[Reprised from SOLO, February 2008.]
An animal has no choice in the knowledge and the skills that it acquires; it can only repeat them generation after generation. And an animal has no choice in the standard of value directing its actions: its senses provide it with an automatic code of values, an automatic knowledge of what is good for it or evil, what benefits or endangers its life. An animal has no power to extend its knowledge or to evade it.
Man has no automatic code of survival. He has no automatic course of action, no automatic set of values. His senses do not tell him automatically what is good for him or evil, what will benefit his life or endanger it, what goals he should pursue and what means will achieve them, what values his life depends on, what course of action it requires. His own consciousness has to discover the answers to all these questions—but his consciousness will not function automatically. Man, the highest living species on this earth—the being whose consciousness has a limitless capacity for gaining knowledge—man is the only living entity born without any guarantee of remaining conscious at all.
Ayn Rand, The Objectivist Ethics
So… according to Rand, an animal has an automatic code of survival, but man does not.
Leaving aside the fact that man is an animal (a fact which has been common knowledge for nigh on 150 years), we must ask how man—a creature with, allegedly, no automatic code of survival but a limitless capacity for gaining knowledge—evolved from an ancestral Tetrapod with no power at all to extend its limited knowledge but completely reliant on an automatic code of survival.
Evolution is a process of gradual change in a population over time. Thus, either the origin of a creature so radically different from other animals as man was an act of special creation, or there existed a "missing link"—a creature with the power to extend its knowledge without limit and an automatic code of survival.
Evolution, of course, is the survival of the fittest. Obviously, a creature with a limitless capacity for gaining knowledge and an automatic code of survival is fitter than a creature with a limitless capacity for gaining knowledge but no automatic code of survival
So… according to Rand, we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. Rand’s conception of man—and, thus, her conception of man qua man—is irredeemably wrong.