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The Jesuit and the Skull: Teilhard de Chardin, Evolution, and the Search for Peking Man MP3 CD – Bargain Price, October 15, 2007

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Product Details

  • MP3 CD
  • Publisher: Tantor Media; Unabridged,MP3 - Unabridged CD edition (October 15, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 140015491X
  • ASIN: B007MXW8EE
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 7.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,132,501 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Science popularizer Aczel (Fermat's Last Theorem) offers an uninspired and all-too-brief look at a remarkable subject. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881–1956) succeeded in melding his life as a Jesuit priest and as a scientist at a time when the Catholic Church denied that such a thing was either possible or desirable. Teilhard's superiors prohibited him from publishing almost everything he wrote during his lifetime and forced him into exile from his native France. Published after his death, his works became classic examples of integrating religion and science. But Aczel discusses precious little of Teilhard's philosophy and dismisses controversies with nary a thought. Stephen Jay Gould's accusation that Teilhard was involved in the infamous Piltdown Man hoax is limited to eight words: Teilhard was without doubt innocent in this matter. Aczel is equally brief when addressing the skull of Peking Man, a crucial 1929 discovery by an archeological team that loosely included Teilhard. The Peking Man fossils disappeared in 1941, during the Japanese occupation of China, and Aczel provides no new thoughts on what might have become of the remains. Despite their evident relevance to current debates, Teilhard, Peking Man, human evolution and the relationship between religion and science remain shadows without any substance. Illus. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Earlier research into mathematical mysticism (The Mystery of the Aleph, 2000; Descartes's Secret Notebook, 2005) well qualifies Aczel for interpreting the life of Teilhard de Chardin, a cleric-scientist who defied the boundaries of both rational science and scriptural orthodoxy. Readers will marvel at how loyal Teilhard remained to a church that repeatedly disciplined him for heresy in his evolutionary explanation of human origins. It was, ironically, by exiling Teilhard from his beloved France that church authorities put him in China, where in 1929 he shared in the discovery of the famous Peking Man fossils. Aczel details Teilhard's role in that discovery, highlighting his involvement with Lucile Swan, an American artist commissioned to sculpt the ancient hominid. That relationship finally foundered when Teilhard refused to break vows of celibacy sanctified by a church that repaid his fidelity with continued hostility. Nonetheless, Aczel discerns an abiding legacy in the words and writings of a thinker who suffered much for his synthesis of pioneering science and iconoclastic faith. Christensen, Bryce --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Amir D. Aczel, Ph.D., is the author of 17 books on mathematics and science, some of which have been international bestsellers. Aczel has taught mathematics, statistics, and history of science at various universities, and was a visiting scholar at Harvard in 2005-2007. In 2004, Aczel was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. He is also the recipient of several teaching awards, and a grant from the American Institute of Physics to support the writing of two of his books. Aczel is currently a research fellow in the history of science at Boston University. The photo shows Amir D. Aczel inside the CMS detector of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, the international laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland, while there to research his new book, "Present at the Creation: The Story of CERN and the Large Hadron Collider"--which is about the search for the mysterious Higgs boson, the so-called "God particle," dark matter, dark energy, the mystery of antimatter, Supersymmetry, and hidden dimensions of spacetime.
See Amir D. Aczel's webpage:
Video on CERN and the Large Hadron Collider:

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

52 of 55 people found the following review helpful By Observer on November 8, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Smoothly and informatively written, Amir Aczel traces the career of Teilhard de Chardin both as an academic and as a Jesuit priest. His difficulties with the Church are described but primarily at a superficial level. It is a major puzzle as to why Teilhard remained a Jesuit priest given his philosophy, the way the Church mistreated him and his complex relationships with Lucile Swan. Nor do we really get an insight into how Teilhard could reconcile his philosophy with the basic tenets of the Catholic Church, his practices as a priest and his vows of celibacy. Aczel recognizes these conundrums but he and we do not get close to any answers. Aczel spends a lot of time laying out Teilhard's friendship with Lucile, but little time detailing either Teilhard's specific scientific contributions or his actual philosophy beyond the omega point.
The book revived my interest in Teilhard but without providing much by way of an explanation of this complex and talented scientist, priest and man.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Alex Tang on December 22, 2007
Format: Hardcover
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.

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.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Kerry Walters VINE VOICE on August 11, 2008
Format: Hardcover
In his very readable The Jesuit and the Skull, Amir Aczel offers a rather sweeping account of the early and mid-twentieth century search for the "missing link," focusing in particular on the contributions of the French cleric and scientist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. In the process he discusses the history of paleoanthropology, the Scopes trial, disagreements in the scientific community over the significance of the Java Man and Peking Man fossils, and the Galileo-like struggle between de Chardin and Church authorities.

The two undisputed stars of Aczel's account are de Chardin and Peking Man. In a curious manner, both suffered similar fates and similar resurrections. Both were "silenced," buried under layers of nearly impenetrable sediment, literally in Peking Man's case and metaphorically in de Chardin's when he was silenced and exiled by the Church. But both also came to light: Peking Man in 1929 when he was discovered in a cave near Beijing, and de Chardin posthumously with the publication of the thousands of pages he wrote but couldn't publish during his lifetime.

Aczel's account of this chapter in the tussle between religion and science is certainly timely, and it provides a good overview of the topic. I wish, though, that he'd taken more care to explain de Chardin's unique understanding of the convergence of Christian faith and evolutionary theory. This would've made the Church's opposition more clear. Aczel focuses especially on an early essay of de Chardin's that calls the original sin doctrine into question. But this is only the tip of the iceberg of what ecclesial authorities saw as problematic in his position. Much of the book's details about the relationship between Lucile Swan and de Chardin could've been omitted to make room for this kind of discussion.

Still, well worth reading. Three and a half stars.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By EJ on January 15, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
From its description, this book appeared to have a lot of elements in which I am interested, and the beginning of the book was absolutely riveting. Unfortunately, as I continued reading, the message and story got a bit repetitive and dull.

Set in the early- to mid- 1900's, the book follows the life of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a Jesuit priest and paleontologist who was part of the research team that discovered the famous "Peking Man". While the mechanics of the story regarding the search for fossils was of some interest, the inner struggle of Teilhard to reconcile evolution with the teachings of the Catholic Church at the time was riveting, at least in the beginning portion of the book.

Unfortunately, at about 50% of the way through the book, the drama just got repetitive. And I can't help but wonder how much of the trouble he had with the Church was related to his concept of the `noosphere' and how much was actually due to his stance on evolution. All in all, it's worth a read if you are interested in the material, but the book loses steam about half way through.
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