March 1997

Root Page of Article: Teilhard de Chardin and the Noosphere, by Rev. Phillip J. Cunningham, C.S.P.

The Sphere

The vision of the "sphere" with its circumscribed surface is crucial to the Teilhardian perspective. It provided the closed and limited volume in which the earliest stage of evolution took place. "And let me also repeat that this [molecular] synthesis itself would never take place if the globe itself as a whole did not enfold within an enclosed surface the layers of its substance." (1961, p. 73)

Similarly, it is on the watery surface of the geosphere, bombarded by solar radiation and cosmic debris that "the amazing profusion of organic matter whose matted complexity came to form the last (or rather the last but one) of the envelopes or our planet: the biosphere." (p. 79) The initial granule of life was the cell. In the intervening millions of years, the evolutionary process has populated the biosphere with incredible myriad of life forms, many extinct, some extant and some perhaps still evolving.

Teilhard then asks the crucial question: "But, taken as a whole what is the meaning of this movement of expansion?" (p. 141) Going on, he observes: "Asked whether life is going anywhere at the end of its transformation, nine biologists out of ten will say no, even passionately." The percentages today may have shifted a bit but the passion is still there, witness Daniel C. Dennett's "Darwin's Dangerous Idea" (New York: Touchstone, 1995). He denies that evolution has any direction or, for that matter, meaning.

Obviously, Teilhard disagrees, maintaining that evolution has a direction. ^

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