Skip to comments.White House to honor prominent evolutionist
Posted on 05/09/2002 3:18:41 PM PDT by laureldrive
UCI's Ayala wins National Medal of Science
Researcher famous for work in genetics, evolutionary biology.
By GARY ROBBINS
The Orange County Register
May 9, 02
The National Medal of Science the most prestigious award given for lifetime achievement will be bestowed upon a University of California, Irvine, researcher who has done pioneering work in genetics and evolutionary biology, the White House announced today.
Francisco Ayala, 68, is one of 15 scientists and engineers who will receive the medal from President George W. Bush during a ceremony expected to be held in mid-June in Washington, D.C.
Ayala will receive the medal along with such eminent figures as Harold Varmus, the Nobel laureate who formerly headed the National Institutes of Health, and Charles Keeling of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, a leader in global warming research.
"Each one of these individuals has helped advance our country's place as a leader in discovery, creativity and technology," President Bush said in a statement. "Their contributions have touched all of our lives and will continue to do so."
Ayala is the second UCI professor to win the National Science Medal. The late Frederick Reines, the "father of neutrino physics", was honored in 1983. A medal also was given to Corona del Mar instrument inventor Arnold O. Beckman in 1989.
Ayala is a former Dominican priest who left the clergy to study evolution and genetics. He achieved fame partly because of his work on the "molecular clock," a field in which scientists can date when some species diverged from a common ancestor. The timing of the clock involves analysis of DNA.
The Spanish-born biologist also is well-known for determining that some organisms have more genetic variation than predicted by sophisticated mathematical models.
Ayala was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1980. A year later, he and famed Harvard scholar Stephen Jay Gould testified for the defense in McLean v. the Arkansas Board of Education, the so-called "balanced-treatment law." A federal judge ruled on behalf of the plaintiff, saying that it was unconstitutional for Arkansas to require teachers to devote equal class time to creationism and evolution.
He joined the UCI faculty in 1987, raising the university's profile in evolutionary science. Fellow biologist Walter Fitch says Ayala's presence was a main reason that he joined the faculty the following year.
More recently, Ayala helped recruit Douglas Wallace, a world-renowned geneticist from Emory University. Irvine recruited Wallace with a $3 million package in February.
"The most sustained criticism of intelligent-design theory comes from Francisco J. Ayala, a widely respected evolutionary biologist at the University of California at Irvine. Ayala refused to come to Berkeley in 1991 to debate Johnson when "Darwin on Trial" was published, a refusal that still rankles Johnson.
"Ayala says that Johnson's argument that a superior being designed human organs and other parts of the anatomy amounts to blasphemy. "If our organs have been designed by somebody, that person was very clumsy, outright stupid, and much worse than any human engineer," says Ayala.
"Take the human jaw. The jaw is simply too small for all our teeth, Ayala notes. The reason is that 2 million years ago, through natural selection, our brains started to become larger. The head grew -- and something had to give because the birth canal is not big enough to allow a larger head to pass through. So, again through natural selection, the human jaw became smaller. The larger brain has also made childbirth extremely painful.
"Millions of babies continue to die as a result of the mother's birth canal not being big enough for the head. What engineer would do such a lousy job? I would not want to do anything with a God who would design things so badly," Ayala says. ""
The story's at: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2002/04/21/IN214026.DTL
Point of order... Mr. Ayala.....why hasn't evolution allowed mother's birth canals to develop large enough for the increased brain size?
That's more criticism against your "intelligent designer", you know.
Evolution doesn't require perfection. God, on the other hand...
With as "billiant" as evolutionists are it would be nice to see them design a self correcting and self replicating cell.
WHAT increased brain size? I suppose you havent seen this article...
The National Medal of Science was established by the 86th Congress in 1959 as a Presidential Award to be given to individuals "deserving of special recognition by reason of their outstanding contributions to knowledge in the physical, biological, mathematical, or engineering sciences." In 1980 Congress expanded this recognition to include the social and behavioral sciences. The Committee of 12 scientists and engineers is appointed by the President to evaluate the nominees for this Award.
This award is given by a committee. We do not know who is on the committee, nor do we know how many are leftovers from the previous administration.
Besides all that, are you folks telling me that if anyone believes in evolution, they cannot be a conservative? I believe I might disagree with that stand.
Because then they couldn't walk. I'm no expert in biomechanics, but if the hips are widened, the gait would be affected.
Any biologists out there who can comment?
Not to worry. At his age it won't be long before he finds out where he came from and where he's going.
Maybe because it's still in the process of doing so; it just takes a long time. If "Millions of babies continue to die as a result of the mother's birth canal not being big enough for the head" as Dr. Ayala says, then those babies are not going to grow up to reproduce. On the other hand, those babies who don't die and do grow up to reproduce are the ones who will have birth canals which are more likely to be big enough for the heads of the next generation of babies.
If increased brain size has been outstripping increased birth canal size, it's because bigger brains are a more positive survival factor overall than bigger birth canals (even if that means a certain percentage of babies have to die from inadequate birth canals). This is proven by the fact that our bigger brains have allowed us to develop modern medicine and Caesarian sections which are quickly obviating the problem of small birth canals altogether. And that in turn means that evolution will stop selecting for larger birth canals, because genes which result in small birth canals will no longer be culled out.