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Moral Darwinism: How We Became Hedonists Paperback – August 12, 2002

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Editorial Reviews


"Several authors have attempted to get at the roots of the current culture war. James Davison Hunter has traced its sociological roots. Robert Bork has traced its political roots. Phillip Johnson has traced its Darwinian roots. But none of them has traced the historical roots of the culture war back to its metaphysical foundation. Ben Wiker does that brilliantly in the present book. . . . If you really want to understand why our culture is in its current state, you must read this book." (William A. Dembski, author of Intelligent Design (from the foreword))

"It was once taken as a matter of course that ideas once argued and reargued in Greek philosophy kept recurring in different ways in subsequent philosophical systems and eras. Classical materialism was not as unrelated to modern materialism as one might suspect. Marx studied Epicurus. Benjamin Wiker here traces this history of scientific and moral materialism. What is unique about his book is that he sees this materialism in scientists who often did not see what their own terms implied. As Chesterton said, 'We must either not argue with a man at all, or argue with him on his terms.' This is what Wiker does with the not totally surprising result that science more and more tends itself to suggest that its own materialism is not as well founded as at first sight seemed to be the case. Even Christians are surprised by this turn of events or better facts. Intrinsic designs and a cosmos appearing suddenly from evidently nothing keep the materialist philosophers wondering. Wiker's subtitle, How We All Became Hedonists, hints at something Aristotle already knew—that hedonism explains neither itself nor the evolution of the world and what it means to understand it." (James V. Schall, S. J., Georgetown University, (Washington, D.C.))

"The core components of a worldview hang together in intricate and important ways. More particularly, the ethical vision of a worldview is usually grounded in the worldview’s depiction of reality, especially of human persons and of how we got here. This is one reason why, given the current moral crisis, it is ill advised to attempt to combine a materialist anthropology and a Darwinist creation myth with a Christian worldview. Benjamin Wiker’s timely book does a masterful job of providing a readable historical sketch of the interrelationships among these ideas and thereby provides a warning to those Christians who seek a facile compromise with a materialist view of human persons and a Darwinist understanding of origins." (J. P. Moreland, professor of philosophy, Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, and author (with Scot Rae) of Body and Soul (IVP))

"Ben Wiker's book is profound, practical and provocative. It reveals some of the most important and disturbing--yet neglected--truths about the ancient philosophical roots of what is usually presented as 'modern science.' Wiker shows how much of Darwinism is not only anti-religious but unscientific. This is a very important book." (Scott Hahn, Franciscan University of Steubenville (Steubenville, Ohio))

"Darwinian evolution pretends to be modern empirical science, but it is merely the latest manifestation of an ancient materialistic philosophy. In this fascinating book, Benjamin Wiker exposes the true nature of Darwinism and its profoundly poisonous consequences for morality. If you thought that the present controversy over evolution and intelligent design was a localized dispute about science education, think again. At stake is nothing less than the future of our civilization." (Jonathan Wells, author of Icons of Evolution)

"In this excellent book, Ben Wiker shows decisively that America's moral decline is a product of the Darwinian worldview which, in turn, is a revival of ancient materialist philosophy. The book traces key aspects of today's "culture war" back to the dawn of Western thought, giving a clear-sighted guide to how history shapes the present battle." (Nancy Pearcey, coauthor of How Now Shall We Live? and The Soul of Science)

"Benjamin Wiker masterfully traces the ancient roots of the conflict between belief in the intelligent design of the universe and atheistic materialism. This wonderfully written book is a must-read for understanding our modern culture wars." (Michael J. Behe, professor of biochemisty, LeHigh University)

"I have written several books about the foundations of evolution, but I learned much from this superb volume, particularly about the enduring importance of Epicurus and his philosophy." (Phillip E. Johnson, author of Darwin on Trial and Reason in the Balance)

About the Author

Benjamin Wiker (Ph.D., Vanderbilt), is a full-time writer and senior fellow of Discovery Institute in Seattle, Washington. His work has appeared in such publications as First Things, National Catholic Register, Crisis, Catholic World Report and the New Oxford Review. Books he has written include Moral Darwinism and Architects of the Culture of Death.

William Dembski (Ph.D., mathematics, University of Chicago; Ph.D., philosophy, University of Illinois at Chicago) is senior fellow of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture. He has previously taught at Northwestern University, the University of Notre Dame, and the University of Dallas. He has done postdoctoral work in mathematics at MIT, in physics at the University of Chicago, and in computer science at Princeton University, and he has been a National Science Foundation doctoral and postdoctoral fellow. Dembski has written numerous scholarly articles and is the author of the critically acclaimed The Design Inference (Cambridge), Intelligent Design (InterVarsity Press) and No Free Lunch: Why Specified Complexity Cannot Be Purchased without Intelligence (Rowman and Littlefield).

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Product Details

  • Series: Christian Classics Bible Studies
  • Paperback: 329 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic; First Edition edition (August 12, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0830826661
  • ISBN-13: 978-0830826667
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #753,967 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Benjamin Wiker is a writer, teacher, husband of one wife, and father of seven children. He has a Ph.D. in Theological Ethics from Vanderbilt University, an M.A. in Religion from Vanderbilt University, and a B.A. in Political Philosophy from Furman University. He has taught at Marquette University, St. Mary's University (MN), Thomas Aquinas College, and Franciscan University. He is now an Associate Professor of Political Science at Franciscan University, and a Senior Fellow of Franciscan's Veritas Center.

Benjamin Wiker's website is

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

72 of 86 people found the following review helpful By Phillip Johnson on December 21, 2002
Format: Paperback
Although I have written six books about Darwinism, I learned much from Ben Wiker's book. Wiker tells the engrossing story of the centuries-long contest between Epicureanism and Christianity, with the Epicureans finally winning their long battle to impose their philosophy on science and the cultural definition of "knowledge." Exploiting the authority of science, Epicureans were able to seize the high moral and intellectual ground for agosticism and materialism,thereby demoting Christianity from its prior intellectual prominence into the marginalized status it now occupies in the intellectual and university world. The Epicurean objective always has been and remains to achieve a moral objective by effectively banning the supernatural from reality, and with it any fear of judgment after death. Attaining this objective prepared the way for all the events we associate with the 1960s. Ben Wiker's intellectual history tells us far more than any scientific book could of the purpose and effect of the long campaign to establish matrialism as the governing philosophy of the world. I highly recommend it.
by Phillip Johnson (author of "Darwin on Trial)< Berkeley, CA USA
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45 of 57 people found the following review helpful By Brad Shorr on April 28, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Anyone seeking to understand the moral plight of the Western world should drop everything and read this book. The author presents a sweeping history of materialist moral philosophy from ancient Greece to current day. For Wiker, Western morality is split crisply and catastrophically into two utterly irreconcilable camps: the Epicurean, in which man is the measure of all things, and the Judeo-Christian, in which God is the measure of all things. Epicurus believed the goal of man is to reduce his personal pain and discomfort. Starting with this conclusion, he backed into a cosmology to support it, one which excludes the possibilities of (a) an afterlife and (b) divine interference with human affairs, both of which constrain our actions and leave us in a continual state of apprehension. It follows in the Epicurean view that nature is random and therefore without purpose. If nature is random, then there are no values or behaviors we humans are required to embrace. This conception of morality and its supporting cosmology, dormant from roughly Constantine to the Renaissance, revived when scientific discovery seemed to support Epicurean cosmic theories. It gained momentum as science advanced and eventually overwhelmed Judeo-Christian cosmology and morality, at least in terms of our social practices and laws. Wiker does an absolutely magnificent job of critiquing a host of enormously influential materialist figures including Newton, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Rousseau, and Darwin himself, elegantly and convincingly tracing their ideas back to their Epicurean sources, and revealing the true essence and implications of their ideas.Read more ›
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40 of 57 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer A. Atkinson on August 12, 2002
Format: Paperback
I would like to share my personal knowledge of the author. I have had the pleasure of studying under Dr. Wiker's guidance in three classes at my college. He is intelligent and humourous. He can take a complex subject, break it down, and help you come to understand it and appreciate it, similar to that great writer, C.S. Lewis. I have read a number of other articles that he has written on various subjects, and I have yet to be disappointed by his ability to convey an important and valid idea with simplicity and and a sense of the practical applications of the theoretical. If you have any interest in philosophy, or evolution, or theology: this is a book that is sure to offer a new perspective on all three. You will enjoy it, and come away with new knowledge and new thoughts that you might need to mull over, and consider, before you come back for a second read.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Rev. David Keuss on March 4, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have come across few books that are so useful as far as tracing cultural ideas. When one delves into philosophy more and more, the connections that Wiker makes appear highly credible. The ancient Greeks can be somewhat boring to read in my opinion, however the way that Wiker lays out his arguments make this an interesting read. For someone to cover a select strand of thought over history this well is impressive. I believe anyone would benefit from reading this book either as a refresher in ideas or else as a way to cover new territory. It is good either way. Highly recommended for a readers of all backgrounds.
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11 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Gord Wilson VINE VOICE on June 29, 2006
Format: Paperback
This is a bombshell of a book, not because it unveils radical new ideas or a shocking revolutionary viewpoint, but simply because it inconveniently unearths long-buried and decently dead history. In that sense it's less like a grenade than a ticking time bomb.

It's about a dirty little secret called Eugenics or social engineering, widely promoted at the turn of the century in America and reaching its culmination in world war II. It's heyday was the '20s in America when immigration was restricted by race, Germans being the most desirable immigrants. Margaret Sanger originally started Planned Parenthood to limit the number of blacks, Jews and Irish Catholics--considered undesirables. Later she travelled to Nazi Germany and gave their eugenics program her stamp of approval.

Fast forward to the '60s and an example of lying with statistics called the Kinsey Report. The so-called poll came from convicts jailed for sexual crimes and was extrapolated to provide a survey of the sexual proclivities of Americans. Kinsey decisevely divided sex from marriage and procreation, saying there were only six types of sex and including in that sensual activities which previously wouldn't have been considered sex. In doing so he led the way for pornography to separate sex from the person. Kinsey's many "findings" and statistics are still quoted today by both friends and foes to inflate the numbers of sexual adventurers when, if anything, the trend is the other way, with a rediscovery of marriage and a return to stable families.

It's not that you can't read the facts that Wiker has compiled elsewhere, it's just that you won't, if the so-called "progressive" media has its way. As Wiker shows, it's all been done before. Desperate Housewives-- that's so last Tuesday.
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