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Internationally Known Scientist to Discuss "The Biological Foundations of Morality" at Mount St. Mary’s University April 12

(3/15) 2001 National Medal of Science Laureate Francisco J. Ayala, Ph.D., will present "The Biological Foundations of Morality" on Thursday, April 12, as the Bicentennial Distinguished Lecture at Mount St. Mary’s University. In his talk Ayala will explore questions such as "Are humans the only moral animals?" and "Where do codes of morality (such as the Ten Commandments) come from?"

The event will be held at 7 p.m. in the Marion Burk Knott Auditorium. It is free and open to the public.

Ayala is a professor of biological sciences and of philosophy at the University of California, Irvine. He has been honored internationally with several medals and honorary degrees for his life’s work in the field of evolutionary genetics. He is the author of several books, including "Genetics and The Origin of Species" (1997) and "Darwin and Intelligent Design" (2006). In addition to his work in genetics, Ayala is interested in the philosophy of biology and in bioethics, as well as in the relationships between science and religion, including the teaching of evolution in schools.

About the April 12 lecture, Ayala explains, "With the advent of humankind, biological evolution transcended itself and ushered in cultural evolution. Products of cultural evolution include science and technology; complex social and political institutions; religious and ethical traditions; language, literature, and art; and electronic communication.

"Our intelligence­a product of biological evolution­predisposes us to make ethical judgments, that is, to evaluate actions as either good or evil. But the moral codes that guide our ethical behavior transcend biology in that they are not biologically determined; rather, they are molded by cultural evolution."

Ayala will be honored at the lecture with a Bicentennial Medal. Bicentennial Director Elizabeth Monahan said, "This is an extremely prestigious honor that will only be bestowed on a few individuals who have committed themselves to the betterment of society and the advancement of the intellectual tradition."

The lecture is the first of four bicentennial academic symposia in the series Notes to the Class of 2058: The Challenge of Faith and Culture. The series addresses the question of where the dialogue between the Catholic tradition and contemporary academic culture will lead. It celebrates the 200th anniversary of the founding of Mount St. Mary’s University in 1808. The second oldest Catholic university in the United States, the Mount is a four-year undergraduate and graduate institution and also home to a major Catholic seminary.

For details on this event, visit or call 301-447-3416. To arrange for interpreters for the deaf or other services, please contact the Learning Services Department of Mount St. Mary’s University at 301-447-5006 at least 72 hours in advance.

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