Dr. Leakey is optimistic about ending debate over evolution. Too optimistic.

Scientist: Evolution debate will soon be history – Technology & science – Science – msnbc.com.

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.

  4 comments for “Dr. Leakey is optimistic about ending debate over evolution. Too optimistic.

  1. Massachusetts
    May 26, 2012 at 6:20 PM

    Only high educational standards and opportunities over several generations will improve this situation. Unfortunately we don’t have such a great track record lately in this age of cut-backs and intransigent ideologically motivated politics.

    I think you are right, that Dr. Leakey is assuming the deniers of evolutionary theory are motivated by reason and simply don’t see enough evidence yet. Hard core deniers will never have enough evidence, it is a completely emotional “comfort zone” reaction with them. But perhaps their grand kids will respond to the evidence with excellent science education and critical thinking training. But that’s exactly what the deniers don’t want to provide them.

  2. May 26, 2012 at 8:49 PM

    It’s been over 150 years, and things have gotten arguably worse, not better.

  3. Amp Tron
    May 27, 2012 at 9:42 AM

    I’m afraid that until educated people in positions of authority (politicians especially) are brave enough to admit in public what I have to think they believe in private and state that religious dogma is based on ancient superstition and myth then these ridiculous “debates” will never end. Personally I find it so frustrating that someone like Obama who has a great education and a sharp mind would be crucified (pun intended) if he came out and said publicly that so much of religion is nonsense.

  4. Massachusetts
    May 27, 2012 at 10:27 AM

    I don’t think there’s evidence to support the contention that most educated people believe religion is just nonsense, or always a reactionary force. A certain subset of educated people do believe that, but others believe it has a place in society, though they may debate the exact nature of that place, and recognize that it changes over time. I see no evidence that President Obama is a closet atheist.

    Many believe religion has important things to say about our interpersonal relations, inter class relations, how we treat those in need, the place of the individual in society, etc. Those beliefs run the gamut from super conservative to open-minded and progressive. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a well-educated man, lead the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and affected positive social change.

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