JOHN CAMPBELL asked (July 24th) how Teilhard de Chardin's idea of the world coming into being by some cosmic "accident" can he reconciled with the teaching that God created the world purposely.
When apparently chance happenings or coincidences in our lives have important consequences. we often think of these "accidents" as providential, intended by God. Can't the same apply to the "accidental" coming into existence of the earth, and also to the evolution of mankind?
According to Sir Bernard Lovell, it is only because the physical constituents of the universe were exactly as they were right from the beginning, that the earth came into existence and mankind evolved. The slightest deviation of any one of a number of factors and the sun could not have been formed nor would life on earth have emerged (In the Centre of Immensities, pp. 123-5).
Surely a God who could create a universe which contained within itself all that was needed to produce whatever He intended, just by randomly following its own inbuilt laws, is far greater than a God who needed to step in at certain moments with additional acts of creation in order to achieve His purpose.
On the particular question which Mr Campbell raises Teilhard seems to be in line with St. Thomas Aquinas's teaching that God does all things in one act.
Moira Lenartowicz Middlesex WITH REGARD to John Campbell on Teilhard de Chardin, July 24, I do not believe that the passages quoted rule out the possibility of design and purpose in creation.
If one takes the book as a whole it points strongly in that direction. In the section on the law of complexityconsciousness Teilhard contrasts the second law of thermodynamics, in which matter tends to arrange itself in random or chaotic states which are the most likely, with the law of complexity-consciousness. This is the law which deals with the development of living organisms. In the law Teilhard claims that as the constituents of matter are arranged in ever more complex Land therefore unlikely) forms so the consciousness of that organism increases.
So a dog has a greater degree of consciousness than art earthworm. In man the degree has become so great that he has passed the critical barrier of self-conscious awareness.
Teilhard says, 'An animal knows, a man knows that he knows.' He attaches great significance to this power of man's.
The reason for the apparent contradiction between all this and Mr Campbell's quotations is that Teilhard writes about man as a phenomenon like radioactivity or gravity (an occurrence which we would like to understand and be able to explain).
In everyday speech we refer to the sun rising and setting as if it went round the earth, but in so describing the phenomenon we do not deny that it is really caused by the earth's rotation.
Religious people talk about chance happenings but are not denying God's providence. We refer to the one Bread in the Eucharist without denying the real presence. Similarly Teilhard is using the language which most obviously suggests itself to describe the origin of the earth and the origin of man.
In the book The Phenomenon of Man Teilhard does not draw religious conclusions but presents the scientific evidence in a way which enables us to see God as a Creator without rejecting the findings of our modern knowledge. The scientists may not yet have given us a final answer but it seems most unlikely that they are wholly wrong in their understanding of evolution.
If we really believed in God the Creator we should have nothing to fear from Science. its findings will tell us about how creation took place and may help us to understand what God is like.
Those who condemned Galileo for saying that the earth goes round the sun seem now to have had a ridiculous understanding of the Bible. Perhaps those who harbour suspicions against Teilhard will appear equally ridiculous to subsequent generations. Mr C .1 Feetenby Leeds JOHN CAMPBELL July 24, writes, having "rescanned Teilhard's definitive work The Phenomenon of Man, and finds difficulties on pp. 73 and 80. I should hasten to add that personally. I find difficulties, probably through lack of scientific training, on many other pages!
However. it seems no more incredible to me that "through a brush with another star a fragment of matter composed of particularly stable atoms contained within its globe the future of Man" than that God conciously created a situation from which the fall of Man from a state of Grace could occur, with all its contingent hazards of free will.
The operation of both natural and mechanical laws as exhibited by the emergence of the seasons with regularity, or the predictable results produced by machines, still contain within their overall operation the element of chance. but equally the theory of probability, which is continuously re-affiremd by results.
It is not possible within the Divine Will, or the completeness of the Mind of God for there to be a subconscious level, on which the fortuitous can occur. If not we are faced, logically with an explanation for the development of Man based on Pre-destination.
The concept of God presiding over everything consciously at all times, and interfering wherever necessary does not seem to be consistent with the history of the world so far, albeit we are in a very early stage of evolution, and barely out of infancy. Ian Hamilton Smith Middlesex