Sunday, March 12, 2023

Objectivist Roundup, March 2023

The big news is that Craig Biddle and Stephen Hicks will be debating Open Objectivism at next month’s Ayn Rand Europe’s Belgrade conference.  Hicks, who is associated with David Kelley’s The Atlas Society, will be taking the Open Objectivism position.  The push-back by the Closed position advocates has been intense, see here and here.  James Valliant was particularly irate, arguing that Open Objectivism is dishonest, an anti-concept, a repudiation of Ayn Rand, etc.  He says that to debate Hicks on the topic is equivalent to debating a Holocaust denier, a flat earther, and an advocate of slavery.  Valliant’s anger toward The Atlas Society apparently goes back to 1986 when Kelley allegedly said that there should be a debate over Barbara Branden’s just-published biography of Rand.  Valliant is upset that when he published The Passion of Ayn Rand’s Critics in 2005, Kelley refused to debate.  Perhaps Kelley changed his mind in the intervening 29 years or concluded that it wasn’t worth his time to debate the author of a book who considers throwing surprise parties immoral.

For background on the Open Objectivism controversy see here and here.  The debate seems to be mostly about the amount of judgment and condemnation that Objectivists should have toward non-Objectivists (particularly leftist academics) and group rivalries than about the essentials of Rand’s philosophy.  For example, Closed Objectivists don’t get worked up over the Ayn Rand Institute purporting to know what Rand would have thought about Donald Trump.

[Contributed by Niel Parille.]

Monday, March 06, 2023

The mRNA Vaccine Controversy and "Reason"

Ben Bayer, "director of content" over at ARI, wrote an article back in May of 2022 arguing that "vaccine refusers" (i.e., people who refused to take the mRNA vaccines) should not be criticized for being "selfish," that on the contrary, getting vaccinated is very much in the individuals rational self-interest. Bayer of course takes it for granted that the mRNA vaccine's are "safe and effective":

While some people have good medical reasons not to get vaccinated [writes Bayer], others are disproportionately worried about rare side effects. Of these, far too many are irrationally allowing themselves to be taken in by quackery and conspiracism.

Now Bayer believes he has come to this conclusion by the use of his "reason." This means he has evaluated all the relevant facts and, through "logic" and valid concept formation, has arrived at a correct (and "certain") conclusion. But here's the problem. He actually hasn't done any of that. He undoubtedly thinks he has, but he's deluded. His conclusion, far from being based on all the relevant facts and/or logic, is instead derived from an argument from authority (which is technically a logical fallacy). Because the medical and scientific establishments have claimed that the mRNA vaccines are "safe and effective," he has decided that's good enough for him. However, there's a potential contradiction here. How can Bayer be certain that these establishments are in all respects trustworthy? After all, can Bayer truthfully contend that he always accepts the conclusions of the scientific establishment, regardless of what they might be? Would he, for example, accept the scientific establishment's views on climate change and global warming? If not, why not? If he accepts one and not the other, isn't that an example of cherry picking the evidence?