On Human Negativity Bias

What was the best year in history? If you could choose any year out of the entire span of human existence so far to be alive in, which one should you pick?You could pick your answer for any number of reasons. You might choose to live in the age of exploration, or at the dawn of the scientific revolution, or in the company of great historical figures. But if you want the best chance of living a peaceful and happy life, if you're going solely by the numbers, then it's obvious: the answer is … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: The Almighty Dollar

Atlas Shrugged, Closing ThoughtsWe're almost to the end of our epic journey through Atlas Shrugged. I've reviewed the whole book and all three movies, pointing out the logical holes and untenable assumptions as they were spotlighted in each scene. In this post and a few more to follow, I want to step back and look at Rand's philosophy as a whole. We'll see some broader themes that deserve more attention.One of the cornerstones of Objectivism is that laissez-faire capitalism is the only … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: Exeunt Omnes

Atlas Shrugged, part III, chapter XAfter three years and 160(!) posts, we've finally come to the very last scene of Atlas Shrugged. In our previous installment, Ayn Rand lowered the curtain on Eddie Willers, inexplicably abandoned by his closest friends to die in the desert. In this closing scene, she takes us to Galt's Gulch to show what the capitalists are doing instead.It's a quick scene, with just a few lines devoted to each of the protagonists. But in those few lines, like a … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: The Survival Instinct

Atlas Shrugged, part III, chapter IXWhen John Galt curses out America on live television, the ballroom erupts in chaos. The broadcast is instantly cut off, and some guests scream or flee in panic, while others freeze in terror. The thugs guarding Galt hustle him away. Seeing Mr. Thompson and the other looters make a hasty departure through a side exit, Dagny follows unobtrusively and listens at the door:She found them huddled in a small, private study: Mr. Thompson was slumped in an … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: Imagine No Religion

Atlas Shrugged, part III, chapter VII, The SpeechThere's a character who's missing from Atlas Shrugged.His name is Father Amadeus, and while he was part of Ayn Rand's early outlines, she jettisoned him from the final draft. He was to have been a Catholic priest affiliated with the Taggarts who heard James' confessions. In the denouement, he would have realized that John Galt was right and that forgiveness is evil, and when the bad guys came to him one last time, he would have refused to … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: The Descent of Man

Atlas Shrugged, part III, chapter VII, The SpeechJohn Galt is still talking. In this section of his doorstopper monologue, he lectures about Rand's views on human nature:"Man's mind is his basic tool of survival. Life is given to him, survival is not. His body is given to him, its sustenance is not. His mind is given to him, its content is not. To remain alive, he must act, and before he can act he must know the nature and purpose of his action. He cannot obtain his food without a … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: The Social Atom

Atlas Shrugged, part III, chapter IAfter breakfast, Dagny asks John Galt if he'll take her out to see the valley. He agrees to give her the grand tour:He got up, went to the telephone and dialed a number. "Hello, Midas? ... Yes... He did? Yes, she's all right... Will you rent me your car for the day? ... Thanks. At the usual rate — twenty-five cents... Can you send it over? ... Do you happen to have some sort of cane? She'll need it... Tonight? Yes, I think so. We will. Thanks."He h … [Read more...]

A Christian vs. an Atheist: On God and Government, Part 8

This is part 8 of my "Think! Of God and Government" debate series with Christian author Andrew Murtagh. Read my latest post and Andrew's reply.Hello Andrew,We'll get into consciousness soon, but before we do, I have a few more things I want to say about the problem of evil. Let's jump right into it:The emergence of free, loving, moral, and compassionate human beings comes at quite a price - the duality of nature and the duality of humanity. God created a universe to result in the … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: Homo Economicus

Atlas Shrugged, part II, chapter VI've said that, in the name of being fair to Ayn Rand, I'll point out the passages in Atlas that struck me as good, effective writing. This part has one of them, a suitably moody and atmospheric description of what's happening to New York City:In the second week of February, for the purpose of conserving copper wire and electric power, a directive forbade the running of elevators above the twenty-fifth floor. The upper floors of the buildings had to be … [Read more...]

The Ethic of Reciprocity

My recent post "Building Justice" talked about how human beings have to work together if we want to build a just world to live in. I want to say some more about that, not least because this week, everyone on the U.S. East Coast had a vivid demonstration of what we're up against. New York City, where I live, was among the worst hit by Hurricane Sandy. On Monday night, Twitter had one apocalyptic image after another: lower Manhattan eerily darkened, a Con Ed transformer exploding on 14th Street, … [Read more...]