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As the 200th birthday of Charles Darwin is celebrated all over the world today, this week's podcast focuses on Darwin's major contributions to evolutionary theory and on the scientific and social issues raised by his views on the origin of species by means of natural selection. And who better to tackle these topics than Dr. Francisco Ayala, one of the world's foremost scientists, thinkers, and educators on Darwin and evolution.
During this week's podcast, Dr. Ayala explains why Darwin's discovery of natural selection was the final step in completing the Copernican revolution. He also discusses the different views of Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace regarding the concept of natural selection and how those differences influenced each man's understanding of the process of evolution.
While some scientists may see natural selection primarily as a negative process, i.e., a winnowing of a species, Dr. Ayala describes the positive and creative aspects. He also presents the case that compared to comparative anatomy and the fossil record, molecular biology provides the strongest evidence of biological evolution. Dr. Ayala goes on to explore why so many Americans seem to have trouble with the scientific theory of evolution, gravitating instead toward the idea of intelligent design. Yet, contends Dr. Ayala, intelligent design is not only an example of bad science but also of bad religion.
Francisco Ayala, Ph.D.
is a University Professor and Donald Bren Professor of Biological Sciences, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at School of Biological Sciences, University of California-Irvine.