Rand uses a false argument to disagree with modern scientific methods.
Rand, For the New Intellectual, Pg 34-35: The scientist was offered the combined neo-mystic Witch-doctory and Attila-ism of the Logical Positivists. They assured him that… …the task of thoretical science is the manipulation of symbols, and scientists are the special elite whose symbols have the magic power of making reality conform to their will (“matter is that which fits mathematical equations”)…
Stephen Hawking The Universe in a Nutshell Pg. 31: .. According to (the positivist approach put forward by Karl Popper and others), scientific theory is a mathematical model that describes and codifies the observations we make… and will make definite predictions that can be tested. If the predictions agree with the observations, the theory survives that test. On the other hand, if observations disagree with the predictions, one has to… discard… the theory.
Rand misrepresents Positivism as bending reality to fit the math, while Hawking states observations are the criteria by which the math is judged. Rand’s argument is false.
Rand suggests scientists believe their symbols have magical powers. Contemporary scientists do not believe that. Rand’s argument is emotional and not rational.
Hawking cites Karl Popper, a member of the Vienna School which developed Positivism. Rand quotes herself to define Positivism; but does not say so, which makes a false impression she is quoting an actual Positivist. Rand’s argument is sophistry.
While Popper’s version of Positivism is not in all ways like Logical Positivism, the issues addressed here and cited by Rand are the same.
Ayn Rand, For the New Intellectual, Signet Book, New American Library, 1961
Stephen Hawking, The Universe in a Nutshell, Bantam Books, Random House, 2001