The Battle of Our Era

by | Oct 9, 2006

We are engaged in a vast battle to defend scientific, industrial civilization against irrationalism. Whether the enemy bombs the World Trade Center, abortion clinics, logging equipment, or medical research labs, the target is the same: reason–the use of reason to produce material values. Hostility to global trade, to nuclear power, to DDT, to “urban sprawl,” […]

We are engaged in a vast battle to defend scientific, industrial civilization against irrationalism.

Whether the enemy bombs the World Trade Center, abortion clinics, logging equipment, or medical research labs, the target is the same: reason–the use of reason to produce material values.

Hostility to global trade, to nuclear power, to DDT, to “urban sprawl,” to Wal-Mart–it all comes from the same root and has the same meaning: antagonism towards man’s life as a rational animal. Reason is man’s basic means of survival. The life- giving power of reason is sensed by those who rail against the technological-industrial achievements of the West and particularly of America. Whether environmentalist or Islamist, they cannot abide the success of America. It stands as an unbearable reproach. It’s America or their own irrational way of functioning, which they would rather blow themselves up than challenge and change.

All the anti-reason movements have been unleashed by the Ahmadinejad-look-alike professors in our universities. The intellectual establishment has long attacked reason and science.

They have preached that reason has been refuted, that logic is an arbitrary game, that observation is inherently biased (“theory-laden”), that our thoughts are not objective but slanted products molded by genes, gender, language, or society.

When the celebrities of the campus are open irrationalists like Skinner, Chomsky, Kuhn, Derrida, and Fish, the bulwarks against fanaticism are down. None of our intellectual or political leaders will say, for instance, that Islam is irrational or that religion itself is irrational. Or that environmentalism is just another religion. Thus, the lurking Unabombers and bin Ladens meet no *intellectual* opposition; they are even encouraged.

How would our intellectuals even be able to damn religion as irrational, when they think that man is “Beyond Freedom and Dignity” (Skinner), that he is fed by innate ideas (Chomsky), that science is subjective (Kuhn), that one is incapable of rationally reading or writing a book (Derrida), or that epistemology is relative to a “community” (Fish). What reigns today is not so superficial a thing as multiculturalism, it is epistemological egalitarianism: every idea is as rational or irrational as every other.

That’s all the fanatics need to hear.

For a man, or a culture, to be prepared to evaluate things as objectively good or evil, he has to be prepared to judge things as objectively true or false. But the intellectuals’ war against objectivity–on both fronts–goes back at least as far as Hume.

Hume would have had little influence in history but for his having awakened a greater, and more diabolically motivated, mind from its “dogmatic slumber”: Immanuel Kant. Kant passed off Humean skepticism as reason, turning reason into the handmaiden of religion–which was his avowed goal. His ultimate product is Osama bin Laden and the other religious fanatics. They agree with Kant that “we have to deny knowledge to make room for faith.” (The Critique of Pure Reason, Preface to the Second Edition)

And here’s the line immediately following Kant’s infamous statement: “All objections to morality and religion will for ever be silenced.”

He did not know that it was to be Sharia law, not his Protestant code, to which the objections would be silenced. But they have been silenced. And they will remain silenced until enough of our intellectuals are willing and able to grasp, explain, and defend the absolute difference between the rational and the irrational. Let’s hope that day comes in time.

Dr. Binswanger, a longtime associate of Ayn Rand, is an professor of philosophy at the Objectivist Academic Center of the Ayn Rand Institute. He is the author of How We Know: Epistemology on an Objectivist Foundation and is the creator of The Ayn Rand Lexicon: Objectivism from A to Z. Dr. Binswanger blogs at HBLetter.com (HBL)--an email list for Objectivists for discussing philosophic and cultural issues. A free trial is available at: HBLetter.com.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

Have a comment?

Post your response in our Capitalism Community on X.

Related articles

Are the Democrats betraying Israel?

Are the Democrats betraying Israel?

Both Biden and his predecessor, President Barack Obama, promised that they had Israel’s back, but it now appears that they are painting a target on its back at a time of its greatest vulnerability.

No spam. Unsubscribe anytime.

Pin It on Pinterest