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Distinguished Professor Francisco Ayala revealed the history of evolutionary science and defended Charles Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection guiding evolution from the idea of intelligent design.

Patrick Herrin | New University
Patrick Herrin | New University

Professor Ayala became the first speaker for the School of Biological Sciences inaugural Dean’s Distinguished Lecture Series hosted by Biological Sciences Dean Frank M. LaFerla on Friday March 6 at 4 p.m. in the Biological Sciences Lecture Hall 3 room 1200. Ayala’s presentation titled “Evolution of God: Conflict and Concert” focused on the clash between religion and science over the origin of life and how it has continued to this very day.

“We both thought that this was a very good topic to discuss today in part because it seems in some circles that rejection of this hypothesis is at an all-time high, and not so far back in 2005, Science conducted a survey among 34 countries regarding their perceptions of the theory of evolution and out of this 34 countries, the United States came in33rd, just ahead of Turkey in terms of embracing this hypothesis,” LaFerla said before introducing Professor Ayala.

Ayala, a biologist by training; professor of evolutionary biology, ecology and biological sciences among other subjects; and globally recognized expert on evolutionary biology has lectured on the merits of the theory of evolution and the evidence to support it. Ayala has lectured on evolutionary biology and molecular biology, and published numerous books on evolution. He believes it is important to convince the public that evolution and religion are not exclusionary and has published many articles in support of this belief.

Ayala presented an overview of the history of evolutionary biology, starting with what he called the “first major scientific revolution,” the Copernican Revolution, which forever changed the way humans viewed the solar system. Copernicus, a polish astronomer and mathematician, was the first major thinker to say that the sun, and not the earth, was at the center of the solar system. According to Ayala, this helped lead to the study of evolution and it “removed the earth from the center of the universe and made the earth just another planet revolving around the sun.” This revolution allowed for the old system of science that was propagated by the Catholic Church and dated back to the ancient Greeks to be challenged.

Shortly afterwards, Ayala focused on the second revolution, “the Darwinian Revolution.” According to Ayala, the Darwinian Revolution forever changed the way mankind  looked at itself much like the Copernican Revolution changed the way man looked at astronomy.

“The Darwinian Revolution, which has consisted according to this narrative of removing humans from being the center of the whole living world to being just one more species among many,” he said.

“What is important is that in joining they represent the beginning of science in the modern sense of the word, the commitment to the idea that the universe consists of matter, motion, natural laws that apply on the earth as well as the heavens.”

Ayala also took time to point out that there is no significant evidence to show that intelligent design, the belief that everything in the universe was created by God, was largely disproven and scientifically invalid.

“If you do not know what the intentions of the designer are you cannot test the theory because you don’t know what to expect, and in any case in 20 years of intelligent design there is not any evidence, any research, any hypothesis to test.”

However, as he put it, this has not stopped proponents of intelligent design from defending their belief.

“Phillip Johnson, a retired professor from UC Berkeley, again one of the proponents of intelligent design in 1998 said ‘give us five years or ten years and we will have the answers you evolutionist have never dreamed of. Five years went by, ten years went by and not a single piece of evidence to support intelligent design.”

Ayala believes that better terms for intelligent design would be “incompetent design” or “incomplete design” when he was revealing inconsistencies with the process of evolution such as how many humans have a jaw that is too small and have to get their wisdom teeth pulled out.

“You know if you got an engineer to design the human jaw and human face he would be fired next day… But you also have these creatures that can only live by killing their host.”

Despite his disagreement with intelligent design, Ayala believes that the proponents of religion and science should not fight and argue, but rather find an agreement between religion and evolution. As he put it, “the solution to the conflict is not conflict, it is that religion and evolution are in fact compatible and the other way around you should tell people in the religious community.”

Ayala referred to the theory of evolution as “Darwin’s gift to religion,” as it can be used to explain how living organisms are the way they are. As Ayala repeatedly said, Darwin’s theory explains how evolution happens but not why.

When asked during a question and answer session about God’s role in the universe, Ayala responded that even though he does not believe God created everything, he does believe that He is involved in everything that happens indirectly.

“Now I would argue that God is present in all things in the world, and is present for a person of faith so that the person of faith would be willing to accept the peaceful nature of God. And while each being develops by their own natural processes … there is a way of looking at creation and the presence of God which descend the literal interpretation of God manipulating objects.”

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