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Is Biological Evolution Compatible With a Moral Conscience?
Francisco Ayala, professor of biological sciences, ecology, and evolutionary biology, UC Irvine, is our guest speaker. He is a former Dominican priest, ordained in 1960, but left the priesthood that same year. After graduating from the University of Salamanca, he moved to the US in 1961 to study for a PhD at Columbia University. There, he studied for his doctorate under Theodosius Dobzhansky, graduating in 1964. He became a US citizen in 1971.
Can we still retain a notion of moral conscience in the face of the findings and claims of evolutionary biology? What does "conscience" mean in light of a number of crucial theoretical and practical challenges of the present day, particularly as they intersect with Catholic thought?
Ayala is known for his research on population and evolutionary genetics, and has been called the "Renaissance Man of Evolutionary Biology." His discoveries have opened up new approaches to the prevention and treatment of diseases that affect hundreds of millions of individuals worldwide, including demonstrating the reproduction of Trypanosoma cruzi, the agent of Chagas disease, is mostly the product of cloning, and that only a few clones account for most of this widespread, mostly untreatable South American disease that affects 16 million to 18 million people. He has been publicly critical of U.S. restrictions on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. He currently serves on the advisory board of the Campaign to Defend the Constitution, an organization that has lobbied Congress to lift federal restrictions on funding embryonic stem cell research.
In 2001, Ayala was awarded the National Medal of Science. On April 13, 2007, he was awarded the first of 100 bicentennial medals at Mount Saint Mary's University for lecturing there as the first presenter for the Bicentennial Distinguished Lecture Series. His lecture was entitled "The Biological Foundations of Morality." Other awards he has received include the Gold Honorary Gregor Mendel Medal of the Czech Academy of Sciences, the Gold Medal of the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, the Gold Medal of the Stazione Zoologica in Naples, the President's Award of the American Institute of Biological Sciences, the Scientific Freedom and Responsibility Award and 150th Anniversary Leadership Medal of the AAAS, the Medal of the College of France, the UCI Medal of the University of California, the 1998 Distinguished Scientist Award from the SACNAS, and Sigma Xi's William Procter Prize for Scientific Achievement, 2000. In 2010, he was awarded the Templeton Prize. The science library at UCI is named after him.
We are fortunate to present this program in part through the generosity of the Project on Conscience in Roman Catholic Thought, funded by Phyllis and Mike Shea.
Co-sponsored by The Markkula Center for Applied Ethics and The Commonwealth Club of California, Silicon Valley Chapter.