Blinderman - McCulloch Exchange

Teilhard Newsletter August 1987


[10] Letter to the Editor

In reaching the conclusion that Teilhard was innocent of complicity in the Piltdown hoax, I did not concern myself with his career as a Catholic theologian. My impression from studying Stephen Jay Gould on the issue of the Piltdown hoax is that he has been equally unconcerned with Teilhard as a Jesuit. I find nothing in Gould's writings to support the accusation that he had an animus against Teilhard or that he seized an opportunity to ridicule Jesuits.

Just as we ought not to fabricate an anti-English motive for Teilhard as hoaxer, so, I suggest, we ought not to fabricate an anti-Jesuit motive for Gould's views on the Piltdown hoaxer.

Charles Blinderman

Author of "The Piltdown Inquest"


Editor's Reply

I welcome your letter and this opportunity to clear up some points. I do not find anywhere an accusation that Gould seized a chance to ridicule Jesuits; his allegation was directed against Teilhard personally. Charles Henderson, in God and Science, did accuse Gould of having an animus against Teilhard, but not because he was a Jesuit. Rather, as he clearly slates, it was because Teilhard's ideas were so completely antipathetic to the ruling materialist-scientific view of life. Teilhard related the evolution of humanity to the evolution of the total cosmos and we know the aggressive criticisms this view elicited from the Nobel scientists Monod and Medawar. (Teilhard's viewpoint was not that of the Jesuit Order or of Rome, either.)

May I suggest that "animus" might not be too strong if we consider the sensational and thoroughly condemnatory way in which Gould portrayed Teilhard as the perpetrator of the hoax. This was a serious accusation, yet it was supported by only the most trivial and arbitrary arguments and a very cavalier dismissal by Gould of any objection to his charges.

A recent critique of Gould's methodology is, I think, pertinent. It is to be found in Storm Over Biology-Essays on Science, Sentiment and Public Policy (Prometheus, 1986) by Bernard D. Davis, Lehman Professor Emeritus of bacterial physiology at Harvard Medical School. This hook examines the work of scientists who use ideology to dictate what science must prove and disprove, and directs its main criticism against Gould, showing how, particularly in Mismeasure of Man, he badly misquoted and misrepresented evidence to bolster his point.

I recognize in Dr. Davis' analysis the basis of my own critique. Gould made public a long-simmering rumor, voiced within the scientific community by Leakey and others, that Teilhard must have been the guilty party. In trying to trace the logic of this charge in Gould's accusatory Piltdown articles, I found nothing to confirm it: only factual errors, inferred intent and highly subjective deductions. It would seem that Gould's primary object in putting the case together was first to set forth Teilhard as the unquestioned perpetrator and then to build up "evidence" that would seem to prove it. There was no attempt, I can assure you, and no wish to fabricate for Gould an anti-Jesuit motive. Indeed, there was no need to do so for the error in Gould's accusation lay within his own specious argument.

Winifred McCulloch

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Defending Teilhard de Chardin