Serious books contain ideas and arguments which can have a profound impact on the rest of the world. Ideas, in other words, have consequences, and the musing of intellectuals and academics do not stay sealed up in ivory towers, but tend to filter down through the rest of society.
That may not be a bad thing if the original ideas are good ideas, sound ideas, helpful ideas. But when the ideas are bad, then we must expect some bad consequences. And that happens to be the subject of this book: we have had some very influential books with some pretty profoundly bad ideas, and we have seen the bitter fruit of those bad ideas.
Wiker lists ten such books – by Marx, Darwin, Mill, Nietzsche, Lenin, Sanger, Freud, Mead, Hitler and Kinsey – which have been particularly harmful, and then mentions a further five – by Machiavelli, Hobbes, Descartes, Rousseau and Freidan – which also have inflicted their fair share of damage.
The world would be a much better place, argues Wiker, if these fifteen books had never been written. He is not arguing for censorship here, and urges us all to read and study these books, but as he makes clear in some detail, each of these fifteen titles have unleashed a tsunami of bloodshed, violence, oppression, hardship and destruction.
Consider just a few titles. Marx and Engels’ 1848 Manifesto of the Communist Party was clearly a book laden with ideas. But they were bad ideas which resulted in untold misery and death. Indeed, the book was no mere treatise on political theory, says Wiker, but a call to action. And action aplenty has been forthcoming from it ever since.
Whether in the form of Stalin or Mao or Pol Pot, the poisoned ideas of this book have resulted in poisoned fruit and the enslavement and death of millions of people. Marxism is “an ideology fashioned according to a man’s image,” says Wiker, “and forced on history with all the uncompromising power a grand theory can muster”.
At the heart of this volume was the commitment to atheism and materialism. Given this worldview, mankind is viewed as simply part of the animal world, and can be treated accordingly. The reductionist ideology of Marxism cannot do proper justice to human beings and human history. Indeed, man becomes a mere abstraction, to be swept aside by the onrushing logic of dialectical materialism.
So Marx set about to create the “New Man” and was quite happy to sacrifice millions of ordinary men to get to his classless utopia. Of course utopia never arrived, and for 70-plus years in the Soviet Union we saw the real fruit of the Marxist worldview.
Consider also Kinsey and his Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, penned 100 years after the Manifesto. The sexologist in many ways laid the foundation for the sexual hedonism which is so all pervasive today. He certainly paved the way for Hugh Hefner and the Playboy revolution. The book “washed away every moral boundary of sexuality with a torrent of charts, graphs, and technical lingo”.
But the guise of neutral, disinterested science was just that – a guise. Kinsey was a man on a mission. He had perverted sexual tastes of his own, and his real aim was to get the world to accept his own sexual perversions. He was, among other things, a homosexual sadomasochist. The more we now know about the man, the more repulsive he becomes.
Indeed, Kinsey was a passionate Darwinist (another author discussed in this book) who felt morality had no place in discussions of sex, and whatever is, – sexually speaking – simply ought to be. Nature knows no boundaries, so neither should we. Any and all sexual expressions are just fine, and we need to resist any moral qualms we might have about any expression of sexuality. Thus incest, bestiality, sex with children and all other sexualities are to be embraced and accepted.
Some of the most repulsive aspects of his book had to do with his reports on the sexuality of children. He demonstrates in disgusting detail what he claims are the numerous orgasms infants as young as four months can experience, and how they seem to enjoy it. But how were such studies undertaken, without involving paedophile activity? He in fact used data collected by child molesters. Given what is described in his book, it is a wonder, says Wiker, that Kinsey was not arrested.
The other thirteen books and their authors are not let off the hook either by Wiker. Together they make for some pretty depressing and ugly reading. But we need to be aware of what the intellectual and ruling elites believe, and why. These books have left their mark, and it is not a very pretty mark.
These fifteen books were certainly all great books. But as Wiker reminds us, there is a very real difference between the adjectives “great” and “good”. The two terms are not synonymous. These books have been great in the sense of having a profound impact on society and history, but they contain ideologies and ideas which were for the most part not good.
Wiker admittedly writes with a bias – he writes as a Christian. He finds a common thread running through most of these books: they have tended to see the problem in terms of something in the world that needs correcting, instead of something in us that needs major moral and spiritual surgery. Thus these secular revolutionaries have tended to offer flawed analyses of the problems, and proposed coercive utopias as remedies.
But these alternative gardens of Eden and paradises on earth have all been monumental disasters, which have cost millions of lives. These were attempts to make heaven on earth, without realising that man and his nature is the problem, and that man without God simply creates more hell on earth.
Ideas certainly do have consequences, and the bad consequences of these fifteen bad books have clearly affected us all. Worldviews matter, and we need to be aware of how faulty worldviews result in much damage, confusion and injury. Wiker deserves praise for alerting us to the world of bad ideas and their consequences.