Duquesne University

Darwin in the History of Ideas: From Natural Theology to Natural Selection

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Francisco AyalaMarch 18, 2009, 7:00-10:00 p.m. Power Center Ballroom
Sponsored by the Office of the Provost

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Francisco Ayala. Dr. Ayala is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and was winner of the 2001 National Medal of Science. He is Donald Bren Professor of Biological Sciences, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at UC-Irvine and holds other appointments in the School of Humanities and the School of Social Sciences at U. of California-Irvine. He has a longstanding interest in the relationship of science and religion and has written a recent book Darwin’s Gift to Science and Religion that puts his thinking on these matters into a popular form. The title of his talk will be "Darwin in the History of Ideas: From Natural Theology to Natural Selection."

Abstract: Darwin is deservedly given credit for the theory of evolution. He accumulated evidence demonstrating that organisms evolve over eons of time and diversify as they adapt to environments that are enormously diverse. Most important, however, is that he discovered natural selection, the process that accounts for the evolution of organisms and for their adaptive features; that is, their “design.” The design of organisms is not intelligent, as it would be expected from an engineer, but imperfect and worse: defects, dysfunctions, oddities, waste, and cruelty pervade the living world.
Darwin’s theory of evolution accounts for the design of organisms, and for their wondrous diversity, as the result of the gradual accumulation of spontaneous mutations sorted out by natural selection. Mutation and selection have jointly driven the marvelous process that, starting from microscopic organisms, has yielded orchids, birds, and humans. The theory of evolution conveys chance and necessity, randomness and determinism, jointly enmeshed in the stuff of life.

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