An Adventure In Speculative Biology

The Phenomenon of Man, by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (Harper, 1959, 311 pp., $5), is reviewed by Bernard Ramm, Professor of Systematic Theology, California Theological Seminary.

Père Teilhard was a Jesuit priest who gave his entire life to the study of human evolution and was an internationally recognized expert on the subject. The Roman Catholic church considered some of his views extreme and did not permit him to publish his works while alive. His friends, therefore, undertook the publishing of his major writings after his death.

According to Teilhard the picture painted by modern scientists of the total universe is just a hodgepodge. It has no pattern, scheme, or reason but is a sort of Fibber McGee’s closet. Teilhard attempts to bring pattern, meaning, and sense into modern science by showing that the entire universe had one grand purpose, namely, to produce man. Therefore, this purpose can be used to harmonize the sciences. In a brief review, I cannot do justice to the elaborate schemes which Teilhard employs, nor can I discuss his invention of unique terms to suit his synthesis.

I think it was the Cambridge philosopher of religion and science, F. R. Tennant, who said that the universe was pregnant with man. Teilhard is the cosmic embryologist who attempts to trace the developmental growth from the original “cosmic atom” to the birth of man. In so doing he gives us an intriguing, brilliant, and novel interpretation of the sciences in general, and man in particular.

Of course, the interpretation is not entirely new. There is a trace of Leibniz here, for Leibniz like Teilhard finds the psychic deep down in the so-called unconscious layers of the universe. The notion of evolution being likened ...

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