Kenyan Paleoanthropologist Richard Leakey believes that continuing advancements in science will finally end skepticism about evolution:
“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.”
Though, admittedly, he puts the time-frame for such a change within the next 15 to 30 years, I believe that the professor is making a crucial mistake:
Skepticism about evolution is not a matter of a greater accumulation of evidence.
If having sufficient evidence were all that were required for denial of evolution to disappear, the last Creationist would have given up 100 years ago.
Obviously, Leakey knows this, especially when you consider that he has led teams that have contributed a few of those transitional fossils Creationists are so fond of pretending don’t exist. It sounds like he believes that removing skepticism about evolution is merely a matter of presenting people with the overwhelming evidence. In some cases, he may be right. The atheist community has a large contingent of people who were kept away from the evidence in favor of evolution in their youth, only to discover it and accept it fully as an adult. But ignorance alone does not account for all Creationists.
I believe Leakey is underestimating the number of people who are nowhere near “the stage where you can persuade people on the evidence.” Many people have been led to believe by their pastors, priests, and imams that to accept evolution is to deny their faith, that acceptance of evolution is an implicit rejection of God. Faced with this choice, many will reject evolution, not because they find its evidence lacking, but because they believe it is a threat to a religious belief they hold dear. They are making an emotional choice, not an intellectual one — in other words, a choice that is not amenable to persuasion through facts.
Could Creationism be done away with within the next several decades? Possibly, but merely educating people better about the fact of evolution is not enough. People must be educated, not simply to accept any one scientific concept, but to deeply hold the notion that evidence must be the primary reason one does or does not hold something to be true. Until the idea that “faith is a virtue” is banished from our culture, we will have to deal with people choosing what to believe with their hearts and not their heads. I have hope that such a time is in our future, but I think 15-30 years is a tad optimistic.