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Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre - Phenomenon of Man - Isolation as a design strategy



Type of Spiritual Experience


What appears to govern the design of form is the environment.  The functions required are thus common, but the design of the form varies according to the environment in which the species finds itself.  It has to adapt to climate and vegetation and terrain each of which will affect the overall design but not the functions.

There is also the indication that various designs are tested out in parallel using isolation as the means of ensuring the test is effective.

In the design of species, the remnants of these prototypes tends to remain.  Thus the example we have below of the marsupial is a remnant prototype – a prototype that was not carried forward as the basis for further design, but on the other hand was not eliminated either, simply isolated and not further evolved

A description of the experience

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin – Phenomenon of Man

Geology teaches us that during the tertiary era a fragment of the placental biota, then in full process of evolution, was cut off by the sea and imprisoned in the southern half of the American continent.  Now how did this offshoot react to its isolation?

Exactly like a plant – that is to say, it reproduced on a smaller scale the same design as the trunks from which it had been separated.  It set to work to grow its pseudo elephants, its pseudo rodents, its pseudo horses and its pseudo monkeys (Platyrrhiri).  A complete biota in miniature, a sub biota within the original one


The marsupials or aplacentals represent a peculiar stage at the base of the mammalian stem.. [one set has however survived in Australia due to isolation].

This group shows such sharpness of contour and perfection as still to make the naturalists marvel.  At the time of its discovery by Europeans, Australia, as is well known, was inhabited only by marsupials.  They were of great variety, however, being of all shapes, sizes and habitats – herbivores and cursorial marsupials, carnivorous marsupials, insectivorous marsupials, marsupial rats, marsupial moles etc.  It would be impossible to imagine a more striking example of the power inherent in every phylum to differentiate itself into a sort of closed and physiologically complete organism.

The source of the experience

Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre

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