Re: [asa] Cosmological Evolution?

From: Janice Matchett <>
Date: Wed Dec 27 2006 - 18:34:21 EST

At 04:26 PM 12/27/2006, George L. wrote:

>Of course it's impossible to know the thinking of everyone who buys
>into Teilhard's ideas - including many who haven't read him 1st
>hand! But Teilhard himself can't be characterized as a
>"biocentrist" in the sense in which you're using the
>term. ~ George L. Murphy

@ I've copied and pasted the comments of two book reviewers who read
him first hand. One buys into his ideas and one doesn't - giving reasons why.

Since Teilhard thought of himself in pantheistic terms that would be
the sense in which he would fit the characterization as a
biocentrist. He thought even rocks had a certain consciousness, and
that everything had a sacred quality. I'll let the reader decide how
closely that fits this definition:

Biocentrism is the belief that all life, or even the whole universe
living or otherwise taken as a whole, is equally valuable and
humanity is not the center of existence. Hence, humanity is no more
valuable than say, mice.

Two book reviewers'

[1] Are Science and Religion Inimical Opposites?, October 24, 2005
(From the American Heartland.)

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) was a Jesuit priest and a
paleontologist ...[and] had several mystical experiences during his
lifetime. ...Though Teilhard thought of himself in pantheistic terms,
I believe he would be better described as a
"Pan'en'theist". Panentheism according to Charles Hartshorne is the
belief that God is greater than the sum of God's parts. For the
Pantheist Nature is God. For the Panentheist Nature is a part of God.
The former is a monotheistic thus solipsistic view, the latter a
manifold thus synergetic opinion. In the former God is playing
Solitaire, hence the existential dread and nihilistic moroseness of
Continental Philosophy. Rationality is a tool of awareness, not the
be all to end all of understanding. In the latter God is playing a
game of Hearts we all can play. God is more than one but less than
two, a transrational whole number. With God all things are possible.
Henri Bergson with his book "Creative Evolution" also had a profound
impact on Teilhard. Bergson provided Teilhard a theoretical basis for
his feeling of intimacy with nature. ...Teilhard was rewarded for his
synthesis of Materialistic Science with his Faith with accusations of
being a psuedo-scientist and a heretic.

Today Teilhard is seen by many as a nature mystic, an ecological and
evolutionary visionary, and even as a prophet. There is no doubt that
Teilhard's holistic thinking inspired James Lovelock to come up with
his "Gaia Hypothesis", that the Earth is a "Super" organism. An
organic whole greater than the sum of its parts. For Teilhard even
rocks had a certain but limited consciousness. Everything had a
sacred quality. ...From the "Biosphere" comes the "Noosphere" [the
"thinking layer"], and finally we arrive at the "Omega Point". The
Noosphere is composed of all the interacting minds on Earth [global
consciousness]. The Omega Point is the culmination of this process of
evolutionary integration. "The Phenomenon of Man", more correctly
translated "The Human Phenomenon", is Teilhard's magnum opus. .."

[2] Deeply Influential, Deeply Flawed, May 14, 2006
Thomas Scarborough (Cape Town, South Africa)

Teilhard de Chardin was a Jesuit Father, and a highly regarded
palaeontologist. This was an enormously influential book, which is
still very much alive in theological circles today. .... he proposes
a purposive process of evolution, which he refers to as
"cosmogenesis". ...There is a twist in the tale, however. Teilhard de
Chardin then defines "the conditions for advance". Cosmogenesis
proceeds only "on condition that we increase our knowledge and our love".

Let us apply this briefly to contemporary theology. In keeping with
his ideas, one may posit a kingdom of God -- rather, a reign of
God,...which marches forward with "impelling force" towards shalom
(Van Engen 1991:26). As might be anticipated, this would entail the
notion of "no privatized eschatology" (Newbigin 1989:113), and the
need for our own participation towards the "final outcome" (Watson
2001:39). I offer these parallels merely as fleeting suggestions for
further study.

Teilhard de Chardin has great breadth of thought, and an
extraordinary talent for expressing his ideas clearly. However, I
found that I ran into a great many obstacles of thought, among them
the following:

1. He points out that science, by and large, would oppose his views:
"The majority of `scientists' would tend to contest the validity of
[my views]". Yet the book is intended to "reconcile Christian
theology with this evolutionary philosophy". What would be the
purpose of such reconciliation, if his views are largely denied by science?

2. He continually expresses fundamental doubt or reserve about his
own ideas. He states: "The views I am attempting to put forward are .
. . largely tentative". In fact, he posits them "in spite of all
evidence to the contrary". Surely one would desire more of a
"science" one is to stake one's life upon.

3. On the one hand, he writes about "mankind in its march" of
emergent evolution. On the other, this evolution "can give itself or
refuse itself". In fact, if our own attitude is wanting, "the whole
of evolution will come to a halt". On what basis, then, should we
assume that such evolution is anything more than a contingent or
surface phenomenon?

4. He clearly does not know what to do with suffering. As though as
an afterthought, he relegates this to an Appendix. He writes:
"Necessarium est ut scandala eveniant. . . . Suffering and failure,
tears and blood: so many by-products . . . begotten by the noosphere
on its way." At best, he states cryptically that suffering may "add
precision and depth" to theology.

*<>* More *<>*

"...The most extreme form of Gaia hypothesis is that the entire Earth
is a single unified organism....

...Another strong hypothesis is the one called "Omega Gaia". Teilhard
de Chardin claimed that the Earth is evolving through stages of
cosmogenesis, affecting the geosphere, biogenesis of the biosphere,
and noogenesis of the noosphere, culminating in the Omega Point. ...

In Lovelock's latest book,
<>The Revenge
of Gaia, he argues that because of global warming the world
population should brace itself for the inevitable: most of the planet
will become ___uninhabitable___ by the end of this century (Anon.,
2006). ... [cough, cough, cough]

~ Janice

At 03:02 PM 12/27/2006, Janice Matchett wrote:
>At 08:24 AM 12/27/2006, Gregory Arago wrote:
>>Could someone at this ASA list please provide a definition or link
>>to a definition of 'cosmological evolution'? My curiosity connects
>>with a comment I made earlier this year: "Frivolously applying
>>'evolution,' for example, to societies, runs the danger of
>>reductionism, just as raising biological ideas to cosmological
>>explanations suffers from idealistically inappropriate
>>transferability." It would seem that the way a theist speaks about
>>'cosmological evolution' would be dramatically different from the
>>way a non-theist speaks about it. Or is this not so? Would it be
>>inaccurate to say that theistic theories of cosmological evolution
>>are likewise "shrouding in scientific words" their own particular
>>interpretations of God's creation? ~ Arago
>@ It wouldn't be inaccurate to say that in many cases, I'm
>sure. You may have had more luck if you had used search words like
>Cosmogenesis or Gaia philosophy or Gaia "science" :)
>For instance:
>Cosmogenesis - Pierre Teilhard de Chardin a Jesuit
>priest-theologian and a distinguished geologist-paleontologist
>"..The main thrust of Teilhard's gnosis was a foundational
>understanding of the Universe, which was expressed in his theory of
>Cosmogenesis. According to Teilhard, the universe is no longer to be
>considered a static order, but rather a universe __in process__. And
>it is a continuing, upslope trajectory of evolution that Teilhard
>declares a cosmogenesis. The process of Teilhard's holistic cosmos
>is broken into the following categories: the Without and Within of
>things; the evolution of matter, life, consciousness; and the Omega Point. ..
>"..As Teilhard said, "the universe is no longer an Order but a
>Process. The Cosmos has become a Cosmogenesis." For Teilhard the
>long dreamed-of-higher life, that which has been considered as holy,
>had hitherto been sought Above now directs itself toward the
>Ahead. ... The Ahead is present in the cyclical process of the universe. ...
>Teilhard especially considers that the deeply engrained notion of
>*original sin* "translates, personifies...the perennial and
>universal law of imperfection which operates in mankind in virtue of
>its being in the process of becoming." ...the creature... along
>with the in process. ...Teilhard notes that "Evil, in
>all its forms...injustice, inequality, suffering, death...ceases
>theoretically to be outrageous from the moment when *Evolution
>becoming a Genesis*... displays itself as the...price of an *immense
>triumph.*" ...For Teilhard, the tragic, real evil in this life
>occurs when humanity fails to acquire a sense of the true value of
>the universe. ...
>..Using Teilhardian language: the "process cannot achieve stability
>until, over the entire globe, the human quantum has not merely
>closed the circle upon itself... but has become organically
>totalized." Only through collectivization (collective cooperation)
>can humanity achieve this total, planetary development of the
>noosphere. It cannot be built by people who think only of
>themselves; yet every person "on earth shares, in (*hirself*), in
>the universal heightening of consciousness." And finally, using
>anthropomorphic terms, Teilhard believes that the noosphere is not
>only the "stuff of the Universe...not only of *men,* but of the
>*Man* who is to be born tomorrow." And through the efforts of
>humanity building the noosphere, the earth "finds its soul." .."
>~ Janice ... who would bet the farm that those who buy into this
>Cosmogenesis theory are the same sorts of "Greenie" mentalities who
>embrace Biocentrism (the belief that all life, or even the whole
>universe living or otherwise taken as a whole, is equally valuable
>and humanity is not the center of existence. Hence, humanity is no
>more valuable than say, mice. )

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Received on Wed Dec 27 18:35:36 2006

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