Deadly Architects: An Interview with Donald De
Marco and Benjamin Wiker | IgnatiusInsight.com
Deadly Architects: An Interview with Donald De
Marco and Benjamin Wiker, authors of Architects of the Culture of Death
IgnatiusInsight.com: Architects of the Culture of Death is a series
of biographical vignettes that outline and chronicle the disturbing and
often disgusting lives of architects of the Culture of Death. In some
ways it resembles Paul Johnsons fascinating book, Intellectuals.
Was that book an inspiration at all and is the comparison a valid one?
Donald De Marco: I did not read Johnson's book until after I had
completed my series of Architects. Johnson's book, which I enjoyed, seems
to reflect an animus against "intellectuals." He tends to give
intellectualism a bad name. I am more concerned about distinguishing between
good intellectuals from the bad ones. John Paul II is a good intellectual,
whereas the Architects are not. What Johnson means by "intellectual"
is the secular thinker who has "filled the vacuum left by the decline
of the cleric and assumed the functions of moral mentor and critic of
mankind." I did read James Gills' book, False Prophets, but
found that a bit intemperate and much too emotional in tone (and I do
not agree with his inclusion of Mark Twain). I tried to make Architects
of the Culture of Death more philosophical, but without ignoring either
biography or history.
Benjamin Wiker: I read Johnsons book some years ago, and
was really intrigued and amused by it. The general idea of examining how
the private lives of "intellectuals" often inform, malform,
and even contradict their public philosophy I found to be quite illuminating.
Im sure that when I originally formulated the idea of Architects
of the Culture of Death, Johnsons biographical approach was somewhere
in the background.
The introduction states that the focus on persons, rather than on accounts
of ideas, was due to the fact that "biographies make clear that ideas
have consequences only because they are created, embraced, and lived out
in persons." Has our culture lost sight of the connection between
people and ideas? Why is that the case?
Wiker: I think it has. We are so used to hearing about the various
"isms"Marxism, existentialism, nihilism, socialism, capitalism,
and so onas if they were great, impersonal historical forces that
sweep human beings along, that we forget that such "isms" gained
their power only through thinking and acting persons. This is especially
important to remember when we, who are fighting against the culture of
death, confront that most powerful and pernicious "ism," majoritism,
the belief that because 51% of the people believe something is morally
acceptable, then it can no longer be considered morally reprehensible.
In Architects, we have tried to break apart the notion that the
culture of death is some kind of inevitable historical force that has
overtaken us, by taking the reader back to the point in which the pernicious
ideas that now dominate our culture were hatched in the minds of thinking
and acting persons. When we realize that the acceptance of something like
abortion wasnt historically inevitable, but was the result of a
concerted effort of a relatively small number of human beings, then reforming
the deformed culture becomes a possibilityif only we think clearly
and act courageously as architects of a culture of life.
De Marco: Richard Weaver wrote a famous book called, Ideas Have
Consequences. The book's title is the re-affirmation of a truism.
I find that much of teaching has to do with restating the obvious. Of
course, ideas have consequences ("More powerful than armies is an
idea when its time has come," said Alexander Dumas). Dostoevsky talked
about how university students, for example, are so easily infected by
incomplete ideas that float on the wind. Architects is a sustained attempt
to get the reader to test, evaluate, and meditate on ideas. We should
understand philosophy, not mindlessly react to it. When St. Thomas Aquinas
speaks of the "primacy of the intellect," all he means is that
we should know before we act.
IgnatiusInsight.com: There is a lot of fascinating and often
shocking information in the book about the twenty-three men and women
you write about. What do you think will surprise readers the most? What
main insight do you hope readers will garner from reading the book?
De Marco: My hope is that by exposing the ideas of our Architects
to the light of reason, readers will see how empty, distorted, and untenable
those ideas are. My second hope is that they will better appreciate how
rich, reasonable, and practical are the personalistic ideas of thinkers
such as John Paul II, Jacques Maritain, and others. And a third hope is
that the book will inspire and guide readers to work for the Culture of
Wiker: I think that readers will be most shocked to find how different
the actual lives of some of these thinkers are from their public images.
Margaret Sanger, for instance, is presented by Planned Parenthood as a
paragon of respectability, charity and intellectual honesty. In reality,
she was extremely promiscuous, an ardent promoter of eugenics, and formed
her view of existence according to her rather sordid private passions.
Or, to take another example, Alfred Kinsey, who has long been presented
by the intelligentsia and media as a disinterested scientist just trying
to state the facts about sex. Again, when we view his private life, which
delves beyond sordid into the macabre, we find a truly twisted individual
who used science to promote his own perversities.
In nearly all of the "architects," we find that the originators
of the various aspects of the culture of deathfrom sexual libertinism,
abortion, to infanticide, euthanasia, and eugenicsknew what they
were about, clearly saw the conclusions, and worked toward them quite
deliberately. We see around us now the dread result of their efforts.
What readers should begin to see, more and more clearly with each "architect,"
is that the culture of death really did come about as a kind of conspiracy
that is now coming to full fruition.
IgnatiusInsight.com: The three "Will Worshippers"
(Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and Rand) are notable for their unrelenting
arrogance, nastiness, and hatred for other people. Did the ideologies
of these people seem to flow from their repulsive personalities, or did
the embrace of false beliefs eventually corrode their personalities?
De Marco: I strongly believe that there are virtues we need in
order to think well. We are people, chock full of faults and imperfections
and blocks. We do not approach thinking with a clear and open attitude
toward the truth we seek to understand. We need humility to keep pride
at a distance, modesty to serve the truth, docility to enable us to learn,
and temperance to do justice to what we see. We need to be virtuous people
before we can become reliable and judicious thinkers.
The biographical evidence indicates that our trio of "Will Worshippers"
did not possess the kind of virtues that are needed to be clear and objective
thinkers. When Chesterton referred to pride as the "falsification
of fact by the introduction of self," he was indicating how important
humility is in the life of an honest thinker. Our egos can easily muddy
up the otherwise clear landscape of our thought. "When the blood
burns," said Hamlet, "how the prodigal soul lends the tongue
IgnatiusInsight.com: Some Christians tend to blame the 1960s
for most, if not all, of the current troubles in society. What is wrong
with this perspective? In hindsight, did the 60s reflect the culmination
of a logical train of events and ideas?
Wiker: If we could use an architectural image, a well-built house
doesnt crumble in a day, even though, to those who see its roof
suddenly cave in, it appears as rather a sudden event. As should be clear
from reading the architects, the rot had already been eating away at the
foundations of western culture from some time, especially among the intelligentsia.
By the 1960s the ideas of the architects of the culture of death had spread
out among a greater mass of people, a critical mass we might say, enough
to cause what appeared to be a sudden collapse of our culture.
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 Darwins biology from the eugenics movementan 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 hasnt 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
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
Wiker: All of the above! We do find that, for example, Planned
to present the facts about Margaret Sangers 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
Wiker: For Darwin, his familys 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 Darwinin 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, Darwins wife was a more conservative Unitarian,
and feared for her husbands 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
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.
of the Culture of Death
by 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