Category Archives: Entombed

What have I been using for brains? (Friday ramble)


Nathaniel Branden, best known for his adulterous liaison with Ayn Rand, has died at the age of 84. And Jim Peron, best known in New Zealand for his forthright views on pedophilia, has written an approbatory encomium for the Huffington Post.

Regarded by my co-blogger Tim as “probably the best Objectivist of them all,” Branden is better known as the author of the self-help book The Psychology of Self-Esteem. Branden’s work is well regarded, and not just by Objectivists. Really, I suppose, it’s a book I should read. (And I am without excuse. I confirm that I own a copy. I just exhumed it from the stacks!)

Let’s hear it from the man himself on the topic of self-esteem and libertarianism. The talk below is insightful and thought-provoking and has an important message for libertarian activists.

Awesome, huh? Now, let us praise with faint damnation.

I realised just the other day that all libertarians I’ve ever known (including me) are apt to commit a nasty semantic sin. See if you can spot it in the transcript below.

I think that one of the toughest battles in conversations with people and trying to get people to understand the libertarian vision is to understand ourselves and to find a way to communicate that we take something for granted that many people do not. The libertarian mentality is a non-entitlement mentality. The libertarian mentality presuppposes a person’s willingness to accept responsibility for his or her own existence.

Did you spot it? The libertarian mentality is absolutely an entitlement mentality! Libertarians emphatically believe that they are fully entitled to the fruits of their own labours. Entitlement? Check it out in any dictionary. Or Google it. You’ll see that entitlement is “the fact of having a right to something.” Am I entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Yes I am!

But you’ll also see that a second sense of the word ‘entitlement’ now also has currency. This modern entitlement is “the belief that one is inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment.” In other words, ‘entitlement’ has come to mean entitlement to that which one is not entitled. And that, dear readers, is the death of the word ‘entitlement’. It’s been turned into an abominable auto-antonym.
(Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say.)

Now, let’s get back to the salaciousness of it all. What was Rand using for brains when she decided to cuckold poor old Frank O’Connor? Commenter Brendan Hutching has the answer to that on the Objectivist forum SOLO.

I’m plumping for the moistie. Rand would not be the first woman to be led astray by the stirring of her loins, prompted by a silly, adolescent fantasy about the redemptive power of a white knight’s mighty sword.

So, what about Branden? What was he using for brains? Was he thinking with his big head or his little head? Hutching has the answer to that, too.

Branden was an ambitious young man, keen to make his mark. An affair with a mentor is a standard behaviour for people on their way up.

Perhaps you can now see why many Rand-worshippers despise Nathaniel Branden. (They despise his ex-wife Barbara Branden, who passed away last December, even more so.) On Facebook, my co-blogger Tim notes

no one having the Balls to pay her the Tribute she was due… and I’ll eat my hat if any Kiwi objectivist writes a tribute for Nat.

So I checked out Tim’s prediction. So far, so good. The tributes to Nathaniel Branden on SOLO are from Tom Burroughes (a British Objectivist) and Kyrel Zantanovich (a U.S. Objectivist). Then I popped on over to PC’s blog, Not PC. Nothing there so far …

But I did find an interesting recent post with the title Brain science without the brain, tagged with the label Philosophy.

Daniel Wolpert thinks we don’t have a brain to “perceive the world or think” (presumably then he thought up with his own notion with his appendix, or perhaps his descending retroperitoneal colon). That, he says, “is completely wrong.”

No, “we have a brain for one reason and one reason only,” says our Mr Wolbert, “and that’s to produce adaptable and complex movements. There is no other reason to have a brain … once you don’t need to move, you don’t need the luxury of that brain.”

So while philosophers and psychologists have for centuries investigated the modes and magic of human thought, and even as we speak computer scientists are busy trying to replicate the thinking human brain in silicon, alleged neuroscientists like Mr Wolbert are instead trying to study the repository of human thought and perception without reference to either perception or thought.

Recently, I said that I’d be blogging more on philosophy and less on politics. In today’s world there’s a desperate need for more philosophy and less politics. So I’ll begin with pointing out the confusion (and implicit contradiction) in PC’s post.

I think PC is confusing what the brain is for with what the brain does. I haven’t listened to Wolpert’s TED talk (yet) so I’ll take an educated guess. I don’t think that Wolpert denies that the brain does perceive and think. What Wolpert denies is that it’s for perceiving and thinking. Wolpert, you see, is an Evolutionist and Evolutionists like to explain all human morphology and behavioural traits by reference to the selection pressures faced by our human (and not-so-human) ancestors.

Has there ever been a need to perceive and think in our postulated four billion year evolutionary history? Not directly, no, there hasn’t. There’s only ever been a need “to produce adaptable and complex movements” by some mechanism. Evolutionists ask us to believe that the miraculous human brain is what random mutation threw up to meet this need and thus was seized upon by natural selection. Now, I remain firmly agnostic about the theory of evolution, but I can’t help but smell a whiff of bullshit here.

I find it disconcerting that Evolutionists so seldom follow through and buy into the logical implications of their own atheistic materialism. Or at least acknowledge that they are maintaining contradictions. A raft of them. Rand would spew.

I suspect that Rand was smart enough to recognise that her conception of man (which is the cornerstone of her philosophy) would prove false if the theory of evolution were shown to be true. Nathaniel Branden wrote the following in his essay The Benefits and Hazards of the Philosophy of Ayn Rand.

I remember being astonished to hear her say one day, “After all, the theory of evolution is only a hypothesis.” I asked her, “You mean you seriously doubt that more complex life forms — including humans — evolved from less complex life forms?” She shrugged and responded, “I’m really not prepared to say,” or words to that effect. I do not mean to imply that she wanted to substitute for the theory of evolution the religious belief that we are all God’s creation; but there was definitely something about the concept of evolution that made her uncomfortable.

There’s no place for love, beauty or morality in a purely material world.

I’m going to give the last word on this to my co-blogger Tim because I think he nails it. He alludes to

more than just the beauty of Woman… I am saying *Beauty* itself, and my ability to experience it is evidence of God…. beautiful beaches…. sunsets……too prove this.
Thus I am saying that my sense of beauty here is more than just a genetic/ sexual urge… Thus I find a Female butterfly to be Beautiful… and a Male Peacock… and this carries over into sound, taste, smell… etc.
Why I make this point Re : Beauty is because before I was a theist, it never occurred to me just how spectacular was this relationship between the beauty of Creation, and my ability to perceive it. after my conversion it dawned on me that all this could have existed and yet if I was ‘born a tree’ I would never have appreciated any of it! Never tasted a peach… never smelled a rose…. never herd a birds song… never appreciated the sun setting over the ocean… Ie My perception was heightened as to just how miraculously God had made me… so as to be able to apprehend his greatness as an artist… The beauty of God.
On a facebook tread discussing my assertions an Atheist tried to say my ‘feelings’ and sence of beauty were merely a product of ‘Nurture’… not nature.
I retorted… Give me a break! What I am talking about is something which is a fundamental capacity designed in human beings to the degree that it’s absence would be a mental handicap… nothing to do with cultural relativism.”

To me Naturalistic theories not only struggle to explain The happy conditions of Life on Earth, they really become absurd when you realise that the Atheist must believe that not only is every beautiful thing merely the product of a giant explosion, but that our sense of beauty itself must be explained thereby… as merely another property of matter.

There is a God!

Fucked by major burns

Another P lab explodes in Auckland. They should just legalise it.

[Reprised from beNZylpiperazine, April 2006.]

What do Niki Lauda, Hot Lips Houlihan and, now, a growing number of clandestine lab technicians have in common?

Drug cooks with acute burns from P lab explosions are bumping other patients off surgery waiting lists and costing taxpayers millions of dollars, says the Sunday Star Times.

“A 70 per cent burn takes five months of treatment and will cost $700,000 to treat,” says Waikato Hospital clinical director of plastic surgery and burns, Chris McEwan. “Its impact on our ability to manage the rest of our patient load is absolutely significant. It may delay the treatment of other patients by a considerable length of time.”

The public health system is in enough financial trouble already, without this. So what’s the government to do? We need go no further than the government’s National Drug Policy to find the obvious answer.

The National Drug Policy aims to improve the health and wellbeing of New Zealanders by encouraging the development of strategies and programmes which prevent and reduce drug-related harm.

Harm minimisation is where it’s at. How can we reduce the number of scorched P cooks presenting at A & E departments around the country? The approach that’s been tried, and has manifestly failed, is to criminalise the manufacture of methamphetamine and to provide harsh penalties for offenders. But does a threat of a long jail sentence really provide a deterrent to those who are otherwise prepared to risk lifelong disfigurement? Nope. The retail price of methamphetamine, massively inflated under prohibition, promises huge profits to the uncaught and unscathed. And does cramming our overcrowded prisons full of amateur chemists do anything to reduce the availability of P? Nope. The retail price of methamphetamine, massively inflated under prohibition, promises huge profits to the uncaught and unscathed, and the removal of one manufacturer from the market merely provides a business opportunity for another.

So what is the answer? I suggest something along the lines of needle exchanges for opiate users, like this one in Invercargill. Better still, we could follow the “shooting gallery” model adopted in New South Wales.

Staff at ESR model government issued protective clothing

At a minimum, the government should provide free protective clothing and safety apparatus (and, of course, immunity from prosecution) to those who can prove their clandestine intent and P cooking credentials. This simple measure would, I’m sure, significantly reduce the burden on the public health system of victims of P lab explosions. Of course, to be effective, such safety gear must be used properly. I envisage that the government would also fund some training in proper laboratory procedure.

Although it would certainly cost a great deal more, ideally the government should set up centres in all P-ravaged communities where P cooks can take their dangerous chemicals and drug precursors and go about their business of manufacturing methamphetamine under the watchful supervision of qualified professionals.

What is rationality? (Part 1)


It’s been a while, but tomorrow night The New Inklings meet again! The time is 7 pm. The place is the Downtown House Bar and Cafe at the Downtown Backpackers, corner of Bunny Street and Waterloo Quay, Wellington.

We discuss philosophy (mainly) and theology. You’re welcome to join us, provided that you are (1) irenic, and (2) rational. If you don’t know what it means to be irenic, Google is your friend. If you don’t know what it means to be rational, well … tomorrow night’s discussion topic is for you!

the nature of rationality and what a commitment to Reason entails

So I thought I’d jot down a few recent thoughts … and start a series of posts … on this fundamentally important to everything topic.

Here’s my all-time favourite Ayn Rand quote.

To arrive at a contradiction is to confess an error in one’s thinking; to maintain a contradiction is to abdicate one’s mind and to evict oneself from the realm of reality.

I used to love to brandish this one at Ayn Rand’s hypocritical followers. I say ‘used to’ because it’s just dawned on me that Rand got it completely wrong! (Yet again! Wotta surprise!)

To arrive at a contradiction is NOT to confess an error in one’s thinking. To arrive at a contradiction is the strongest confirmation possible that there is NO error in one’s thinking!

And to maintain a contradiction is NOT to abdicate one’s mind nor to evict oneself from the realm of reality. At least, not in the short-term, probably not in the medium-term and possibly not even in the long-term! NOT to maintain a contradiction, in the short-term at least, would be irrational in the utmost extreme!

I really don’t know why I didn’t see this sooner … perhaps you don’t see it yet, so I’ll explain.

The simplest example of a contradiction is a proposition and its negation. P and not-P. Two propositions are contradictory, or inconsistent, if they cannot both be true. Three propositions are mutually contradictory, or form an inconsistent triad, if they cannot all be true. Four propositions that cannot all be true form an inconsistent tetrad. And so on and so forth.

None but the completely insane ever believes P and not-P. But believing A, B and C, where A, B and C cannot all be true? This is a commonplace. But most people who believe A, B and C don’t notice the inconsistency. A and B don’t contradict. B and C don’t contradict. C and A don’t contradict. It’s the mutual inconsistency that gives rise to the contradiction. To arrive at the contradiction you actually have to have some logical nous. You have to be able to recognise that

(P1) A
(P2) B
Therefore, (C) not-C

is a deductively valid argument. So to arrive at a contradiction is actually to confirm that you have at least a basic grasp of logic! Which most people don’t.

So you’ve arrived at a contradiction. You believe A, B and C and you are cognizant of the contradiction. You know your beliefs can’t all be true. You know that (at least) one of them has to go. But which one? You’d better sit down and try to figure that one out. But you don’t want to reject the wrong belief. So, in the meanwhile, you’ll maintain the contradiction. Take your time. It’s the rational thing to do.