Scientist: Evolution debate will soon be history
Discoveries will accelerate to the point that 'even the skeptics can accept it'
NEW YORK — Richard Leakey predicts skepticism over evolution will soon be history.
Not that the avowed atheist has any doubts himself.
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."
Leakey, a professor at Stony Brook University on Long Island, recently spent several weeks in New York promoting the Turkana Basin Institute in Kenya. The institute, where Leakey spends most of his time, welcomes researchers and scientists from around the world dedicated to unearthing the origins of mankind in an area rich with fossils.
His friend, Paul Simon, performed at a May 2 fundraiser for the institute in Manhattan that collected more than $2 million. A National Geographic documentary on his work at Turkana aired this month on public television.
Now 67, Leakey is the son of the late Louis and Mary Leakey and conducts research with his wife, Meave, and daughter, Louise. The family claims to have unearthed "much of the existing fossil evidence for human evolution."
On the eve of his return to Africa earlier this week, Leakey spoke to The Associated Press in New York City about the past and the future.
"If you look back, the thing that strikes you, if you've got any sensitivity, is that extinction is the most common phenomena," Leakey says. "Extinction is always driven by environmental change. Environmental change is always driven by climate change. Man accelerated, if not created, planet change phenomena; I think we have to recognize that the future is by no means a very rosy one."
Any hope for mankind's future, he insists, rests on accepting existing scientific evidence of its past.
"If we're spreading out across the world from centers like Europe and America that evolution is nonsense and science is nonsense, how do you combat new pathogens, how do you combat new strains of disease that are evolving in the environment?" he asked.
"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 insists he has no animosity toward religion.
"If you tell me, well, people really need a faith ... I understand that," he said.
"I see no reason why you shouldn't go through your life thinking if you're a good citizen, you'll get a better future in the afterlife ...."
Leakey began his work searching for fossils in the mid-1960s. 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.
In the late 1980s, Leakey began a career in government service in Kenya, heading the Kenya Wildlife Service. He led the quest to protect elephants from poachers who were killing the animals at an alarming rate in order to harvest their valuable ivory tusks. He gathered 12 tons of confiscated ivory in Nairobi National Park and set it afire in a 1989 demonstration that attracted worldwide headlines.
In 1993, Leakey crashed a small propeller-driven plane; his lower legs were later amputated and he now gets around on artificial limbs. There were suspicions the plane had been sabotaged by his political enemies, but it was never proven.
About a decade ago, he visited Stony Brook University on eastern Long Island, a part of the State University of New York, as a guest lecturer. Then-President Shirley Strum Kenny began lobbying Leakey to join the faculty. It was a process that took about two years; he relented after returning to the campus to accept an honorary degree.
White skin appeared just 20,000 to 50,000 years ago, as dark-skinned humans migrated to colder climes and lost much of their melanin pigment.
see there is no biological basis for the idea of a white or black or asian
Race is an old concept that should probably be discarded. It was
created by people who had a very limited knowledge of their world. If you
look at any genetic map (mitochondrial or Y chromosome DNA), you can
see there is no biological basis for the idea of a white or black or asian
Here's a map
Spencer Wells geneticist and anthropologist
Spencer Wells (born April 6, 1969 in Georgia, United States) is a geneticist and anthropologist, an Explorer-in-Residence at the National Geographic Society, and Frank H.T. Rhodes Class of '56 Professor at Cornell University. He leads The Genographic Project
He wrote the book The Journey of Man: A Genetic Odyssey (2002), which explains how genetic data has been used to trace human migrations over the past 50,000 years, when modern humans first migrated outside of Africa. According to Wells, one group took a southern route and populated southern India and southeast Asia, then Australia. The other group, accounting for 90% of the world's non-African population (some 5 billion people as of late 2006), took a northern route, eventually peopling most of Eurasia (largely displacing the aboriginals in southern India, Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia in the process), North Africa and the Americas. Wells also wrote and presented the PBS/National Geographic documentary of the same name. By analyzing DNA from people in all regions of the world, Wells has concluded that all humans alive today are descended from a single man who lived in Africa around 60,000 - 90,000 years ago, a man also known as Y-chromosomal Adam.
Since 2005, Wells has headed The Genographic Project, undertaken by the National Geographic Society, IBM, and the Waitt Family Foundation, which aims to creating a picture of how our ancestors populated the planet by analyzing DNA samples from around the world. He presents the knowledge gained from the project around the world, including at the 2007 TED conference, where he spoke specifically about human diversity.
Think of the Whitest person you know:Now think of the darkest person you know:
Think of the Whitest person you know: someone with blond hair, blue eyes and almost translucent skin, not a drop of Black ancestry in them. Now think of the darkest person you know: someone richly endowed with traditional African features, not even a drop of White ancestry in their past. Well, guess what? Scientists now trace the origins of both of these people-and of all human beings who have ever walked the face of the earth-to Black Africa, to the region around what is now Ethiopia. As Spencer Wells, the director of National Geographic's massive Genographic Project, puts it: "Our species evolved in Africa, and a subset of Africans left that continent around 50,000 years ago to populate the rest of the world. Our earliest ancestors probably looked very much like modern Africans."
This would have been news to "Bull" Connor and Orval Faubus and countless other racists from our past. It is also news to most of our White
from solely from Africa is the established theory for couple of centuries but new evidence is being found questioning the theory, hence in few decades it may prove Professor Leakey their is wrong also.
When man first left the continent of Africa, we headed east, towards the Middle East. For some reason, we returned shortly thereafter.
This doesn't necessarily mean that the first man were black as we know it today, but it certainly means that we weren't white.
Almost all the people in this world have some color. We call some "yellow", some "red", and some "brown", but they're all have lighter skin than Africans and darker skin than Europeans.
The only reason why whites exist at all, is because tens of thousands of years ago, my ancesters moved to a continent that's cloudy as fuck and gets no sun. Lighter skin means more vitamin D intake from the sun.
The greatest likelihood is that the first man was black. Africa has the greatest genetic diversity of any other place on earth, and that diversity are among blacks. All of our ancesters were most likely black.
-- Modified on 5/27/2012 5:31:14 AM