Tuesday, February 26, 2008
If this article is right, contrary to what Objectivism preaches, we should not judge people too harshly for being dumb, because it is usually not their fault, and they are unaware of it. Furthermore, it also implies that we should examine our own hubris, because as the ancient saying goes "Pride goeth before a fall." Unshakeable faith in our own abilities and judgement, aside from being based primarily on faith and emotion and not on reason and reality, only serves to impair us from seeing our mistakes and correcting them.
Saturday, February 23, 2008
Friday, February 22, 2008
Diana Hsieh started her own uber top secret blog and mailing list available only to the sufficiently rational of heart. As commenter Wells aptly noted, "I just hope that Diana Hsieh and friends realize that secrecy only works when you are trying to exploit a difference in knowledge...In the case of spreading Objectivism. If Objectivism is worth believing, and Objectivists promote it correctly, there shouldn't be differences in knowledge to exploit."
I've never quite been able to understand the psychology of proslytizing philosophies based on individualism and selfishness. It seems inherently contradictory to become a missionary for the cause of libertarianism or Objectivism. It's missing the point entirely. If you're going to a missionary for a creed, at least have it be one that is compatible with the concept of unity and goodwill. The nature of individualism exhorts one to respect the individualism of others, whatever their views may be. And if your philosophy is one of every man for themselves, and essentially just says to be as selfish as you can, why the hell would you want to take the time to spread it to others and have them be your competition?
The results, expectedly, are catastrophic.
The Objectivist missionary headquarters is ARI's own Objectivism Expansion Campaign. On the sidebar they have a link to "Ten Selfish Reasons To Contribute" (no we are not making this up). They can be summed up as "Give us money now Now NOW and your life with be magically better". Read them though, they're totally hilarious! Number 5 reason is: "[Because] I want to be happy."
With this, Objectivism has crossed the line from being a cult that leaves negative and sometimes lasting effects on its members psyches to a barefaced scam. They want their adherents, many of them still minors, to give them money to get nothing in return but an empty promise that their world will somehow abstractly become better.
I'm really curious though, about what the password protected posts on the Intellectual Activism blog contain. Diana Hsieh's noodz? If that's the case, Meg's Marginalia's professional opinion is, thanks, but no thanks, like those of Hillary Clinton, we do not need to see any of your noodz.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Author Mary Ann Sures nee Rukovina was the only member of the "Senior Collective" not related to the Canadian-Jewish Blumenthal family. She came to Rand's circle through her college roommate Joan Blumenthal. Charles Sures was an attorney who attended NBI lectures when he met Mary Ann. As Objectivist kismet would have it, they were rationally ideal for each other. Rand herself once said, "I know all the rational young men and women in New York and I can match them up." The Sures were lucky, they seem to have maintained their objective marital bliss, judging from their picture on the front page of the website. Many other couples churned out by the Objectivist matchmaking machine were not so lucky. Examples include Lawrence Scott and Patrecia Gullison (later on to be Nathaniel Branden's lover), and the Brandens themselves.
If you thought Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics was funny, you're in for a real treat. Facets of Ayn Rand is a barrel of monkeys compared to PARC and Ayn Rand's Marginalia. The book is written in a format of ARI interviewing the Sures. It is hagiography in the extreme, hilariously funny without meaning to be. The first subheading of Chapter One is entitled "AYN RAND'S CERTAINTY". Later in that chapter, Ms. Sures describes working as Ayn Rand's assistant. One of her duties was to sort out and dispose drafts of pages of the manuscript that were no longer needed.
ARI : Are you saying that you actually destroyed pages of that novel?
MARY ANN : Yes. If a typewritten page had extensive editing and had to be retyped, the original page was destroyed. Her rule was that the page would first be torn into small pieces, and then the pieces mixed up and thrown down the incinerator in the hallway. She showed me how she wanted it done. She never, ever, discarded anything she had written without tearing it up completely — she didn’t take whole pages, squash them up, and throw them as a ball into the wastebasket.
ARI: What about handwritten pages? Don’t tell me you destroyed any of those?
MARY ANN : Oh, yes. If her changes on a handwritten page were so extensive that the page was difficult to read, she rewrote that page and gave me the original page to destroy. To tear up and incinerate.
ARI : How could you bring yourself to destroy them?
MARY ANN : Because that’s what she wanted. She didn’t want those pages lying around. They weren’t of any use to her. She wasn’t like some artists who save every scrap of paper they touch. She was concerned with the finished product, not with the process.
ARI : But this is an historic document we are talking about! Didn’t you want to keep the pages as souvenirs? How many of those pages were there?
MARY ANN : I don’t remember the exact number, but there were not a great many. It never occurred to me to ask for them. I think that would have been the height of presumption. And, had I asked, I think she would have been annoyed and refused. And rightly so. The one time I attempted to save a souvenir, she intervened.
Oh the horror! Mary Ann Sures foolishly shredded Rand's drafts! That's so many more pages ARI could have scammed its lemmings into paying for, after they've completely milked her Marginalia for what it's worth.
*hat tip to Neil Parille
A bit late, but I really hope you guys had a better President's day than I did. It turns out I'm making Ayn photoshops almost as much as Google customizes its logo to match special holidays. I'm not very good though, so if anyone has mad graphic design skillz and wants to help me out with the Rand 'shops you're more than welcome to.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
"Tell me why the stars do shine
Tell me why the ivy twines
Tell me what makes skies so blue
And I'll tell you why I love you
Nuclear fusion makes stars
Tropisms make the ivy twine
Rayleigh scattering makes skies so blue
Sex hormones are why I love you"
- Isaac Asimov
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Rocky Vista University in Parker, Colorado will be the first for-profit osteopathic medical school when it opens this fall of 2008. The school's founder Mr Yife Tien is also the manager of the for-profit medical school American University of the Carribean. American Medical News and the Journal of American Osteopathic Association have news and opinions.
My opinion on these for profit, diploma mill schools is that they are desperate and pathetic. There is an entire cottage industry structured around pushy, overachieving parents and kids straining to get into medical school. The amount of money and time one spends trying to get into medical school is highly inversely correlated with said person's actual ability and chance of getting in. But these people just won't take the hint and realize they aren't cut out for it. There are plenty of cunning investors such as Mr Tien eager to make a killing on these poor suckers. Other institutions of the multimillion dollar medical school admissions industry include private and Kaplan-affiliated MCAT classes and professional application preparers. Also, everyone knows that only people who can't cut it in continental US or Canada goes to the Carribean or other foreign medical schools.
On this same note, I don't see why every profession under the sun needs to be validated by a string of letters to tag on your name. Why should "doctors of osteopathy" get to use the appellation Dr. be admitted to medical practice when they're not real medical doctors? Why do pharmacists and psychologists need a PsyD or PharmD doctoral degree? Even massage therapists are now LMT (Licensed Massage Therapists). Slutting for sleazebags in a sketchy massage parlor or hotel is now dignified with a professional sounding title. The cumulative effect of this trend will be to dilute the meaning and respectability of having a real academic degree and render it meaningless.
Education isn't what it used to be. With initiatives like No Child Left Behind, even tertiary education is now seen as a need and right rather than a privilege earned by the deserving. The only advantage of having people stay in school longer pursuing bullshit degrees is that it keeps them out of the workforce, thus preventing flooding of the job market and unemployment.
And while we're on the topic of for-profit universities, Nathaniel Branden's psychology PhD is from the California Graduate Institute, which is unaccredited and not affiliated with any university, as Jeff Walker reports in The Ayn Rand Cult.
*This page apparently used to be on a Stanford site, but the link now redirects to to Joketribe. The pickup lines are still there, but the page has lots of ads (no popups though), so be warned.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Need advice about your latest megalomaniacal scheme? If only you could ask history's greatest megalomaniac, "novelist" and "philosopher" Ayn Rand. Too bad she's dead. But wait! In 1963, a secret cabal of Objectivists intent on taking over the Student Union at MIT built the first robotic Ayn Rand, and now you can own a Randroid® based on their original design. Comes with stock phrases such as "Morality ends where the gun begins," "Pity for the guilty is treason to the innocent," and "Nathaniel! Bring me another gin and tonic!"
Price: US$50,000 includes software*
*software tends to be rather buggy. For instance, your Randroid may oppose immigration, yet be an immigrant herself. She may oppose infidelity, yet cheat on her husband. She may espouse individuality, yet believe that only those who follow her are individuals. She may oppose the control of individuals by organizations, yet laud corporate power. These bugs can not be repaired.
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
HTML format, click the link that says Devers Branden and Ayn Rand
Nathan and Devers have since divorced. Damn, this Nathan Branden guy just can't seem to stay married. This does not prevent him from publishing books about romantic love and acting as a life coach and marriage counselor. I'd take his advice with more than a grain of salt.
Sunday, February 3, 2008
"Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the ned to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhapse because of, the lack of evidence... Faith, being belief that isn't based on evidence, is the principal vice of any religion."
However, the close of the speech "To be read at his funeral" goes:
"As I said, the story asks for too much luck; it would never happen. And yet, isn't it what has happened to each one of us? We have woken after hundreds of millions of years asleep, defying astronomical odds. Admittedly we didn't arrive by spaceship, we arrived by being born, and we didn't burst conscious into the world but accumulated awareness gradually through babyhood. The fact that we gradually apprehend our world, rather than suddenly discovering it, should not subtract from its wonder."
It is unfortunate, then, that this wonder at the universe did not inspire humility, but arrogance and the desire to stamp out others' beliefs who differed from his. Those who believe science "proves" certain beliefs is mistaken about the true process of science. Scientific knowledge is constantly evolving and being added to; commonly held dogmas may well be effectively challenged in future with new discoveries. To declare that science has "disproved" God is a cardinal misrepresentation.
Militant atheist and evolutionists appear to naively and uncritically worship science and reason almost in the way the Objectivists do. As Greg Nyquist wrote in his book, it does not make sense to do that. One might as well worship or found a system based on a hammer or a mop, rather than science or reason. Reason and science are tools, not ends to themselves.
Science may have disproved certain specific beliefs held by some practitioners of religion, for example that the world is billions rather than thousands of years old. To me, the most compelling proof that God did not intelligently design each human being is the existence of gross congenital birth defects. Maybe you and I (I more than you if you are an Objectivist) are intelligently and lovingly designed by an all knowing benevolent God, but babies who die in utero, hermaphrodites, babies born anencephalously, are mostly likely not.
However, criticism of one part of a philosophy does not gainsay the whole, as Michael Shermer said. Although religion has been responsible for much harm in the world, it has also brought about much good. Religious teachings and institutions provide moral guidance to many around the world, and inspire them to be better people.
It is therefore more important to be a good person than to have any particular religious, political or philosophical belief. There are heroes and villians of every philosophical and political stripe throughout history. Belief in a particular philosophy in itself doesn't make you a good person; what you do and become does. Philosophical movements draw you in by saying you will be a better, more moral, more correct person if you follow their belief. My other pet peeve is shills of a creed who say "Look at the evidence I've shown you, and think for yourself," because they almost invariably mean "Look at this propaganda, and think like me".
Scientists as well as religious practitioners agree that there is much about our universe and ourselves we do not yet know, By "we", I mean individual persons as well as humanity on the whole. Maybe one day we will, but I think that day would be far into the future, if ever. The honest answer to these metaphysical questions is that it is inconclusive. Therefore, there is no good reason to attack religion or people who choose to have faith. Since there is much we don't know and don't have the answer to, faith in the existence of God is as valid as non-belief in God. I would even take it a step further and say that to believe for sure in the non existence of God requires a leap of faith and logic.
My father, an Anglican, has expressed disappointment at my reluctance to believe in God. In response, I quoted the Bible: "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts." Isaiah 55:8-9. Honest believers also admit that there is no actual scientific "proof" that God exists, that there is much they don't know, but only God knows, and they believe because of personal faith. This is the faith I don't have. I reassured my dad that I have nothing against God or religion, but I just can't bring myself to have that kind of faith. It is the with same skepticism that I reject pure atheism.
I would also like to plug a book "The Language of God" by Francis S. Collins, who along with Craig Venter, presented us with the full sequence of the human genome. He is an accomplished scientist and also a strong believer in God.
Saturday, February 2, 2008
Ayn said that "Nobody helped me" and "there isn't a single mind out ther I can talk to", when both of those are total bollocks. Her family, Cecil de Mille, her husband Frank, her publishers, all helped her. Barbara Branden says in her book that after the publication of her magnum opus Atlas Shrugged, many famous and highly respected philosophers and leaders came to speak to her and congratulate her, but she "alienated them within minutes". This was because she believed everyone had to agree with her about every single little thing or she could not get along with them.
People say stuff like Britney has such a hard life, because she has people following her around and her family wants her money, and whatever else they say. I personally wouldn't mind people following me around, actually I wish people would follow me around more and take my picture more. My boyfriend asked me if I would really like that, to be plastered on billboards everywher and I said, sure, the world needs more Meg! Anyway, Britney had, and still has in many ways, everything going for her. She had a hot boyfriend JT before her relationship dissolved due to her infidelity (sound familiar?), and then a husband KFed and lovely kids, multi-platinum album, a house in Malibu, and if nothing else, she's set for life with her multi million dollar fortune. How many people are so lucky as to not have to worry about money ever again for the rest of their life? If you're going to put yourself out here, you have to be prepared for the fact that not everyone will like you, and you will have haters, and you cannot let that get to you. I think she still has far more fans (myself included!) than haters. Maybe i'll send her a postcard after this post.
And I don't get people who get so mad when people see ugly pictures of them, celebrities or not. I don't care, actually my hobby is to collect embarassing and ugly pictures of myself and others. People need to stop taking myself so seriously. I also don't think Britney looks bad now, I wouldn't mind looking like her. And even in the pictures where she's not wearing makeup, or whatever, and people say she looks like a wreck, she still looks like Britney, and you can still tell she's pretty.
Another similarity between Ayn Rand and Britney Spears is that they were poor judges of character : Rand in Nathan Branden and Leonard Peikoff, Britney with Sam Lutfi and Adnan Ghalib (eww! -- I had to look hard to find an appropriate pic of Britney without her two remoras).
Photo from People Magazine
Friday, February 1, 2008
Click here to see the whole comic by Ruben Bolling.
There is this other Alan Greenspan comic I like, but it came out before the internet was widespread and I can't find it online. And I can't even remember who drew it. It was during the late 90's recession, and they were discussing what would be the best metric for economic health. They had the "Panda Sexual Activity Index PSAI" and a frame with pandas humping and the next frame had Alan Greenspan going "That is so cool"...or something. If anyone has it send it to me please :D
This was also the time where China was concerned the pandas in captivity weren't breeding enough and filmed panda porn to show them. I don't know what the outcome of that was. Before anyone asks, Ayn Rand's view on porn was that she thought it was personally disgusting but since she was libertarian she thought it should still not be censored or regulated.