Teilhard de Chardin Dylan asks


Teilhard de Chardin

Dylan asks a question below that begs more space than a mere comment box reply and touches deeply two areas of profound interest for me. So I repeat his question below, and then fumble my way toward an answer:

Original Question from Dylan

Are you "pro" or "con" Teilhard de Chardin? He's spoken-well-of by both Abp Fulton Sheen (see Footprints in a Darkened Forest) & by the Holy Father JP2 in that wonderful small book Gift and Mystery. But I think he (T de C) needlessly complicates things! I struggle to understand half a word he writes.

My feelings are tied up in a complex assembly of things. I am not entirely certain whether Teilhard de Chardin (TDC henceforth) was unjustly maligned or had a significant role in the perpetration of one of the most significantly harmful scientific frauds of the 20th century--the construction of the so-called "Piltdown" Man. One way or the other, I must fault either his integrity or his lack of scientific objectivity. Perhaps he was not so expert in these things as he ought to have been, but surely then, he should have refrained from involvement and comment. So there's a significant black mark against him whether or not he actually assisted in the perpetration of the fraud.

I am very leery of the attempt to combine evolution and theology that seems to pervade much of his work. I see no reason why the two must be joined and find the attempt somewhat odd and not particularly conducive to a clear understanding of the truth. I was somewhat surprised by John Paul II's seeming approbation of TDC, and I am equally surprised to hear of Archbishop Sheen's remarks. However, neither of these men, intelligent though they are, can be considered empirical scientists and so they are not evaluating the work in the same way I do.

I find that by attempting to have theology make sense in light of evolution, odd twists occur, particularly in TDC notion of the human person. Very honestly, I am probably not competent to judge all these things because he may be teaching very traditional material, but every time I run up against a "Spirit-of Vatican-II" avatar, TDC seems to be a chief tool in the bag of tricks--so unfortunately does some of the later Merton. So TDC is tainted with this generally wide acceptance among those who do not accept a particularly Catholic view of the faith as it is presently. That may have nothing whatsoever to do with the content of Teilhard de Chardin's teaching, but because there are so many more interesting and less controversial figures, I have given TDC fairly wide berth.

So, my conclusion--his science is colored by a spectacular failure. Either a failure of imagination or a failure of integrity. His theology seems an odd attempt to combine religion and science, which is unnecesary for either and detrimental to both. But when asked straight out, pro or con, I have to answer, for myself, I steer clear, but I bow to the judgment of those in a better place than I to know.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on October 21, 2002 5:31 PM.

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