I’m pretty sure that if so inclined, Ayn Rand could demolish me in a battle of intellect. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have the right – though she may disagree – to think she’s completely full of shit. You see, when Ayn Rand looked at a building or a factory or a highway, she saw a manifest testament to the “greatness” of mankind; tangible proof of our dominance of the Earth. When I look at a building, I see a functional piece of infrastructure suited to meet the demands of mankind’s survival. Sure, it’s impressive to think that someone designed it (inherited knowledge notwithstanding), but ultimately I wonder how a piece of infrastructure evinces an acquired dominance that’s somehow superior to any other species’ survival mechanisms.
Now I’ll grant Rand that when she was writing, mankind was in a blissfully ignorant state as to the potentially disastrous effects of unrestrained industrial enterprise (see, Warming, Global). But it seems to me the fact remains that buildings, highways, computers, etc., are only the result of our own species’ imperative motivation to sustain our presence on Earth. To wit, if not for our unchallenged claim to superior intellect, we’d be pretty fucked. Likewise fucked would be spiders or beavers had they not evolved to spin webs or build dams. Like other forms of life, we simply evolved to use our greatest asset to foster the best conditions for our continued livelihood. The only difference, of course, is that our greatest asset probably has a higher ceiling for achievement than other species. (I say “probably” because at the rate were going, we won’t need to worry about other species killing us. The danger we pose to ourselves however, is another matter entirely.) Anyway, there was no conscious force driving mankind to greatness – we never really had a choice. Think about it.