Saturday, March 27, 2010

Francisco Ayala wins the Templeton Prize

A recent article in the LA Times reports on a local (UC Irvine) professor of biology, Francisco Ayala, winning the Templeton Prize. I think it's great that such a big prize in spirituality is being awarded to a scientist.

Although, I must say I don't agree very much with his philosophical views -- at least, with those espoused in this article. And of course who am I to address these things? Ayala is apparently an ordained priest. He's also a professor of biology, which is more than I can say about myself. (And between the two of us, who has won a Templeton Prize?)

So, he carries more clout than I do. But you can judge his points of view against mine regardless of our backgrounds (so that you avoid the ad hominem argument). For example, the article says, at one point:
Evolution "is consistent with a religious belief in God, whereas creationism and intelligent design are not." This, [Ayala] said, is because intelligent design suggests that the deformities of the world are God's design, whereas science shows them to be "a consequence of the clumsy ways of the evolutionary process."
I don't understand this. Even if evolution were clumsy, doesn't that also reflect in God, just as if He were the creator/designer? I guess this goes along "recent" posts of mine describing how even theistic evolutionists should, at some level, be proponents of intelligent design (note the lowercase letters).

The article then goes on to say:
"The Bible is a book about religious truths; it is not how the Earth was made," [Ayala] said. He added that he rejects the idea that one can read the Bible "as if it were an elementary textbook of biology or physics."
This is a common straw man against reading the bible literally and consistently with science. It doesn't have to be "as if it were an elementary textbook of [science]" in order to have some truths about the world and the way it was made. Indeed, if "the bible is a book about religious truths" (emphasis mine), then wouldn't it necessarily be about truths regarding origins? Because the origins of the universe, of the earth, of life, and yes, even of man, all have religious content.

For example, loooong before any of this became a scientific controversy, there was this little doctrine called creation ex nihilo (for an incomplete list of bible verses, see Gen 1:1, Heb 11:3, and 2 Tim 1:9 ). The earliest Christians believed that God created the universe out of nothing. That is, He did not use existing starting materials. That directly addresses the origins question, and is definitively from a religious point of view. So if the bible is about religious truth, and thus what is says about the origin of the universe is true, then at the very least it is consistent with our current understanding of the beginning of the universe (ie, the Big Bang). You can get all of this from the bible without treating it as an elementary science text. It comes directly out of theological commentaries.