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UC Irvine researcher Francisco Ayala wins Templeton Prize

March 25, 2010 |  8:13 am


Templeton


Francisco Ayala, an acclaimed researcher at UC Irvine, has won the 2010 Templeton Prize, awarded annually in recognition of achievements in affirming spirituality, it was announced Thursday.

The prize is worth $1.6 million, which Ayala said he would give to charity.

The thinking that led to the recognition from Ayala, 76, had its roots in the 1960s, when he was a young doctoral student. He was surprised to learn that Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution appeared to be less widely accepted in the United States than in his native Spain, then a profoundly conservative and religious country.

Ayala brought a unique sensibility to the topic, because he had been ordained as a Catholic priest before undertaking graduate studies in evolution and genetics. What he believed then, and has spent his career espousing, is that evolution is consistent with the Christian faith.

In announcing the award, Dr. John M. Templeton Jr., president of the John Templeton Foundation, praised Ayala’s research, which has focused on evolutionary genetics, as well as his inquiries into fundamental questions of life. "Ayala’s clear voice in matters of science and faith echoes the foundation’s belief that evolution of the mind and truly open-minded inquiry can lead to real spiritual progress in the world," Templeton said.

In a telephone interview from Washington, where he was accepting the award, Ayala said he believed he was receiving it for his scientific work and for the "very important consequence of making people accept science, and making people accept evolution in particular."

Read more about Francisco Ayala and the Templeton Prize here.

-- Mitchell Landsberg

Photo: This year's John Templeton Foundation Prize winner Francisco Ayala during a media briefing at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C. The prize is worth $1.6 million. Credit: Mark Finkenstaedt

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