Pharyngula

And the Templeton Prize goes to…

…a politically brilliant choice, Francisco Ayala. He’s a former priest who has argued for respect for religion while not going quite as far as some of the other possibilities in endorsing it, he’s been fairly circumspect about not presenting ridiculous rationales for religion, but he’s also an excellent and reputable scientist.

It’s definitely an astute decision. The foundation went for someone whose primary claim to renown is as a scientist, not as an apologist. They are a canny bunch, those rascals — they avoided the obvious targets and picked someone who isn’t quite as easily mocked.

Comments

  1. #1 Sven DiMilo
    March 25, 2010

    Ayala is also an elected member of the NAS, which enables the NAS itself to trumpet the “prize” to their e-mail list (inc. me).

    It’s gross.

  2. #2 Louis
    March 25, 2010

    Can he refuse the prize? Or is this announcement post the point of refusal?

    PZ, you should go for it just so you could refuse by the way.

    Louis

  3. #3 bill.farrell
    March 25, 2010

    Ohhhhhh, Ayala has been “mean” to Stephen Meyer over “Signature.”

    Send in the attack gerbil, Disco Tute!

  4. #4 James Sweet
    March 25, 2010
  5. #5 'Tis Himself, OM
    March 25, 2010

    Ayala certainly is a reputable scientist. He appears to be a NOMA supporter as well. It’s a good choice for the Templeton folks

  6. #6 Glen Davidson
    March 25, 2010

    Better than Collins, certainly, since Ayala doesn’t spout Collins’s woo.

    Good guy.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p

  7. #7 mikka
    March 25, 2010

    To his credit, he said he’s going to donate the money. He’s thinking about the NAS, some theology center in UC Berkeley, or UC Irvine.
    From here: “I don’t need it to cover my personal needs, and my University gives me enough funds to do my research”

    I think he couldn’t care less about the templeton’s mission, he’s the type of guy that makes up his own mind for his own personal guidance leaves it at that.

  8. #8 Chris Hegarty
    March 25, 2010

    Thank goodness it wasn’t Francis Collins. That guy doesn’t need any more publicity.

    I’m still upset about the whole “NAS is hosting us” thing, though. Ridiculous.

    Chris
    http://hegartyblog.wordpress.com

  9. #9 Aperçus désagréables
    March 25, 2010

    And he’s an art critic too…

    Now we have to deal with the idiocy that art and religion are inseparable. That’s going to be a lot harder than separating science and religion.

    Sigh…

  10. #10 Sastra
    March 25, 2010

    Reading the press release, it seems to me that Ayala has “made an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension” by helping people of faith blur the distinction between believing in supernatural entities, forces, and connections — and “matters of purpose, values, and the meaning of life.” Those things are all spiritual, and rely on faith.

    What about secular humanism? What the heck makes religion different than, and distinguishable from, philosophy and ethics? Try taking away the supernatural, and see what happens.

    It’s a slick trick. Ayala may be sincere, but, at best, he’s being used by people who are employing a subtle sort of bait-n-switch on the different meanings of “spirituality.” As I’ve mentioned before, it’s not unlike proponents of alternative medicine trying to claim that the reasonable use of vitamins, massage, herbs, yoga, diet, and a compassionate bedside manner are “alternative” to mainstream scientific medicine, thereby giving an aura of respectability to the category itself, and an unearned credibility to unscientific modalities like reiki and homeopathy, by sloppy association.

    Intellectually dishonest.

  11. #11 Holytape
    March 25, 2010

    And the bar get set lower… First it was religion is better than science. Then it was science needs religion. Now it’s that the two sides should respect each other. Before you know it the person who wins the prize will do so because they will have argued that religion and science are both nouns.

    Art and irreligious behavior are inseparable.

  12. #12 Givesgoodemail
    March 25, 2010

    I dunno. Using a “little” religion to make a point is like being a “little” bit pregnant.

    I want to see religionists develop the next generation of cancer-killing therapies using only theology, or use only scripture and prayer to make the first practical fusion reactor.

    @9: “Now we have to deal with the idiocy that art and religion are inseparable. That’s going to be a lot harder than separating science and religion. “

    They are easily separated. Art is a selective recreation of reality according to the artist’s metaphysical values and judgements. Whether or not an artist’s personal metaphysics are religious in nature is a matter completely irrelevant to art in general.

  13. #13 Free Lunch
    March 25, 2010

    No doubt he knew about this for a while since the Washington Post had his article “Science and religion: Conflict or dialogue?” on their website in their “On Faith” section at 11:37 am EDT today. This included recognition that he was the Templeton prizewinner. Presumably he wrote it for that purpose.

  14. #14 BioBeing
    March 25, 2010

    Next years winner: Ralph Cicerone, president of the NAS?

  15. #15 Ian
    March 25, 2010

    “…isn’t quite as easily mocked”. That’s a bit of an understatement. Having had a long conversation with Ayala when he was the Distinguished Speaker at our lecture series, I must say that I find him to be one of the most intellectually gifted scientists I have met. He was able to meet with a diverse group of grad students, ask us each about our research, and then really engage us on our own topic, in a way that I think we each felt like we learned something from him.

    My rule is that I don’t mock people smarter than me unless they are total assholes. There are only a handful of people that my ego lets me put into that category. Ayala is one of them.

  16. #16 Sastra
    March 25, 2010

    Ian #15 wrote:

    My rule is that I don’t mock people smarter than me unless they are total assholes.

    I think the rule should be not to mock people smarter than you unless they say something that you know enough about, to know that this particular statement, is worthy of mockery.

    Smart people can say and do dumb things. It seems to me that Ayala’s error, here, is being sloppy on what “spirituality” entails. The fact that it’s a common — and popular — error, doesn’t mean it gets a pass when it’s said by people we like. If “spirituality” only involves morals and meaning and values, then the supernatural beliefs can be jettisoned. They ought to be jettisoned.

    Except, that we already have a category for morals and meaning and values without supernatural beliefs. The word, then, carries implications it can’t do without.

  17. #17 CalGeorge
    March 25, 2010

    Go to the religions mags to find out what Ayala really thinks.

    From U.S. Catholic Magazine:

    Is the conflict or dialogue between science and religion something that?s new, or is there a longer history?

    The best place for me to start is about the year 400, when St. Augustine published his commentary on the Book of Genesis. There, and later in his Confessions and City of God, he says that there is human knowledge and there is faith, science, and revelation to use modern terms. Augustine says that when scripture contradicts well-established human knowledge, then scripture is being misinterpreted.

    Thomas Aquinas in one of his major works, the Summa Contra Gentiles, also identifies two sources of truth. One is revelation and the other is reason, and they deal with different kinds of truths.

    At the time Aquinas was teaching, the prevailing thought was that revelation and reason could say contradictory things. But Aquinas said that truth cannot war with truth. The Trinity and the Incarnation come from revelation, and knowledge of the natural world comes through reason. There is no conflict between the two.

    http://uscatholic.claretians.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=12552&news_iv_ctrl=0&abbr=usc_

  18. #18 CalGeorge
    March 25, 2010

    Honoring one of their own.

    Scientific American, Nov. 2008:

    Ayala is again giving his colleagues pause by sitting on the advisory board of the John Templeton Foundation, which paid out $70 million in grants last year alone for research and scholarly programs ?engaging life?s biggest questions.? Some scientists complain that the organization?s main mission is to inject religion into science. But Ayala defends Templeton?s interest in connecting science to religious life. The foundation has ?started to do very good things in recent years,? he explains.

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=the-christian-mans-evolution&page=2

    He’s no longer listed as an advisor.

    http://www.templeton.org/about_us/who_we_are/board_of_advisors/

  19. #19 CalGeorge
    March 25, 2010

    What is Nature’s Worst Design? Francisco Ayala answers.

    The human reproductive system. Twenty percent of pregnancies end in spontaneous abortions and miscarriages in the first two months. In the world, that?s 20 million abortions per year. Twenty million abortions per year? You wouldn?t want to blame God for that.

    http://www.scienceandreligiontoday.com/2009/07/23/whats-natures-worst-design-francisco-ayala-answers/

    Spoken like a true Catholic.

  20. #20 jcmartz.myopenid.com
    March 25, 2010

    They are a canny bunch, those rascals ? they avoided the obvious targets and picked someone who isn’t quite as easily mocked.

    Until now.

  21. #21 Sili
    March 25, 2010

    Until now.

    Bingo.

  22. #22 CalGeorge
    March 25, 2010

    “Scientific knowledge cannot contradict religious beliefs, because science has nothing definitive to say for or against religious inspiration, religious realities, or religious values.” — Francisco J. Ayala

    http://www.sciencemeetsreligion.org/quotations

  23. #23 CalGeorge
    March 25, 2010

    Chron, Feb. 2009:

    Q: So where is the place for God in your conception of the universe?

    A: Everywhere. It is about our relationship to God, the meaning of life, the purpose of life. Moral values.
    Science has nothing to say about these things. Science is not about excluding God. Those who try to use science to prove God does not exist are misusing science. ?

    You can go to the very beginning of Christianity and find the message I have been telling you in St. Augustine, in his commentary on the genesis. Remember, this is 1,800 years ago, and he very explicitly says, ?As a Christian, why do we care if the Earth is a disc or a sphere? It doesn?t help me to reach salvation. The Bible is there to teach me how to go to heaven, not how the heavens were made.? He?s saying it?s a categorical mistake to take the Bible for an elementary textbook on biology or chemistry or geology.

    http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/headline/metro/6286378.html

  24. #24 CalGeorge
    March 25, 2010

    PBS:


    Q: Even if many people can reconcile religious and evolutionary world views, it seems that many evolutionary biologists cannot. Biologists seem much more likely to express hostility toward religion than practice it. Several persons have said that a religious person cannot be a true scientist. Does an evolutionary world view gradually drive a person toward atheism?

    Ayala:

    […]

    I don’t see any reason why one should see evolution as other than a natural process like the emergence of the planets or the stars or the different chemical processes happening all the time around us, just part of a natural process. Now, the religious person may see all of these as reflecting the creative act of God and the natural laws created by God. So there is no contradiction between what science achieves and what science tells us about the world and a religious view of the world.

    Now, I regret, of course, that some evolutionists and other scientists feel differently. But I have to say that some distinguished evolutionists have said that there is nothing beyond science, that science is all there is to know about the world. I can only reiterate the statement that I made earlier, that in matters of value and purpose, science has nothing to say.

    Let me put it differently. Concerning what human nature is, science says everything that can be said except what is most interesting and important, which is the meaning of human life and the value that it can put on human life and individuals and society.

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/religion/faith/discuss_03.html

  25. #25 MadScientist
    March 25, 2010

    I wouldn’t mock Ayala either, though I’d be happy to tell him that I think it’s utterly ridiculous to pretend that religion has anything substantial to offer. I would be keen to know how people develop the notion that they need their religion even though it is a lie.

  26. #26 Sven DiMilo
    March 25, 2010

    the fact that he has rejected neo-darwinism

    “Ayala agreed with me when I stated that this doctrinaire neo-Darwinism is dead.”

    What do you think Margulis means by “doctrinaire neo-Darwinism”?
    What do you think Ayala thought she meant?
    And what the fuck do you mean by it?
    It sure is too bad you didn’t source that quote so that one could know the context. Just an oversight, I’m sure.

  27. #27 CalGeorge
    March 25, 2010

    Have the Pharyngulites collectively been cowed into silence by this guy’s stature?

  28. #28 John Harshman
    March 25, 2010

    Ayala’s a fine scientist, but he does have a few odd notions. (I mean aside from Christianity.) He thinks (or at least he thought in 1987 when he spoke on it at the Field Museum Spring Systematics Symposium) that there is an arrow of progress in evolution. As I recall, he was the only participant in the symposium who thought that, and his defense in discussion was poor. Of the other participants, I remember only Gould.

    But his views may have changed. I seem to recall that when the symposium was published as a book, Ayala’s contribution bore little resemblance to his talk.

    Anyway, I wonder if Christians are more susceptible to notions of progress than are other evolutionary biologists. Simon Conway Morris comes to mind as another example.

  29. #29 Sastra
    March 25, 2010

    Cal Geirge #28 wrote:

    Have the Pharyngulites collectively been cowed into silence by this guy’s stature?

    Hey, I bitched twice!

    The comment number may be low because PZ has already had several posts on the NAS and Templeton leading up to this, and Another Believing Scientist espousing Compatibility because Science and Religion Don’t Deal With the Same Area is only interesting because it’s not Another Believing Scientist espousing Compatibility with Science Because Some Discoveries Show That Science And Religion Might be Dealing With the Same Area.

  30. #30 kast
    March 25, 2010

    Have the Pharyngulites collectively been cowed into silence by this guy’s stature?

    Well what are we supposed to do? The guy is a scientific badass. He makes PZ look like a fucking first-year biology undergrad.

  31. #31 CalGeorge
    March 25, 2010

    Ayala (via Washington Post):

    Scientific knowledge is compatible with the belief in an Omnipotent and Benevolent Creator. The Big Bang may be seen as the process by which God creates the Universe, modulates the expansion of the galaxies, and accounts for new stars and planets. Similarly, evolution may be seen as the process by which God creates the millions of species that populate the earth and provides them with functional adaptations, eyes to see, wings to fly, and gills to breath in water.

    Natural processes do not exclude God’s presence in the universe or our dependence on God. Each human being starts as a microscopic cell in the mother’s womb. That cell divides again and again and diversifies in organs and limbs, in eyes, and in the myriad cells that made up our stupendous brain. People of faith can accept the natural process of human growth and development, while still believing that they are creatures of God, who fall under God’s providence.

    People of faith may, similarly, accept the natural processes of the physical and the living world, while accepting the presence and ultimate causation of God. These two sets of explanations, scientific and religious, are the two windows through which we see the world.

    http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/guestvoices/2010/03/science_and_religion_conflict_or_dialogue.html

    He’s a bit of a broken record and rarely varies his spiel.

  32. #32 evovicky
    March 25, 2010

    Hi everyone,

    That supposed Margulis quotation is pure rubbish, of course Ayala and Margulis accept modern evolutionary theory. How do I know? Some of my colleagues are friends of both of them and know them well.

    I don’t share all of Ayala’s opinions, but some commentaries here are ridiculous.

  33. #33 CalGeorge
    March 25, 2010

    Same as above:

    Scientific knowledge is compatible with the belief in an Omnipotent and Benevolent Creator. The Big Bang may be seen as the process by which God creates the Universe, modulates the expansion of the galaxies, and accounts for new stars and planets. Similarly, evolution may be seen as the process by which God creates the millions of species that populate the earth and provides them with functional adaptations, eyes to see, wings to fly, and gills to breath in water.

    Beginning to sound a little more loopy. Prize must be going to his head.

  34. #34 Sastra
    March 25, 2010

    CalGeorge #34 wrote:

    Beginning to sound a little more loopy. Prize must be going to his head.

    Not more loopy — more vacuous. God works through nature. Just look at every discovery in science, and add in “that’s how God did it.” By the grace of God. When someone points out that God doesn’t fit in with anything, and is totally unnecessary, say God is only about finding meaning.

    With an automatic knee-jerking system like this, you could discover an Ultimate Disproof of God, and that would simply be embraced as another example of how God works.

  35. #35 https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawnb-E55g7vrnvH-3L1M6d7QuDYWoM_IDEM
    March 26, 2010

    As far as I am concerned, any accolade originating from the Church of Templeton is akin to a ‘kiss of death’ by the Mafia of reason.

  36. #36 Something Arbitrary
    March 26, 2010

    Well, he’s certainly giving Templeton their money’s worth: He’s gone straight into attacking Dawkins in The Times (of London).

    The front page of the Times Online bizarrely refers to the Templeton as a “science prize”.

  37. #37 John Morales
    March 26, 2010

    Something Arbitrary, thanks.

    [1] Professor Francisco Ayala, who won the £1 million Templeton Prize for scientific thought, said that attacking religion and ridiculing believers provided ammunition for religious leaders who insisted that followers had to choose between God and Darwin. [2] ?Richard Dawkins has been a friend for more than 20 years, but it is unfortunate that he goes beyond the boundaries of science in making statements that antagonise believers,? he said.

    1. I credit this to Hannah Devlin.

    2. I credit this to Ayala¹.

    It would be nice to see a full transcript, not just a pullquote that’s “interpreted” for us.

    ¹ Assuming HD is not misquoting.

  38. #38 black-wolf72
    March 26, 2010

    evovicky,
    modern evolutionary theory does not leave room for being interpreted as a teleological process in any reasonable way. If a person believes that human evolution has any end point, or that this point has already been reached, they must provide a mechanism that would stop evolution. If they can’t, they’re not working with a full understanding of the theory. They might still be doing excellent scientific work in spite of that. They can even “accept” the theory without fully comprehending what it entails.
    Well, if the “realms” of reason and spirituality are regarded as NOMA, I suppose one could use meaningless language to express ideas about how evolutionary theory could be accepted but still seen from an angle that’s outside reason. I uppose such people wouldn’t be eager to state that the only way to fully understand evolution is by being unreasonable. I’d recommend the term supra-reasonable or maybe para-reasonable. These “concepts” can not be defined using reasonable language (as long as understanding is part of the idea, and we want to define understanding with comprehensible, meaningful language), so I guess this leaves a lot of room to write vacuous articles about for a few more decades.

  39. #39 philosopher.animal
    March 26, 2010

    Ayala seems to be reasonably moderate and is certainly a very good scientist. But does illustrate the incompatibility precisely when talking about there being no incompatibility. What is “revelation”, and how does it operate?

  40. #40 aratina cage
    March 26, 2010

    evovicky,

    windsurfer is a banned troll (look up Charlie Wagner in the Pharyngula dungeon). Do not trust anything that kook says.

  41. #41 Paul
    March 26, 2010
  42. #42 https://me.yahoo.com/hairychris444#96384
    March 26, 2010

    Paul @ 42

    That really doesn’t make too much sense!

  43. #43 lenoxuss
    March 26, 2010

    Man?s ?flawed? design made evolutionary theory more compatible with the idea of a benevolent creator than intelligent design.

    Whenever theists speak in these terms, I imagine a homeopath defending homeopathy by saying “Of course it didn’t outperform placebo ? it’s just water! What, do I look like a lunatic?”

    And of course, Templeton stuff always brings up the old “all philosophy is really theology/spirituality.”

    “Man lives not by bread alone. If you take away homeopathy, what exactly are you going to drink? Water? But water is a homeopathic substance. Sorry.”

  44. #44 Blind Squirrel FCD
    March 26, 2010

    Hairychris @43

    Paul @ 42

    That really doesn’t make too much sense!

    It’s a relief to hear someone else doesn’t understand either.

    BS

  45. #45 The Otter God
    March 26, 2010

    Normal
    Otherwise
    Mouthing
    Asinine platitudes

  46. #46 ormond.otvos
    March 26, 2010

    There is no logic in the structure of his argument.

    This is one of the characteristics of the Templeton Prize winners’ work.

    You guys are SO naive. The TP is funded by the Jesuits. Don’t you recognize the arguments?

  47. #47 https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawlAPbohUwfwE8K8IgS2c-4eQP5N4shJImU
    March 28, 2010

    On the one hand it seems a shame that such a good scientist should feel the need to espouse such naive philosophy, but on the other hand (and sadder still) is that he doesn’t believe it’s utter rubbish.

    http://www.scientificblogging.com/florilegium/biologist_and_former_dominican_wins_%C2%A31_million_templeton_prize_science_and_religion

    For my sins I sometimes write on the Osservatore Romano’s take on science and the message from the Vatican is loud and clear – science can expand as much as it wants but we’re in control of faith and whatever propaganda we need to keep that control.

  48. #48 Owlmirror
    March 29, 2010

    I see that Ayala is getting more recognition; well, perhaps he deserves it.

    But he demonstrates conclusively — along with Collins and Miller, etc. — that some very intelligent people are perfectly capable of using very foolish arguments.

    Really, do these guys actually try and understand the implications of what they’re saying, or do they just not care? The whole argument of evolution being the solution to theodicy pretty much means that God is “compatible” with anything at all and its opposite.

    I find myself wondering if he’s even a believer, or just a believer in belief, now.

    Maybe he sees himself as a bridge-builder 1 between naturalism, and the pious devotion of the majority who need religion as a crutch. If you don’t buy off on his arguments, you don’t need his bridge anyway. If you do buy off on them, obviously your mind is anti-logical enough to need such a bridge.

    Oh, well.

    __________________________________________
    1: Catholics and/or Latinists will get it.

  49. #49 John Morales
    March 29, 2010

    Owlmirror,

    Catholics and/or Latinists will get it.

    Or, highlight this sentence: pontiff.

  50. #50 Paul
    March 29, 2010

    Really, do these guys actually try and understand the implications of what they’re saying, or do they just not care? The whole argument of evolution being the solution to theodicy pretty much means that God is “compatible” with anything at all and its opposite.

    All that they care about is making their argument well enough that it convinces some people, not in making their argument correct. They don’t deal with the ramifications. It’s apologetics, not rational argument. They’re just following in CS Lewis’s footsteps. They’re selling something, not trying to add to the whole of human understanding.

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