Francisco J. Ayala
Francisco José Ayala Pereda
March 12, 1934
|Citizenship||Spanish, American (1971–present)|
|Alma mater||University of Salamanca, Columbia University|
|Known for||Population genetics|
|Spouse(s)||Mary Henderson (m. 1968, div)|
Hana Lostokova Ayala (m. 1985)
|Awards||National Medal of Science, Templeton Prize|
|Institutions||University of California, Davis (1971 - 1989)|
University of California, Irvine (1989-2018)
|Doctoral advisor||Theodosius Dobzhansky|
|Doctoral students||John Avise|
Francisco José Ayala Pereda (born March 12, 1934) is a Spanish-American evolutionary biologist and philosopher who was a longtime faculty member at the University of California, Irvine and University of California, Davis. 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 United States 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 included 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).
On July 1, 2018, Dr. Ayala officially resigned from the University of California, Irvine, due to substantiated sexual harassment claims. His name was removed from the School of Biological Sciences, the Science Library, as well as various graduate fellowships, scholarship programs, and endowed chairs. Details of the charges were made public online on July 20, 2018 in an elaborate 97-page investigative report detailing the sexual harassment that occurred as early as 2003 and as recently as 2018.
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 served on the advisory board of the now defunct Campaign to Defend the Constitution, an organization that has lobbied in support the separation of church and state. He has been publicly critical of U.S. restrictions on federal funding of 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. Ayala does not say whether he remains a religious believer, not wanting to be "tagged by one side or the other."
On October 18, 2011, the University of California, Irvine (UCI) announced that Professor Ayala would be donating $10 million to the university's School of Biological Sciences. The gift was to be "$1 million a year for the next decade."
In June 2018, UCI announced that it had investigated and confirmed the accusations of four women who claimed that Ayala had sexually harassed them. Ayala resigned, without becoming a professor emeritus, and the university removed his name from the School of Biological Sciences, Science Library, and endowed chairs that had been named after Ayala. The complete report of the investigation was made public (and then later removed at the request of people close to the case) on the website of the journal Science, detailing multiple incidents of gender-biased and inappropriate comments and actions towards female faculty and students. The American Association for the Advancement of Science removed his fellowship status because of his actions.
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 was named after him from 2010 to 2018, when his name was removed after substantiated allegations of sexual harassment. 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. UCI removed his name from the library and school in 2018, after finding that he sexually harassed at least four women.
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.
Ayala has published 950 publications and 30 books. Recently published books include:
I shudder in terror at the thought that some people of faith would implicitly attribute this calamity to the Creator's faulty design. I rather see it as a consequence of the clumsy ways of the evolutionary process..
Later, when I was studying the theology in Salamanca, Darwin was a much-welcomed friend. The theory of evolution provided the solution to the remaining component of the problem of evil. As floods and drought were a necessary consequence of the fabric of the physical world, predators and parasites, dysfunctions and diseases were a consequence of the evolution of life. They were not a result of a deficient or malevolent design: the features of organisms were not designed by the Creator.
Religious scholars in the past had struggled with imperfection ... in the living world, which [is] difficult to explain if [it is] the outcome of God's design. ... Evolution came to the rescue. ... The theory of evolution, which at first had seemed to remove the need for God in the world, now has convincingly removed the need to explain the world's imperfections as failed outcomes of God's design.
Dr. Ayala does not say whether he remains a religious believer. "I don't want to be tagged,” he said. "By one side or the other.”
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