Leakey’s Leap of Faith

By: Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary In a recent interview, the famous archeologist Richard Leakey said that eventually people will have to accept the evidence that all humans descended from remote human-like creatures out of Africa who became us. Leakey also said that in another generation or two the human fossil evidence will be so complete that we will have far, far more knowledge about our origins than at any time since humans started to try and piece together the past. The second part I believe Leakey may be correct. The search for human evolution, which began 180 years ago, has accelerated so fast that it is possible we may know not only far more about our past origins but will have a complete picture of who we are that we cannot imagine today. But the first part, that ordinary people will accept human evolution because we will have a better idea of what it is, I find questionable.

Richard Leakey, the son of the famous archeologist Louis Leakey, is an avowed atheist. And yet, for an atheist I find what he is saying is a real leap of faith. I am convinced that while future archeologists (or at least most of them) will acknowledge the overwhelming evidence that indeed show that evolution had a vital role in human evolution, I just cannot accept his notion that ordinary people will. When I say “leap of faith” in the case of Leakey, it goes on the premise that people will accept scientific inquiry and idea that man is as much an animal as every other animal. This is where in my view Leakey is totally wrong. Most people will not accept that man is an animal. Too many religious institutions and faiths are built on the concept that man is not an animal but a rare exception to the rule. Because of this exception, man cannot have “evolved” as Leakey would have us see it. Therefore nothing Leakey does or says will change this picture.

Here is the irony—in the United States over the past 25 years, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled time and again that evolution is a fact and that any counter argument is “religion in disguise.” Yet more and more people from all walks of life in America are coming closer to believe that evolution is just a “theory” and because of this not worthy of funding. During the last decade alone funding for many university projects dealing with archeology and physical anthropology have been cut because they are not seen by state governments, or even many universities, as “necessary.” At the same time, more people who think that evolution is full of “bunk” have taken over school districts, schools and have become concerned parents wondering if their children are truly learning “christian” principles. Most people think that “evidence” of human evolution is irrelevant. To most Americans, the whole concept of human evolution is too complex and hard to follow. But there are three things that many people object to about what we call evolution. First, that man is an animal. Second, that humanity is not the work of some divine intervention or creation. Finally, that humanity will amount to nothing anymore than did the dinosaurs or any other living creatures being on this planet.

In the religious scheme of things, man has to be more than a mere creation of nature. There has to be a cataclysmic event that will usher in a true era where man and god will forever be eternal. In the scheme of evolution, man cannot be anything more than an accident of nature, and thus can be just as easily wiped out by nature. This is too much for too many people and in my view why Richard Leakey has got it all wrong. Strangely enough, Leakey’s whole life has been more on the ideal of what humans are than understanding of the reality of the human psyche. This is why the very word “evolution” is still a dirty word to too many people.

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