Pierre Teilhard De Chardin
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Jesuit paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was refused permission by the Roman Catholic Church to publish his scientific and theological work throughout his lifetime. After his death in 1955, his book, Phenomenon of Man, was published anyway, and later releases of his books, essays and scientific papers have drawn interest from people concerned with theology, evolution, the human relationship with God, globalization, and the Internet. Teilhard’s background and a few of his many ideas are presented here.
Teilhard was born May 1, 1881, in a country manor house near Puy-de-Dôme, Auvergne, France. He and his ten siblings had active outdoor childhoods and his early interest in the natural sciences and spiritual aspects of Nature persisted throughout his life. He moved into a Jesuit boarding school in Villefranshe, France at 12, and at 18 entered the Jesuit order. France expelled the Jesuits in 1902 so Teilhard moved with them to the Channel Isle of Jersey and continued studying natural science, geology and physics. He went to Egypt to intern teach in 1905, and explored ancient Egyptian sites. To complete his theological training, he moved to Hastings, U.K., where he was deeply influenced by reading Henri Bergson’s Creative Evolution, in which the author suggested that a unifying force directed evolution, an idea which Teilhard later developed in depth. In 1909 he became friends with Charles Dawson, an archeologist, and Arthur Smith Woodward, the British Museum paleontology curator. Dawson was condemned in 1953 as the perpetrator of archeology‘s greatest fraud – the faked “discovery” of a “missing link” between apes and humans, the “Piltdown Man,” that Dawson had secretly constructed from human and primate bones and hidden in a dig for “discovery.” Anthropologist Stephen Jay Gould accused Teilhard of being in on the Piltdown hoax in a 1980 Natural History article, which could not be proven or disproved. What is known is that digs with Woodward and Dawson helped further Teilhard’s paleontology career, and after his ordination in 1911 he began doctoral studies with the famous physical anthropologist Marcellin Boule in Paris. He gained a reputation in paleontology that he kept, in spite of church suppression of his work and some scientists’ ridicule of his view that rocks contain Divinity.
After receiving his Sorbonne doctorate in 1922, Teilhard began to teach his own ideas on original sin and evolution to his Catholic Institute classes. His interpretive theology was so controversial that the French Holy Office made him stop teaching and forbade him to publish his ideas.