Tuesday, January 04, 2005

What Is Wrong with the World

Here, in a nutshell, is what is wrong with the world. A website asks America's scientific elite—the people who are supposed to be the opposite of the nutty religious right, the question: "What do you believe is true even though you cannot prove it?" The New York Times publishes the result ("God (or Not), Physics and, of Course, Love: Scientists Take a Leap," New York Times, 1/4/05), and the answer is that they believe anything and everything, with little more selectivity than the average Pentacostalist.

The most egregious statement of the doctrine Ayn Rand called "the primacy of consciousness" is this one:

"I believe that consciousness and its contents are all that exists. Space-time, matter, and fields never were the fundamental denizens of the universe but have always been, from their beginning, among the humbler contents of consciousness, dependent on it for their very being. The world of our daily experience—the world of tables, chairs, stars, and people, with their attendant shapes, smells, feels, and sounds—is a species-specific user interface to a realm far more complex, a realm whose essential character is conscious. It is unlikely that the contents of our interface in any way resemble that realm."

So the mind is omnipotent over matter—yet simultaneously helpless to discover the "true" reality.

Other leading intellectual lights tell us: "I do not believe that people are capable of rational thought when it comes to making decisions in their own lives"; "We can't even prove that other people are conscious"; that a "mix of faith-based humility and skepticism helped fuel the beginnings of modern science"; "I believe that human consciousness is a conjuring trick, designed to fool us into thinking we are in the presence of an inexplicable mystery." Then there are those who tell us that they believe God does not exist and evolution is true—and that they believe this as a matter of unprovable faith.

What is wrong with the world? There are no defenders, either on the left or on the right, of reason and the power of the human mind.