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Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre: (1881-1955) French philosopher and Jesuit priest who trained as a paleontologist and geologist and took part in the discovery of both Piltdown Man and Peking Man. Teilhard conceived the idea of the Omega Point and developed the concept of Noosphere. He came into conflict with the Catholic Church, and several of his books were censured. His primary work The Phenomenon of Man, set forth a sweeping account of the unfolding of the cosmos. He saw no contradiction between Darwinism and Theism, rejected traditional interpretations of a supernatural creator and creation in the Book of Genesis in favor of a panentheistic teleology. Teilhard envisaged the "within" (consciousness) and the "without" (matter) as complementary, each subject to its own evolutionary principle, which he called radial and tangential energy respectively. The former corresponds to the ascent of consciousness and evolution to divinity, the latter to evolution as described by Darwinian science. To this day, Teilhard remains one of the very few individuals whose work seamlessly integrates both evolutionary science and theistic religion, not in a dualistic supernatural context of theistic evolution, but in a holistic and pantheistic manner.
Although the two never met, and neither knew of the other's work, Teilhard's ideas have some intriguing parallels with those of Sri Aurobindo (although in terms of W.C. Snow's "Two Cultures", Teilhard arrives at spirituality from the perspective of the sciences, Aurobindo from the humanities). His ideas are also very similar to those of A. N. Whitehead, both beings trongly influenced by Henri Bergson. Seems to have been one of the very few who integrated the "Two Cultures". Teilhard's cosmology, but not his strict anthropocentrism, have been strongly influential in the New Age movement, Transhumanism, the Universe Story, Integral Theory, and other contemporary advocates of evolution of consciousness, while his term complexification has been adopted by contemporary systems science.
Teilhard's work has been strongly criticised by Stephen Jay Gould. For Teilhard, evolution tends to greater complexity and consciousness; for Gould, there is no such thing as ascent or progress, only random natural selection. While Teilhard's strong teleological approach is anathema to mainstream naturalist science (with a few exceptions such as Conway Morris) Gould's equally extreme but diametrically opposite blanket denial that evolution results in the emergence of greater complexity hasn't fared much better; it is mostly also rejected even by other evolutionists. (MAK)
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