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The Jesuit and the Skull: Teilhard de Chardin, Evolution, and the Search for Peking Man
     

The Jesuit and the Skull: Teilhard de Chardin, Evolution, and the Search for Peking Man

3.9 9
by Amir D. Aczel
 

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From the New York Times bestselling author of Fermat's Last Theorem, ?an extraordinary story?( Philadelphia Inquirer) of discovery, evolution, science, and faith.

In 1929, French Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was a part of a group of scientists that uncovered a skull that became known as Peking Man, a key evolutionary link

Overview

From the New York Times bestselling author of Fermat's Last Theorem, ?an extraordinary story?( Philadelphia Inquirer) of discovery, evolution, science, and faith.

In 1929, French Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was a part of a group of scientists that uncovered a skull that became known as Peking Man, a key evolutionary link that left Teilhard torn between science and his ancient faith, and would leave him ostracized by his beloved Catholic Church. His struggle is at the heart of The Jesuit and the Skull, which takes readers across continents and cultures in a fascinating exploration of one of the twentieth century's most important discoveries, and one of the world's most provocative pieces of evidence in the roiling debate between creationism and evolution.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

Best-selling science author Aczel (Fermat's Last Theorem) returns with the story of a modern-day Galileo. Paleontologist and Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin spent his life searching for fossils of early man and developing a theology that attempted to resolve any conflict with evolution. Aczel's story focuses on the role Teilhard played in the 1929 discovery of Peking Man, an early ancestor of modern man. Aczel interweaves this remarkable find with Teilhard's close and difficult relationship with sculptor Lucille Swan, the Catholic church's censorship of his writings, and his exile to China. Aczel provides insights into Teilhard's personality by evoking questions about his tireless loyalty: he often sacrificed his career, his personal fulfillment, and work for vows to a church that continually disowned him. Additionally, Aczel supplies a helpful introduction to paleoanthropology and a recent update about the search for the lost Peking Man fossils, which disappeared in China during World War II. Unfortunately, Aczel only hints at Teilhard's unique theology, never providing a full explanation of how he might have resolved the conflict between his science and his faith. Still, recommended for academic and public libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ6/1/07.]
—Scott Vieira

Kirkus Reviews
A priest/paleontologist's fraught efforts to reconcile the theory of evolution with his faith. Aczel (The Artist and the Mathematician: The Story of Nicolas Bourbaki, the Genius Mathematician Who Never Existed, 2006, etc.) doesn't bother much with biographical detail in this proficient account of Teilhard de Chardin's role in the international quest for a "missing link" that would demonstrate the evolutionary ties between apes and humans. Ordained in 1911, Chardin did not believe that his devout Catholicism required him to ignore the period's rapid advances in science. He had experienced those advances firsthand as a participant in exciting fossil discoveries in Egypt, in French caves and on digs in China with Rockefeller-funded fossil-hunter Davidson Black. The new field of paleoanthropology was emerging, Aczel shows, driven by discoveries of the fossils of three hominids inhabiting the world at overlapping periods: Homo sapiens (Cro-Magnon Man), Homo neanderthalensis (Neanderthal) and Homo erectus (Java Man). A spectacular example of erectus was discovered in 1929 by Chardin and the David crew in China's Zhoukoudian caves. There they unearthed the fossil dubbed Peking Man-"as typical a link between man and the apes as one could wish for," the priest wrote exultantly. (This vital find, along with many other fossils, vanished in 1941 during the Japanese occupation of China.) Chardin extensively considered the relationship of science and religion in his books, which attempted to prove that "God works through evolutionary processes to propel humanity ever forward." His ideas continually got him into trouble with his Jesuit superiors, who essentially exiled him to America. Aczel manipulatesan enormous amount of material in an orderly fashion, and his admiration for Chardin's humanity is evident. No-frills intellectual history for the lay reader.
From the Publisher
"By making the discovery of evolution and its verifying evidence into a fun story, both author and narrator lighten education with entertainment." —AudioFile

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781440637353
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
11/04/2008
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
320
Sales rank:
794,750
File size:
1 MB
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
"By making the discovery of evolution and its verifying evidence into a fun story, both author and narrator lighten education with entertainment." —-AudioFile
Ian Tattersall
"An absorbing read [and] deeply moving personal story that sheds light on a now-vanished world."--(Ian Tattersall, curator in the Division of Anthropology of the American Museum of Natural History and author of Human Origins)
Ofer Bar-Yosef
"The fascinating story of the tumultuous life of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Jesuit and the Skull is also an object lesson in how to reconcile one's religious beliefs with the study of evolution. Amir D. Aczel skillfully brings to life the struggles and achievements of this legendary scientist, and he tells a very human tale with great insight and compassion."--(Professor Ofer Bar-Yosef, Department of Anthropology, Harvard University)

Meet the Author

Barrett Whitener has won half a dozen coveted AudioFile Earphones Awards for his audiobook narration.

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The Jesuit and the Skull: Teilhard de Chardin, Evolution, and the Search for Peking Man 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
VicTinsay More than 1 year ago
Having read both The Divine Milieu and The Phenomenon of Man back in college in 1970, understanding only half the concepts, yet fascinated by the metaphysical approach Teilhard took to human evolution, it was refreshing to read Amir Aczel's short biography of this dedicated Jesuit. Neither books were required reading at my Fordham University theology classes, but a Jesuit professor had recommended them. The academic freedom we have enjoyed since Teilhard's time are in stark contrast to the resistance he experienced from the Vatican and his own religious society during the first half of the 20th century. It was a relief to read that Teilhard remained faithful to his religious vows to the end, while staying dedicated to his scientific vocation. Aczel has put flesh to the bones of that great scientist and thinker, and placed Teilhard in the proper historical and anthropological contexts.
de_Chazeaux More than 1 year ago
The Jesuit and the Skill is a thought provoking biography of the famous Jesuit philosopher and paleontologist, Teilhard de Chardin, well known for his part in the discovery of the Peking Man. Teilhard's integration of evolution and modern science into Catholic belief led to a lifelong controversy with church officials and exile from his French homeland to silence his influence. Paradoxically, when Teilhard was exiled to China, he became key to the discovery of the Peking Man fossil, establishing the existence of early man. In a simple straightforward manner, Aczel summarized Teilhard's philosophy of human development and the future of evolutionary convergence to the concept of the Omega Point. Thoughts of Teilhard on the "moment in human development at which hominids became rational beings" was intriguing. In spite of his tribulations with the Catholic church, he remained a Jesuit priest to the end. His books and writings were published posthumously in order to follow the church decree. He died in exile in New York City in 1955. I recommend this book for a life well-lived with its philosophical controversies, the mystery of the missing Peking Man bones, and the heroism of being a modern man in religion. People struggling with the concept of evolution today would do well to read this book.
Gregor1066 More than 1 year ago
This was the first book by Amir Aczel I have read and I will definitely explore other of his works. The Jesuit and the Skull is a fantastic story about a Priest that was able to combine the scientific evidance for Evolution with his Faith and come up with solution that satisified both. It is a story about one persons quest and devotion to his God and ability to become a well respected Scientist in the process. His discoveries and postions of Education allowed others to expand their knowledge about the world around them and understand that the Earth is not static as some believe (and still do), but is a continual changing place for all of us and the life it contains. The end point was his Omega Point which you will have to read for yourself to appreciate. He was a devoted man of God and Christ despite the fact that the Vatican continually placed him in exile and prevented any publicans of his works. Fortunately for us all, he was exiled to China where he helped in the discovery of Peking Man and before his death in NYC, he willed his writings to an American lady that then had them all published. He was presuaded to do this by his many friends in the Scientific community as well as some of his fellow Jesuits, otherwise his works would still be sealed away at the Vatican as are some of the other pieces of information about him. Secrets still remain and are out of bounds by the church. Despite this mistreatment at their hands, he remained a loyal servant to Christ and the Church. More importantly for us, as you will see when you read the book, he helped enlighten us all regarding our orgins and how the conflict between science and religion is man made. Outstanding book and makes me want to read more in the area of Mans evolution. It is also a wonderful book for those that seem to find it difficult to accept Evolution yet remain within their faith.
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