Vernadsky vs Chardin on the Biosphere-Noosphere

Although the ages of Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) and Vernadsky (1863-1945) differed, they were at the comparable level of scientific maturity concerning the growth of their biosphere — noosphere theories. Vernadsky first presented his views on the biosphere systematically when he published The Biosphere 2in 1926, although he began using the term biosphere much earlier (1911). In his Essays on Geochemistry ³, lectures written in Petrograd (St. Petersburg) in 1921, Vernadsky used both of the most important terms of his theory: living matter and the biosphere, although he made the first clear definition of the biosphere in 1923. 4 At the same time (1921), Teilhard used the term 'biosphere' in his The Face of the Earth for the first time where he presented both the biosphere and the noosphere concepts. At the same time (1936-1938), Vernadsky wrote his Scientific Thought as a Planetary Phenomenon where he used the same terminology. Both scientists adopted the term 'biosphere' from the works of the Austrian geologist Eduard Suess (1831-1914), who had coined this term in 1875.7 Developing the theoretical insights of Suess, both scientists left the boundaries of descriptive natural science and tried to create all-embracing theoretical systems including elements of philosophy, social sciences and authorised interpretations of the evolutionary theory. The most general objective of the two theoreticians were also similar: to prove the "non-accidental" character of the Earth's biota by creating a global theory of life. Both thinkers aimed to combine separated segments of their contemporary science by creating an integral picture.


Both Vernadsky and Teilhard de Chardin paid a lot of attention to an idea, which Vernadsky referred to as the Dana principle. The American geologist and zoologist J. D. Dana (1813-1895) had noted that in the course of geological time, a certain part of the planet's inhabitants acquired an increasingly complex central nervous system. Studying the Crustacea, Dana formulated the principle that "the higher centralization of the superior grades, and the less concentrated central forces of the inferior ... This centralization is literally a cephalization of the forces" 18. ernadsky connected this generalization with the irreversible growth of living beings' intellectual capacities in the course of geological time. The irreversibility of the cephalization process was important also for Teilhard de Chardin.

Both scientists transformed this "empirical generalisation" of increasing cephalization into theoretical argumentation differently. Teilhard, a paleontologist, endeavored to explain the appearance of the reflective mind through the evolution of organisms, and to predict its future development by transforming the whole history of the universe into a "biological history". Vernadsky, a biogeochemist, aimed to place humankind into a geological history by investigating the relationships of inert and living matter.


Teilhard saw biological evolution as continuation of pre-biological evolution, and the growth of mind as regular process, in which there is a gradual concentration of the "within of things". Intelligent life is a result of the lawfill evolution of unified matter, which from the beginning was dichotomous, having an interior and exterior side. It is therefor extremely important for Teilhard to show the similarity of living and inert substances. He proclaims the absence of an impassable border between the two kinds of matter. Hence, there must be transitional forms between life and non-life in the theoretical system of Teilhard de Chardin. For him, a virus is an example of such a transitional form.

To Vernadsky, it was clear, that the evident growth of the central nervous system during evolution (the Dana principle) should serve as evidence for a conclusion concerning the lawful character of intelligent life's origin on Earth. It was clear to Vernadsky that one can trace the development of the nervous system from the most primitive examples to its present forms, and that this development is connected somehow to the growth of mind. At the same time, from his practical work as a biogeochemist, Vernadsky knew that the intelligent part of the biospheric substance ("human substance" is an expression of Vernadsky) was inseparably connected with the rest of living matter (totality of living organisms) and with the biosphere as a self-regulating system including the inert environment. He knew that living and inert substances manifest sharply different properties, and are therefor in principle different kinds of matter. However, he saw the process of evolution as a wholly biospheric phenomenon, so that all events can be seen as having their specific function in this larger process. Vernadsky knew from his scientific experience, that the evolution of the biosphere is caused by living matter, and called inert matter "inert" or "sluggish" primarily because of its passive character.


Folksonomies: noosphere biosphere

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Noosphere (0.985941): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (0.884163): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Vladimir Vernadsky (0.834066): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Life (0.738285): dbpedia | freebase
Evolution (0.714866): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Biosphere (0.681603): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Biology (0.651508): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Nervous system (0.613407): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Earth (0.600701): dbpedia | freebase
Organism (0.596504): dbpedia | freebase
Scientific method (0.593521): dbpedia | freebase
Central nervous system (0.581997): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Gene (0.522200): dbpedia | freebase

 The Biosphere and the Noosphere Theories of V. I. Vernadsky and P. Teilhard de Chardin: A Methodological Essay.
Periodicals>Journal Article:  Levit, Georgy S. (2000), The Biosphere and the Noosphere Theories of V. I. Vernadsky and P. Teilhard de Chardin: A Methodological Essay., International Archives on the History of Science/Archives Internationales D'Histoire des Sciences, 50 (144), 2000: p. 160–176, Retrieved on 2016-12-24
  • Source Material []
  • Folksonomies: noosphere biosphere