US geneticist to receive $1.5m prize in religion
WASHINGTON — A onetime priest who became an evolutionary geneticist and molecular biologist and helped scientifically refute creationism with his research was honored yesterday with one of the world’s top religion prizes.
Francisco J. Ayala, 76, a US citizen originally from Spain, will receive the 2010 Templeton Prize, valued at $1.53 million, the John Templeton Foundation said at the National Academy of Sciences.
It is the largest monetary award given each year to an individual and honors someone who made exceptional contributions to affirm spirituality. Officials increase the value each year to exceed the Nobel Prize.
“I see religion and science as two of the pillars on which American society rests,’’ Ayala told the Associated Press, saying the United States is one of the world’s most religious countries. “We have these two pillars not talking, not seeing they can reinforce each other.’’
Ayala is a notable choice because he opposes the entanglement of science and religion. The former Dominican priest is adamant that science and religion do not contradict each other.
“If they are properly understood, they cannot be in contradiction because science and religion concern different matters, and each is essential to human understanding,’’ he said in remarks prepared for the acceptance ceremony.
Ayala is a top professor of biological sciences at the University of California, Irvine. His pioneering genetic research led to revelations that could help develop cures for malaria and other diseases.
Ayala plans to give the prize money to charity, likely for education.