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Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was a French philosopher and Jesuit Catholic priest who was mentioned in the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

Dangerous Tendencies of Cosmic Theology: The Untold Legacy of Teilhard De Chardin was a 2017 journal article in which author John Slattery claims:

from the 1920s until his death in 1955, Teilhard de Chardin unequivocally supported racist eugenic practices

Slattery repeats similar claims in his 2018 essay, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin's Legacy of Eugenics and Racism Can't Be Ignored.

Racial Eugenics in Liberal-Progressive Christian Theology: Cosmic Evolution, is a blog article by J.R. Miller (2020) that leans on Slattery's research to make similar claims.

The sources provide supposed quotes to support their arguments. A cursory search of Teilhard's alleged quotes tend to lead back to references to the same articles, and not the source material.

For example:

Do the yellows—[the Chinese]—have the same human value as the whites? [Fr.] Licent and many missionaries say that their present inferiority is due to their long history of Paganism. I'm afraid that this is only a 'declaration of pastors.' Instead, the cause seems to be the natural racial foundation... Christian love overcomes all inequalities, but it does not deny them.

or

We must recognize... the vital importance of a collective quest of discovery and invention no longer inspired solely by a vague delight in knowledge and power, but by the duty and the clearly-defined hope of gaining control (and so making use) of the fundamental driving forces of evolution. And with this, the urgent need for a generalized eugenics (racial no less than individual) directed, beyond all concern with economic or nutritional problems, towards a biological maturing of the human type and of the biosphere.

My provisional conclusion: the supposed quotes are a mix of total fabrications and quote mining.

EDIT: Trashing Teilhard is a reply to Dangerous Tendencies of Cosmic Theology. Quote:

Slattery doesn’t deny that the bulk of Teilhard’s religious writings are uncontroversially Christian and in tune with Catholic teaching. Yet he ignores this fact in defining what he calls Teilhard’s “legacy.” Though he surely knows that most readers will be unfamiliar with the man and his thought, he has decided to expose them first to what he considers Teilhard’s most sinister side. In the process he takes a thimbleful of quotes out of context, posts them on a blank background, and says nothing substantive about the remaining 99.9 percent of Teilhard’s work. Failing to take into account the general architecture of Teilhard’s thought always leads to the kinds of exaggeration and distortion that Slattery commits.

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    The Slattery article gives citations for all the quotes, including the two you mention; the sources appear to be either Teilhard's own work or else scholarly biographies. Wouldn't it be appropriate to track down those citations before jumping to any (provisional) conclusions? Jul 12 '20 at 20:03
  • Considering the subject is a Catholic priest scholar whose work was religious as much as scientific, you might get better answers on christianity.stackexchange.com
    – fredsbend
    Jul 12 '20 at 20:20
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    The question is about eugenics, not Social Darwinism. Not sure why you would bring that up. In the worst case, the claim in the title is correct.
    – Oddthinking
    Jul 12 '20 at 21:08
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    @DanielRHicks: I am growing weary of imploring you to use the answer box for answers and the comments box for improving questions.
    – Oddthinking
    Jul 12 '20 at 22:59
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    It has become clear that this is not a quote question, but a question about motivations of an individual, and that the OP already has strong opinions. Closing as off topic.
    – Oddthinking
    Jul 12 '20 at 23:02
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An English translation of his book, Activation of Energy, published in 1970 (after Teilhard's death in 1955).

On p 295, it contains the quote:

We must recognize, then, the vital importance of a collective quest of discovery and invention no longer inspired solely by a vague delight in knowledge and power, but by the duty and the clearly-defined hope of gaining control (and so making use) of the fundamental driving forces of evolution.

And with this, the urgent need for a generalized eugenics (radical no less than individual) directed, beyond all concern with economic or nutritional problems, towards a biological maturing of the human type and of the biosphere.

I believe this quote clearly shows that Teilhard supported the use of human eugenics.


It is worth noting that there is one key word that differs from the quotes provided above in the question.

Compare the phrase "racial no less than individual" with "radical no less than individual".

I do not know if this difference is a matter of different translations, a correction that appears in different editions of the book, or it is a mistake made by Slattery.

Teilhard de Chardin's original would read:

Besoin urgent d'un Eugénisme généralisé (racial autant qu'individuel) orienté, par delà toute préoccupation économique et alimentaire, vers une maturation biologique du type humain et de la Biosphère.
(L'activation de l'énergie. (1963), PDF p255.)

Which translates roughly to

Urgent need for a generalized eugenics (racial as well as individual) oriented, beyond all economic and food concerns, towards a biological maturation of the human type and of the biosphere.

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  • See my reply to Nate Eldredge. See also commonwealmagazine.org/trashing-teilhard. The "mistake" is highly suspicious. Jul 12 '20 at 21:05
  • @Martín-BlasPérezPinilla: This discrepancy doesn't discount the claim - he defended eugenics. Until it has been shown to be due to Slattery, it is premature to think it suspicious.
    – Oddthinking
    Jul 12 '20 at 21:10
  • Only if Teilhard-"generalized eugenics" = Galton-"eugenics". Jul 12 '20 at 21:30
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    From a quick glance at his writings, it seems a bit misleading to short-circuit & say 'he supports eugenics". Seems to me that more context and exegesis of word meanings is necessary? At first impression: it is perhaps different from calling for 'breeding' eugenics, but more like explainig a 'teleological' 'eugenic' & evolutionary process, taking place anyway (by god's g-race, a string by far more often found in his writings than '(our) human race' or racist race'')? Jul 12 '20 at 22:06
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    Cf "The future of Man": "individual eugenics* (breeding and education designed to produce only the best individual types) and racial eugenics (the grouping or intermixing of different ethnic types being not left to chance but effected as a controlled process in the proportions most beneficial to humanity as a whole), both, as I well know, come up against apparently insuperable difficulties … shall we be able to round this dangerous corner?" with the fn: "The word is used here in its general and etymological sense of "perfection in the continuance and fulfIllment of the species." Jul 12 '20 at 22:23

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