In a world dominated by magical thinking, superstition and misinformation, give yourself the benefit of doubt. This is one skeptic's view of the Universe; natural wonders and supernatural blunders.

"Tell people there’s an invisible man in the sky who created the universe, and the vast majority believe you. Tell them the paint is wet, and they have to touch it to be sure."

-George Carlin

“If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed”.

-Albert Einstein

“Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep thoughts can be winnowed from deep nonsense.”

-Carl Sagan

The person who is certain, and who claims divine warrant for his certainty, belongs now to the infancy of our species. It may be a long farewell, but it has begun and, like all farewells, should not be protracted.

-Christopher Hitchens



(via Republicans and Ayn Rand, a love-hate affair - The Term Sheet: Fortune’s deals blog Term Sheet)
Here’s the gist on this Ryan doofus and his bizarre 180 on Ayn Rand (and, believe me, this is not a defense of that pill popping maniac).
Sound to me like Ryan just found out Rand was an atheist and, after checking with pollsters, realized most conservatives don’t swing that way. And by “swing that way” I mean “tolerate any other worldview.”
Atheism is seen as such a scourge, conservatives are willing to throw their patron nut under the bus to distance themselves from it. What a grip Christianity’s got on this country.


(via Republicans and Ayn Rand, a love-hate affair - The Term Sheet: Fortune’s deals blog Term Sheet)

Here’s the gist on this Ryan doofus and his bizarre 180 on Ayn Rand (and, believe me, this is not a defense of that pill popping maniac).

Sound to me like Ryan just found out Rand was an atheist and, after checking with pollsters, realized most conservatives don’t swing that way. And by “swing that way” I mean “tolerate any other worldview.”

Atheism is seen as such a scourge, conservatives are willing to throw their patron nut under the bus to distance themselves from it. What a grip Christianity’s got on this country.



The other night, I saw my libertarian neighbors’ vehicle broken down on the side of the road about 7 blocks from my house. I thought of stopping and helping, but then I remembered I didn’t have to help them if I didn’t want to because voluntarism, and I figured the free market or liberty would help at some point in time. 

And, really, what can one say about Objectivism? It isn’t so much a philosophy as what someone who has never actually encountered philosophy imagines a philosophy might look like: good hard axiomatic absolutes, a bluff attitude of intellectual superiority, lots of simple atomic premises supposedly immune to doubt, immense and inflexible conclusions, and plenty of assertions about what is “rational” or “objective” or “real.” Oh, and of course an imposing brand name ending with an “-ism.” Rand was so eerily ignorant of all the interesting problems of ontology, epistemology, or logic that she believed she could construct an irrefutable system around a collection of simple maxims like “existence is identity” and “consciousness is identification,” all gathered from the damp fenlands between vacuous tautology and catastrophic category error. She was simply unaware that there were any genuine philosophical problems that could not be summarily solved by flatly proclaiming that this is objectivity, this is rational, this is scientific, in the peremptory tones of an Obersturmführer drilling his commandoes.

David Bentley Hart (The Trouble With Ayn Rand)

The Rebirth of Social Darwinism


What kind of society, exactly, do modern Republicans want? I’ve been listening to Republican candidates in an effort to discern an overall philosophy, a broadly-shared vision, an ideal picture of America.

They say they want a smaller government but that can’t be it. Most seek a larger national defense and more muscular homeland security. Almost all want to widen the government’s powers of search and surveillance inside the United States – eradicating possible terrorists, expunging undocumented immigrants, “securing” the nation’s borders. They want stiffer criminal sentences, including broader application of the death penalty. Many also want government to intrude on the most intimate aspects of private life.

They call themselves conservatives but that’s not it, either. They don’t want to conserve what we now have. They’d rather take the country backwards – before the 1960s and 1970s, and the Environmental Protection Act, Medicare, and Medicaid; before the New Deal, and its provision for Social Security, unemployment insurance, the forty-hour workweek, and official recognition of trade unions; even before the Progressive Era, and the first national income tax, antitrust laws, and Federal Reserve.

They’re not conservatives. They’re regressives. And the America they seek is the one we had in the Gilded Age of the late nineteenth century.

It was an era when the nation was mesmerized by the doctrine of free enterprise, but few Americans actually enjoyed much freedom. Robber barons like the financier Jay Gould, the railroad magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt, and the oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller, controlled much of American industry; the gap between rich and poor had turned into a chasm; urban slums festered; women couldn’t vote and black Americans were subject to Jim Crow; and the lackeys of rich literally deposited sacks of money on desks of pliant legislators.

Most tellingly, it was a time when the ideas of William Graham Sumner, a professor of political and social science at Yale, dominated American social thought. Sumner brought Charles Darwin to America and twisted him into a theory to fit the times.

Few Americans living today have read any of Sumner’s writings but they had an electrifying effect on America during the last three decades of the 19th century.

To Sumner and his followers, life was a competitive struggle in which only the fittest could survive – and through this struggle societies became stronger over time. A correlate of this principle was that government should do little or nothing to help those in need because that would interfere with natural selection.

Listen to today’s Republican debates and you hear a continuous regurgitation of Sumner. “Civilization has a simple choice,” Sumner wrote in the 1880s. It’s either “liberty, inequality, survival of the fittest,” or “not-liberty, equality, survival of the unfittest. The former carries society forward and favors all its best members; the latter carries society downwards and favors all its worst members.”

Sound familiar?

Newt Gingrich not only echoes Sumner’s thoughts but mimics Sumner’s reputed arrogance. Gingrich says we must reward “entrepreneurs” (by which he means anyone who has made a pile of money) and warns us not to “coddle” people in need. He opposes extending unemployment insurance because, he says,  ”I’m opposed to giving people money for doing nothing.”

Sumner, likewise, warned against handouts to people he termed “negligent, shiftless, inefficient, silly, and imprudent.”

Mitt Romney doesn’t want the government to do much of anything about unemployment. And he’s dead set against raising taxes on millionaires, relying on the standard Republican rationale millionaires create jobs.

Here’s Sumner, more than a century ago: “Millionaires are the product of natural selection, acting on the whole body of men to pick out those who can meet the requirement of certain work to be done… It is because they are thus selected that wealth aggregates under their hands – both their own and that intrusted to them … They may fairly be regarded as the naturally selected agents of society.” Although they live in luxury, “the bargain is a good one for society.”

Other Republican hopefuls also fit Sumner’s mold. Ron Paul, who favors repeal of Obama’s healthcare plan, was asked at a Republican debate in September what medical response he’d recommend if a young man who had decided not to buy health insurance were to go into a coma. Paul’s response: “That’s what freedom is all about: taking your own risks.” The Republican crowd cheered.

In other words, if the young man died for lack of health insurance, he was responsible. Survival of the fittest.

Social Darwinism offered a moral justification for the wild inequities and social cruelties of the late nineteenth century. It allowed John D. Rockefeller, for example, to claim the fortune he accumulated through his giant Standard Oil Trust was “merely a survival of the fittest.” It was, he insisted “the working out of a law of nature and of God.”

Social Darwinism also undermined all efforts at the time to build a nation of broadly-based prosperity and rescue our democracy from the tight grip of a very few at the top. It was used by the privileged and powerful to convince everyone else that government shouldn’t do much of anything.

Not until the twentieth century did America reject Social Darwinism. We created the large middle class that became the core of our economy and democracy. We built safety nets to catch Americans who fell downward through no fault of their own. We designed regulations to protect against the inevitable excesses of free-market greed. We taxed the rich and invested in public goods – public schools, public universities, public transportation, public parks, public health – that made us all better off.

In short, we rejected the notion that each of us is on his or her own in a competitive contest for survival.

But make no mistake: If one of the current crop of Republican hopefuls becomes president, and if regressive Republicans take over the House or Senate, or both, Social Darwinism is back.

It is difficult to ignore the responsibility that Ayn Rand bears for all of this. I often get emails from people who insist that Rand was a genius—and one who has been unfairly neglected by writers like myself… As someone who has written and spoken at length about how we might develop a truly “objective” morality, I am often told by followers of Rand that their beloved guru accomplished this task long ago. The result was Objectivism—a view that makes a religious fetish of selfishness and disposes of altruism and compassion as character flaws… And I say this as someone who considers himself, in large part, a “libertarian”—and who has, therefore, embraced more or less everything that was serviceable in Rand’s politics. The problem with pure libertarianism, however, has long been obvious: We are not ready for it. Judging from my recent correspondence, I feel this more strongly than ever. There is simply no question that an obsession with limited government produces impressive failures of wisdom and compassion in otherwise intelligent people.

Sam Harris, “How to Lose Readers Without Even Trying” (via cocknbull)

Harry Potter by Ayn Rand


Harry decided not to save anyone, because it was against his rational self interest.

Voldemort won, and rightly so, as his ethical egoism allowed him to value his life above all else.

(Source: maguimpalor)

“[Y]ou have realize what that implies. It’s not an abstraction. I’m a physician. That means you have a right to come to my house and conscript me. It means you believe in slavery. It means that you’re going to enslave not only me, but the janitor at my hospital, the person who cleans my office, the assistants who work in my office, the nurses.

“Basically, once you imply a belief in a right to someone’s services — do you have a right to plumbing? Do you have a right to water? Do you have right to food? — you’re basically saying you believe in slavery.

“I’m a physician in your community and you say you have a right to health care. You have a right to beat down my door with the police, escort me away and force me to take care of you? That’s ultimately what the right to free health care would be.”

- Sen. Rand Paul [R-KY], complete dick and embarrassment to himself, the Senate, and the state of Kentucky. Fear of being enslaved? Ideological lunatic. (via liberalsarecool)

No, he’s not just a ideological lunatic. He’s a fucking moron if he actually believes what he said here, and if he doesn’t believe it then he’s a disingenuous douchebag. There is no way to employ actual logical thinking and arrive at the conclusion he puts forth here. No way at all.

(via drinkthe-koolaid)

People who support this must be really really amazed by magic tricks. Slight of hand works on small minds, Mr. Paul. I guess you’re counting on your constituents to be small-minded.

(via goodreasonnews)

Such a dick. Why did you become a physician in the first place, Rand Paul? I’m sure he’s got amazing bedside manner. “It appears you’ve got cancer mrs. Smith. Will that be cash, check, or credit?”

This is quite a piece of objectivist hyperbole. If he can only make 3x as much as his avg. patient and not 5 or 6x, he’s a god damn SLAVE. And that makes you, the patient, morally corrupt for even seeking his help. Rand Paul has a raging hard-on for Ayn Rand.

(Source: liberalsarecool)

I fail to see how paying people not to work is going to reduce unemployment. I think the compassionate thing to do is make it difficult for people who don’t have a job so they go out there and hustle to find one. People need an incentive to find jobs. If they can’t find work, they can start businesses and create jobs. If the government makes it comfortable for people to not work, that opportunity will be exploited.

Wyoming Rep. Kendell Kroeker, R-Evansville, encouraging the Wyoming State House to vote down $38 million of federal unemployment benefits in the name of compassion. Kroeker claimed he has had people turn down jobs at his Casper business because they would rather draw unemployment. Uh, huh… 

Posted on his Facebook page later:

We did something good today - we just killed a bill that would have extended unemployment benefits. Killing a bad bill is a great feeling.

This flashback from February reflects the current theme in the GOP - it’s them lazy unemployed, and damned unions takin’ all yer money and jobs. Probably illegals, too. Never mind tax cuts for the wealthy and corporate subsidies. The Bush tax cuts had eight years to generate job creation. Nada.

As an aside, anyone else realizing how liberal Richard Nixon really was, even compared to Obama?

(via cognitivedissonance)

Um.  Is it that hard for these politicians to accept that the state of the economy is not the people’s fault, it’s the fault of banks and the government and companies and a whole shitload of other stuff not really having to do with the public?  Therefore they really shouldn’t be punished for this crap?

In regards to that last bit about Nixon: Also, wage-price freeze.

(via questionablenerdlygoodness)

uh I am on unemployment right now. A measly $1480 a month. For some perspective, my rent is $880. If I was offered a job, I highly doubt my reason for turning it down (if I did indeed turn it down, highly unlikely) would be so I could continue the movie star lifestyle I’m living on this unemployment.

(via drinkthe-koolaid)

The Republican party’s famous last words: “I fail to see…”






“I used to think Ayn Rand was the bomb but I outgrew it. You know, when I turned 12.

We all know that liberalism is for the (naive, inexperienced, foolish) young while conservatism is a natural byproduct of aging, maturing, and gaining experience with the world, right? Conventional wisdom gets it wrong yet again. The surge in popularity of objectivism and libertarianism on campus underscores how right wing ideology, not pie-in-sky liberalism, is the real fantasyland for kids who have absolutely no experience in the real world.

Yes, Ayn Rand is making a comeback among the college-aged. Objectivism is even getting some mainstream press in light of Commissar Obama frog-marching the nation toward hardcore Communism. Heroic individualists are threatening to “go galt” now that Obama has completely eliminated all incentive for anyone to work ever again, re-enacting their own version of the “producers’ strike” in Atlas Shrugged.

I’ve gotten a little more mellow in recent years, believe it or not, less keen to argue and more able to see middle ground. But there is no middle ground here, no way for us to meet halfway in intellectual compromise: If you are an Objectivist, you are retarded. This is a judgment call, and I just made it. Grow up or fuck off. Those are your two options.

First of all, let us never overlook the fact that Rand’s novels are atrocious as literature. Boring, repetitive, unconscionably long-winded, and written at approximately a 10th Grade level. Her wooden characters, the dialogue that makes you feel like you’re being lectured by your uncle, and the idiotic plot all read as if written by a 17 year-old shut-in who spends a lot of time touching himself under a life-sized poster of Hayek. Atlas Shrugged is to literature whatBattlefield: Earth is to film – it’s five times too long and leaves readers wondering if Rand ever met another human being let alone successfully interacted with one.

Second, whatever respect we could have for Rand in light of her awful writing skills is obliterated by her unbelievably sophomoric “philosophy.” It’s exactly the kind of anti-intellectual, preachy, self-aggrandizing shit that plays well with immature people who think the world revolves around them – in other words, college kids. Yet Objectivists themselves have contempt for academia, which refuses to dignify their little cult with serious study. But who could be expected to take this sort of thing seriously?

“Just this weekend,” said Rep. John Campbell (R-Calif.) on Wednesday in an interview with TWI, “I had a guy come up to me in my district and tell me that he was losing his interest in the business he’d run for years because the president wanted to punish him for his success.”

John, your constituent is a friggin’ idiot. He is exactly the kind of ex-fratboy MBA who thinks of himself as a linchpin of society, an “Atlas” upon whom the nation rests, but in reality could be replaced by any literate college grad or, in many cases, an unusually motivated ape. Think about this logic (or “logic”) for a second: this guy no longer wants to run his business because his taxes went up a few percent. The government wants to reduce his income by 10%, so his response is to reduce it by 100%. Sheer brilliance. Go ahead, Mr. Irreplaceable. Close your business. Go broke to “teach us a lesson” about how important you are. We’ll just have to struggle on without you. I am trying to be tactful here, but if this logic makes sense to you, I have to be emphatic:you are retarded. You’re far more likely to be in the bottom rung of society than among the “producers.”

Conventional wisdom is wrong. It’s not “Liberal at 20 or no heart, conservative at 30 or no brain.” Only the young can indulge (on mom and dad’s tuition dollar, by the way) this kind of solipsistic ME ME ME horseshit. People who mature beyond adolescence start realizing that, hey, there areother people in the world and that sitting on one’s ass lecturing them about what they shouldn’t have done is of limited use. Politics is about solving problems, not moralizing. Life is about living in society, not in one’s own head. Objectivists are right to target college kids, though, a demographic highly susceptible to new “-isms” in their first foray away from Ham Bone, Iowa or wherever. They’re also the kind of people most likely to find dichotomous, black-and-white morality appealing. Accordingly I should go easy on this new generation of Objectivists with their natural abundance of naivete, youth, and selfishness. Happily, those who mature emotionally beyond the age of 18 will soon outgrow it. But there’s a fine line between deserving sympathy and inviting a vicious intellectual beatdown, and the line is starting to blur.

In conclusion, if any of this was insufficiently clear: Man, fuck Ayn Rand.”

[via ginandtacos]

I deeply disagree with the way “retarded” is used here, but other than that, spot on.

Very well said. Here’s two more cents. Libertarians are free-market radicals who worship at the alter of the all-mighty dollar. They are convinced market forces will always fill any gap, right any wrong and, if left truly free, provide people with every option they desire. A free-market, for instance, should lead to the healthiest possible food products being the most successful as it is the case that, in a libertarian fantasy world, people won’t stand for products that kill them (I actually got this lecture from a libertarian who was smoking while telling me). Following that logic, if the head of, say, Verizon ‘went Galt’ and walked out, not only would that action be betraying the free market interests that Rand and other amphetamine junkies (yes, she was a miserable drug addict) push, but it would open the market to a competitor who wouldn’t give a shit about some rich boy’s little tantrum. The opportunity for, say, Comcast, would be so great that Verizon would literally be committing suicide by proving some point about America not respecting their fucking ‘genius.’ Any libertarian ought to know this. Using their own logic I just explained a glaring contradiction in their Bible.

What now, bitches?



“[Fuck your fellow man, look out for numero uno]”

— Ayn Rand (paraphrased) Mmmm, that’s some good Christian conservatism!

Ayn Rand is atheist…

Was an atheist. She’s dead now. I was referring to the irony of her philosophy being embraced by the Christian teabaggers. Not to her being a Christian conservative. Just to clarify.

This odd little woman is attempting to give a moral sanction to greed and self interest … to pull it off she must at times indulge in purest Orwellian newspeak … . She has a great attraction for simple people who are puzzled by organized society, who object to paying taxes, who dislike the “welfare” state, who feel guilt at the thought of the suffering of others but who would like to harden their hearts … . [Rand] has declared war not only on Marx but on Christ….I doubt if even the most anti-Christian free-thinker would want to deny the ethical value of Christ in the Gospels … For to justify and extol human greed and egotism is to my mind not only immoral, but evil … . [S]ince we must live together, dependent upon one another for many things and services, altruism is necessary to survival. To get people to do needed things is the perennial hard task of government, not to mention of religion and philosophy … We often fail. That predatory demon “I” is difficult to contain but until now we have all agreed that to help others is a right action … . Both Marx and Christ agree that in this life a right action is consideration for the welfare of others….Miss Rand now tells us that what we have thought was right is really wrong. The lesson should have read: One for one and none for all. Ayn Rand’s “philosophy” is nearly perfect in its immorality, which makes the size of her audience all the more ominous…as we enter a curious new phase in our society.

Gore Vidal (via azspot)

Bravo sir! Bravo.

Screw You: Me, Myself and I — The Life & Death of Ayn Rand


That should really be the title of Atlas Shrugged, Part II.

So now we know that Paul Ryan, Ayn Rand’s biggest fanboi and author of the “2012 Path to Poverty: Soylent Green for Everyone” budget plan, went to college on Social Security benefits he received after his father’s death. And that’s fine — for HIM. He just doesn’t want you or your children to be able to do the same.

No wonder Ryan worships at the shrine of Saint Ayn:  Rand constantly railed against government help as something that turned people into morally weak  parasites who fed off society.  WELL.  When the time came for Rand to sign up for Social Security and Medicare, she did so — but under the name Ann O’Connor. If she was willing be a morally weak parasite on the ‘dole’ of the United States government, apparently she wanted to keep it a secret. (Emphasis below is mine):

Michael Ford: [I]t was revealed in the recent “Oral History of Ayn Rand” by Scott McConnell (founder of the media department at the Ayn Rand Institute) that in the end Ayn was a vip-dipper as well. An interview with Evva Pryror, a social worker and consultant to Miss Rand’s law firm of Ernst, Cane, Gitlin and Winick verified that on Miss Rand’s behalf she secured Rand’s Social Security and Medicare payments which Ayn received under the name of Ann O’Connor (husband Frank O’Connor).

As Pryor said, “Doctors cost a lot more money than books earn and she could be totally wiped out” without the aid of these two government programs. Ayn took the bail out even though Ayn “despised government interference and felt that people should and could live independently… She didn’t feel that an individual should take help.”

But alas she did and said it was wrong for everyone else to do so. Apart from the strong implication that those who take the help are morally weak, it is also a philosophic point that such help dulls the will to work, to save and government assistance is said to dull the entrepreneurial spirit.

In the end, Miss Rand was a hypocrite but she could never be faulted for failing to act in her own self-interest.

And that last statement, in a nutshell, is what this movement, Objectivism, is all about. Remember that when you listen to Paul Ryan’s or Rand Paul’s “ideas.”

Ayn Rand quote:

I think it’s a monstrous thing — the whole progression of everything they’re doing — to feature, or answer, or favor the incompetent, the retarded, the handicapped, including, you know, the kneeling buses and all kinds of impossible expenses. I do not think that the retarded should be ~allowed~ to come ~near~ children. Children cannot deal, and should not have to deal, with the very tragic spectacle of a handicapped human being. When they grow up, they may give it some attention, if they’re interested, but it should never be presented to them in childhood, and certainly not as an example of something ~they~ have to live down to.

Ayn Rand, The Age of Mediocrity, Q & A Ford Hall Forum, April, 1981