Zygons cause to integrate mans religious notions of what is meaningful and sacred about his destiny with his scientific notions of his self and the world does not stand or fall on the success or failure of the efforts of any single man, such as Teilhard de Chardin, to make a synthesis. But an evaluation of Teilhard is bound to be both a useful guide and a caution. In this and in the previous issue of Zygon, we have brought together some careful, competent, and varied analyses of what has been accomplished by this lonely tower of success in this task. From these analyses we get, in addition to a mixture of encouragement and caution, a wealth of detail concerning the subtleties of the problems involved. We shall undoubtedly return to meditate on Teilhard in the future, for he has been seminal in his historical impact on the field.
Teilhard de Chardin was a man whose entire life was devoted to the reconciliation of science and religion. At the very outset I wish to make clear that he felt no obligation to limit himself to science. He was an advocate using all the means at his disposal. Because of his strong religious training during his formative years, plus his experience as a stretcher bearer in World War I, he could never turn his back on the crying need of his fellowmen for spiritual support. Yet his early interest in geology and mineralogy evolved into a study of fossils and human paleontology and inexorably led him into the area of human evolution and finally into an over-all philosophy of the evolutionary process. While many other men have trod a similar path and found it incompatible with the ancient religious beliefs, Père Teilhard believed that he had a vision that was grand enough to embrace the best parts of Christian humanism and science too. It is perfectly clear that there were many aspects of Christian theology that Père Teilhard simply did not wish to write about, and it is his steadfast attempt to come to grips with the issue of human progress that makes me so interested in his attempts to rationalize science and religion. For Père Teilhard, human progress is the goal of the universe. In other words, the whole evolutionary process operates in terms of a purpose whose sole aim is to bring mankind slowly and inexorably up to a point just short of the divine, which he refers to as the Omega Point.¹ …
¹ Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man (New York: Harper & Row, 1959), and The Future of Man (New York: Harper & Row, 1964).
Van Rensselaer Potter is professor of oncology at the University of Wisconsin Medical School, Madison.
An Interpretation of Teilhard as Reflected in Recent Literature by Alfred P. Stiernotte
Marie-Joseph-Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the distinguished paleontologist and philosopher of evolution whose philosophical and theological writings were not permitted publication by the Roman Catholic authorities during his lifetime, is now enjoying a popularity seldom before accorded to any scholar doing research on the advances of science and their bearing on religion. This is not the place to recount his life story, his scientific research in Africa and China, his association with the expedition which unearthed one of the most famous of human fossils, Peking Man, in 1928, his deep friendship with men of science, such as Julian Huxley and Theodosius Dobzhansky, who, while not accepting entirely his christological mysticism, paid high tribute to his powerful synthetic mind. All these details of Teilhards lifework may be found by consulting Claude Cuénots Teilhard de Chardin, a Biographical Study,¹ which contains no less than seventy-six pages of the most complete bibliography of the works of Teilhard. It would be impossible to list all the articles and works discussing the evolutionary synthesis of this outstanding modern scientific mystic, for their number is prodigious. …
¹ Baltimore: Helicon Press, 1965.
Alfred P. Stiernotte is professor of philosophy at Quinnipiac College.
A Note on Evolution and Religion in the Light of Teilhards Divine Milieu by Francisco J. Ayala
Religion in the largest and most basic sense of the word is, according to Paul Tillich,¹ ultimate concern. Religion is not a special function of mans spirit, but rather the dimension of depth in all the creative functions of man. It cannot exist in separation from the secular realm because its function is to discover and to analyze the ultimate meaning of all human actions. Religion is, then, conditioned by the achievements and beliefs of man in his historical development. Religion must exist in intimate connection with culture.
Perhaps the greatest intellectual achievement of modern man is the discovery of time. The Copernican revolution started with the discovery that the earth is not the center of the universe, as man had naively believed. Another stage in the scientific revolution occurred in the nineteenth century. Darwin contributed more than anybody else to the new discovery—that we do not live in a finished universe where movement is cyclic and time is irrelevant, but rather that the inanimate as well as the animate worlds are involved in a continuous process of change that is essentially irreversible. The world was not created finished—and then functioned in a predetermined way like a clock mechanism. Creation is rather a continuing process in which man is not only a witness but a participant as well. The universe, and man within it, is continuously changing, becoming different from what it was before. …
¹ Paul Tillich, Theology of Culture (New York: Oxford University Press, 1959).
Francisco J. Ayala is assistant professor in population genetics and evolution at Rockefeller University.
The Scientific Basis of Some Concepts of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin by Donald R. Gentner
Intellectuals in classical Athens believed that knowledge was all of one piece. By the second century before Christ, however, science and philosophy had become divorced in Alexandria. The Middle Ages saw a reconciliation, with Theology reigning as Queen of the Sciences. But the Renaissance was a time of new frictions, and by the beginning of the eighteenth century, Science had clearly left the traditional intellectual fold to go on a new and divergent path. The sciences themselves soon splintered into separate disciplines which were remarkably isolated from each other even though they presumably were trying to understand the same universe. Recently, however, we have seen a reversal of this trend; the barriers between the various sciences are proving to be artificial. The various scientific disciplines, which at first had been unified primarily by a community of method, are now becoming unified in ideas as well. Physical theories such as quantum mechanics now completely dominate theoretical chemistry, and molecular biology is primarily applied organic chemistry. With psychology already yielding to biology, can sociology and anthropology be far behind?
The success of science is loudly proclaimed by the omnipresent technology to which it has given birth, and the government has decided that the welfare of the country is dependent upon a high level of support for scientific research and development. Meanwhile, progress in theology has been slow, and an increasing number of people feel that science might be able to infuse some life into the old Queen. There are two approaches: first, to apply the scientific method to theological questions, and second, to find, within the present science, doctrines which will illuminate problems of theological interest. …
Donald R. Gentner is a member of the Department of Chemistry at the University of Ghana. This article was prepared while he was a Fellow of the Center for Advanced Study in Theology and the Sciences in 1967-68.
Do Life Processes Transcend Physics and Chemistry? by Gerald Holton, Michael Polanyi, Ernest Nagel, John R. Platt, and Barry Commoner
Web Editors Note: This was a panel discussion at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science held on December 30, 1967, in the Caspary Auditorium of Rockefeller University, in New York City.