L.P. AD CLARIFIED
I was very pleased with the special September issue of REASON. It gave needed exposure to many libertarian ideas and I was glad to see the Libertarian Party platform fully reproduced. However, I would like to call your attention to an error in the advertisement placed on the back cover of that issue. The ad was placed without my knowledge and reads in part, "…And for Vice President, Mrs. Tonie Nathan, an articulate Objectivist with extensive experience in public communications…" As an admirer and ardent student of Ayn Rand's philosophy, Objectivism, I respect and acknowledge her right to designate whom may call himself an "Objectivist." Since, as far as I know, Miss Rand is unaware of my existence, she is unable to determine my ability to articulate her philosophy, even if she wished to do so. I am not, therefore, an "Objectivist." Furthermore, I am opposed to attempts by some persons to achieve prestige or status by implying an association with Miss Rand or her philosophical system which is not deserved. Since I do not think it is in my interest to receive such unearned good will, please make it clear to your readers that I have no formal connection with Objectivism, nor have I received any recognition (formal or informal) from Ayn Rand. I am simply one of her readers.
However, I do have a formal connection with the Libertarian Party. As candidate for vice president of the United States on the LP ticket, I consider myself an "articulate Libertarian." In this capacity, I intend to express ideas which are consistent with Objectivism as I understand it. In my view, there is no conflict between the nature of government as defined by Miss Rand and the statement of principles of the Libertarian Party.
CALL FOR HELP
I hope your readers can help me in the following matter.
My wife and I were divorced 11 years ago—and though I got custody of our 7-year-old daughter, she took her to England and I have not seen her since.
I have tried to locate her without success—and all my efforts have been of no avail.
My economic status does not allow me to spend large sums of money for attorneys.
Is there any organization or agency that could help locate her? I would greatly appreciate any help you can give me.
1125 55th St.
SOCIETY AN ORGANISM?
In 'The public interest—fact or fraud?' [REASON, May 1972], Tibor Machan dismisses the idea of a society as an organism without giving an adequate analysis of that idea. While Machan is of course correct that 'there is no evidence that any of the things which make consciousness, will, purposiveness, etc. possible are actually to be found in society', that implies not that a society is not an organism but only that it is not a human-like organism. There are many kinds of organisms which have none of those properties, e.g. colonial organisms such as the Portuguese man-o'war and corals. What makes such things organisms is that they exist and function as units (distinct from the aggregate of the cells comprising them) and can die as units. A society could plausibly be argued to have those properties; certainly a society can die without all of its members dying.
Arguments based on 'the common good' or 'the public interest' generally assume that a society is an organism like the Portuguese man-o'war and that the health of that organism is to be valued without regard for the fate of any of the individual cells, any one of which can die without impairing the viability of the organism. It is that value judgement which is objectionable, not the claim that a society is an organism.
James D. McCawley
Professor Machan replies: Mr. McCawley's point requires that he show in just what sense society is an organism. The usual senses imply that it is just like a human organism: conscious, purposive, possessing rights, having and being owed duties and responsibilities, etc. I suspect Mr. McCawley is confusing organization with organism in this case. An organism is not designed and held together intentionally (or destroyed) by its constituents. Altogether too many differences occur to me to accept this suggestion—and the predominant cases in history (Plato, Hegel, Marx, et al) don't support the view. That is not to say that Mr. McCawley shouldn't give it a run for its money.
NEW BIOLOGY COMMENDED
The article presented in your August '72 issue by Winston L. Duke: "The New Biology," is the best article I've read in your magazine and one of the best articles I've read, period.
The possibilities envisioned for rational individuals were shown to be truly unlimited. Even Miss Rand had not conceived that death might not be inevitable. I would sure like to have such individuals as she around for the next thousand plus years of my life.
My commendations to Mr. Duke, to the REASON editorial staff, and to the people carrying on the fascinating work of the new biology.
Brian R. Wright
NEW BIOLOGY QUESTIONED
In Reply To Mr. Duke's article, "The New Biology," REASON, August 1972:
I have been a nurse for half of my life, and out of this background have formulated some ideas of my own on certain current problems. One of these is very simple: the reason for the population explosion is not too many births, but rather not enough deaths. We are keeping too many people alive for too long, with no physical, emotional or intellectual compensation to the patient, his family or society (not to mention those of us who pay his Medicare!). Furthermore technology, as well as ourselves, is to blame. Death is so fear-ridden and myth-oriented that many doctors and nurses will do anything to halt its approach, and refuse to take the responsibility when it comes. Monitors, respirators, kidney machines, etc. that science has produced are so awe-inspiring that some medical personnel are no longer able to function without them. And they are so soothed by their own technical knowledge and, conversely, so fearful of their own value-judgments that they will use any means, including technological, to cop-out on their responsibilities ("It wasn't my fault, the machine wouldn't work!"). I can certainly comprehend the changes that science is making in men's lives and minds, and applaud these changes as improvements. But only if science retains a sense of reason. And some of technology is no longer reasonable; it has, in fact, become 'luxurious' as Mr. Mason uses the term—that is, irresponsible. ("Ayn Rand vs. Ecology", REASON, Aug. '72)
Specifically: 1. Under what conditions can a woman who heretofore could not bear children be impregnated by an embryo implant, and carry that fetus full-term; Where is the proof that she will?
2. Where is the proof too that the brain is "potentially infinite"? The brain is nourished essentially by the same nutrients as the body. A 'keen' mind removed from a worn-out body and placed on a new one (how new? how keen?) will not guarantee immortal life-it may well degenerate before the body. And that situation is infinitely worse than the original!
3. You say, "…it is this writer's conclusion that all nonhuman life is available for exploitation as private property." It may in a sense be 'available' (though not necessarily), but "eating a beef steak" is morally different from "aborting an embryo" (eating is a biological need to sustain one's life; aborting is a voluntary choice to take a potential life). In any case the right to steak or embryo as "private property" is another subject entirely. And the implication that private property, by its nature, IS exploitation demands further explanation.
4. There is good reason to "maintain that we will not discover, one day, other human life forms with which mankind could communicate and trade". If A is A, Life is also Life, and the conditions which determine 'life' are limited (air, water, etc.). Life in fact may exist in other solar systems (which we cannot communicate with!), but it hasn't yet been proven to exist elsewhere in our own solar system. (The fact that the same elements have been found on the moon, and other planets, has no meaning—they haven't combined properly to produce, or sustain, 'life'. And I cannot get excited about UFO's).
5. What is "perpetual life", and how can 1000 years possibly be more 'rewarding' for rationality than 80 years? Assuming that a rational man will live his life to the fullest, what will he gain by trying for fuller than fullest? And back to the population problem: if every man lives 1000 years, where will we put them all?
6. Abstract thoughts and goals were not formed after man had increased his mean lifetime—they began before, hence he learned how to increase it! The industrial revolution too was a result of this abstract-ness. (Do you really believe all that history tells us?!!)
If we should question atoms split for war, we should also question atoms being split for peace. Technology can be more than air and water-polluting, it may be mind-polluting as well. As an individual, an independent rational woman, I object to manipulation—by government, by God, by behaviorism or by science. Genetic engineering, and scientific be-all smack strongly of manipulation, of me and my progeny, as surely as any politician ever did. There must be a balance between biology (sans reason) and pure science (sans reason), between "natural selection" and the "brave new world". That balance will have to come from—Reason.
LOBOTOMY VICTIMS HUMAN?
In the article "The New Biology" (REASON, August, 1972) author Winston Duke states "Humanity per se is based on cognitive abilities. A philosophy of reason will define a human being as life which demonstrates self-awareness, volition and rationality. Thus, it should be recognized that not all men are human. The severely mentally retarded, victims of lobotomies, the fetus, blastocysts, androids, etc. are not human and therefore obtain no human rights."
Intelligence is a relative quality. There are "severely mentally retarded" people who lead useful and dignified lives.
Judging a person as sufficiently intelligent (or rational or old enough) to be human and hence possessing human rights would necessarily be a legal, i.e., governmental function. The idea of the government judging some people as human and some as not human is shocking to my mind.
Sure, a fetus is not human, nor a dead brain. And intelligent life on other planets may be embodied in physical forms totally different from that on earth. But humanity is a qualitative difference in kind, not degree, from other life forms. A severely retarded human is different in kind from an "intelligent" monkey in terms of capacity for self-awareness, volition and rationality. An "irrational" person is still treated with the dignity afforded to other people. He is recognized as having a capacity for improvement and can be helped by psychiatrists. (Read THE DIFFERENCE OF MAN AND THE DIFFERENCE IT MAKES by Mortimer Adler, for the philosophical and legal problems involved in classifying life as human.)
To judge humanity as one of degree, not kind, would mean a roomful of Einsteins might consider me "severely mentally retarded" and hence not human, and not possessing human rights. The Nazi-like implications of this are obvious.
The idea that "All men are created equal" should not be so lightly dismissed.
AUTHOR REPLIES: In reply to Mr. Kaufman's letter, I would like to say:
I did not intend to leave the impression that all lobotomies and retardation eradicate the germ of humanity. But some do. Unpalatable as it may seem, exactitude in distilling and defining humanity shall be a serious requirement of the coming Eugenic Age. Those who choose not to think will have themselves to blame and a government's decision with which to contend.
In reply to Ms. Taylor's letter, I would like to say:
The terms "reason", "balance", et cetera do not logically apply to science. Technology per se has never been "to blame". Engineering does not manipulate man. Human beings alone are responsible for the Zeitgeist.
Winston L. Duke
JOHN GALT FORGOTTEN?
Re "Ayn Rand vs. Ecology" (REASON, August 1972):
Wasn't it Miss Rand's character in ATLAS SHRUGGED (John Galt) who invented that perfect machine? A machine that replaced all of the belching and pollution of the great factory engines?
Has she forgotten her own character? Does she no longer believe in a John Galt?
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Letters".