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.
Deadly Architects | Part