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Human-origin research called vital

Global experts gather in S.L. for Leakey Foundation meetings

Richard Klein, professor of human biology at Stanford, has been with the Leaky Foundation for 17 years.
Richard Klein, professor of human biology at Stanford, has been with the Leaky Foundation for 17 years.

Creationism vs. evolution. While the subjects evoke a battle of beliefs, what really matters is a commitment to research.

That was among the messages delivered Saturday at the Annual Symposium of the Leakey Foundation, held this year at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts.

Experts from around the world came to Salt Lake City on Saturday to talk and present research into the origins of human creativity, the birth of art and the evolution of aesthetics.

"Most people would agree that education is education," said Richard Klein, professor of human biology at Stanford University.

The Leakey Foundation, he said, has something to offer everyone. Named after renowned anthropologist Louis S.B. Leakey, the foundation was founded in 1968 and today is the largest private-funding source of human-origin research.

The organization donates approximately $600,000 in grants each year to aid in research in more than 60 countries and in many scientific disciplines.

Grants are small, usually about $10,000, and are given mainly to enable students to work on their doctorate theses.

Klein has been with the Leakey Foundation for 17 years. He said that everyone in the industry is impacted by the work the foundation does.

"We fund just about everyone eventually," he said. "If this was a meeting of professionals there wouldn't be anyone that hadn't had a grant from the Leakey Foundation. If not this year, then last year or some other time."

Klein said private funding is not only vital due to decreased federal funding in the field over the last 15 years, but also because there is so much to learn.

"This is a very exciting field," he said. "There have been a lot of new discoveries in the last 40 years."

In his lecture on the origins of human creativity, Klein said what he taught was closer to the truth than what he would have taught 10 years ago.

"And 10 years from now it will be better," he said.

Jean Clottes, honorary president of Societe Prehistorique Francaise, came from France to lecture on Upper Paleolithic cave art in the Chauvet Cave. He said the symposium "presents evidence and allows people to take the pieces and put them together themselves."

As well as lecturing, Clottes was also looking forward to spending some time in southern Utah to enjoy the rock art there.

"Utah is one of the great states in America for rock art," he said. "(The art here) is spectacular and fantastic. In my opinion, some of those canyons would be worth putting on the world heritage list."

Other speakers at Saturday's symposium included Margaret Livingstone, professor of neurobiology at Harvard University, and Marc Hauser, professor of psychology from Harvard.

To learn more about the Leakey Foundation visit