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Two Revolutions: Copernicus and Darwin
Prof. Francisco Ayala, University of California, Irvine, U.S.A
Darwin occupies an exalted place in the history of Western thought, deservedly receiving credit for the theory of evolution. However, Darwin accomplished something much more important than demonstrating evolution. Darwin’s Origin of Species is, first and foremost, a sustained argument to solve the problem of how to account scientifically for the design of organisms. Accumulating evidence for common descent with diversification may very well have been a subsidiary objective of Darwin’s masterpiece. Darwin seeks to explain the design of organisms, their complexity, diversity, and marvelous contrivances as the result of natural processes. Darwin brings about the evidence for evolution because evolution is a necessary consequence of his theory of design. The advances of physical science brought about by the Copernican Revolution had driven mankind's conception of the universe to a split-personality state of affairs. Scientific explanations, derived from natural laws, dominated the world of nonliving matter, on the Earth as well as in the heavens. Supernatural explanations, which depended on the unfathomable deeds of the Creator, were accepted as explanations of the origin and configuration of living creatures. Authors, such as William Paley in his Natural Theology of 1802, had developed the “argument from design,” the notion that the complex design of organisms could not have come about by chance, or by the mechanical laws of physics, chemistry, and astronomy, but was rather accomplished by an Omnipotent Deity. It was Darwin's genius to resolve this conceptual schizophrenia. Darwin completed the Copernican Revolution by drawing out for biology the notion of nature as a lawful system of matter in motion that human reason can explain without recourse to supernatural agencies. The complex organization and functionality of living beings can be explained as the result of a natural process - natural selection - without any need to resort to a Creator or other external agent. The origin and adaptations of organisms in their profusion and wondrous variations were thus brought into the realm of science.
Francisco J. Ayala was born in 1934. He is University Professor and Donald Bren Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of California, Irvine. From 1994 to 2001, Ayala was a member of the US President's Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology. He has been President and Chairman of the Board of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS, 1993-1996), and President of Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society of the US (2004-2005). In 2003 he was appointed University Professor, the highest title at the University of California and the only professor currently holding this title at the University of California, Irvine. He has been President of the Society for the Study of Evolution, a member of the Council of the US National Academy of Sciences, the National Advisory Council of the Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIH), the National Advisory Council for the Human Genome Project, the Executive Committee of the Science Advisory Board of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Commission on Life Sciences and the Board on Basic Biology (Chairman, 1985-1992) of the National Research Council. He is a member of the US National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society, and a Fellow of the Linnean Society of London. He is a Foreign Member of the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei (Italy), the Mexican Academy of Sciences, Royal Academy of Sciences of Spain, the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, the Latin American Institute for Advanced Studies and the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts. Ayala has received honorary degrees from Universities in six different countries. Argentina: University Nacional de
La Plata. Czech Republic: Masaryk University, Brno. Greece: University of Athens. Italy: University of Bologna and University of Padua. Poland: University of Warsaw. Russia: University of Vladivostok (Far East National University).Spain: University Central of Barcelona, University Complutense of Madrid, University of las Islas Baleares, University of Leon, University of Salamanca, University of Valencia, and University of Vigo. Ayala has received the Gold Medal of the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, the Gold Medal of the Stazione Zoologica of Naples, the Gold Honorary Gregor Mendel Medal from the Czech Academy of Sciences, the President's Award of the American Institute of Biological Sciences, the Scientific Freedom and Responsibility Award from the AAAS, the 150th Anniversary Leadership Medal from the AAAS, the Medal of the College of France, the UCI Medal from the University of California, the 1998 Distinguished Scientist Award from SACNAS, and the William Procter Prize for Scientific Achievement from Sigma Xi in 2000. President George W. Bush awarded him the 2001 National Medal of Science at the White House.He has published more than 980 articles and is author or editor of 34 books.
The books include:L’Evoluzione. Lo Sigardo Della Biología (2009), El siglo de los genes. Patrones de explicación en genética. (2009), Darwin’s Gift to Science and Religion (2007), Human Evolution (2007), In the Light of Evolution, Volume I: Adaptation and Complex Design (2007), In the Light of Evolution, Volume II: Biodiversity and Extinction (2008), Le Ragioni dell’ Evoluzione (2005), Handbook of Evolution, vol. 2 (2005).