Rand vs Science 1.1

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


Rand vs Science 1.2

Objectivism and Logical Positivism are different in some ways, but are the same in the ways below. Modern scientific method, also called Positivism or neoPositivism or Popper Positivism, is the mirror opposite of Rand’s epistemology.

Objectivism and Logical Positivism are equivalent in that the premises must be referable to observed reality:

  • Atlas Society http://www.atlassociety.org/logical-positivism-vs-objectivism: “the meaning of a statement is the existential facts identified by the statement.”
  • Compared to Logical Positivism (Wikipedia 3.2 Observation/theory gap): “Early, most logical positivists proposed that all knowledge is based on logical inference from simple ‘protocol sentences’ grounded in observable facts…”
  • On the other hand: Positivism can utilize imaginary constructs w/o basis in observable reality as premises1.

In Objectivism and Logical Positivism, concepts reached through logical processes are not necessarily found in reality:

  • Atlas Society http://www.atlassociety.org/logical-positivism-vs-objectivism: “Not all statements need to be themselves empirically verifiable: human knowledge is a hierarchy based on the immediately given, but by a process of abstraction we can generalize to discover new relationships. Statements are comprised of concepts—and some, but certainly not all, concepts have direct perceptual referents.”
  • Compared to Logical Positivism Wikipedia 3.2 Observation/theory gap:  “Further, theoretical terms no longer need to acquire meaning by explicit definition from observational terms: the connection may be indirect, through a system of implicit definitions…”
  • On the other hand, Positivism requires testing of the conclusions against observable reality2.

Therefore: While Rand disparages Logical Positivism, her own epistemology shares equivalent flaws and the modern scientific method of Positivism contradicts Rand’s epistemology.

1Hawking universe in a nutshell pg. 59

2Ibid. pg. 31