Re: [asa] Ayala: Darwin's Gift: To Science and Religion

From: Robert Schneider <>
Date: Thu May 17 2007 - 08:02:17 EDT

Thanks for this information. I think that Francisco Ayala is a gifted writer
who is able lay out complex topics with clarity. His 1998 exposition of
biological evolution, "The Evolution of Life: An Overview," is slightly
outdated in the sense that he published it before all of the work that has
been done subsequently in the field of genomics, but it is still a very
solid and useful exposition. It's published in _Evolutionary and Molecular
Biology: Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action_, edited by Bob Russell,
William Stoetger, and Ayala, and is reprinted, with omissions and slight
modifications as "Biological Evolution: An Introduction," in _An Evolving
Dialogue: Theological and Scientific Perspectives On Evolution_ (2001),
edited by Jim Miller. I was someone disappointed, however, in his slight
book, _Darwin and Intelligent Design_ (2006), which I thought needed a more
extensive analysis of ID.

I've heard Ayala lecture twice at Templeton Workshops. The most intriguing
paper was on internal design in organisms. His ideas are captured in his
article "Darwin and the Teleology of Nature," published in a collection of
papers edited by Jack Haught: _Science and Religion in Search of Cosmic
Purpose_ (2000).

Bob Schneider

----- Original Message -----
From: "PvM" <>
To: "asa" <>
Sent: Wednesday, May 16, 2007 11:34 PM
Subject: [asa] Ayala: Darwin's Gift: To Science and Religion

> Sounds like an interesting book
> From Publishers Weekly
> Starred Review. Taking a more pacific tone than Richard Dawkins and
> Daniel Dennett in this marvelous little book, Ayala, a UC-Irvine
> biologist and member of the National Academy of Sciences, offers a way
> to reconcile religion and science on the issue of evolution. He is
> uniquely well suited to address this: before becoming an evolutionary
> biologist, he trained for the Catholic priesthood. According to Ayala,
> Darwin provides both a clear understanding of the nature of the
> physical world and an explanation for its flaws that takes the onus
> for them off of God. Natural selection gives scientists an eminently
> plausible and verifiable explanation of the shape species and members
> of those species have taken over millions of years. For religious
> believers, evolution offers an explanation for the flawed designs—such
> as the too narrow human birth canal and our badly designed
> jawbone—that might call into question the work of a benevolent
> designer. Ayala points out that science and religion perform different
> roles in human understanding: science offers a way of knowing the
> material world, but matters of value and meaning—the core of
> religion—are outside of the scope of scientific investigation. This
> elegant book provides the single best introduction to Darwin and the
> development of evolutionary biology now available. Illus. (June)
> Copyright (c) Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier
> Inc. All rights reserved.
> From the Publisher
> With the publication in 1859 of On the Origin of Species by Means of
> Natural Selection, Charles Darwin established evolution by common
> descent as the dominant scientific explanation for nature's diversity.
> This was to be his gift to science and society - at last, we had an
> explanation for how life came to be on Earth.
> Scientists agree that the evolutionary origin of animals and plants is
> a scientific conclusion beyond reasonable doubt. They place it beside
> such established concepts as the roundness of the earth, its
> revolution around the sun, and the molecular composition of matter.
> That evolution has occurred, in other words, is a fact.
> Yet as we approach the bicentennial celebration of Darwin's birth, the
> world finds itself divided over the truth of evolutionary theory.
> Consistently endorsed as "good science" by experts and overwhelmingly
> accepted as fact by the scientific community, questions nevertheless
> remain it is not generally accepted by the public - and our schools
> continue to be battleground for this conflict on which this war is
> fought. From the Tennessee trial of a biology teacher who dared to
> teach Darwin's theory to his students in 1925 to Tammy Kitzmiller's
> 2005 battle to keep intelligent design out of the Dover district
> schools in Pennsylvania, it's clear that we need to cut through the
> propaganda to quell the cacophony of raging debate.
> With the publication of Darwin's Gift, a voice at once fresh and yet
> familiar brings a rational, measured perspective to the science of
> evolution. An acclaimed evolutionary biologist with a background in
> theology, Francisco Ayala offers clear explanations of the science,
> reviews the history that led us to ratify Darwin's theories, and
> ultimately provides a clear path for a confused and conflicted public.
> To unsubscribe, send a message to with
> "unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.

To unsubscribe, send a message to with
"unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.
Received on Thu May 17 08:03:12 2007

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Thu May 17 2007 - 08:03:13 EDT