Speaker aims to demystify evolution, religion theories

By Jade Mardirosian
Staff Writer

The College of Arts and Sciences and the Office of the Vice Provost of Research will sponsor a presentation Thursday featuring distinguished evolutionary biologist, geneticist and former Dominican priest Dr. Francisco J. Ayala.

Ayala will speak at 7 p.m. in B110 Baylor Sciences Building on the topic of Darwinism and the relationship between science and religion in his lecture titled “Darwin’s Gift to Science and Religion.”

“There are some movements in the United States called creationism and also intelligent design [that] are proposing that science evolution cannot explain the origin of complex organisms, like the human eye, and require direct intervention from the creator,” Ayala said. “My argument is the critique of evolution is wrong. We are able to explain very well the evolution of complex organisms like the human eye. I will point out that Darwin’s contribution to science provides a way of solving a problem that theologians are finding, called the theodicy problem.”

Ayala is the Donald Bren Professor of Biological Sciences and professor of philosophy at the University of California, Irvine.

He is also a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society and the National Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Ayala writes extensively on the interface of faith and science and has published more than 30 books, one of which has the same name as the lecture he will present.

Last year he was awarded the Templeton Prize, which “honors a living person who has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical works.”

He is also working on research concerning the origin and transmission of malaria.

Dr. Lee Nordt, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said he believes Ayala’s lecture will expose students to grand ideas that are present nationally and internationally for the next generation.

“We do everything we can to bring as many [speakers] of national prominence to Baylor so we can interact with them and learn more about them,” Nordt said. “It is a great benefit to the students and in the case of Dr. Ayala, we are always searching for people with that level of national prominence.”

Ayala said he is looking forward to lecturing and enlightening the students who attend, and also looks forward to their questions and comments.

“They will gain an understanding of how evolution is compatible with religion, while intelligent design and creationism are not,” Ayala said. “I hope to persuade that [intelligent design and creationism] are not compatible with Christianity.”

Ayala will also present a technical lecture titled “The Molecular Clock of Evolution” at 1:30 p.m. Friday in D109 Baylor Sciences Building. Ayala is investigating a number of human genes and testing new models of rates of gene evolution.