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Earth Science

Debate Over Evolution Will Soon Be History, Says Leakey 1226

Posted by timothy
from the overlapping-domains dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "According to noted paleoanthropologist Richard Leakey, sometime in the next 15 to 30 years scientific discoveries about evolution will have accelerated to the point that 'even the skeptics can accept it.' '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.' Leakey began his work searching for fossils in the mid-1960s and his team unearthed a nearly complete 1.6-million-year-old skeleton in 1984 that became known as 'Turkana Boy,' the first known early human with long legs, short arms and a tall stature. At 67, Leakey conducts research with his wife, Meave, and daughter, Louise, and the family claims to have unearthed 'much of the existing fossil evidence for human evolution.' Leakey, an atheist, insists he has no animosity toward religion."
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Debate Over Evolution Will Soon Be History, Says Leakey

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  • Don't bet on it. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by neokushan (932374) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @10:58AM (#40142405)

    Never underestimate the stubbornness of sheer ignorance.

    • by Joce640k (829181) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @10:59AM (#40142425) Homepage

      Satan planted all the fossils and make it look like the Earth was old just to trap the unenlightened.

      • by tmosley (996283) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @11:07AM (#40142571)
        Satan continuously changes DNA in bacterial cultures exposed to new environmental challenges.

        That wily bastard!
      • by MickyTheIdiot (1032226) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @11:20AM (#40142769) Homepage Journal

        Mental Gymnastics of this sort are a violation of Occam's razor.

        Of course, say that to a bible literalist / creationist and watch the blank stares.

      • by the_B0fh (208483) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @11:36AM (#40143057) Homepage

        And he planted them in coal and oil so that we'd be motivated to find them!

    • by khr (708262) <kevinrubin@gmail.com> on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @11:02AM (#40142487) Homepage

      Agreed. I don't think Dr. Leakey's argument holds water. The main problem isn't that there's a lack of evidence now, it's that people who don't believe it simply don't believe it, and choose not to. More evidence isn't likely to get change people's beliefs.

      Maybe in that time frame people who believe the evidence will come up with more convincing arguments, better debating material, but not simply more discoveries.

      • by SJHillman (1966756) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @11:04AM (#40142513)

        Agreed. I don't think Dr. Leakey's argument holds water.

        So... Leakey is leaky?

      • by pjabardo (977600) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @11:13AM (#40142659)
        Exactly, this struggle hasn't been over evidence for 80 years.
      • by Waffle Iron (339739) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @11:14AM (#40142661)

        More evidence isn't likely to get change people's beliefs.

        If someone believes in supernatural phenomena, than natural evidence would be completely irrelevant, no matter what the quantity.

      • Agreed. I don't think Dr. Leakey's argument holds water. The main problem isn't that there's a lack of evidence now, it's that people who don't believe it simply don't believe it, and choose not to. More evidence isn't likely to get change people's beliefs.

        Maybe in that time frame people who believe the evidence will come up with more convincing arguments, better debating material, but not simply more discoveries.

        Many Christians say the same thing about non-believers. Just sayin'.

      • ...and proving there's no need to do so, most people get busy on the proof." - John Kenneth Galbraith
      • by rufty_tufty (888596) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @11:43AM (#40143193) Homepage

        To quote again the guy who wrote my signature:
        "Science adjusts its views according to what's observed; faith is the denial of evidence in order that belief can be preserved"
        A scientist is doing a "better job" when he finds evidence that conflicts with the current viewpoint.
        The devout are doing a better job (and consider themselves more righteous) when they ignore evidence that conflicts with their beliefs.
        Or at least that's how it seems to me from the outside to me.

    • by UnknowingFool (672806) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @11:12AM (#40142645)

      It has never been about proof or knowledge. This debate like many others has always been about faith. For some groups, they would hold onto their beliefs because they are defined by them. They cannot see past those boundaries.

      Take for instance one of my high school friends who was aghast that I voted Barack Obama in the last election. One of main reasons she cited that she voted for McCain was because she honestly believed in the Birther nonsense. She still does to this day despite overwhelming evidence that there was no issue. For her, she would rather believe Obama somehow cheated than accept a world where her candidate wasn't elected in a fair election.

      You see this in other aspects like fans of football teams. Truthers, Area 51, Birthers--Sometimes people cannot accept we don't live in a world of their design.

    • by jedidiah (1196) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @11:23AM (#40142823) Homepage

      Leakey has made a fatally flawed assumption. He's giving the other side more credit than they really deserve. He assumes that they are genuine skeptics.

      They aren't skeptics. They are religious zealots that view anything that contradicts their world view as a threat. They are also a throwback. They are behind the times about 500 years.

      So adding another 30 years to that won't help.

      • by tnk1 (899206) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @12:11PM (#40143647)

        You make a serious mistake by referring to the thought processes of modern zealots as being a product of an earlier age. These individuals are 100% a product of the times in which we live. Some of the surface beliefs that they hold may have also been held 500 years ago, but people also knew the Earth was round 2000 years ago as well. Ideas do not actually age, they are either more or less accurate or useful.

        Point is, you don't understand what they are thinking if you consign them to the Middle Ages. They don't know what it was like in the medieval period any more than you do. They have cell phones, computers and use products of science all the time. They aren't rebelling against scientific advances, they are rebelling against what they view as an assault on their worldview and how they feel society should be structured. They don't like evolution because they can't see how it can mean that humans are still special. You overcome that, and you will have a lot less resistance.

        I sometimes feel that the legitimate interest that some scientists have in how close we are to certain other animal species tends to come off as them going a little too far towards believing that we are nothing special. We clearly are pretty darn different, even superior, based on certain criteria but not others. People want the story to be about themselves. You may consider that arrogant, but honestly, there's little harm in it. Nature isn't going to be offended one way or the other.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Nerdfest (867930)

      alternately, "If you could reason with religious people, there wouldn't be any religious people".

    • Never underestimate the stubbornness of sheer ignorance.

      I agree.

      Never thought I'd hear Leakey say something that stupid.

  • Don't count on it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GammaKitsune (826576) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @10:58AM (#40142419)
    His fatal mistake is to assume that creationists care about evidence.
    • by Sique (173459) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @11:01AM (#40142465) Homepage

      Your fatal mistake is to assume that everyone having doubts about evolution is a hardboiled creationist.

      • by Jackie_Chan_Fan (730745) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @11:02AM (#40142483)

        They are.

      • by jandrese (485) <kensama@vt.edu> on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @11:14AM (#40142669) Homepage Journal
        It's pretty hard to find an evolution skeptic outside of the hardboiled creationist crowd these days. I have not seen one in years. Unless you are totally impervious to reasoning, evidence, and logic or are hermetically sealed in a fact proof bubble it's hard to hold an anti-evolution stance these days. There are just too many exciting discoveries in genetics happening every day.
      • by Joce640k (829181)

        Your fatal mistake is to assume that everyone having doubts about evolution is a hardboiled creationist.

        Your fatal mistake is not understanding Set Theory.

  • Wishful thinking. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by JustShootMe (122551) <rmiller@duskglow.com> on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @10:59AM (#40142433) Homepage Journal

    There is a group of people who do not care about the evidence - the Bible says so, so there it is. That's not going to change just because you amass more evidence.

    On the other hand, there are a group of people who believe in God who also believe evolution was the method God used to create all of the different kinds of life we see. That is not something you can prove or disprove, therefore it's not in the realm of science. In other words, you want people to keep their religions hands off science, great. Keep your scientific hands off God. They don't have to be mortal enemies.

    • Day-age creationism (Score:4, Informative)

      by tepples (727027) <tepples&gmail,com> on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @11:04AM (#40142509) Homepage Journal

      There is a group of people who do not care about the evidence - the Bible says so, so there it is.

      But what the Bible teaches is not at all inconsistent with a multibillion-year-old universe. God created the universe in six ages [wikipedia.org], figuratively called "days" in Genesis 1. Notice that nowhere does the story of creation in Genesis mention an "evening and morning" for the seventh "day", which makes the 24-hour interpretation less likely. This and other mentions of God's rest (e.g. in Hebrews) indicate that the seventh age is ongoing.

      • by mark-t (151149)

        Actually, it was my understanding that the Hebrew word that is translated into English as "day" in Genesis 1 is the same word that is used to refer to the period of time from sunset until the following sunset.

        Take from that what you will...

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          If only there were some explanation for things being written with an intended meaning different than the literal meaning.

          Metaphorically speaking, that's a tough nut to crack. Oh well.

        • And the English bible is also a translation of a translation.

          Another reason literalism is silly.

        • Hebrew yôm (Score:5, Interesting)

          by tepples (727027) <tepples&gmail,com> on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @11:36AM (#40143049) Homepage Journal

          Actually, it was my understanding that the Hebrew word that is translated into English as "day" in Genesis 1 is

          ...the word yôm (Strong's H3117).

          the same word that is used to refer to the period of time from sunset until the following sunset.

          Among other meanings. It can also refer to an indefinite period, much as English day can. Compare English "one of these days", "back in the day", etc. It has similar metaphorical meaning in Hebrew [oldearth.org], and what is described as happening on some creative "days" cannot happen in 24 hours [godandscience.org]. See also Genesis 2:4, where Moses refers to the six creative "days" as one "day" [watchtower.org], and 2 Peter 3:8, where Peter compares God's concept of a "day" to a millennium to indicate that God operates on a different timescale from humans.

    • by clarkn0va (807617) <apt.get@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @11:30AM (#40142941) Homepage

      There is a group of people who do not care about the evidence - the Bible says so, so there it is.

      Strawman. Right in the summary Leakey is quoted as saying "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." Saying that the bible doesn't cover the topic of evolution is very different from saying that the bible denies or precludes it. There may be people who make that claim, but I don't see any in this discussion, and you certainly haven't directly addressed any here.

      Leakey says the bible doesn't explain creation, and many believers in the bible say that the bible's purpose has never been to explain the science of all things. Why are some folks, particularly here on /., bent on construing this as some sort of Empire versus Rebel Alliance dichotomy?

  • by rossdee (243626) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @11:00AM (#40142447)

    Where some people still believe in the literal truth of Genesis

  • I doubt it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pegasustonans (589396) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @11:01AM (#40142463)

    The debate over evolution should've been history a century ago.

    When a segment of the population refuses to accept scientific evidence, how is more of such evidence going to convince them?

  • You wish. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by geminidomino (614729) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @11:02AM (#40142485) Journal

    Let's be honest here. Even if we got our hands on Rick Berman's time machine and collected video evidence of every stage of human evolution from single-celled sludge to the "Alien Nation Reject" John Crichton, you'd STILL have the noisy nutcases "debating" it, because some 400-year-old book says it was a magic man in the sky.

     

    • Re:You wish. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @11:42AM (#40143169)

      Agreed. But I also imagine that there are people who could have seen Jesus perform miracles, and then seen him dead on a cross, and then seen him arise 3 days later. And they still wouldn't believe.

      As someone else in this conversation stated, you can find dogmatism on any side of a debate.

      That's why it's important that each of us consider all the facts carefully, when it really matters what we believe. Both sides tend to have smart people, average people, and crack-pots advocating for their position.

  • No. No it won't. (Score:5, Informative)

    by MyLongNickName (822545) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @11:05AM (#40142529) Journal

    I am a Christian. However, the overwhelming evidence is that the Earth is 4.6 Billion years old, life on Earth is Billions of years old and yes, my great^50000 grandfather was an ape. Yet, not matter what the evidence, there is a contigent who will ignore it. It is human nature to look at facts through the lens you wish to view it. One intelligent person I was disucssing fusion with denies that fusion was the power of the stars, saying instead that it is gravity that produces the energy of the Sun. I was dumbfounded. Even after asking why we see millions of stars with different colors and asked him how his model accounted for this, he could not answer. After asking why the Sun isn't shrinking rapidly as the equations would indicate they would have to to produce the amount of energy output of the Sun, he couldn't answer. Did his opinion change? Nope. Facts don't often change opinions.

    So, no, new evidence won't change anything. From my perspective, the debate was over about 150 years ago. Now we just have yelling.

    • As a Christian, evolution should be freeing you up to ponder the spiritual meaning of creation. Again, healthy religion will not take bible writings literal (it does massive injustice to the document) and be considered with the "why" and not the "how."

    • by JustShootMe (122551) <rmiller@duskglow.com> on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @11:18AM (#40142731) Homepage Journal

      Technically, he is, to a degree, correct. The pressures at the center of the sun that cause initiation of fusion are caused by gravity. What we are seeing now is a balance between the outward pressures caused by fusion and the inward pressures caused by gravity. The reason supernovas are so violent is that the star runs out of fuel, the outward pressures get too high, and the whole thing just collapses in on itself very quickly.

      That said, if he is denying that fusion is the process (or one of the major processes) that keeps the star from collapsing in on itself and creates the energy that causes the radiant heat we see, well, he's beyond hope.

  • by DrXym (126579) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @11:11AM (#40142619)
    People debating evolution are not rational people. If over 100 years of overwhelming evidence from multiple strands is not enough to convince these people then what difference will a few more make? The first rule of the denialist is to ignore or handwave away the evidence no matter how comprehensive it may be. Ignore it, cherry pick it, nit pick it, place undue weight on dubious evidence, emphasise the gaps in knowledge or minor discrepancies, employ copious amounts of wishful thinking and pseudoscience to pretend it doesn't matter, quote mine your opponents, and generally do everything to avoid confronting it at all. And above all else, never advance another explanation which is in any way reasonable or testable.

    Creationists are old hands at doing all of the above but the technique is common to denialists of all shades - moon hoaxers, 9/11 truthers, anti-vaxxers, global warming deniers. The same tactics every time.

  • by DiscountBorg(TM) (1262102) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @11:12AM (#40142631)

    Growing up very religious in a small town, I really thought that I knew what evolution was, and why it was wrong. It seemed so silly to me that 'scientists' could believe in this conjecture,er 'theory' full of 'missing links'. Clearly it was a conspiracy by godless atheists (where I now seem to comfortably fit in) to drown out the 'Truth'.

    Then at age 18 I got the internet and began to discover that I never, in fact, had ever been taught what Evolution really was. I had been taught a fantasy, an imaginary concoction that nobody actually believed in. As we all have seen, Creationists create a straw man simplification of evolutionary theory and then attack the straw man, rather than attacking the real thing.

    So I set out with my newly acquired knowledge. Surely, I though, now that I know that we've only been taught a mistaken notion of what evolutionary theory is, I can convince some people. Boy oh boy was I ever wrong. The first responses I got was, quite literally, "how dare you accuse our religion of LYING to us. They wouldn't lie to us". And so forth. I learned a lot about logical fallacies. The straw man. The fallacious appeal to false authority (look, this 'scientist' says evolution is fake, therefore it is). The argument from ridicule ("Man was made from monkeys, what kind of nitwit believes that"). It was a fascinating and revealing time in my life, and the clear intellectual dishonesty I saw compelled me to change my life. Within a couple years I went from being a homophobic creationist to going out to queer parties, not because I was gay, but because I discovered many of my friends were queer, and hadn't told me for obvious reasons.

    I am reminded of this Salon article talking about how social conservatives basically assign a lot of emotion and identity to their belief. They think it is rude if others challenge their beliefs, yet they desire to push their beliefs on everyone else. http://www.salon.com/2012/02/24/the_ugly_delusions_of_the_educated_conservative/ [salon.com]

    In the end, you cannot convince people who do not want to challenge their presuppositions and assertions. What will happen in the future, is that we will continue to move on and embrace exciting new advances, technologies, medicines that stem from biology, while those who do not understand it will simply be left behind.

    • In the end, you cannot convince people who do not want to challenge their presuppositions and assertions. What will happen in the future, is that we will continue to move on and embrace exciting new advances, technologies, medicines that stem from biology, while those who do not understand it will simply be left behind.

      I like your post. Your last point is near to what I wanted to say.

      I think the argument pitting evolution entirely against creationism is a mistake. Some people who are brought up believing something would rather be wrong than admit they were wrong. If evolution guys really want to help the creationists instead of "beat them", then they should do it gently. Find a middle ground. Start by proposing something that doesn't immediately insult them, something that doesn't challenge their pride.

      From the summa

  • by oneiros27 (46144) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @11:20AM (#40142767) Homepage

    Or, Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman were right, and it's just a sign that God has a sense of humor:

    Current theories on the creation of the Universe state that, if it was created at all and didn't just start, as it were, unofficially, it came into being between ten and twenty thousand million years ago. By the same token the earth itself is generally supposed to be about four and a half thousand million years old.

    These dates are incorrect.

    Medieval Jewish scholars put the date of the Creation at 3760 B.C. Greek Orthodox theologians put Creation as far back as 5508 B.C.

    These suggestions are also incorrect.

    Archbishop James Usher (1580-1656) published Annales Veteris et Novi Testamenti in 1654, which suggested that the Heaven and the Earth were created in 4004 B.C. One of his aides took the calculation further, and was able to announce triumphantly that the Earth was created on Sunday the 21st of October, 4004 B.C., at exactly 9:00 A.M., because God liked to get work done early in the morning while he was feeling fresh.

    This too was incorrect. By almost a quarter of an hour.

    The whole business with the fossilized dinosaur skeletons was a joke the paleontologists haven't seen yet.

    The whole first chapter* of Good Omens is on the Harper Collins website: http://www.harpercollins.com/features/pratchettBooks/excerpt.aspx?isbn=9780060853969 [harpercollins.com]

    * I *think* that it's the intro + first chapter, as I believe the first chapter started 'It wasn't a dark and stormy night.'

  • by grasshoppa (657393) <`gro.oc-onpt' `ta' `ydenneks'> on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @11:20AM (#40142775) Homepage

    It is flawed to believe that MORE evidence will bring about change in a group that is ignoring evidence.

The study of non-linear physics is like the study of non-elephant biology.

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