Francisco José Ayala Pereda (born March 12, 1934) is a Spanish-American evolutionary biologist and philosopher at the University of California, Irvine. 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.
He has been President and Chairman of the Board of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. At University of California, Irvine, his academic appointments include University Professor and Donald Bren Professor of Biological Sciences, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology (School of Biological Sciences), Professor of Philosophy, (School of Humanities), and Professor of Logic and the Philosophy of Science (School of Social Sciences).
Research and work
He 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. He is also a critic of creationism and intelligent design theories, claiming that they are not only pseudoscience, but also misunderstood from a theological point of view. He suggests that the theory of evolution resolves the problem of evil, thus being a kind of theodicy. Although Ayala generally does not discuss his religious views, he has stated that "science is compatible with religious faith in a personal, omnipotent and benevolent God." He also briefly served, in 1960, as a Dominican priest. He also identifies as a Christian.
He attended the Beyond Belief symposium on November 2006. Ayala debated Christian apologist William Lane Craig in November 2009 on the topic of Intelligent Design.
Awards and honors
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. Ayala delivered a lecture at the Trotter Prize ceremony in 2011 entitled "Darwin's Gift to Science and Religion." In 2014, UCI named its School of Biological Sciences the Francisco J. Ayala School of Biological Sciences after Ayala.
Ayala was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1977. He is a member of the United States National Academy of Sciences and the American Philosophical Society. He is also a foreign member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei in Rome, the Spanish Royal Academy of Sciences, the Mexican Academy of Sciences, and the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts. He has honorary degrees from the University of Athens, the University of Bologna, the University of Barcelona, the University of the Balearic Islands, the University of León, the University of Madrid, the University of Salamanca, the University of Valencia, the University of Vigo, Far Eastern National University, Masaryk University and University of Warsaw.
Francisco Ayala was born to Francisco Ayala and Soledad Pereda. In the late 1960s he met Mary Henderson, they married on May 27, 1968. They had two sons: Francisco José (b. 1969) and Carlos Alberto (b. 1972). Their marriage ended in divorce, and in 1985 he married an ecologist named Hana Ayala (née Lostakova). They live in Irvine, California.
On October 18, 2011, it was announced that Professor Ayala would be donating $10 million of his own fortune to UCI's School of Biological Sciences. The gift will be "$1 million a year for the next decade."
Ayala has published 950 publications and 30 books. Recently published books include:
- Ayala, F.J. Evolution, Explanation, Ethics and Aesthetics: Towards a Philosophy of Biology. Academic Press: 2016. ISBN 9780128036938
- Ayala, F.J. Am I a Monkey: Six Big Questions About Evolution. Johns Hopkins University Press: Baltimore, MD, USA 2010.
- Ayala, F.J. and Robert Arp, eds. Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Biology. Wiley-Blackwell: London, 2009. ISBN 978-1-4051-5998-2
- Avise, J.C. and F.J. Ayala, eds. In the Light of Evolution: Adaptation and Complex Design. National Academy Press: Washington, DC. 2007. ISBN 978-0-309-10405-0
- Cela Conde, C.J. and F.J. Ayala. Human Evolution. Trails from the Past. Oxford University Press: Oxford, 2007.
- Ayala, F.J. Darwin y el Diseño Inteligente. Creacionismo, Cristianismo y Evolución. Alianza Editorial: Madrid, Spain, 231 pp. 2007.
- Ayala, F.J. Darwin’s Gift to Science and Religion. Joseph Henry Press: Washington, DC, xi + 237 pp. 2007
- Ayala, F.J. La Evolución de un Evolucionista. Escritos Seleccionados. University of Valencia: Valencia, Spain, 441 pp. 2006. ISBN 84-370-6526-7
- Ayala, F.J. Darwin and Intelligent Design. Fortress Press: Minneapolis, MN, xi + 116 pp. 2006.
- Ayala, F.J. and C.J. Cela Conde. La piedra que se volvió palabra. Las claves evolutivas de la humanidad. Alianza Editorial: Madrid, Spain. 184 pp. 2006 ISBN 84-206-4783-7
- Hey, J., W.M. Fitch and F.J. Ayala, eds. Systematics and the Origin of Species. On Ernst Mayr’s 100th Anniversary. National Academies Press: Washington, DC. xiii + 367 pp. 2005 ISBN 0-309-09536-0
- Wuketits, F.M. and F.J. Ayala, eds. Handbook of Evolution: The Evolution of Living Systems (Including Hominids), Volume 2. Wiley-VCH: Weinheim, Germany. 292 pp. 2005. ISBN 978-3-527-61971-9
- Ayala, F.J. Le Ragioni dell’ Evoluzione. Di Renzo Editore: Rome. 109 pp. 2005.
- Ayala, F.J. Human Evolution: Biology, Culture, Ethics. In: J.B. Miller, ed., The Epic of Evolution. Science and Religion in Dialogue (Pearson Education, Inc.: Upper Saddle River, New Jersey), pp. 166–180. 2004.