To find the maker of the motor …
Published: 5 November 2013 (GMT+10)
Ayn Rand, 1905–1982.
Ayn1 Rand (died 1982) was a Russian-born American novelist who founded the philosophical school called ‘Objectivism’ and the ethical system known as ‘Objectivist Ethics’. These she asserted were based on rational and logical deductions from reality. She built on Aristotle’s Law of Identity “A is A”, saying, “Existence is identity. Consciousness is Identification.” More understandably she said that there is an objective reality, and thus objective truth; whether or not we accept this to be the case, and regardless of what we may think about it. Further, this reality can be known rationally, by reason, without recourse to ‘faith’ or ‘mysticism’ of any sort.2
Rand was rabidly atheistic and anti-Christian, although she seemed confused about what biblical Christianity teaches. For example, her four-point outline of ‘the Fall’ in Genesis 3, which she put in the mouth of one of her characters, John Galt, is wrong on every count!3 She was also strongly anti-socialism and pro-capitalism, and advocated small government, and absolute, ‘objective’ values. Her ethical system glorifies selfishness,4 despises altruism (as she defines it5), and in the end boils down to, ‘You choose’.6
If you think some of these things are logically contradictory, you’d be right, but she apparently didn’t see them to be so. It appears that she was never in ongoing conversation with biblically informed people who could call her out on the contradictions, or her misrepresentations of Christianity. However, she did at least read a bit of C S Lewis, making scathing comments in the margin of her copy of his book The Abolition of Man.7
On some matters she had profound, penetrating, and correct insights, even though she lacked a sound philosophical basis for them. Ironically, her devotees strongly and dogmatically assert that they are the only ones who have a sound philosophical basis for anything!
She popularised her philosophical ideas in the novels she wrote, perhaps the most famous of which is Atlas Shrugged, a very long, verbose book (my paperback copy is 1069 pages) which is interesting in some aspects, though tedious in others. It’s all about the triumph of good (traders/capitalists/ producers) over evil (looters/socialists). This triumph came about as the result of the producers withdrawing from the socialist dominated world, leaving it to collapse under the weight of its inbuilt covetous, parasitical nature, and then being welcomed back after this ‘Armageddon’ to produce heaven on earth. Naive optimism reigns at this point, though the book finishes before heaven is produced. As in the story of the Emperor’s new clothes, knowledge of human nature tells us such outcomes are most unlikely. The boy noting out loud the Emperor’s nakedness would have been told to shut up, not agreed with. Socialist solutions seldom bring in free marketeers to solve problems but normally offer more of the policies which produced the problems in the first place. Producers are never good guys to be appreciated, only pariahs to be plundered.
It is a very ‘religious’ novel even though thoroughly secular, with good and evil, rewards and punishments, goodies and baddies, a perfect man/messiah/saviour, disciples who convert, confess the faith, recite the liturgy8, and give up all to become part of the believing community, and reprobates who deserve and get, as a result of their irrational (evil) choices, hell and damnation in various forms, and so on. She has fired up the imagination of a great many people and as a result has become somewhat of a cult figure. This includes having passionate, even fanatical devotees of her ideas who quote her works like Christians quote the Bible, and have even produced the Ayn Rand Lexicon so followers can quickly find distillations of her thought on topics from A to Z.
Atlas Shrugged has an interesting plot device which creationists can use to great effect in discussions over Rand’s atheism and that of any of her devotees. Dagny Taggart, the driving force behind the Taggart Transcontinental railway, and heroine of the saga, has an affair with Hank Rearden.9 Rearden was the inventor of Rearden Metal which had revolutionised the steel industry and supplied Taggart Transcontinental with track for its various lines and bridges. They went away together for a holiday and while on their ramblings went to Starnesville, which had once been a thriving town based around an innovative car manufacturing plant, ‘The Twentieth Century Motor Company’. The founder of the plant died and left the flourishing business to his three children. Unfortunately, they were all socialists and in a matter of a few short years destroyed the legacy they’d received. The plant was now not only idle and empty, but derelict and stripped by looters. Starnesville itself had also died and was now virtually deserted and returning to scrub, shades of Detroit 2013. Some would say the striking similarity proves Rand’s prophetic insights.
Dagny and Hank wondered if there were any machines left at the car plant which could be salvaged, and so on arriving at the abandoned premises they went their separate ways looking for things that could be rescued and reused. Dagny ends up in what had been the Research and Development Laboratory which was stripped bare, with rubbish in heaps on the floor. But as she cast her eye over this desolate scene, something in a pile of rubbish caught her eye.
“It was a coil of wire that made her stop. The coil protruded from a pile of junk … She attempted to extricate the coil from the scrap pile. It would not move; it was part of some large object. She knelt and began to dig through the junk.
“She had cut her hands, she was covered with dust by the time she stood up to look at the object she had cleared. It was the broken remnant of the model of a motor. Most of its parts were missing but enough was left to convey some idea of its former shape and purpose. She had never seen a motor of this kind or anything resembling it. She could not understand the peculiar design of its parts or the functions they were intended to perform.
“She examined the tarnished tubes and odd-shaped connections. She tried to guess their purpose, her mind going over every type of motor she knew and every possible kind of work its parts could perform. None fitted the model. It looked like an electric motor, but she could not tell what fuel it was intended to burn. It was not designed for steam, or oil, or anything she could name…” (Atlas Shrugged, p. 269)
Dagny had recognised the hallmarks of intelligent design. Here was a motor; she recognised that even though she didn’t know how it worked, and she deduced it utilised energy in a way that was unique. The whole thing, even though junked on a scrap heap, was clearly the result of extremely advanced thinking.
The discovery of this motor began for Dagny the all-engrossing, all-consuming quest of her life; to find the maker of the motor.
She had used her logical reasoning faculties correctly: Motors have makers. ‘Clever’ motors have clever makers. This motor was very clever. Therefore it had a very clever maker. On the basis of this sound reasoning she made a decision; to commit her life to finding the maker of this motor.
To cut a very long story short—and to give away some of the yarn—she crash lands her plane into heaven, the secret haven to which all the leading capitalists had withdrawn, and when she opens her eyes after regaining consciousness, finds herself looking into the eyes of the perfect man, the Christ figure of the book, John Galt, the maker of the motor. Thus Dagny’s quest is finally realised, and she is overcome with adoration.10
ATP Synthase is a biological rotary motor that produces ATP, the energy packet which powers all living things. We have untold millions of these microscopic motors in our bodies which combined spit out within each of us, via conversion from ADP, something like 60+kg of ATP per day. Without ATP, biological life would be impossible, and thus ATP is required from the first moment of biological life’s existence. Without it no biological function can occur. Yet ATP requires the rotary motor ATP Synthase to produce it, thus ATP Synthase is also required from the first moment of biological life’s existence.
To complicate matters further, the instructions for making ATP Synthase are written on the DNA, yet for this information to be read and acted on requires ATP to drive all the reading and application processes. The really vicious chicken/egg relationship between these systems is irreducibly complex, and so clearly the whole integrated functioning bag of tricks has to be intact, fully functional, from the first moment of biological life’s existence. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to further deduce that, as a consequence, complex biological life had to come into existence instantaneously.
Thinking only of one part of this tightly integrated system: Who made the ATP Synthase rotary motor?11 To find the answer to that question and meet the Maker of this motor should be life’s all-consuming quest. Dagny Taggart and John Galt are just characters in a novel, and John Galt’s motor and Dagny’s quest in search of its maker are just plot devices which have no real existence or significance, thus what we think about them is neither here nor there. ATP Synthase on the other hand is a real-world motor essential to our moment-by-moment existence. The quest to know the Maker of this motor is consequently a real-world quest with huge significance for each of us and our destiny, and when realised, should result in authentic adoration of its Maker—our Maker.
- ‘Ayn’ is pronounced ‘eye-n’. “Rand herself stated that the name was pronounced as a long I followed by an N. In English, this pronunciation rhymes with “mine”.” [wiki.answers.com]. Return to text.
- One Rand devotee I engage in discussion with said to me, “You know by faith, I know by reason, therefore I can’t talk to you!” I said, “That’s nonsense. Everyone starts with faith, even if it’s only faith in your reason.” And we continued talking … Return to text.
- Ayn Rand aka John Galt, in the John Galt speech/sermon—a
turgid 56 page monologue distillation of Rand’s philosophy—regarding ‘Original
Sin’, in Atlas Shrugged p. 939, he said: “What is the nature
of the guilt that your teachers call his Original Sin? What are the evils
man acquired when he fell from a state they consider perfection? Their myth
declares that he ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge—he acquired
a mind and became a rational being. It was the knowledge of good and evil—he
became a moral being. He was sentenced to earn his bread by his labor—he
became a productive being. He was sentenced to experience desire—he
acquired the capacity of sexual enjoyment. The evils for which they damn
him are reason, morality, creativeness, joy—all the cardinal values
of his existence. It is not his vices that their myth of man’s fall
is designed to explain and condemn, it is not his errors that they hold as
his guilt, but the essence of his nature as man. Whatever he was—that
robot in the Garden of Eden, who existed without mind, without values, without
labor, without love—he was not man.”
This statement argues that the biblical view says that at the Fall, man:
a. acquired a mind and became a rational being—meaning he did not have a mind and was not rational before the Fall.
b. became a moral being—meaning he was not a moral being before the Fall.
c. became a productive creative being—meaning he wasn’t productive before the Fall.
d. acquired the capacity for sexual enjoyment—meaning he did not have the capacity for sexual enjoyment before the Fall.
Every one of these propositions is false, and all Rand needed to do to see this clearly was to read Genesis 1 and 2! Apparently she didn’t. Return to text.
- “My philosophy, Objectivism, holds that: … 3. Man—every man—is an end in himself, not the means to the ends of others. He must exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself. The pursuit of his own rational self-interest and of his own happiness is the highest moral purpose of his life.” www.aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/objectivism.html. Return to text.
- Her definition of altruism is of her own making and does not appear in any dictionary definitions. Compare the common dictionary definition of the word with her definition. The online Free Dictionary defines it thus: “The principle or practice of unselfish concern for the welfare of others.” Rand’s definition: “The basic principle of altruism is that man has no right to exist for his own sake, that service to others is the only justification of his existence, and that self-sacrifice is his highest moral duty, virtue and value … Altruism declares that any action taken for the benefit of others is good, and any action taken for one’s own benefit is evil. Thus the beneficiary of an action is the only criterion of moral value—and so long as that beneficiary is anybody other than oneself, anything goes.” http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/altruism.html. Rand adds objectionable and unsupportable material into her definition, and then uses this as a straw man argument (club) against Christianity because the latter encourages unselfish concern for others. The common definition of altruism does not include, and Christianity does not say that, “service to others is the only justification of [man’s] existence”, or that “self-sacrifice is his highest moral duty, virtue and value”, or that “any action taken for the benefit of others is good”, or that “any action taken for one’s own benefit is evil”, or that “the beneficiary of an action is the only criterion for moral value”, or that “so long as that beneficiary is anybody other than oneself, anything goes”. Return to text.
- See Objectivist Ethics—“… I quote from Galt’s
speech: ‘Man has been called a rational being, but rationality is a
matter of choice—and the alternative his nature offers him is: rational
being or suicidal animal. Man has to be man—by choice; he has to hold
his life as a value—by choice; he has to learn to sustain it—by
choice; he has to discover the values it requires and practice his virtues—by
choice. A code of values accepted by choice is a code of morality.’
“The standard of value of the Objectivist ethics—the standard by which one judges what is good or evil—is man’s life, or: that which is required for man’s survival qua man.
“Since reason is man’s basic means of survival, that which is proper to the life of a rational being is the good; that which negates, opposes or destroys it is the evil.”
Who is to say you shouldn’t ‘choose’ something different? www.aynrand.org, accessed 19 September 2013. Return to text.
- See www.lewisiana.nl/aynrand/, accessed 19 September 2013. Return to text.
- ‘I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man. Nor ask another man to live for mine.’ Pp. 670–671, also p. 979 in a call to conversion. Return to text.
- There are a number of affairs in the story, … and in real life Rand had a long-running one with Nathaniel Branden, one of her devotees. Return to text.
- John Galt doesn’t directly figure in the book until 2/3 of the way through but is referenced earlier a number of ways, not least by the numerous times various people pose the enigmatic question, “Who is John Galt?” Dagney predictably ends up having sex with the perfect man. Rand’s ‘sex scenes’ are not explicit or detailed, and in fact none of them seem at all authentic. Return to text.
- When this question was posed to a Rand devotee, at first he did not answer, but eventually did and said, “I don’t know.” I responded, “Checkmate.” He then backed away from his first answer because clearly it was a theistic answer and not appropriate coming from the mouth of an ‘atheist’. He subsequently gave a correct atheistic response, “No one made it.” But the damage was done, the confession made. I hope he has some sleepless nights … . Return to text.
If the pursuit of happiness is the highest moral purpose in life it isn't
For the one who attempts to adhere to this claim must hold as true that there is a universal purpose - happy is good
And therefore good is good
Now we have purpose, happy and good as primary to pursuit of happy
So this view is incoherent
Also, since this position redts on universals it must apply to all people so the personal part is lost
Furthermore this entails that indignation over people who get happy by beating up old ladies must be prohibited
But that doesn't make one happy
Especially if they are the old lady
Thanks for writing this article
Regarding reference 11, have you actually heard of a good and logical answer to that question from an atheist?
Thank you for a fabulous piece of writing and a "novel" presentation of ATP and ATP Synthase. As knowledge increases in these last days, no more excuses exist to deny God than existed at the time of Paul's writing of Romans. Hallelujah.
The only slight criticism I would give would be to say that Ayn would agree with you about the unlikely nature of such an outcome as depicted in her book. She would insist that being entirely realistic with the plot of her book would be counter to the book's point, which is far less about being realistic than it is about being idealistic.
Otherwise, the piece is really, really, excellent. Not only is the argument irrefutable but the article itself is well written and engaging.
God bless you!
I was discussing the ATP synthase motor on a forum recently, and one of the evolutionists posted a multi-page link purporting to explain the origin of the motor. 'It's not a fully worked out hypothesis', he said, rather sheepishly. In summary, this is what it amounted to. Originally there was a pore in a membrane whose function was to transport proteins. At some point a bent protein molecule got stuck in the pore and its asymmetric shape caused it to rotate in the flow of smaller molecules and ions, the way a bent stick might spin as it catches on a storm drain as it is washed down in the flood. This protein evolved into the rotor we see in today's ATP synthase, as other proteins were co-opted to provide the remainder of the ATP production functionality. The whole thing reminded me vaguely of a Winnie the Pooh tale involving sticks being thrown into a stream, but I can't recall the details of the story.
The originator of this idea (OK, I know it's only being recounted from memory) seems to have forgotten that this explanation is actually useless for evolutionary theory because no matter how the protein accidentally became bent or even began to spin a little, it would need for this, its construction and its siting to be encoded on the DNA program, or else it will not be replicated in the next generation.
I really liked this article, specially since I am studying the whole empiricism, objectivity and rationality crowd in light of Bacon(the philosopher, not food ;P).
But as I have memorized ATP production in quite some detail I can recall another way of making ATP just off the top of my head. You can use glycolisis to get a limited amount of ATP. Also Type IIB muscle cells have very little mitochondria which house the ATP synthase, but they work just fine(for short periods of time). ATP is also not the only possible molecule that stores energy in organisms, but it is the very best. So I have to say that is not a good argument for the irreducibility of ATP synthase's complexity.
In my opinion an irreducibly complex system is very hard for committed evolutionists to accept because at the end of the day we have very little information in light of all that could be, and there can always be new data out there. Nevertheless when one looks at all the control mechanisms of DNA it can look pretty irreducibly complex. That in my opinion is a much better example.
It's hard to state definitively which is the 'better' example of IC, as both are good. It seems insufficient for the evolutionist to point to possible simpler versions, as it omits the issue of whether it is possible to travel stepwise from the simpler to the more complex.
We often talk in this household about how Rand actually promoted some Christian ideas, but refused or failed to acknowledge their source. On the other hand, her depiction of Dagny Taggart as having sex with a man points out Rand's total lack of understanding of the sexuality of women (in spite of her gender). Sex without commitment is highly exploitive of women, and no woman of Dagny's character and astuteness would ever have sought or even consented to it. She prostituted herself, and in so doing, destroyed the heroine Rand sought to create. While there are many good ideas in Rand's work, that one leaves me absolutely cold. It is a shame she never bothered to understand Christianity. She carried her atheism from her communist upbringing and never saw the contradiction. And by the way, most of her followers act like she ran a one woman cult. They hang onto every word, never dissent, and you dare not dissent, either, or you will earn their ire.
I find it fascinating to notice what she said about Dagny finding the machine. I never noticed that at the time I read the novel.