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...]

Blogging Better Angels: Hobbes Was Right

The most famous human being of prehistoric times is probably Otzi the Iceman, a Neolithic human whose mummified body was discovered frozen in a glacier in the Alps in 1991. What's less well known about Otzi is that he met his death violently: an arrowhead was lodged in his back, and he was carrying an arrow and a flint knife which had traces of three people's blood, none of them his own. Anthropologists speculate that he was part of a raiding party that attacked a rival tribe and was killed … [Read more...]

People of Light and Darkness

The big news this week is that the Large Hadron Collider, the massive particle accelerator at the European physics lab CERN, has apparently discovered the elusive and long-sought subatomic particle called the Higgs boson, which explains why other particles have mass. The hunt for the Higgs has consumed decades of effort by physicists all over the world, and its discovery fills in one of the last missing pieces of the wildly successful theoretical framework called the Standard Model. Naturally, … [Read more...]

Weekly Link Roundup

• Greta Christina posts her completed list of atheists of color.• In early 1981, Carl Sagan sent this letter to the Explorers' Club - an international society dedicated to scientific exploration - regarding their men-only admission policy. Several months later, the first female members were admitted. (HT: Geek Feminism Blog)• Johann Hari writes about "the myth of the panicking disaster victim" and what it implies for humanity's inherent moral sense.• Catholic … [Read more...]

Curiosity as a Purpose of Life

One of the most common questions religious believers ask atheists is where we find purpose in life, what makes our existence meaningful and worthwhile. I've written about this subject on Ebon Musings, but I want to add to my answer. Both atheists and theists can give the usual answer of wanting to do good in the world, helping our fellow human beings and so on, but I've realized that atheists can offer another answer, something that believers genuinely can't say: atheists are inspired to go on … [Read more...]

Evolution Isn’t a Moral Theory (Except When It Is)

A Review of When Atheism Becomes Religion, Part IAt the beginning of chapter 2, Chris Hedges says that science is a "morally neutral discipline" (p.45) which offers potential for both good and evil. He goes on to assert:Evolution is a biological theory that helps us grasp descent, with modification, within living species. It is not a theory about economic systems, government, morality, ethics or the behavior of nations. [p.46]So far, so good - there's nothing in that paragraph that I … [Read more...]

Reengineering Human Nature: Dogmatism

The Problem: Human beings are stubborn creatures, set in our ways, resistant to changing our minds once we've made a decision. Religious groups publish creeds which they believe must be taken on faith and should be maintained against all contrary evidence - and they consider the ability to do that a virtue, rather than a character flaw. Even when dramatic disconfirmation comes, such as the apocalypse failing to occur on a predicted date, a common response is for believers to become even more … [Read more...]