    Well, it’s profitable if you raise them to be little capitalist force-multipliers. It’s like getting to hand-pick the qualifications of your employees by being responsible for instilling those qualifications in the first place.

  • Azkyroth

    Well, Cards’ political stances are consistent with never growing up.

  • Izkata

    > But the deliriously, transparently ridiculous height of this must be the
    part where he independently reinvents calculus at the age of twelve

    Careful treading now: I was well on my way to reinventing some of calculus at age 15 (and, looking back, I had hindered myself back around age 9 in elementary school by always doing the easier thing). Derivatives, specifically – they were rather useful. Integration is something I don’t think I would’ve figured out on my own for quite some time.

    In the right environment, I honestly don’t find that one point as far-fetched as you try to make it.

  • Izkata

    A quick Google search for “train call-boy” results in an entry for “callboy” at Dictionary.com:

    4. Also, call-boy, call boy. Railroads Slang. a railroad employee responsible for ensuring that members of a train crew are on hand for their regular runs and for notifying them of an extra run.

  • Andrew Leonard

    My blood! He punched out ALL my blood!

  • John Alexander Harman

    We’re you inspired at all by Fred Clark’s ongoing, exhaustive dissection of the “Left Behind” drivel? I’d been thinking for some time that somebody should give “Atlas Shrugged” the same treatment, and was very happy to discover you doing so.

  • Nancy McClernan

    Well if you have a bunch of them and hire them all out to be railroad call-boys…

  • Nancy McClernan

    Fun fact about “Better Angels” – when the New Yorker gave it a harsh critique Pinker called on right-wing racialist Razib Khan for backup.

    http://stevenpinker.com/pages/frequently-asked-questions-about-better-angels-our-nature-why-violence-has-declined

  • Jason Wexler

    Wow! Great “misuse” of Authority Bias. I suppose you must also reject the internet, mobile telecommunications and all of the modern technology which is based upon principles from modern physics, many of whose founders were Nazi collaborators (some of them even willingly)!

    Now that I think about I should give up being an atheist, since Stalin was one, Sam Harris the prolific New Atheist writer promotes racial profiling (I know this to be an oversimplification), and that noted Atheist scientist Richard Dawkins showed himself to be an anti-feminist by his interactions with Rebecca Watson. I should also abandon my homosexuality because Jeffery Dahmer was a serial killer; I should abandon the study of history because Niall Ferguson is a pompous ass with inaccurate interpretations; I should renounce my American citizenship because Thomas Jefferson along with most of the founders were hypocrites (and liars) and Barack Obama has been a disappointment; and finally I should abandon reading because the Bible is morally egregious and the “classics” were written by people in societies which were “classist”, racist and misogynistic and those failings show up in their writings.

    Sarcasm aside now, the thesis of “Better Angels” isn’t disproven by irrelevant appeals to perceived bad decisions or behavior by the author. The thesis itself is unscathed by Dr. Pinker relying on a purported right-wing racialist to refute a hack review by a writer who doesn’t understand science or data analysis. I clicked your link, I read Dr. Pinkers response to the review, I read Ms. Kolberts review, and I read Mr. Khans rebuttal. All I can conclude with is that your post, which I read as a snarky attempt to discredit “Better Angels” and shame us liberals for citing it, shows the same poor understanding of the scientific method and data analysis that Ms. Kolbert herself showed in her review. If you dislike his hypothesis or disagree with it, present the data that counters it or the evidence that Pinker fabricated his data. Otherwise be quiet, I can’t speak for everyone else here but I know I don’t particularly care what other things Pinker has said or done or believes, it has no effect on the validity of his argument. Further it should be obvious that I do not accept that the beliefs or behaviors of his supporters reflect in anyway on the validity of the thesis.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Adam Lee

    Yes indeed! It was Fred Clark who gave me the idea. If an evangelical can dissect Left Behind, it seems only fair that an atheist take on Atlas Shrugged.

  • Jason Wexler

    Having read some of your other recent comments, it strikes me that my assumption about your motives in this comment were ill founded or mistaken. If that is the case I apologize for jumping down your throat.

  • Nancy McClernan

    I think it’s unwise to use the sociological hypotheses of Steven Pinker as a guideline for anything, but rather than get into a debate about Pinker’s theories on this Atlas Shrugged thread, I’ll just say that my motivation was to point out Pinker’s blatant hypocrisy: Pinker has dismissed critiques of evolutionary psychology by claiming that any left-leaning political views of the critics indicates an inability to assess EP scientifically.

    He apparently does not see any contradiction in asking Razib Khan, a conservative blogger (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/19/us/19beliefs.html)
    to refute his critics for him. Although maybe the best aspect here is that in the post that Pinker links to, Khan admits to not having read the book yet.

    And Khan isn’t the only right-winger Pinker uses for backup. He also referenced the work of an even more blatant racialist Steve Sailer, as noted here by Malcolm Gladwell.

    http://gladwell.typepad.com/gladwellcom/2009/11/pinker-on-what-the-dog-saw.html

    I like to point out Steven Pinker’s hypocrisy whenever possible – most people are not aware of it. But I don’t want to hijack the thread over it.

  • Jason Wexler

    I have not previously heard about Pinker being so dismissive of criticisms of EP and if it is the case that he is, then that is a problem.

    However, it is still the case that his citation and use of questionable people and his dismissal of criticism of certain ideas, doesn’t change the validity of the case he is making in “Better Angels”. In science the validity of an argument is dependent solely on the data and evidence, the character of the person making the claims doesn’t enter into the equation. If you have evidence or data that contradicts the “Better Angels” hypothesis I am open to reading it.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Adam Lee

    Pinker has dismissed critiques of evolutionary psychology by claiming that any left-leaning political views of the critics indicates an inability to assess EP scientifically.

    Citation very much needed for that.

    And Khan isn’t the only right-winger Pinker uses for backup. He also referenced the work of an even more blatant racialist…

    I’m not familiar with either of the people you named here, but are you suggesting that we can adequately judge the merits of Pinker’s work by listing the names of people who defend it?

  • Nancy McClernan

    I also have received a small number of nasty – and I would say grossly unfair — reviews from academics and journalists who vaguely sensed that their 1960s-era leftism was not being affirmed by the book, who could not put their finger on anything wrong with the arguments, and who resorted to distortion and sweeping dismissal.

    http://pinker.wjh.harvard.edu/books/tbs/media_articles/2002_11_butterflies.html

  • Nancy McClernan

    I want to go back to “empirical hypotheses … too dangerous to study.” This was the topic of the Edge Annual Question. Your own offering was the possibility that the kind of research that we have just discussed may uncover a genetic and evolutionary basis for population differences in mental abilities, personality, and other psychological traits. What are your projections for the trajectory of this idea? Will it be put to the decisive test sooner rather than later? If the hereditarian view is vindicated to any extent, what disruptions and realignments of the intellectual and political landscape do you foresee?

    I suspect that we’ll see more studies of this kind, unless they are beaten back by politically correct opposition (as seems to be happening to Bruce Lahn’s work on possible recent selection on genes governing brain size).

    http://web.archive.org/web/20060705222427/http://www.gnxp.com/blog/2006/07/10-questions-for-steven-pinker.php

    ***
    Please note: when Razib Khan uses the term “population differences” he means differences based on race.

  • Nancy McClernan

    I think it’s significant that two of Pinker’s media go-to guys are obsessed with racial theories of human intelligence, and both are solid conservatives.

    I haven’t read “Better Angels” which is why I mentioned Pinker’s hypocrisy and did not offer a critique of the book.

    But a problem for evolutionary psychology proponents in general is that since all their theories of human behavior are based on speculations of human evolution, they have nothing on which to base their speculations about cultural developments that happen in a less than evolutionary time span.

    I did read The Blank Slate and I think that Louis Menand’s review – also in the New Yorker – was spot on. Luckily the New Yorker is less baffled by bullshit than most media outlets.

    And that review offers yet another example of Pinker’s problem with leftists:

    “Pinker’s idea is that it explains much more than some people—he calls these people “intellectuals”—think it does, and that the failure, or refusal, to acknowledge this has led to many regrettable things, including the French Revolution, modern architecture, and the crimes of Josef Stalin. Intellectuals deny biology, according to Pinker, because it interferes with their pet theories of mind and behavior. These are the Blank Slate (the belief that the mind is wholly shaped by the environment), the Noble Savage (the notion that people are born good but are corrupted by society), and the Ghost in the Machine (the idea that there is a nonbiological agent in our heads with the power to change our nature at will). The “intellectuals” in Pinker’s book are social scientists, progressive educators, radical feminists, academic Marxists, liberal columnists, avant-garde arts types, government planners, and postmodernist relativists. The good guys are the cognitive scientists and ordinary folks, whose common sense, except when it has been damaged by listening to intellectuals, generally correlates with what cognitive science has discovered. I wish I could say that Pinker’s view of the world of ideas is more nuanced than this.”

    http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2002/11/25/021125crbo_books?currentPage=all

    Since this has nothing to do with Atlas Shrugged I think I’ll leave it at that.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Adam Lee

    Thanks for the citation. Your original claim was that Pinker had dismissed “any” critic with left-leaning political views. The citation you gave refers to “a small number” of 1960s-era leftists whose criticisms he felt were unfair. I think the point is made that these are not remotely the same thing.

  • Nancy McClernan

    Here is what I said:

    “I’ll just say that my motivation was to point out Pinker’s blatant hypocrisy: Pinker has dismissed critiques of evolutionary psychology by claiming that any left-leaning political views of the critics indicates an inability to assess EP scientifically.”

    In your version I am claiming that Pinker dismisses any critics with left-leaning political views.

    Dismissing any critics with left-leaning views is different from dismissing (an unspecified number of ) critiques by those with any left-leaning political views.

    And please note – in that citation he does not say “1960s-era leftists” which makes it sound like he’s talking about ancient history – he said “academics and journalists who vaguely sensed that their 1960s-era leftism…”

    Not the same thing as 1960s-era leftists.

    But to make it absolutely clear: I don’t think Pinker automatically dismisses any critics with left-leaning views. I think that when it suits him, he points to left-leaning views of critics of EP as a way to dismiss their scientific opinions.

    And I offered more than one example. And I can certainly dig up more. How many more do you need in order to accept that Pinker has dismissed critiques of EP by pointing to left-leaning political views?

    I have an example in an email he sent directly to me, when I wrote to him about the Summers incident, in which he said of Gould:

    “The criticisms of Stephen Jay Gould have been extensively addressed in my writings and others, and I believe they stem more from his political ideology than from the empirical literature. ”

    And he’s certainly not the only proponent of evolutionary psychology who has expressed such a belief about the true motivation for EP critics:

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2013/07/15/when-in-doubt-just-question-the-motives-of-evolutionary-psychology-critics/

    But my main point is that while Pinker is making various claims of left-wing PC to dismiss (some) critics, he points to people like Khan and Sailer, who are indisputably conservative pundits, when he wants to answer critics.

    I’m sorry I mentioned it now though, since, while I’m happy to get into a discussion about what’s wrong with Steven Pinker, I’d rather talk about Atlas Shrugged here.

  • Science Avenger

    “Business regulation is less about curbing harmful practices than it is about holding back the achievers because we’re jealous.”
    Watch some rightwing media sometime, it is presented this way consistently. It even has a name: The politics of envy.

  • Thomas

    I find it fascinating how in Rand’s world, every businessperson is a mathematician, and electrical engineer, a scientist, etc…It’s as if she thought that every software company would be run by the world’s greatest programmer, and every car company would be run by an engineer who personally designed and tested every vehicle, just a few minutes before the assembly lines started cranking them out.

  • Don Sakers

    Given Francisco’s later relationship with Henry Reardon, which I’ve always read as gay, that’s not too far off the mark.


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