Saturday, October 6, 2007

Teilhard And American Sculptor Lucile Swan An Intense 20 Year Relationship

The strange case of Father Pierre Teilhard de Chardin told in new book
By The Associated Press
Oct 05, 2007 - 11:44:24 pm PDT
Father Pierre Teilhard de Chardin had already been dead for several years when his book, "The Phenomenon of Man," became a surprise international best seller in the late 1950s. The extended theological essay by the Jesuit priest and paleontologist was not only meant to reconcile God with evolution, but also strongly suggested that God was evolution. Teilhard's book was published only posthumously because his superiors in the Society of Jesus suspected him of heretically challenging the doctrine of Original Sin. Since he would not leave the order, Teilhard had been forced to sign a promise not to publish his views. Teilhard's fame has dimmed a bit since the 1960s, when some saw him as the future of Catholicism. But he still lingers in the public mind. Some in Silicon Valley regard him as a prophet for his concept of the noosphere, or sphere of thought and communication, and the Jesuit-educated author William Peter Blatty modeled the character of Father Mallon in "The Exorcist" after Teilhard, whom he admired.And now Aczel, a historian of science, is attempting to return Teilhard to a central place as a scientist, a philosopher and a Galileo-style martyr to church dogma. Although Aczel focuses on Teilhard's role in the international scientific team that found the remains of Peking Man in 1929 in a cave in Dragon Bone Mountain outside Beijing, he supplies a complete -- although brief -- biography of his subject, from his childhood in a wealthy French family in 1881 to his 1955 death in New York City.But in explaining the importance of the Peking Man discovery and Teilhard's interest in human origins, Aczel feels obligated to provide a capsule history of evolutionary thought and human ancestry. That takes up five chapters (60 pages) of a rather brief book. Although some readers may want more Teilhard and less historical context, Aczel was probably right in providing the background. Even 82 years after the Scopes Trial, evolutionary thought is still a bit outside the American mainstream. Recent polls show almost half of adult Americans disagreeing with any form of evolution, even the divinely guided version championed by Teilhard. And although the subject is taught in most public schools, it is given in little detail. Its history remains little known to the general public. But it's when Aczel returns to Teilhard that his narrative comes alive. The priest's struggles with the hierarchy are dramatic, and his long periods of exile from his beloved Paris have a tragic quality. There are encounters with Chinese warlords and Indiana Jones-style adventures in the Mongolian desert, plus the making of a mystery novel in the World War II disappearance of the Peking Man remains. There's even romance in the form of Teilhard's long and intense -- but platonic -- relationship with American sculptor Lucile Swan. There are some minor flaws, though. Aczel's field is science, rather than politics, and he shows little understanding of China's political flux in the 1920s. At one point, he misidentifies Chiang Kai-Shek as head of the warlord government of that decade and an enemy of his actual mentor, Sun Yat-sen.And Aczel misses a possible opportunity in too quickly dismissing the theory, originated by anthropologist Louis Leakey and later popularized by the late Stephen Jay Gould, that Teilhard was the perpetrator of England's Piltdown Man hoax (a rival theory puts the blame on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle). Most authorities deny Teilhard's involvement, but in devoting only one sentence to it, Aczel leaves himself open to attack from antievolutionists, who have seized on the theory and used it to imply that Peking Man, too, was a hoax. Link to original article (here)
Swan and Tielhard letters (here)


sex shop said...

To my mind everybody have to glance at it.

Jay said...

Teilhard was bad Jesuit and even worse paleontologist. Nobel Prize winner, neurobiologist Sir Peter Medawar was one of the reviewer of TdC book The Phenomenon of Man and this review is one of the funniest ever written. Worth to read, link:

Jay said...

Teilhard de Chardin was not only bad Jesuits but even worse paleontologist. Nobel prize winner, neurobiologist, Sir Peter Medawar was one of the reviewer of this man famous book entitled 'The Phenomenon of Man'. It is considered the funniest review even written, worth to have a look: