Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Jesuit and the Skull

I have always been fascinated by Teihard de Chardin. Pere Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was a Jesuit priest, geologist, palaeontologist, theologian, scholar and Christian mystic. This book is about him and the circumstances surrounding his discovery of the Peking man.

Teihard de Chardin fascinates me because he tried very hard to reconcile science and religion. He felt a calling to the Church and joined the Jesuits or Society of Jesus at a very young age. In spite of his all conflicts and heartache with the Jesuits, he never did consider leaving the order. During his training as a priest, he spent 4 years as a stretcher bearer during the First World War. The horrors and inhumanity of war had a profound effect on him. He was ordained a Jesuit. Aside from a theological education, he also studied the science of geology and palaeontology. He received his PhD when he was 45 years old.

Unlike many Christians, Teihard de Chardin did not find any conflicts between his belief in his Christian faith and science. He sees a convergence of both. His main thesis is that God is a God of change and all creation is in a constant flux of change until it all reaches a point of union with the One which he called the Omega Point. This means that human beings are also changing as we evolve to a higher level of consciousness. What this also means is that he embrace the theory of evolution as a theory of change. Not only do animals change or evolve but the earth itself evolves. This brings him to consider these changes as the evolution of the Noosphere. More on his theories here and here.

His acceptance and teaching of the theory of evolution came to the attention of the Jesuits and the Vatican. Teihard de Chardin was commanded to stop his teaching. However he was such an established scientist that the Church decided to send him as far away from civilisation as possible. They decided to send him to China! It is the greatest of irony that in China, Teihard de Chardin discovered the remains of the Peking man. The Peking man is considered scientific proof that human beings have evolved from earlier hominids. All these support evolution and are against creationism. Thus in sending him away to China, Teihard de Chardin was sent to a place to discover something the Church has wanted to avoid.

Teihard de Chardin was censored by his order and not allowed to lecture and publish. Most of his books and writings are published after his death. Timeline for Teihard de Chardin here.


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Blogger Madam Miaow said...

Hi Alex,

I found your post by accident on Blog Friends at Facebook.

De Chardin sounds like a fascinating character and I look forward to reading more about him via yoour links.

Many thanks for this introduction.

6:46 AM  
Blogger Alex Tang said...

hi madam miaow,

welcome. Yes, Teihard de Chardin is a fascinating character. I am sure you will discover him to be even more fascinating as you learn more about him.

Blessed Christmas

9:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I came across your blog by accident while surfing the net. I must say that I am MOST disappointed by your inference that the Vatican by its treatment of this Jesuit that it is against science and the convergence of science and faith as implied by your writing eg that he was sent to a far away place because of his beliefs and scientific work.

By such implication by your writing, you are also implying that Catholicism has such a stance towards science and faith, and in particular, Darwinism/evolution.

Why are you so anti-Catholic?

If you are not, you would not have jumped to such a conclusion about the actions of the Vatican, and by extension, the beliefs and stance of the Catholic Church towards science and faith, and in particular, evolution.

If you are not anti-Catholic, you would have RESEARCHED the position of the Catholic Church towards science and the Christian faith, and in particular its position on evolution.

Have you?

Do you know what is the Church's position on this?

I challenge you to do some WORTHWHILE research on Catholicism on these areas, and come back and apologize for implying that the Vatican and by extension, Catholicism is intolerant of and anti-science and evolution.

Looking through your website, I see that you like reading up on many things - please do the same on Catholicism - and do not MISLEAD your readers any more.

I may sound offensive, but you must understand how offensive your posting is to me and all Catholics.
Thank you.

9:00 PM  
Blogger Alex Tang said...

Hi anon,

Thank you for your comments. I apologise if I appear to be 'anti-Catholic' but if you have read all my postings you will realise that I am not anti-Catholic and that I have the utmost respective for Catholicism especially for post Vatican II reforms.

That Teihard de Chaidin SJ was censured for his writings, was investigated by the Vatican and was sent to China are facts which can be verified.

implying that the Vatican and by extension, Catholicism is intolerant of and anti-science and evolution I shall look into your comments in more detail. However I will like to point out that you may have read too much into one posting. And also that there is a difference in the Vatican's attitude towards science and faith, evolution and church discipline. These are three separate issues and should not be confused as one.

Thank you again for your comments.

12:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for your response. I respect you for agreeing to look into the Church's position on science and faith, and in particular, on evolution.

Well, I have to disagree that I am reading too much into your one posting - yes, in saying you are anti-Catholic, perhaps I have fallen into the same mistake you made in making a sweeping statement in the other posting I commented on -now, that is too sweeping of me too.

"And also that there is a difference in the Vatican's attitude towards science and faith, evolution and church discipline. These are three separate issues and should not be confused as one."

I am afraid I have to disagree with you here.

In your posting, the implication is all these are all tied up in one - De Chardin, his work, the Vatican's attitude towards science and faith - and its discipline - isn't it?

As a direct result of the Vatican's attitude towards science, and the work of De Chardin, he was disciplined by being sent to a faraway place - that was what your posting said.

It's okay if you disagree with me on that - otherwise we will just be bickering and getting nowhere.

On your reading up on the Vatican's position on science and faith and evolution - that's precisely my beef with you, my dear Dr Alex.

Perhaps you should have done all that before doing your posting.

Then, readers would not have inferred that the Vatican and Catholicism is - still - intolerant of science and evolution.

However, you are not alone. Many non Catholics make the same mistake -they are inundated with false statements/beliefs about what Catholicism actually believes in, and from repetitions, they get to know and repeat wrong beliefs about the Catholic position and faith on many matters of current interest.

I assure you, if any one will take the time to research such topics, they will verily come to the conclusion that Catholicism is a very reasonable faith and though they may not actually convert to Catholicism, they will be Catholic in their outlook. I say this not with relish nor false pride, but to emphasize how false and unfairly Catholicism has been portrayed in general.

I can write on and on, but we shall be bickering - so, I shall stop here, and please understand that all I am doing is to ask you for a fair go at Catholicism and be very careful when you write not just about Catholicism, but wherever such topics are concerned. (One effect of this is - when you say it is a 'fact' that he was sent to China as a 'punishment' - that may indeed be so, but a reader like me is not going to accept that at face value now because you have not researched the other areas first; you lose credibility when you write as you do, and I believe I am being constructive and helpful to you when I write all this - sincerely, I do not wish you unwell, but just to tell you this is the effect of your writing and how you can correct it.

Thank you.

2:51 PM  
Blogger Alex Tang said...

Again, John, thank you for your gracious and generous comment.

You are right, of course, that there are many misconceptions about Catholicism, especially in the area of the Vatican's stand on science and faith, including evolution.

I shall be looking deeper into that area. Perhaps you have some books or Internet resources that you can recommend.

If I may, I will like to make one last point about my posting on Teilhard de Chardin before we lay it to rest. I am writing about the Roman Catholic church in the 1920s,not the present. I hope this will help.


9:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, Dr Alex, my sincere suggestion to you is not to write about anything regarding Catholicism until you have researched that particular area, so that there will be no misunderstanding.

I will also sincerely suggest to you, if you have the interest, to look at Catholicism with an open mind, and to that end, perhaps you may want to consider doing the following:

- get hold of a Catholic bible
- get hold of the Catholic Cathecism
- get hold of the Compedium to the Catholic Cathecism
- attend the mass of a nearby Catholic Church for a year
- attend their RCIA classes which last weekly for about a year
- speak with Catholics who are well versed with their faith
- on the net, you can always find sites of Catholic apologists who explain the faith in a polite manner and are almost never offended, unless one is offensive

The reason I suggest you, or anyone else with an interest in Catholicism, to do the above is that about the only way to really learn about Catholicism is to do the above, and not in a theoretical manner. I am not trying to convert anyone. I would do the same ie read the materials, attend a Protestant church, etc if I want to find out about Protestant beliefs and practices - it just cannot be done theoretically.

I am sure there are 'riches' to be found when there are sincere exchanges.

Btw, try not to be discouraged with the people you meet who are of a particular faith eg Catholics - lay people, priests, etc who may put you off by their behaviour - we cannot be put off the faith by the people who may put us off...but I am sure you know that already. :O)

Good luck.

Happy Easter.

Thank you.

12:25 AM  
Blogger Alex Tang said...

hello John,

Thank you for your suggestions. I will take note of them and try out as many as possible.

Happy Easter to you too.

2:05 AM  

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