Man is a being of self-made soul. Rand explains this assertion as follows: "The use or misuse of his cognitive faculty determines a man’s choice of values, which determine his emotions and his character. It is in this sense that man is a being of self-made soul." In other words, a man's "character and emotions" are determined by how he uses (or misuses) his consciousness. Under this view, a man is responsible not merely for how he behaves, but for his personality and emotions.
To describe this viewpoint as controversial greatly understates its tremendous reach. Were it true, it would mean that nearly every scientist in the biological and behavorial sciences, nearly every great poet, dramatist, and novelist, and all great statemen, generals, businessmen, etc. have been wrong; for nearly everyone who has ever studied, described, bargained with, dealt with, or commanded human beings has assumed that man is not a being of self-made soul, that his "soul" (or character) is a product of many factors, and that something called "human nature" most definitely exists and can be used to make generalizations concerning how human beings are likely to react to various incentives. Scientists have discovered, for example, that whether an individual is extroverted or introverted is determined by his genes. As scientists learn more about how DNA influences human character, they are discovering the extent to which a man's personality is innate (it's a rather large extent, estimated somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 to 70 per cent). Rand's assertion that man is a being of self-made soul goes into the very teeth of this evidence. This being so, why should we take Rand's assertion seriously? On the one side, we have a veritable mountain of evidence for the belief that character, at least in some respects, is influenced by genetics. In opposition to this Rand provides us with?--nothing. Rand cites no scientific experiment, no article from a reputable scientific journal, no evidence from experimental psychology. Now how likely is it that Rand is right on this point, and thousands of much better informed scientists, scholars, historians, social scientists, statesmen, etc. are wrong?
Rand is clearly wrong: man is not a being of self-made soul. To accept the Randian nonsense is to suffer from an almost egomaniacal delusion. So why haven't Rand's disciples attempted to remedy this glaring defect in her philosophy? After all, aren't Objectivists supposed to be "objective," concerned for the truth, eager to get the facts right? Isn't that what Rand's philosophy, on its epistemological side, is all about? But no; Rand's followers have no interest in repairing this major faux pas in the Objectivist philosophy. How can they? It's one of their philosophy's chief presuppositions. Without it, the whole structure becomes wobbly, and threatens to fall. If man is not a being of self-made soul, the Objectivist philosophy of history becomes utterly untenable; some of Rand's ethical ideals, particularly her virtues of selfishness, pride, and integrity, become deeply problematic; and her politics becomes unachievable and therefore fabulous and utopian. Rand's entire project of "saving" the world depends on the notion that how a man uses his cognitive faculty ultimately determines his character; for if man has no control, whether direct or indirect, over his character, then we should expect his innate biases to influence him in the future as they have influenced him in the past. Take away Rand's extreme self-determinism, and the old rules apply once again. The conservative (or "Tragic") vision of human nature, dramatized by Sophocles and Shakespeare, limned by James Madison and Alexander Hamilton in the Federalist Papers, scientifically explicated by E.O. Wilson, Steven Pinker, and other scientists, is once more vindicated.