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Atlas Shrugged

Atlas Shrugged

by Ayn Rand

Science Theme

Characters in Atlas Shrugged tend to toss around the term science without much careful regard to its meaning. Science means very different things here, depending on who is talking about it. The debates between Dr. Stadler and Dr. Ferris are representative of this difference. For Stadler, science is heroic, the product of deep thought and theory; for Ferris, science is a weapon and a means of control.

We definitely get a lot of examples of science gone horribly awry here, from the deadly Project X (which references the real Manhattan Project, which created the atomic bomb) to the fantastic Rearden Metal, which society misuses and ruins. In this novel, society, and especially politicians, often thwart scientific advances or use them for bad purposes.

Science is largely tied to technology and practical applications in this book, but it is also a certain way of thinking. Galt links science to reason in his value system. And when the world collapses, fancy technology becomes rather moot, and science must go back to its roots.

Questions About Science

  1. What is the symbolic significance of Project X, a device that uses sound waves as a weapon of mass destruction?
  2. How does Stadler's death, and especially the way he dies, connect to the book's major themes?
  3. By the end of the novel, the scientist/politician Dr. Ferris turns into a torturer. Is this evolution surprising, or could we see it coming?
  4. Are science and technology two different things for John Galt?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

The value system of Galt and his strikers favors science and technology over arts and the humanities.

Galt and his strikers favor people who make and do things, regardless of whether they are artists or scientists.

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