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Evolution Professor Receives Spirituality Award

Prof. Francisco Ayala receives 2010 Templeton Prize

This year’s $1.5 million Templeton Prize has gone to Francisco Ayala, an ordained Catholic priest and professor of evolutionary biology.

Ayala, 76, is widely known for defending the compatibility of Christianity and evolution. Originally ordained as a Catholic priest, Ayala left his native Spain in the early 1960s to study biology at New York’s Columbia University. He currently serves, among other roles, as professor of biological sciences, ecology, and evolutionary biology at the University of California–Irvine.

The Templeton Prize, founded by the late Sir John Templeton and currently valued at £1,000,000 (approximately $1.5 million), is awarded annually to “a living person who has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical works.” Among the previous winners of the prize are Mother Teresa (1973), Billy Graham (1982), Chuck Colson (1993), and the late evangelist Bill Bright (1996). We have profiled several honorees, including Bernard d’Espagnat (2009) and Michael Heller (2008).

As primary author of the National Academy of Science’s anti-creation manifesto Science, Evolution, and Creationism, Ayala has been at the forefront of the creation–evolution controversy and the battle over public school science education. The Los Angeles Times reported that upon accepting the award, Ayala said he had been recognized for “making people accept science, and making people accept evolution in particular.” Consider these further representations of Ayala’s views from various interviews:

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