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Darwin's Gift to Science and Religion (Evolution)

Francisco J. Ayala

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ISBN 10: 0309102316 / ISBN 13: 9780309102315
Published by Joseph Henry Press, 2007
Used Condition: UsedAcceptable Hardcover
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Bibliographic Details

Title: Darwin's Gift to Science and Religion (...

Publisher: Joseph Henry Press

Publication Date: 2007

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition:UsedAcceptable

Book Type: book

About this title


With the publication in 1859 of On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, Charles Darwin established evolution by common descent as the dominant scientific explanation for nature's diversity. This was to be his gift to science and society; at last, we had an explanation for how life came to be on Earth. Scientists agree that the evolutionary origin of animals and plants is a scientific conclusion beyond reasonable doubt. They place it beside such established concepts as the roundness of the earth, its revolution around the sun, and the molecular composition of matter. That evolution has occurred, in other words, is a fact.

Yet as we approach the bicentennial celebration of Darwin's birth, the world finds itself divided over the truth of evolutionary theory. Consistently endorsed as "good science" by experts and overwhelmingly accepted as fact by the scientific community, it is not always accepted by the public, and our schools continue to be battlegrounds for this conflict. From the Tennessee trial of a biology teacher who dared to teach Darwin's theory to his students in 1925 to Tammy Kitzmiller's 2005 battle to keep intelligent design out of the Dover district schools in Pennsylvania, it's clear that we need to cut through the propaganda to quell the cacophony of raging debate.

With the publication of Darwin's Gift, a voice at once fresh and familiar brings a rational, measured perspective to the science of evolution. An acclaimed evolutionary biologist with a background in theology, Francisco Ayala offers clear explanations of the science, reviews the history that led us to ratify Darwin's theories, and ultimately provides a clear path for a confused and conflicted public.

From the Author:


The past few years have been marked by a number of controversies regarding the teaching of evolution. In practical terms, why is it so important that school children understand the basics of evolutionary theory?

Because evolution (1) is the central organizing concept of modern biology; (2) provides an understanding of agriculture and medicine and makes possible their further development; (3) has broad relevance and applications outside biology, for example, in chemistry to create and test molecules with specific functions, such as enzymes that convert cornstalks and other wastes into ethanol; (4) without it, our children will lack a proper scientific education and be handicapped in their seeking gainful employment; and (5) the United States will be at a disadvantage relative to other developed countries.

You were at one time an ordained Roman Catholic priest. How has your religious training and background influenced your understanding of evolutionary biology?

In several ways. For example, it has helped me to see evolution as compatible with the Christian faith, and as a process that uniquely displays the grandeur and majesty of God.

The year 2009 marks the 200 year anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin. What do you think you'll be doing on February 12, 2009, to celebrate his life?

One or several of the following:
1. Having a big party with my students and collaborators.
2. Participating as a speaker in one of the many symposia that will be held throughout the world.
3. Meditating about the magnificent contributions of Darwin to our understanding of the living world and how Darwin's discovery of natural selection solved the theological problem of explaining the existence of dysfunctionality and evil in the world of life.

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