Customer Review

31 of 87 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Nonsense!, November 6, 2000
This review is from: The Phenomenon of Man (Paperback)
People, people! I feel honor-bound to interject a skeptical note into the midst of all the adulatory gushing. There is no doubt Teilhard de Chardin was a deeply religious man as well as a capable scientist. He strove mightily to reconcile these two aspects of his consciousness, and *Phenomenon of Man* is one of the most celebrated results of his efforts. The other reviews will tell you how splendid it is; it falls to me to tell you that it is nothing but incoherent mush and pseudo-scientific babbling.
Sir Peter Medawar, Nobel prizewinner in medicine, had this to say about the book:
"It is a book widely held to be of the utmost profundity and significance; it created something like a sensation upon its publication in France, and some reviewers hereabouts called it the Book of the Year --- one, the Book of the Century. Yet the greater part of it, I shall show, is nonsense, tricked out with a variety of metaphysical conceits, and its author can be excused of dishonesty only on the grounds that before deceiving others he has taken great pains to deceive himself."
Medawar's defends this opinion with copious quotes from de Chardin, the arguments of which he analyzes and refutes with withering contempt. Medawar's verdict seems conclusive to me; there may be a book somewhere that successfully unites the scientific and the mystical, but Teilhard's isn't it.
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Tracked by 2 customers

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Showing 1-8 of 8 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Feb 12, 2008 4:31:21 PM PST
How about telling us what YOU thought about the book. Yea I figured. Amazon reviews ought to be about stuff you actually read.

Posted on May 18, 2009 12:45:25 PM PDT
A customer says:
its nice that you can repeat what Sir Peter Medawar had to say about the work...but what do you actually have to say about it...its easy to jump on someone else's train, and just because the man is a nobel prizewinner doesnt mean a thing...

Posted on Dec 25, 2009 9:13:52 PM PST
Huuh? Barack Obama wone the Nobel Pece price and he hasn't done ANYTHING to deserve it. Many times, being a Nobel Laurette means nothing

Posted on Aug 11, 2012 8:56:13 AM PDT
I remember when I read Medawar's review and proceeded to write the book off without even reading it. I thought that if people whom I so respected like Medawar, and all the scientists I hold in esteem like Dawkins et al looked up to him, then the matter was settled. But, after much more investigation into complexity science, evolutionary theory, theoretical computer science, and philosophy, I started to form a picture that seemed to lead me back to Teilhard. I then did something quite remarkable, I actually read the book! Yes, the writing style is abstruse and the neologisms are frustrating, and his ideas are not as precise as one would wish if evaluating from a scientific perspective, but with those caveats taken into consideration I found myself utterly surprised when I was in agreement with most of his thinking. And I'm not alone, leading scientists like Caltech neuroscientist Christof Koch, and evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson, among others, have come out admitting to their own surprise how relevant Teilhard's thoughts are.

So, people, people! If you are interested in these ideas more than just a little, do yourself a favor and read the actual book before condemning it.

Posted on Dec 9, 2012 8:04:19 AM PST
When a man uses the word "mystical" to mean "religious" in general, it's a sure sign he's a Randroid.

Rev Mr C Jn Augustine

Posted on Jan 11, 2013 7:08:10 AM PST
J Doyle says:
These are a few remarks I made on another one star review, but I thought they might be worth posting on this one. I don't know what Sir Medawar had to say, but I'm guessing that my thoughts would answer at least some of his critique.

To say that something has to be testable to be valid is a common refrain in modern science- but can you test the existence of beauty? No. In the same spirit, mystics throughout history have agreed that there is some implicate order or meta-awareness in the Universe that is apparently untestable with the methods of modern science. This mystical insight agrees in general among disparate cultures and times. It is not religious belief, but hard won evidence, however subjective. So, like the reality of beauty, we have the choice to go with our experience, or deny it with arbitrary limits, i.e. what is currently 'provable' with modern science. The choice is ours- each one of us chooses what will inform our world view. In that sense, science is a metaphysics as is spirituality.

To whit: is it 'reasonable' to ignore our intuitive insights into reality when they are not 'provable'? I think not. When doing so, we shut down the new frontiers of human evolution and progress. Will mistakes be made? Yes- in either case, by including the intuition and by excluding it. I choose the mistakes of inclusion as being more open to real human progress- but I'm glad there are others who make the opposite mistakes! Viva la difference!

Posted on May 24, 2014 10:48:39 AM PDT
I first encountered the good Father in /Faith has Need of all the Truth/ by Charlie May Simon. He was a hero of World War I and later traveled widely on field investigations, contributing substantially to paleontology.

However, Teilhard's attempt to reconcile faith with science by turning the tools of science on "life, the universe, and everything" must be judged a failure. (And, yes, I have read /The Phenomenon of Man/.) His use of accepted words like "atom" and "electron" to mean essentially the same thing is not scientific, and as others have stated here the vagueness of his language renders his message largely incomprehensible.

This is not to denigrate faith. Everyone is entitled to believe in whatever god they choose (or in no god.) But faith remains outside the domain of science, which must consider only repeatable, testable results.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 5, 2014 11:52:13 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 5, 2014 11:56:57 AM PST
Gene34 says:
Add the late Great Books promoter and philosopher Mortimer Adler to the enthusiastic admirers of Chardin's thoughts and ideas. He once proclaimed "The Phenomenon of Man" as one of the "Great Books of the Twentieth Century" on a Chicago late night panel TV show.
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