Educated Beyond their Capacity for Analytic Thought – Sir Peter Medawar

October 27, 2009

Just as compulsory primary education created a market catered for by cheap dailies and weeklies, so the spread of secondary and latterly tertiary education has created a large population of people, often with well-developed literary and scholarly tastes, who have been educated far beyond their capacity to undertake analytical thought.
— Sir Peter Medawar

Peter Medawar’s review of Pierre Teilhard De Chardin‘s The Phenomenon of Man is cited in Richard Dawkin’s latest book, The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution as one of the best negative book reviews of all time.

Sadly, the quote above is probably more true today than when originally written.

Medawar was a Nobel Prize winner in Medicine in 1960 for his work on tissue transplantation which helped make organ transplants possible. He also wrote extensively on science and philosophy. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was a Jesuit priest who trained as a paleontologist and was part of the team that discovered the ‘Peking Man’ fossils. It has also been suggested (by Stephen Jay Gould) that de Chardin might have played a role in the Piltdown Man hoax.

In any event, de Chardin’s attempt to co-mingle his theological beliefs with his scientific knowledge in The Phenomenon of Man was originally disowned by the Church and criticized as bad science by evolutionary biologists.


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