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Ayala wins the Templeton Prize

Francisco J. AyalaFrancisco J. Ayala

NCSE congratulates Francisco J. Ayala on winning the Templeton Prize. The prize, worth about $1.5 million, is awarded annually by the John Templeton Foundation to "a living person who has made exceptional contributions to affirming life's spiritual dimension." A March 25, 2010, press release from the Foundation highlighted Ayala's vigorous opposition to "the entanglement of science and religion while also calling for mutual respect between the two," saying, "Even as he has warned against religion’s intrusion into science, Ayala, a former Dominican priest, also champions faith as a unique and important window to understanding matters of purpose, values and the meaning of life." Ayala told the Los Angeles Times (March 25, 2010) that he regarded the award as honoring his scientific work and its "very important consequence of making people accept science, and making people accept evolution in particular."

In his essay "Science and religion: Conflict or dialogue?" posted on the Washington Post's On Faith blog (March 25, 2010), Ayala sketched his views on science and religion, writing, "Science and religious beliefs need not be in contradiction. If they are properly understood, they cannot be in contradiction, because science and religion concern different matters. ... The proper relationship between science and religion can be, for people of faith, mutually motivating and inspiring. ... As I see it, scientific knowledge is consistent with a religious belief in God. More so than the 'creationists[']' assertion that everything in the world has been precisely designed by the Creator. Because, then, how to account for human crimes and sins (including the Biblical Fall) and for all the catastrophes that pervade the natural world?" His Darwin's Gift to Science and Religion (Joseph Henry Press, 2009) presents his views in greater detail.

A Supporter of NCSE since its founding, Ayala is University Professor, the Donald Bren Professor of Biological Sciences, and Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, Irvine; he received the National Medal for Science, the nation's highest award for lifetime achievement in scientific research, in 2002. Among his contributions to the defense of the integrity of science education was his testimony for the plaintiffs in McLean v. Arkansas and his coordination of support for evolution education at the National Academy of Sciences, including his lead authorship of the publication Science, Evolution, and Creationism (National Academies Press, 2008). NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott commented, "Ayala's contributions to NCSE and its goal of defending the teaching of evolution in the public schools are comparable to his contributions to biology in general: immense."