|Intro||French philosopher and Jesuit priest|
|Was||Religious scholar Scientist Archaeologist Anthropologist Theologian Paleontologist Writer Paleoanthropologist Geologist Priest|
|Field||Biology Literature Religion Science Social science|
|Birth||1 May 1881|
|Death||10 April 1955, New York City (aged 73 years)|
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin SJ (French: [pjɛʁ tejaʁ də ʃaʁdɛ̃] ( listen ); 1 May 1881 – 10 April 1955) was a French idealist philosopher and Jesuit priest who trained as a paleontologist and geologist and took part in the discovery of Peking Man. He conceived the vitalist idea of the Omega Point (a maximum level of complexity and consciousness towards which he believed the universe was evolving) and developed Vladimir Vernadsky's concept of noosphere.
Although many of Teilhard's writings were censored by the Catholic Church during his lifetime because of his views on original sin, Teilhard has been posthumously praised by Pope Benedict XVI and other eminent Catholic figures, and his theological teachings were cited by Pope Francis in the 2015 encyclical, Laudato si'. The response to his writings by evolutionary biologists has been, with some exceptions, decidedly negative.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was born in the Château of Sarcenat at Orcines, close to Clermont-Ferrand, France, on May 1, 1881. On the Teilhard side he is descended from an ancient family of magistrates from Auvergne originating in Murat, Cantal, and on the de Chardin side he is descended from a family that was ennobled under Louis XVIII. He was the fourth of eleven children. His father, Emmanuel Teilhard (1844–1932), an amateur naturalist, collected stones, insects and plants and promoted the observation of nature in the household. Pierre Teilhard's spirituality was awakened by his mother, Berthe de Dompiere. When he was 12, he went to the Jesuit college of Mongré, in Villefranche-sur-Saône, where he completed baccalaureates of philosophy and mathematics. Then, in 1899, he entered the Jesuit novitiate at Aix-en-Provence, where he began a philosophical, theological and spiritual career.
As of the summer 1901, the Waldeck-Rousseau laws, which submitted congregational associations' properties to state control, prompted some of the Jesuits to exile themselves in the United Kingdom. Young Jesuit students continued their studies in Jersey. In the meantime, Teilhard earned a licentiate in literature in Caen in 1902.
From 1905 to 1908, he taught physics and chemistry in Cairo, Egypt, at the Jesuit College of the Holy Family. He wrote "... it is the dazzling of the East foreseen and drunk greedily ... in its lights, its vegetation, its fauna and its deserts." (Letters from Egypt (1905–1908) — Éditions Aubier)
Teilhard studied theology in Hastings, in Sussex (United Kingdom), from 1908 to 1912. There he synthesized his scientific, philosophical and theological knowledge in the light of evolution. His reading of L'Évolution Créatrice (The Creative Evolution) by Henri Bergson was, he said, the "catalyst of a fire which devoured already its heart and its spirit." Teilhard was ordained a priest on August 24, 1911, at age 30.
From 1912 to 1914, Teilhard worked in the paleontology laboratory of the Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle, in Paris, studying the mammals of the middle Tertiary period. Later he studied elsewhere in Europe. In June 1912 he formed part of the original digging team, with Arthur Smith Woodward and Charles Dawson at the Piltdown site, after the discovery of the first fragments of the (fraudulent) "Piltdown Man", with some even suggesting he participated in the hoax. Professor Marcellin Boule (specialist in Neanderthal studies), who so early as 1915 astutely recognized the non-hominid origins of the Piltdown finds, gradually guided Teilhard towards human paleontology. At the museum's Institute of Human Paleontology, he became a friend of Henri Breuil and took part with him, in 1913, in excavations at the prehistoric painted Caves of Castillo in the northwest of Spain.
Service in World War I
Mobilised in December 1914, Teilhard served in World War I as a stretcher-bearer in the 8th Moroccan Rifles. For his valour, he received several citations including the Médaille militaire and the Legion of Honour.
Throughout these years of war he developed his reflections in his diaries and in letters to his cousin, Marguerite Teillard-Chambon, who later edited them into a book: Genèse d'une pensée (Genesis of a thought). He confessed later: "...the war was a meeting ... with the Absolute." In 1916, he wrote his first essay: La Vie Cosmique (Cosmic life), where his scientific and philosophical thought was revealed just as his mystical life. He pronounced his solemn vows as a Jesuit in Sainte-Foy-lès-Lyon, on May 26, 1918, during a leave. In August 1919, in Jersey, he would write Puissance spirituelle de la Matière (The Spiritual Power of Matter).
Teilhard followed at the Sorbonne three unit degrees of natural science: geology, botany and zoology. His thesis treated of the mammals of the French lower Eocene and their stratigraphy. After 1920, he lectured in geology at the Catholic Institute of Paris, then became an assistant professor after being granted a science doctorate in 1922.
Research in China
In 1923 he travelled to China with Father Emile Licent, who was in charge in Tianjin of a significant laboratory collaboration between the Natural History Museum in Paris and Marcellin Boule's laboratory. Licent carried out considerable basic work in connection with missionaries who accumulated observations of a scientific nature in their spare time. He was known as 德日進 (pinyin: Dérìjìn) in China.
Teilhard wrote several essays, including La Messe sur le Monde (the Mass on the World), in the Ordos Desert. In the following year he continued lecturing at the Catholic Institute and participated in a cycle of conferences for the students of the Engineers' Schools. Two theological essays on Original Sin sent to a theologian at his request on a purely personal basis were wrongly understood.
- July 1920: Chute, Rédemption et Géocentrie (Fall, Redemption and Geocentry)
- Spring 1922: Notes sur quelques représentations historiques possibles du Péché originel (Note on Some Possible Historical Representations of Original Sin) (Works, Tome X)
The Church required him to give up his lecturing at the Catholic Institute and to continue his geological research in China.
Teilhard traveled again to China in April 1926. He would remain there for about twenty years, with many voyages throughout the world. He settled until 1932 in Tientsin with Emile Licent, then in Beijing. Teilhard made five geological research expeditions in China between 1926 and 1935. They enabled him to establish a general geological map of China.
In 1926, Teilhard’s superiors in the Jesuit Order forbade him to teach any longer. In 1926–27, after a missed campaign in Gansu, he traveled in the Sang-Kan-Ho valley near Kalgan (Zhangjiakou) and made a tour in Eastern Mongolia. He wrote Le Milieu Divin (The Divine Milieu). Teilhard prepared the first pages of his main work Le Phénomène Humain (The Human Phenomenon). The Holy See refused the Imprimatur for Le Milieu Divin in 1927.
He joined the ongoing excavations of the Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian as an advisor in 1926 and continued in the role for the Cenozoic Research Laboratory of the Geological Survey of China following its founding in 1928.
He resided in Manchuria with Emile Licent, then stayed in Western Shansi (Shanxi) and northern Shensi (Shaanxi) with the Chinese paleontologist C. C. Young and with Davidson Black, Chairman of the Geological Survey of China.
After a tour in Manchuria in the area of Great Khingan with Chinese geologists, Teilhard joined the team of American Expedition Center-Asia in the Gobi Desert organised in June and July, by the American Museum of Natural History with Roy Chapman Andrews.
Henri Breuil and Teilhard discovered that the Peking Man, the nearest relative of Pithecanthropus from Java, was a faber (worker of stones and controller of fire). Teilhard wrote L'Esprit de la Terre (the Spirit of the Earth).
Teilhard took part as a scientist in the Croisière Jaune (Yellow Cruise) financed by André Citroën in Central Asia. Northwest of Beijing in Kalgan, he joined the Chinese group who joined the second part of the team, the Pamir group, in Aksu. He remained with his colleagues for several months in Urumqi, capital of Sinkiang. The following year the Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945) began.
In 1933, Rome ordered him to give up his post in Paris.
Teilhard undertook several explorations in the south of China. He traveled in the valleys of Yangtze River and Sichuan in 1934, then, the following year, in Kwang-If and Guangdong. The relationship with Marcellin Boule was disrupted; the museum cut its financing on the grounds that Teilhard worked more for the Chinese Geological Service than for the museum.
During all these years, Teilhard strongly contributed to the constitution of an international network of research in human paleontology related to the whole of eastern and southeastern Asia. He would be particularly associated in this task with two friends, the English/Canadian Davidson Black and the Scot George B. Barbour. Often he would visit France or the United States, only to leave these countries to go on further expeditions.
From 1927 to 1928, Teilhard stayed in France, based in Paris. He journeyed to Leuven, Belgium, to Cantal, and to Ariège, France. Between several articles in reviews, he met new people such as Paul Valéry and Bruno de Solages, who were to help him in issues with the Catholic Church.
Answering an invitation from Henry de Monfreid, Teilhard undertook a journey of two months in Obock, in Harrar and in Somalia with his colleague Pierre Lamarre, a geologist, before embarking in Djibouti to return to Tianjin. While in China, Teilhard developed a deep and personal friendship with Lucile Swan.
During 1930–1931, Teilhard stayed in France and in the United States. During a conference in Paris, Teilhard stated: "For the observers of the Future, the greatest event will be the sudden appearance of a collective humane conscience and a human work to make."
From 1932–1933, he began to meet people to clarify issues with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, regarding Le Milieu divin and L'Esprit de la Terre. He met Helmut de Terra, a German geologist in the International Geology Congress in Washington, DC.
Teilhard participated in the 1935 Yale–Cambridge expedition in northern and central India with the geologist Helmut de Terra and Patterson, who verified their assumptions on Indian Paleolithic civilisations in Kashmir and the Salt Range Valley. He then made a short stay in Java, on the invitation of Dutch paleontologist Ralph von Koenigswald to the site of Java man. A second cranium, more complete, was discovered. Professor von Koenigswald had also found a tooth in a Chinese apothecary shop in 1934 that he believed belonged to a three-meter-tall ape, Gigantopithecus which lived between one hundred thousand and around a million years ago. Fossilized teeth and bone (dragon bones) are often ground into powder and used in some branches of traditional Chinese medicine.
In 1937, Teilhard wrote Le Phénomène spirituel (The Phenomenon of the Spirit) on board the boat the Empress of Japan, where he met the Raja of Sarawak. The ship conveyed him to the United States. He received the Mendel Medal granted by Villanova University during the Congress of Philadelphia in recognition of his works on human paleontology. He made a speech about evolution, origins and the destiny of Man. The New York Times dated March 19, 1937 presented Teilhard as the Jesuit who held that man descended from monkeys. Some days later, he was to be granted the Doctor Honoris Causa distinction from Boston College. Upon arrival in that city, he was told that the award had been cancelled.
Rome banned his work L’Énergie Humaine in 1939.
He then stayed in France, where he was immobilized by malaria. During his return voyage to Beijing he wrote L'Energie spirituelle de la Souffrance (Spiritual Energy of Suffering) (Complete Works, tome VII).
1941: Teilhard submitted to Rome his most important work, Le Phénomène Humain.
1947: Rome forbade him to write or teach on philosophical subjects.
1948: Teilhard was called to Rome by the Superior General of the Jesuits who hoped to acquire permission from the Holy See for the publication of his most important work Le Phénomène Humain. But the prohibition to publish it issued in 1944, was again renewed. Teilhard was also forbidden to take a teaching post in the College de France.
1949: Permission to publish Le Groupe Zoologique was refused.
1950: Teilhard was named to the French Academy of Sciences.
1955: Teilhard was forbidden by his Superiors to attend the International Congress of Paleontology.
1957: The Supreme Authority of the Holy Office, in a decree dated 15 November 1957, forbade the works of de Chardin to be retained in libraries, including those of religious institutes. His books were not to be sold in Catholic bookshops and were not to be translated into other languages.
1958: In April of this year, all Jesuit publications in Spain ("Razón y Fe", "Sal Terrae","Estudios de Deusto") etc., carried a notice from the Spanish Provincial of the Jesuits that Teilhard's works had been published in Spanish without previous ecclesiastical examination and in defiance of the decrees of the Holy See.
1962: A decree of the Holy Office dated 30 June, under the authority of Pope John XXIII warned that "... it is obvious that in philosophical and theological matters, the said works [Teilhard’s] are replete with ambiguities or rather with serious errors which offend Catholic doctrine. That is why... the Rev. Fathers of the Holy Office urge all Ordinaries, Superiors, and Rectors... to effectively protect, especially the minds of the young, against the dangers of the works of Fr. Teilhard de Chardin and his followers". (AAS, 6 August 1962).
1963: The Vicariate of Rome (a diocese ruled in the name of Pope Paul VI (who had just become Pope in 1963) by his Cardinal Vicar) in a decree dated 30 September, required that Catholic booksellers in Rome should withdraw from circulation the works of Teilhard, together with those books which favour his erroneous doctrines. The text of this document was published in daily L’Aurore of Paris, dated 2 October 1963, and was reproduced in Nouvelles De Chrétienté, 10 October 1963, p. 35.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin died in New York City, where he was in residence at the Jesuit Church of St. Ignatius Loyola, Park Avenue. On March 15, 1955, at the house of his diplomat cousin Jean de Lagarde, Teilhard told friends he hoped he would die on Easter Sunday. In the Easter Sunday evening of April 10, 1955, during an animated discussion at the apartment of Rhoda de Terra, his personal assistant since 1949, the 73-year-old priest suffered a heart attack; regaining consciousness for a moment, he died a few minutes later. He was buried in the cemetery for the New York Province of the Jesuits at the Jesuit novitiate, St. Andrew-on-Hudson in Hyde Park, upstate New York.
Teilhard de Chardin has two comprehensive works, The Phenomenon of Man, and The Divine Milieu.
His posthumously published book, The Phenomenon of Man, set forth a sweeping account of the unfolding of the cosmos and the evolution of matter to humanity, to ultimately a reunion with Christ. In the book, Teilhard abandoned literal interpretations of creation in the Book of Genesis in favor of allegorical and theological interpretations. The unfolding of the material cosmos, is described from primordial particles to the development of life, human beings and the noosphere, and finally to his vision of the Omega Point in the future, which is "pulling" all creation towards it. He was a leading proponent of orthogenesis, the idea that evolution occurs in a directional, goal-driven way, argued in terms that today go under the banner of convergent evolution. Teilhard argued in Darwinian terms with respect to biology, and supported the synthetic model of evolution, but argued in Lamarckian terms for the development of culture, primarily through the vehicle of education. Teilhard made a total commitment to the evolutionary process in the 1920s as the core of his spirituality, at a time when other religious thinkers felt evolutionary thinking challenged the structure of conventional Christian faith. He committed himself to what the evidence showed.
Teilhard made sense of the universe by assuming it had a vitalist evolutionary process. He interprets complexity as the axis of evolution of matter into a geosphere, a biosphere, into consciousness (in man), and then to supreme consciousness (the Omega Point.)
Teilhard’s unique relationship to both paleontology and Catholicism allowed him to develop a highly progressive, cosmic theology which takes into account his evolutionary studies. Teilhard recognized the importance of bringing the Church into the modern world, and approached evolution as a way of providing ontological meaning for Christianity, particularly creation theology. For Teilhard, evolution was "the natural landscape where the history of salvation is situated."
Teilhard’s cosmic theology is largely predicated on his interpretation of Pauline scripture, particularly Colossians 1:15-17 (especially verse 1:17b) and 1 Corinthians 15:28. He drew on the Christocentrism of these two Pauline passages to construct a cosmic theology which recognizes the absolute primacy of Christ. He understood creation to be "a teleological process towards union with the Godhead, effected through the incarnation and redemption of Christ, 'in whom all things hold together' (Col. 1:17)." He further posited that creation would not be complete until each "participated being is totally united with God through Christ in the Pleroma, when God will be 'all in all' (1Cor. 15:28)."
Teilhard's life work was predicated on his conviction that human spiritual development is moved by the same universal laws as material development. He wrote, "...everything is the sum of the past" and "...nothing is comprehensible except through its history. 'Nature' is the equivalent of 'becoming', self-creation: this is the view to which experience irresistibly leads us. ... There is nothing, not even the human soul, the highest spiritual manifestation we know of, that does not come within this universal law." The Phenomenon of Man represents Teilhard's attempt at reconciling his religious faith with his academic interests as a paleontologist. One particularly poignant observation in Teilhard's book entails the notion that evolution is becoming an increasingly optional process. Teilhard points to the societal problems of isolation and marginalization as huge inhibitors of evolution, especially since evolution requires a unification of consciousness. He states that "no evolutionary future awaits anyone except in association with everyone else." Teilhard argued that the human condition necessarily leads to the psychic unity of humankind, though he stressed that this unity can only be voluntary; this voluntary psychic unity he termed "unanimization." Teilhard also states that "evolution is an ascent toward consciousness", giving encephalization as an example of early stages, and therefore, signifies a continuous upsurge toward the Omega Point, which for all intents and purposes, is God.
Teilhard also used his perceived correlation between spiritual and material to describe Christ, arguing that Christ not only has a mystical dimension, but also takes on a physical dimension as he becomes the organizing principle of the universe—that is, the one who "holds together" the universe (Col. 1:17b). For Teilhard, Christ forms not only the eschatological end toward which his mystical/ecclesial body is oriented, but he also "operates physically in order to regulate all things" becoming "the one from whom all creation receives its stability." In other words, as the one who holds all things together, "Christ exercises a supremacy over the universe which is physical, not simply juridical. He is the unifying centre of the universe and its goal. The function of holding all things together indicates that Christ is not only man and God; he also possesses a third aspect—indeed, a third nature—which is cosmic." In this way, the Pauline description of the Body of Christ is not simply a mystical or ecclesial concept for Teilhard; it is cosmic. This cosmic Body of Christ "extend[s] throughout the universe and compris[es] all things that attain their fulfillment in Christ [so that] . . . the Body of Christ is the one single thing that is being made in creation." Teilhard describes this cosmic amassing of Christ as "Christogenesis." According to Teilhard, the universe is engaged in Christogenesis as it evolves toward its full realization at Omega, a point which coincides with the fully realized Christ. It is at this point that God will be ‘all in all’ (1Cor. 15:28c).
Our century is probably more religious than any other. How could it fail to be, with such problems to be solved? The only trouble is that it has not yet found a God it can adore.
Relationship with the Catholic Church
In 1925, Teilhard was ordered by the Jesuit Superior General Wlodimir Ledóchowski to leave his teaching position in France and to sign a statement withdrawing his controversial statements regarding the doctrine of original sin. Rather than leave the Jesuit order, Teilhard signed the statement and left for China.
This was the first of a series of condemnations by certain ecclesiastical officials that would continue until after Teilhard's death. The climax of these condemnations was a 1962 monitum (reprimand) of the Holy Office cautioning on Teilhard's works. It said in part:
The above-mentioned works abound in such ambiguities and indeed even serious errors, as to offend Catholic doctrine... For this reason, the most eminent and most revered Fathers of the Holy Office exhort all Ordinaries as well as the superiors of Religious institutes, rectors of seminaries and presidents of universities, effectively to protect the minds, particularly of the youth, against the dangers presented by the works of Fr. Teilhard de Chardin and of his followers.
The Holy Office did not place any of Teilhard's writings on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum (Index of Forbidden Books), which existed during Teilhard's lifetime and at the time of the 1962 decree.
Shortly thereafter, prominent clerics mounted a strong theological defense of Teilhard's works. Henri de Lubac (later a Cardinal) wrote three comprehensive books on the theology of Teilhard de Chardin in the 1960s. While de Lubac mentioned that Teilhard was less than precise in some of his concepts, he affirmed the orthodoxy of Teilhard de Chardin and responded to Teilhard's critics: "We need not concern ourselves with a number of detractors of Teilhard, in whom emotion has blunted intelligence". Later that decade Joseph Ratzinger, a German theologian who became Pope Benedict XVI, spoke glowingly of Teilhard's Christology in Ratzinger's Introduction to Christianity:
It must be regarded as an important service of Teilhard de Chardin’s that he rethought these ideas from the angle of the modern view of the world and, in spite of a not entirely unobjectionable tendency toward the biological approach, nevertheless on the whole grasped them correctly and in any case made them accessible once again. Let us listen to his own words: The human monad "can only be absolutely itself by ceasing to be alone". In the background is the idea that in the cosmos, alongside the two orders or classes of the infinitely small and the infinitely big, there is a third order, which determines the real drift of evolution, namely, the order of the infinitely complex. It is the real goal of the ascending process of growth or becoming; it reaches a first peak in the genesis of living things and then continues to advance to those highly complex creations that give the cosmos a new center: "Imperceptible and accidental as the position they hold may be in the history of the heavenly bodies, in the last analysis the planets are nothing less than the vital points of the universe. It is through them that the axis now runs, on them is henceforth concentrated the main effort of an evolution aiming principally at the production of large molecules." The examination of the world by the dynamic criterion of complexity thus signifies "a complete inversion of values. A reversal of the perspective...
This leads to a further passage in Teilhard de Chardin that is worth quoting in order to give at least some indication here, by means of a few fragmentary excerpts, of his general outlook. "The Universal Energy must be a Thinking Energy if it is not to be less highly evolved than the ends animated by its action. And consequently ... the attributes of cosmic value with which it is surrounded in our modern eyes do not affect in the slightest the necessity obliging us to recognize in it a transcendent form of Personality.
Over the next several decades prominent theologians and Church leaders, including leading Cardinals, Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI all wrote approvingly of Teilhard's ideas. In 1981, Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, on behalf of Pope John Paul II, wrote on the front page of the Vatican newspaper, l'Osservatore Romano:
"What our contemporaries will undoubtedly remember, beyond the difficulties of conception and deficiencies of expression in this audacious attempt to reach a synthesis, is the testimomy of the coherent life of a man possessed by Christ in the depths of his soul. He was concerned with honoring both faith and reason, and anticipated the response to John Paul II's appeal: 'Be not afraid, open, open wide to Christ the doors of the immense domains of culture, civilization, and progress.
Cardinal Avery Dulles, S.J. said in 2004:
In his own poetic style, the French Jesuit Teilhard de Chardin liked to meditate on the Eucharist as the first fruits of the new creation. In an essay called The Monstrance he describes how, kneeling in prayer, he had a sensation that the Host was beginning to grow until at last, through its mysterious expansion, 'the whole world had become incandescent, had itself become like a single giant Host.' Although it would probably be incorrect to imagine that the universe will eventually be transubstantiated, Teilhard correctly identified the connection between the Eucharist and the final glorification of the cosmos.
Cardinal Christoph Schönborn wrote in 2007:
Hardly anyone else has tried to bring together the knowledge of Christ and the idea of evolution as the scientist (paleontologist) and theologian Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J., has done. ... His fascinating vision ... has represented a great hope, the hope that faith in Christ and a scientific approach to the world can be brought together. ... These brief references to Teilhard cannot do justice to his efforts. The fascination which Teilhard de Chardin exercised for an entire generation stemmed from his radical manner of looking at science and Christian faith together.
Pope Benedict XVI, in his book Spirit of the Liturgy incorporates Teilhard's vision as a touchstone of the Catholic Mass:
And so we can now say that the goal of worship and the goal of creation as a whole are one and the same—divinization, a world of freedom and love. But this means that the historical makes its appearance in the cosmic. The cosmos is not a kind of closed building, a stationary container in which history may by chance take place. It is itself movement, from its one beginning to its one end. In a sense, creation is history. Against the background of the modern evolutionary world view, Teilhard de Chardin depicted the cosmos as a process of ascent, a series of unions. From very simple beginnings the path leads to ever greater and more complex unities, in which multiplicity is not abolished but merged into a growing synthesis, leading to the "Noosphere", in which spirit and its understanding embrace the whole and are blended into a kind of living organism. Invoking the epistles to the Ephesians and Colossians, Teilhard looks on Christ as the energy that strives toward the Noosphere and finally incorporates everything in its "fullness’. From here Teilhard went on to give a new meaning to Christian worship: the transubstantiated Host is the anticipation of the transformation and divinization of matter in the christological "fullness". In his view, the Eucharist provides the movement of the cosmos with its direction; it anticipates its goal and at the same time urges it on.
in July 2009, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi said, "By now, no one would dream of saying that [Teilhard] is a heterodox author who shouldn’t be studied."
Pope Francis refers to Teilhard's eschatological contribution in his encyclical Laudato si'.
Evaluations by scientists
According to Daniel Dennett, "it has become clear to the point of unanimity among scientists that Teilhard offered nothing serious in the way of an alternative to orthodoxy; the ideas that were peculiarly his were confused, and the rest was just bombastic redescription of orthodoxy." Similarly, Steven Rose wrote that "Teilhard is revered as a mystic of genius by some, but amongst most biologists is seen as little more than a charlatan."
In 1961, the Nobel Prize-winner Peter Medawar, a British immunologist, wrote a scornful review of The Phenomenon Of Man for the journal Mind: "the greater part of it, I shall show, is nonsense, tricked out with a variety of metaphysical conceits, and its author can be excused of dishonesty only on the grounds that before deceiving others he has taken great pains to deceive himself". The evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins called Medawar's review "devastating" and The Phenomenon of Man "the quintessence of bad poetic science".
Sir Julian Huxley, the evolutionary biologist, praised the thought of Teilhard de Chardin for looking at the way in which human development needs to be examined within a larger integrated universal sense of evolution. Theodosius Dobzhansky drew upon Teilhard's insistence that evolutionary theory provides the core of how man understands his relationship to nature, calling him "one of the great thinkers of our age".
George Gaylord Simpson, however, felt that if Teilhard were right, the lifework "of Huxley, Dobzhansky, and hundreds of others was not only wrong, but meaningless", and was mystified by their public support for him. He considered Teilhard a friend and his work in paleontology extensive and important, but expressed strongly adverse views of his contributions as scientific theorist and philosopher.
David Sloan Wilson, an evolutionary biologist, wrote that Teilhard has been "largely forgotten as a scientist" but believes that he remains "amazingly relevan[t]" and anticipated his own work in multilevel selection theory.
Brian Swimme wrote "Teilhard was one of the first scientists to realize that the human and the universe are inseparable. The only universe we know about is a universe that brought forth the human."
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin is honored with a feast day on the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church (USA) on April 10. George Gaylord Simpson named the most primitive and ancient genus of true primate, the Eocene genus Teilhardina.
Teilhard and his work continue to influence the arts and culture. Characters based on Teilhard appear in several novels, including Jean Telemond in Morris West's The Shoes of the Fisherman (mentioned by name and quoted by Oskar Werner playing Fr. Telemond in the movie version of the novel) and Father Lankester Merrin in William Peter Blatty's The Exorcist. In Dan Simmons' 1989–97 Hyperion Cantos, Teilhard de Chardin has been canonized a saint in the far future. His work inspires the anthropologist priest character, Paul Duré. When Duré becomes Pope, he takes Teilhard I as his regnal name. Teilhard appears as a minor character in the play Fake by Eric Simonson, staged by Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Company in 2009, involving a fictional solution to the infamous Piltdown Man hoax.
References range from occasional quotations—an auto mechanic quotes Teilhard in Philip K. Dick's A Scanner Darkly – to serving as the philosophical underpinning of the plot, as Teilhard's work does in Julian May's 1987–94 Galactic Milieu Series. Teilhard also plays a major role in Annie Dillard's 1999 For the Time Being. Teilhard is mentioned by name and the Omega Point briefly explained in Arthur C. Clarke's and Stephen Baxter's The Light of Other Days. The title of the short-story collection Everything That Rises Must Converge by Flannery O'Connor is a reference to Teilhard's work. The American novelist Don DeLillo's 2010 novel Point Omega borrows its title and some of its ideas from Teilhard de Chardin. Robert Wright, in his book Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny, compares his own naturalistic thesis that biological and cultural evolution are directional and, possibly, purposeful, with Teilhard's ideas.
Teilhard's work also inspired philosophical ruminations by Italian laureate architect Paolo Soleri, artworks such as French painter Alfred Manessier's L'Offrande de la terre ou Hommage à Teilhard de Chardin and American sculptor Frederick Hart's acrylic sculpture The Divine Milieu: Homage to Teilhard de Chardin. A sculpture of the Omega Point by Henry Setter, with a quote from Teilhard de Chardin, can be found at the entrance to the Roesch Library at the University of Dayton. Edmund Rubbra's 1968 Symphony No. 8 is titled Hommage à Teilhard de Chardin.
Several college campuses honor Teilhard. A building at the University of Manchester is named after him, as are residence dormitories at Gonzaga University and Seattle University.
The De Chardin Project, a play celebrating Teilhard's life, ran from November 20 to December 14, 2014 in Toronto, Canada. The Evolution of Teilhard de Chardin, a documentary film on Teilhard's life, is expected to be released in 2015.
Founded in 1978 George Addair based much of Omega Vector on Teilhard's work.
Influence on the New Age movement
Teilhard has had a profound influence on the New Age movement and has been described as "perhaps the man most responsible for the spiritualization of evolution in a global and cosmic context". New Age figure and self-described evolutionary biologist Jeremy Griffith described Teilhard as a "visionary" philosopher and a contemporary "truth-sayer" or "prophet".