Benjamin Wiker teaches theology and science at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, and is a fellow at Seattle's Discovery Institute. His book, Moral Darwinism: How We Became Hedonists, was published last summer by InterVarsity Press.
How did this book come about?
I just happened to have been working both on Epicurus, an ancient Greek philosopher, and Charles Darwin. I suddenly recognized that they looked surprisingly similar in their views. Epicurus is in a way the great-great-great-grandfather of Darwin's account of human nature and cosmology.
What's very surprising for people is that the first account of evolution didn't come in the middle of the 1800s with Darwin. A man named Lucretius, a Roman, wrote about 50 years before the birth of Christ a book called De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things). And in it you find this really long evolutionary passage. And you say, "How could this get here? I thought Darwin invented this or discovered this." And he really didn't. It's simply a deduction from materialism itself. If you don't have a God, and you think that matter just bangs around forever and eventually creates things, that view isn't at all modern. It's very ancient. Darwin just picked up on it.
And, as you note in your book, that view has consequences for moral behavior. As you quote Darwin, "Every distinct view of the universe, every theory about nature necessarily entails a view of morality." In your view, the degree to which you embrace materialism is the degree to which your moral behavior will decline.
Exactly. But if you're a materialist, it's not a decline. It's what materialism demands.