IgnatiusInsight.com: Schopenhauer sought to escape Nature, Nietzsche believed that the Christian God is evil, and Ayn Rand believed that only a select few will be able to be individuals. Would it be accurate to say that all of these are variations on ancient gnostic themes? Do modern atheistic systems reflect a sort of secular gnosticism?
Donald De Marco: I think they do. In the absence of any belief in God, a passionate person will create a caricature of God. We must give credit to Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and Rand for being both passionate and creative. Unfortunately, what they worshipped, very much like the gnostics of old, did not transcend themselves. And this explains a great deal about why these three were so bitterly unhappy. They were pursuing an illusion, but with great passion and force. I cannot begin to understand the intensity of their frustrations, because an illusion offers us not nourishment and leaves our passionate quest unsatisfied. They were continually disappointed by their own convictions. It was as if they tried to quench their thirst by consuming more salt. This is not a formula for peace.
IgnatiusInsight.com: Darwin and Darwinian evolution have been, of course, very controversial for many decades. What do you think are the biggest misconceptions and incorrect notions about Darwin and his beliefs that exist today? How seriously is Darwinian evolution taken today in the scientific community?
Benjamin Wiker: I think there are two very serious misconceptions about Darwinism today. First, that Darwinism is a well-established theory, with no considerable intellectual difficulties. The second, one more directly related to Architects, concerns the essential moral implications of Darwinism. Generally, historians and scientists alike have tried to distance Darwin’s biology from the eugenics movement—an understandable move, given the ugliness of the eugenic programs of Nazi Germany. If we read Darwin, however, we find that he himself understood eugenics to be the obvious inference from his biological theory of evolution through natural selection. Natural weeds out the unfit; so should we, or at least keep the unfit from breeding. Further, he also understood quite clearly that his evolutionary account of morality, which destroyed the permanency of human nature, provided the most radical moral relativism possible. As for the scientific community, it generally accepts Darwinism without question, which means that it generally hasn’t studied the theoretical and evidential problems facing Darwinism. Happily, more and more scientists have found the courage to look at Darwinism with a clearer, more critical eye.
IgnatiusInsight.com: How did Marx exploit the religious impulses of his followers and how did he distort Christian doctrine for his own anti-Christian ends?
De Marco: Marxism is a kind of religion and as such, appeals to our religious instincts. Marx speaks of paradise (but on earth), total justice for all (but in the distant future), and doing away with sin (though the sinners are the capitalists). In this regard, Marx is drawing on people's religious instincts. But he does not offer a way of love, and therefore, omits that which is most important to religion. Rather, he appeals to our weaknesses: our pride, envy, anger, and hope. Marx, who condemned exploitation, was himself, the great exploiter of people. He appealed to our pride in telling us that we are not sinners, to our envy for the riches that others possessed, to our anger against the ruling class, and to our hope for a Utopia on earth. Marx is a False Messiah who offers a religion that draws upon our religious impulse, but is poisoned by the addition of deadly sins.
IgnatiusInsight.com: How is it that people such Margaret Mead, Margaret Sanger, and Alfred Kinsey, all of whom were sexual deviants and inveterate liars, continue to enjoy a high level of respect, at least in popular culture? Is this simply due to lack of knowledge, an unwillingness to assess the data truthfully, or a purposeful distortion for ideological ends?
Wiker: All of the above! We do find that, for example, Planned Parenthood "fails" to present the facts about Margaret Sanger’s private life, and her truly strange and pernicious views about sexuality and eugenics. The same goes for Kinsey. His work is always presented by the sex education establishment as the very epitome of disinterested scientific research. But on the other end, sad to say, I think a large number of people have come to accept the same goals that Mead, Sanger, and Kinsey sought to establish, so that their "ideology" appears inviting rather than distorted.
IgnatiusInsight.com: You note that John Paul II describes Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud as the "Masters of Suspicion." What does he mean by that and why did he pinpoint those particular men?
De Marco: John Paul borrows the phrase "Masters of Suspicion" from Paul Ricoeur, a prominent philosopher at the University of Paris. We begin to understand the meaning of this simple yet telling phrase when we realize that Marx, NIetzsche, and Freud depict man in such a way that that by following their lead, our lives would become self-contradictory. Freud wanted to free the sexual instinct from the constraints of the super-ego; Marx urged a revolution against the ruling class so that people could satisfy their desired for material poassessions; Nietzsche advocated the emergence of the "superman," too proud to be held back by moral conventions. Freud appealed to "lust," Marx to "envy," Nietzsche to "pride." By following the path of vice, we put our heart at odds with itself. Therefore, we should be most suspicious of advice that so utterly untrustworhy in the practical order, since it leads the heart of man to implode upon itself. There is a striking correlation between these Masters of Suspicion and the First Letter of St. John (15-16) which warns against the "lust of the flesh" (Freud), "lust of the eyes" (Marx), and the "pride of life" (Nietzsche).
IgnatiusInsight.com: Many of the architects of the Culture of Death were raised in homes where Unitarianism, Episcopalianism, or some form of Congregationalism was practiced. What influence, if any, did this religious background have on people such as Darwin, Kinsey, Mead, and others?
Wiker: For Darwin, his family’s Unitarianism certainly helped to lead him to take more seriously the claims of materialism in general and evolution in particular. (We note here, that contrary to the popular account, theories of evolution arose long before Darwin—in fact, we find them in ancient Greek and Roman Epicurean thought. In the first half of the 19th century, decades before Darwin released his version of evolution, evolutionary theory was associated with the radical left.) Interestingly enough, Darwin’s wife was a more conservative Unitarian, and feared for her husband’s soul all their married life.
Donald De Marco, Ph.D., is a Professor of Philosophy at St. Jerome's College in Ontario. He is also the author of several books, including The Heart of Virtue. Benjamin Wiker, Ph.D., is a Lecturer in Science and Theology at Franciscan University and a Senior Fellow with Discovery Institute, focusing on Intelligent Design. He has contrbuted to various Catholic publications and writes regularly for Crisis magazine, and is the author of Moral Darwinism (InterVarsity). Visit him online at www.benjaminwiker.com.
Architects of the Culture of Deathby Donald De Marco and Benjamin Wiker The “Culture of Death” has become a popular phrase, and is much bandied about in academic circles. Yet, for most people, its meaning remains vague and remote. DeMarco and Wiker have given the Culture of Death high definition and frightening immediacy. They have exposed its roots by introducing its “architects.” In a scholarly, yet reader-friendly delineation of the mindsets of twenty-three influential thinkers, such as Ayn Rand, Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, Jean-Paul Sartre, Alfred Kinsey, Margaret Sanger, Jack Kevorkian, and Peter Singer, they make clear the aberrant thought and malevolent intentions that have shaped the Culture of Death.Still, this is not a book without hope. If the Culture of Death rests on a fragmented view of the person and an eclipse of God, hope for the “Culture of Life” rests on an understanding and restoration of the human being as a person, and the rediscovery of a benevolent God. The “Personalism” of John Paul II is an illuminating thread that runs through Architects, serving as a hopeful antidote. “An action-packed, riveting and educational exposé that reveals little-known facts that are shocking and incredible. You will not want to put this book down...” — Judie Brown, President, American Life League