Richard Leakey predicts skepticism over evolution will soon be history.
Sometime in the next 15 to 30 years, the Kenyan-born paleoanthropologist expects scientific discoveries will have accelerated to the point that “even the skeptics can accept it.”
“If you get to the stage where you can persuade people on the evidence, that it’s solid, that we are all African, that color is superficial, that stages of development of culture are all interactive,” Leakey says, “then I think we have a chance of a world that will respond better to global challenges.”
“If you don’t like the word evolution, I don’t care what you call it, but life has changed. You can lay out all the fossils that have been collected and establish lineages that even a fool could work up. So the question is why, how does this happen? It’s not covered by Genesis. There’s no explanation for this change going back 500 million years in any book I’ve read from the lips of any God.”
Tip: Mike Hill
This is a very strange article. One, I have an extreme aversion to his use of the term skeptic. But that’s my pedantry at work. Creationists and ID-ers are not skeptics. They actively deny evidence in favor of belief.
Dr. Leakey is both very correct and very misguided, IMO. There is certainly no scientific debate about evolution. It’s a fact, as he says, that life has changed. To deny that is absurd. However, Creationists are not denying it on a scientific basis. He fails to recognize how they will cling to a belief in their holy book. NOT SCIENCE. Their rules are different, eschew logic and reason, and evidence does not matter. So a social debate about evolution will always be there in some form, I suspect, forever.
But, the bottom line is, to make progress in our knowledge and bettering human existence, only reliable knowledge derived from science provides us a path forward. Religious beliefs are pretty darn immovable and, therefore, only support a status quo. Not progress.
Update: (29-May-2012) Chris Mooney expresses similar views, expanded in this piece on DesmogBlog:
[...]I’m nonetheless floored to find that in this day and age, a scientist as prominent as Leakey can sound so optimistic about being able to “persuade people on the evidence.” For with such remarks—and of course, this is assuming that the AP is quoting him accurately—Leakey seems to ignore everything we actually know about why people reject facts and reason.