Recently I had the opportunity to endorse the book The Death of Humanity.
by Richard Weikart (Regnery Faith). Dr. Weikart is a Professor of History at California State University, Stanislaus, and is an expert in modern German and modern European intellectual history. You can find his fuller bio here. I was familiar with Dr. Weikart from his previous book From Darwin to Hitler and the movie Expelled. And like his previous work, this book is eye opening, sobering, and yet hopeful. His book officially releases today, and since I wanted to release his interview in a timely manner, here you go:
SEAN MCDOWELL: The title of your recent book is "The Death of Humanity." What's the point of this catchy and provocative title?
RICHARD WEIKART: My book is trying the confront the same problems that C. S. Lewis dealt with in The Abolition of Man (a book I discuss in the final chapter) and that Francis Schaeffer critiqued in Whatever Happened to the Human Race?, i.e., the way that secular philosophies in the past two centuries or so have contributed to the demise (at least in some intellectual circles) of the Judeo-Christian understanding that humans are intrinsically valuable. At the same time, I point out that real people are dying—or to be more precise, being killed—as a consequence of these intellectual developments, so I am using the term “death” in my title both literally and figuratively. However, I want to make clear that, despite the title, I am not a purveyor of doom and pessimism. Rather I hope and pray that my book can serve as a warning and contribute in some way to changing hearts and minds.
MCDOWELL: From a worldview perspective, can you provide a couple contemporary examples of the devaluing of human life?
WEIKART: In The Death of Humanity I provide myriads of examples of this, from the most prominent intellectuals, such as Peter Singer, to teenagers, such as Eric Harris. Singer is one of the most prominent bioethicists in the world, holding an endowed chair at Princeton University. In books, such as Unsanctifying Human Life, Singer attacks the Judeo-Christian conception of the value of human life, arguing instead that only humans that have certain traits, such as rationality, have value. Thus he endorses not only abortion and involuntary euthanasia, but even infanticide, because he claims that a human infant has less value than a full-grown pig.
Eric Harris was the mass murderer at Columbine High School, who, in his diaries, exulted in Nietzsche, Hobbes, and the Darwinian struggle for existence. He wore a t-shirt emblazoned with “Natural Selection” when he shot up his high school.
Another shocking example is the University of Texas evolutionary ecologist, Eric Pianka, who received a standing ovation after giving a speech in 2006 where he suggested that it would be a good thing if ninety percent of the human population would be wiped out by ebola.
MCDOWELL: Of all the philosophies that undermine human dignity today, which one concerns you most? Why?
WEIKART: This is a tough question, because I discuss many secular ideologies in my book. Philosophical materialism (atheism) is the strongest philosophical position to undermine the value of humans, it seems to me, because in their view humans are nothing more than a chance combination of chemicals formed over eons of time. However, the ideology I have studied most intensively in my earlier historical research is Darwinism, which tends to elide the differences between humans and animals. Singer, the bioethicist I mentioned earlier, argues that Darwinism is the basis for his rejection of the Judeo-Christian sanctity-of-life ethic. Also, I have noticed that when Christian apologists try to argue for the existence of objective morality, secularists raise objections, and usually they trot out Darwinian explanations for the origins of morality to buttress their position. I have been told more than once by secularists that, on the basis of their Darwinian understanding of morality, Hitler was neither right nor wrong. (I am fully aware that many Darwinists would reject Singer’s views and would condemn Hitler, and for this I am thankful, but it does not assuage my concerns).
MCDOWELL: You claim that the Judeo-Christian worldview provides the best account of human value? How do you explain the many present and past abuses committed by Christians and the church?
WEIKART: Unfortunately, in many secularists’ minds, Christianity conjures up images of the Inquisition, Southern slaveholders, priests blessing weapons, and other acts of oppression and inhumanity. Ironically, secularists have no resources from their own worldview to condemn these very things about which they are so indignant, because they generally do not believe there is any objective morality. If morality is not objective, then there is nothing objectively wrong with the Catholic Church torturing people who disagree with their religion. So why get so hot under the collar about it? (I suggest it is because they know deep down there are some things that are objectively right and wrong).
Christianity, however, does have the moral resources to condemn injustices, even if they are performed in the name of Christianity! Indeed, Jesus warned that false prophets would come in his name and deceive many people (Matt. 7:15-23; 24:23-24), and the apostle Peter prophesied that many people in the churches would follow false teachers, “because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed.” (II Pet. 2:2) Thus Christianity from its very inception recognized that not everything done in the name of Christianity would be moral, but rather every action would have to be judged on the basis of God’s eternal standards.
As Christians, we need to acknowledge and condemn past abuses committed by anyone, whether they called themselves Christians or not. At the same time, we need to excel in good works, as many Christians throughout the ages have done, by helping the poor, the weak, the disabled, and the needy.
MCDOWELL: What is the most important thing we can do to help bring back a culture of life?
WEIKART: One take-away lesson of my book, I think, is that the struggle against our “culture of death” cannot be won simply by teaching people a few simple facts about fetal development (as important as that is in confronting pro-abortion lies). Rather we need to confront deceptive ideologies at many different levels. While my book is aimed primarily at helping us confront many dehumanizing ideologies intellectually, this is not just an intellectual struggle, but it is a spiritual conflict. Thus, we need to demonstrate, both in our words and actions, the importance of love and righteousness, and we need to keep pointing people to Jesus, the author of love and moral goodness. I close my book with the quote from Jesus: “The thief comes only to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that you might have life, and that you might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)
Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author of over 15 books, an internationally recognized speaker, and a part-time high school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.