Monday, February 25, 2008

Hmm ...

... No, the Pope is not a Darwinist, but what sort of evolution does he support?

I'll have more to say about this later, but cursory look makes me wonder how familiar O'Leary is with Teilhard. Schönborn's point about Teilhard is that the Jesuit paleontologist clearly believed that evolution was purposeful. He was also something of a neo-Lamarckian.


  1. Frank, I have not read Christoph Schönborn's "Chance or Purpose?" ..... but I am taken by your quote (also cited by O'Leary) that it, " gave a Christological spin to evolutionary theory (Christ 'becomes the visible center of evolution as well as its goal, the "omega-point"). "

    Doesn't this harken back to the earliest days of Darwinism when the Victorian - particularly, the Victorian gentleman - was offed as the goal of evolution, the 'top rung of the ladder?'

    And - going off topic, just a little - where in all this does Gregor Medel fit? His work was not well accepted in his day, by Lamarckians or Darwinians.

  2. I would say O'Leary is not at all familiar with Teilhard in any but a superficial way. I doubt she's read them at all except through the lens of Schönborn's book. For that matter, I'm not so sure Schönborn's own reading is that solid; but I'd need to read his book before really saying. Is not O'Leary a proponent of intelligent design, or did I miss something? in which case, a scathing dismissal of Teilhard seems odd.

    It strikes me that Teilhard, whose writings remain condemned but who nonetheless has a huge following, continues to be not only misunderstood but might also be in the enviable position of several past Fathers of the Church, almost all of whom were condemned several times before being canonized and their ideas adopted. The parallels are interesting.

    But as always, CTS: Consider The Source.

  3. Teilhard wasn't exactly condemned. The Church issued a monitum, or warning, in regard to his writings, which could easily be misunderstood or misinterpreted. I studied him at a Jesuit college in the early '60s, so there was no ban on teaching his ideas. I believe O'Leary is an advocate of ID, which, as you say, Art, does make her dismissal of Teilhard seem odd. In calling him, Jeff, a kind of neo-Lamarckian, I was extrapolating from his notion of "the within of things." If Brainerd Cheney, who wrote a fascinating piece about Teilhard in the Sewannee Review back in 1964, is right, Teilhard thought the tiger did not become a predator because he grew claws, but rather grew claws because he had evolved into a predator. Where this fits in with Mendel I have no idea.

  4. Thanks, Frank, I leapt to "condemned" with regard to Teilhard when I probably should have looked more carefully first. I appreciate the correction.

    My understanding of Mendel, and his contribution to genetics, was that he did the original research on inherited traits, showing the mechanics of genetic transmission in his pea plants. He also contributed some research to mutation genetics, in that he discovered both recessive traits and apparent mutations among his carefully studied plants.

    Mendel's work was not appreciated at all in his lifetime, but was "rediscovered" in the early 20th C., at which point it became one of the key foundations of modern genetic research.

    if you combine Mendel's genetic rules of inherited traits, mutation, recessive genes, and the ways they express as variation—if you combine all that with Darwin's theory of natural selection, you find that Mendel's work on inherited traits provided the basis of how the mechanics of evolutionary biology work.