10.13.2005

Leakey: 'Anyone Who Believes in Intelligent Design Cannot Be That Intelligent'

Leakey: Intelligent Design Not 'Alternative' to Science

from The Morning Call

The landmark federal trial taking place in Harrisburg over intelligent design has not escaped the attention of world-renowned paleontologist Richard Leakey, who was in Bethlehem on Wednesday to speak about human origins.

But asking Leakey, a third-generation Kenyan, to expound on a concept that is "uniquely American" — whether mankind's development evolved entirely on its own, or had the help of an intelligent designer — is like asking him to stick to one cause at a time.

"Intelligent design is not a serious alternative to science," said Leakey, shaking his head. "If you choose to believe in fairy tales, that's your decision. I'll stick with good old Darwin and his theory of evolution."

Leakey's accomplishments range from finding a Homo erectus skeleton of a 12-year-old boy dating back 1.6 million years, winning a parliament seat in the Kenyan government, to securing protections for the endangered African elephant. His current raison d'être is raising awareness about global climate changes.

But why everyone in the United States wants to talk to him about the debate over including intelligent design in the teaching of evolution is a mystery to him. He dismisses intelligent design as "a dressed up form of creationism."

"I know it interests Americans, but really, it's not as hotly debated in the rest of the world," Leakey said.

Members of eight families are suing the Dover Area School Board over its decision to mention intelligent design in ninth-grade biology classes. The families told a federal judge in Harrisburg last week that they oppose it because it introduces religion into science classes.

Leakey, who has not been asked to testify in the case, says he does not believe in a higher power — call it God, or an intelligent designer. He finds the debate "very boring" but nevertheless can't resist trying to explain the origins of the debate.

"There is a conservative, right-wing, fundamentalist element in your country," he said. "They tried to promote creationism, but it didn't hold up to scientific evidence. But there continues to be a strong contingent that believes science is eroding faith."

Leakey alluded to President Bush's comments this week about concerns that mutations in avian flu could potentially kill millions if the right strain of vaccine isn't stockpiled, and related them to the president's comments earlier this year that seemed to support intelligent design.

"Anyone who believes in intelligent design cannot be that intelligent," Leakey said. "Your Mr. Bush appears to believe in it."

"If he doesn't believe in evolution, than he shouldn't be the least bit worried about a new kind of bird flu or HIV, for that matter," he said.

Bush has advocated teaching alternative beliefs to evolution in public schools, said Allen Abney, a spokesman in the White House press office.

Asked if Bush supported intelligent design over evolution, Abney said: "The point is that other theories should be taught. I'll just leave it at that."

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