Friday, October 22, 2010
Friday, October 15, 2010
I always get a smile when I read someone who thinks they understand the writings and philosophy of Ayn Rand, and yet doesn't have a clue. This time, an Op-Ed written in the Christian Science Monitor written by Rand's fellow Russian Vladimir Shlapentokh betrays a near-complete ignorance of Rand:
But the ironic truth is that, among American authors over the past two centuries, it is impossible to find somebody who has so openly and consistently praised the American elite as Rand has. Rand created magnate protagonists like John Galt and Francisco d’Anconia who ran their industries and societies without paying heed to public opinion. Rand and her heroes hold ordinary people in great contempt. They would surely be appalled to see how the “everyday Americans” at tea party rallies have demanded that they (not the American nobility nor the Ivy League graduates) should have the decisive voice in American politics.
There was nothing elitist about Rand. She believed in ability, not in privilege. She had no admiration for nobility, and deeply distrusted the ivy league elite. What she wanted above all was a limited government, a possibility that Shlapentokh and many of his fellow collectivists will not even consider. As for Rand's attitude towards everyday Americans, one paragraph from The Passion of Ayn Rand, a biography of Rand written by Barbara Branden, is particularly telling:
Two preview of the movie [The Fountainhead] were scheduled, one in Beverly Hills, the other in Hollywood Park, a working-class district. Henry Blanke [producer of the movie] hoped the studio would give the first preview in Beverly Hills. Ayn told him she wanted it to be in Hollywood Park, because that was where her real audience would be. It was in Hollywood Park. "I never saw so responsive an audience," she recalled. "They understood it all, and they applauded Roark's speech. After the previews, the top brass were gloating and delighted, they were sure it would be a big hit, and we had an enourmous celebration. The Beverly Hills audience was not quite as responsive or perceptive, although they liked it. That's why I like the common man." [pp 211-212]
Another ridiculous statement in the Op-Ed, totally unsupported by fact:
While tea partiers commend Rand as the champion of individualism, they conveniently forget that in her novels, the only people who seemed to benefit from her aim to protect individualism and the unlimited freedom of action were her Nietzschean tycoons. Indeed, Rand was fully indifferent to the workers in her novels, whom she described as primitive beings – “savages” in the words of Atlas’s steel mogul Hank Rearden, arguably one of Rand’s most beloved personages.
The character Hank Rearden never once referred to his workers as "savages" in the novel. He had the utmost respect for his employees, having worked his way up from being a mine worker as a boy.
There are many more nonfacts in the Op-Ed. Anyone who has read Rand will recognize that Shlapentokh does not understand her at all.
Saturday, October 09, 2010
Harold Lewis, Emiritus Professor of Physics at UC Santa Barbara, recently resigned from the American Physical Society. Some excerpts from his letter:
It is of course, the global warming scam, with the (literally) trillions of dollars driving it, that has corrupted so many scientists, and has carried APS before it like a rogue wave. It is the greatest and most successful pseudoscientific fraud I have seen in my long life as a physicist. Anyone who has the faintest doubt that this is so should force himself to read the ClimateGate documents, which lay it bare. (Montford’s book organizes the facts very well.) I don’t believe that any real physicist, nay scientist, can read that stuff without revulsion. I would almost make that revulsion a definition of the word scientist.
The appallingly tendentious APS statement on Climate Change was apparently written in a hurry by a few people over lunch, and is certainly not representative of the talents of APS members as I have long known them. So a few of us petitioned the Council to reconsider it. One of the outstanding marks of (in)distinction in the Statement was the poison word incontrovertible, which describes few items in physics, certainly not this one. In response APS appointed a secret committee that never met, never troubled to speak to any skeptics, yet endorsed the Statement in its entirety. (They did admit that the tone was a bit strong, but amazingly kept the poison word incontrovertible to describe the evidence, a position supported by no one.) In the end, the Council kept the original statement, word for word, but approved a far longer “explanatory” screed, admitting that there were uncertainties, but brushing them aside to give blanket approval to the original. The original Statement, which still stands as the APS position, also contains what I consider pompous and asinine advice to all world governments, as if the APS were master of the universe. It is not, and I am embarrassed that our leaders seem to think it is.