The next big name to fall is Francisco Ayala, a huge name in genetics and evolution. It turns out he took advantage of his wealth and reputation.

Micha Liberty, an attorney who represents three of the women, said UCI ignored years of complaints from professors and graduate students that Ayala touched them and made sexual and sexist comments. She said one of the professors she’s representing reported Ayala’s conduct three years ago, but university officials failed to investigate or sanction him.

“They just told him, ‘Stay away from her,’ ” Liberty said. “Dr. Ayala has had a long and successful career and was clearly an asset to the UCI campus … and that in turn motivated UCI to look the other way when it came to complaints of sexual harassment.”

The university started the investigation last November. The women, who asked to be identified, are Kathleen Treseder, professor and chair of ecology and evolutionary biology; Jessica Pratt, an assistant teaching professor; Benedicte Shipley, an assistant dean; and Michelle Herrera, a graduate student.

After interviews with the women and more than 60 witnesses, the university substantiated the complaints last month.

I’m just sayin’…holy crap. His name is on textbooks, he’s in the textbooks. This is big and very shocking. And there goes his reputation. Gone.

In 2011, Ayala donated $10 million to the School of Biological Sciences, which then bore his name. It was the largest gift from a faculty member at the time.

The university said Ayala’s name has been removed from that school, and also is being removed from its central science library, graduate fellowships, scholar programs and endowed chairs. The biology school will now be known as the UCI School of Biological Sciences.

Also ironic: he was a major associate of the Templeton Foundation, and was fond of arguing for the compatibility of science and religion. That Catholic upbringing didn’t help him here.

He does have a novel defense. He had “too much respect” for women, and they just confused his manners for sexual assault.

“I deeply regret that what I have always thought of as the good manners of a European gentleman — to greet women colleagues warmly, with a kiss to both cheeks, to compliment them on their beauty — made colleagues I respect uncomfortable,” Ayala said Friday in a statement. “It was never my intent to do so.”

He said he had “too much respect” for the women, his family and UC Irvine to continue defending himself with hearings, appeals or lawsuits and would continue his research “with renewed vigor” elsewhere.

Yeah, right. Sure. These were intelligent, well-educated women — I don’t think they’d be at all confused, and wouldn’t mistake a European-style kiss on the cheek for sexual harassment. It’s an insulting argument.


  1. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    He does have a novel defense.

    “I deeply regret that what I have always thought of as the good manners of a European gentleman — to greet women colleagues warmly, with a kiss to both cheeks, to compliment them on their beauty — made colleagues I respect uncomfortable,” Ayala said Friday in a statement. “It was never my intent to do so.”

    He said he had “too much respect” for the women,


    At an Oct. 9, 2016, debate after the “Access Hollywood” video was released: “I have great respect for women. Nobody has more respect for women than I do. I’ve said things that, frankly, you hear these things I said. And I was embarrassed by it. But I have tremendous respect for women. And women have respect for me.”

  2. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    In response to the Fiorina situation on the “Today” show: “I have tremendous respect for women, and I am going to protect women. … [Ivanka Trump] said, ‘Dad, you respect and love women so much. Could you talk about it more because people don’t really understand how you feel?'”

  3. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    After the Megyn Kelly “blood coming out of her wherever” comment: “I cherish women. I want to help women. I’m going to do things for women that no other candidate will be able to do.”

  4. chrislawson says

    Even if it was just a case of exuberant greeting from a different culture (which I don’t believe for a moment), then he should have stopped after the first complaint.

  5. John Harshman says

    Is this a good time to mention that I’ve never been all that impressed by Ayala? He wrote a book called Am I a Monkey?, on misconceptions about evolution, and his answer was “no”. He spoke at a meeting I attended on “Is evolution progressive?” and his answer was “yes”. Plus Templeton.

  6. Matt G says

    John@5- if he answers “yes” to the question of whether evolution has direction, it sounds like he’d be right at home with the Third Way crowd.

  7. anxionnat says

    Some years ago, I took Ayala’s undergraduate Genetics class at UC Davis. I don’t know where he gets the reputation of being so great, because he was a horrible teacher. Most of the class was lost by the second lecture. It was only due to extremely hard work by the TAs that anybody even passed the class. Add to that the fact that he made sexual jokes (snigger snigger) in class, and that he told the women in the class that we didn’t belong there, repeatedly. It’s due to Ayala primarily (but there were other creeps in other science depts–and the Engineering and Physics bldgs didn’t even have women’s bathrooms!) that I got totally turned off of Genetics and have felt that lack for the rest of my life. Frankly, given his earlier conduct, I’m not surprised about the sexual harassment charges.

  8. hemidactylus says

    Does Templeton merit the sweeping bugbear treatment it gets? Sure there are negative aspects, but they have their name on some stuff I have found edifying. I see them get worst cased often by a blogger who will go unnamed, but may have banned a few of us posting here. Of course Templeton and accommodationism were mentioned briefly in a recent appropriately scathing post on Ayala about his downfall.

    The PBS show Closer to Truth (with Templeton backing) has some thought provoking content, even the theology oriented stuff I don’t agree with. If I wanted to worst case that show, the fact that Ayala, Krauss and Shermer have been among the interviewed would be a point to raise.

    Templeton was behind a free will conference highlighted on several episodes of Closer to Truth. That topic may not be everyones cup of tea, but I found the content fascinating. They are also behind Tegmark’s FQXi. A book I read about terror management theory called “The Worm at the Core” thanks Templeton.

    Ironically Pinker cites this favorably in Enliightenment Now:

    ““Chelsea Follett (@Chellivia) is the managing editor of, a project of the Cato Institute.”

    “Note: is a project of the Cato Institute with major support from the John Templeton Foundation, the Searle Freedom Trust, the Brinson Foundation and the Dian Graves Owen Foundation.”

    So yeah Templeton has a dark side. And Pinker cites an article connected to those evil bugbears.

  9. robro says

    I recently completed a required training program for the company I work for. I’ve had many of these trainings over the years and though the theme wasn’t new, this was the first time I can recall them explicitly stating that “friendly kisses” and complementing someone’s beauty is not professional.

  10. chrislawson says


    As a UQ staff member, I’ve had to do several routine courses as part of HR education. I can’t speak for other institutions, but the courses I took on sexual harassment would leave nobody in doubt that “friendly kisses” and beauty compliments are inappropriate. Obviously there are cultures where a small kiss is a common, non-sexualised greeting amongst friends, but it does not take a genius to work out that this is not acceptable workplace behaviour in anglophone nations.

  11. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says


    Does Templeton merit the sweeping bugbear treatment it gets?

    Why don’t you point out a specific instance of Templeton getting mistreated? Without knowing what you mean by “the sweeping bugbear treatment” I’m not sure how to answer.

    Besides, if I could get my bugbears to do some light housecleaning, I’d be overjoyed.

  12. gorobei says

    chrislawson@9 –

    Got to agree, academia is looking like Wall St was 20 years ago. Seriously, WTF is a defense of cultural differences?
    Big banks mostly fixed things when they realized every case was going to cost them $1M+. That might be a good baseline for academic institutions too.

  13. hemidactylus says

    Crip Dyke:

    @5 was going somewhere apparently negative with “Plus Templeton”. In the OP PZ referred to Ayala’s association with Templeton and his views on compatibility between religion and science, but PZ didn’t seem to be bugbearing Templeton. My experience has been in other venues (eg- unnamed blog and book by that blogger) with very negative views of the foundation and accomodationism.

    Just curious. Being an atheist, Templeton should be my natural enemy, but I think some of their largesse has gone to stuff that has benefited me intellectually, even if sometimes to learn more about theology which which I disagree when the PBS show goes down those roads. Maybe I am pushing back with best cases.

  14. iknklast says

    WTF is a bugbear?

    a cause of obsessive fear, irritation, or loathing.
    synonyms: pet peeve, hate, bête noire, anathema, aversion, bugaboo; More
    an imaginary being invoked to frighten children, typically a sort of hobgoblin supposed to devour them.

  15. chrislawson says


    Sorry, my mistake for using an acronym. UQ = University of Queensland, so I was talking about the academic sphere.

  16. elysof says

    While the “cultural misunderstanding” and “actually compliments” excuses are pathetic and offensive, they at least make sense as excuses. But “too much respect”—?! Is he suggesting that there’s a cutoff point after which the degree of one’s compassion/empathy towards and consideration/appreciation of women and their rights is harmful? That the real root of his offences isn’t an excess of imagined entitlement to sexually harass women, but an excess of respect for them? (Is that ridiculous enough to be novel?)

  17. chrislawson says


    The Templeton Foundation was set up with the express purpose of making scientific apologetics for religious beliefs. Not everything that it funds falls into that category, but it has a long history of distorting scientific evidence to support economic libertarianism, theistic evolution, climate change denial (a review of IRS data showed that the Templeton Foundation was a major funder of climate change denial, giving 4 times as much as Exxon and almost as much as the Koch Brothers), the positive effects of religion on health, the natural superiority and inevitable coming triumph of Christianity in modern China, and more. It has awarded its annual Templeton Prize to Mother Theresa and Billy F’ing Graham and its Epiphany Prize for the most “inspiring” movies and TV to The Passion of the Christ, The Chronicles of Narnia, Fireproof (an awful, awful Kirk Cameron movie), The Blind Side, Touched By An Angel… do you see a pattern emerging?

    It is not a stupid organisation, and it funds some things that are good science, but you’ll notice if you look at a list of its fundings that it is happy to support pure science when there is no particular theological bent to it (e.g. pure mathematics, quantum theory), but when there is a possible theological aspect to a scientific question, they consistently fund a person who will spin it into Christian apologetics.

    This does not mean they are incapable of producing interesting or valuable materials. If a given Templeton-funded discussion works for you, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t enjoy it. But you should definitely be aware of where it’s coming from.

    I will say one thing strongly in Templeton’s defence — they have made it clear that they do not think intelligent design theory has any intellectual merit. They famously asked the Discovery Institute to submit research proposals for funding, but the DI frauds despite all their blather about how they’re being oppressed by evolutionary biologists, took one look at the scientific requirements and did not submit a single proposal.

  18. chrislawson says

    I won’t talk any more about the Templeton Foundation here because it’s OT, but I will point out that I discovered while reading up on it yet another reason to despise Chris Mooney’s sophistry. He defended taking money from the Templetons with following idiocy: “You can’t both denounce the fellowship for being intellectually tilted and also boycott it, thereby refusing to help lend it more of the balance you claim it needs.”

  19. irene says

    Speaking of bugbears, it’s mistake for, not confuse for. “Confuse” takes “with.”

  20. PaulBC says

    Richard Paul Evans also used the European kiss defense. Is this going to become a thing?

  21. garnetstar says

    I have to say, I’ve met or know many of the Nobelists in chemistry, and the men who wrote the textbooks and who are in the textbooks and who have institutes named after them (it’s kind of a small field, everyone meets everyone). And there is not one of them that I’d be surprised to hear such charges about.

    Not that I think that most of them are harassers or have bad characters, but the position at the top of the hierarchy, which is a very strict one in chemistry (as per PZ’s next post) just encourages that sort of abuse of power.

  22. rydan says

    Hope they returned the money or disposed of it properly. Completely remove all traces and influence of that neanderthal.