Francisco Ayala: Evolution and Creationism

THIS ARTICLE appears in the HHMI Bulletin, a publication of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, a non-profit medical research organization that ranks as one of the nation’s largest philanthropies. Their website informs us that: “The Institute commits almost $700 million a year for research and distributes more than $80 million in grant support for science education.”

The article is an interview with Francisco Ayala, titled: Evolution and Creationism.

Who is Francisco Ayala? We’re informed by Eugenie Scott’s National Center for Science Education that Ayala is a:

… Supporter of NCSE [Scott’s organization] since its founding, Ayala is University Professor, the Donald Bren Professor of Biological Sciences, and Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, Irvine. Among his contributions to the defense of the integrity of science education are his testimony for the plaintiffs in the challenge to Arkansas’s 1981 “Balanced Treatment Creation-Science and Evolution-Science Act” (McLean v. Arkansas) and his lead authorship of the recent publication from the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine, Science, Evolution, and Creationism (National Academies Press, 2008). His latest book is Darwin’s Gift: To Science and Religion (Joseph Henry Press, 2007).

Impressive! Here are some excerpts from Ayala’s interview:

The courts have settled the issue [of teaching creationism in science classes] many times, starting with a decision of the Supreme Court in 1968 that Arkansas could not prohibit the teaching of evolution in its public schools. Then came the idea of “creation science,” and the Court ruled in 1987 that it was actually religious teaching and therefore could not be mandated in the public schools.

Next, the conversion to “intelligent design” took place. Some school boards tried, as in Dover, to introduce it as a scientific theory, comparable to evolution. The federal court in the Dover district decisively knocked down this claim.

[…]

But that court does not have authority in the rest of the United States. Creationism is still a live issue in Florida, Kansas, Louisiana, Alabama, Michigan, and Missouri—other places. One new tactic is to seek to protect any teachers who attempt to debunk evolution in their classes, as a matter of “academic freedom.”

Good stuff! Here’s Ayala’s answer when he was asked if schools should “teach the controversy” between ID and evolution:

Yes, even the president of the United States said that not so long ago, to which my response was, well, maybe we should teach astrology with astronomy, and alchemy with chemistry, and witchcraft with medicine. Because intelligent design is not science, it is not something to be taught as an alternative.

One more excerpt, then we’ll let you go to the Hughes website and read the entire interview for yourself. Here, Ayala is asked whether mainstream religions accept evolution:

Yes. In Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, the compatibility of science and religion has long been accepted by most scholars, by most theologians. Pope Pius XII said in 1950 that Catholics should accept what science demonstrates about evolution, while holding that God creates the human soul. In 1996, Pope John Paul II spoke very strongly in support of evolution and the idea that evolution and religion are quite compatible. The current pope, Benedict XVI, says there is plenty of scientific proof for evolution and that it is absurd to assume there is a conflict between evolution and religious faith.

If you’ve been a follower of this blog, you’ll see that Ayala’s views are similar to ours. Why not? He’s a rational fellow, and we’re both dealing with the same reality.

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