Indian scientists said Union minister Satya Pal Singh’s remark that Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution was “scientifically wrong”, “overly simplistic”, “misleading” and without any “scientific basis.”
Singh, Minister of State for HRD, on Saturday said: “Darwin’s theory (of evolution of man) is scientifically wrong. It needs to change in the school and college curriculum. Since (the time that) man is seen on Earth, he has always been a man. Nobody, including our ancestors, in written or oral, said they saw an ape turning into a man,” the minister said.
Aniket Sule, who is in the field of education research at the Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education at TIFR in Mumbai, circulated a petition among colleagues in the scientific community. It will be submitted to the Prime Minister’s Office on Tuesday. It asked the minister to retract his speech and issue a clarification from the ministry about its policy for teaching evolution.
“It is factually incorrect to state that the evolutionary principle has been rejected by the scientific community. On the contrary, every new discovery adds support to Darwin’s insights.. There is plentiful and undeniable scientific evidence to the fact that humans and the other great apes and monkeys had a common ancestor,” said the statement, which has over 2,000 signatories from scientific institutes across the country. These institutes include the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai, National Centre for Radio Astrophysics in Pune, National Centre for Biological Sciences in Bengaluru, IIT Bombay and the Centre for Cellular & Molecular Biology, Hyderabad.
Sule told The Indian Express that he had originally written the statement as a Google Doc, but changed it to a statement with a form for signing after some people began posting angry comments asking the scientists not to find fault with the minister’s comments. “Every few days, we hear some statements from ministers or others, but this particular (one) referred to evolution which is a very well-established principle and references to remove it from school textbooks. If that happens, the coming generation of students will just be taught incorrect science,” he said.
Satyajit Rath of Agharkar Research Institute, Pune, said: “There is more than one petition being circulated, and I am told a large number of scientists have been signing it since morning. I myself have signed two. Such statements need to be condemned.”
The petitions at this stage, say scientists, are individual efforts. Surendra Ghaskadbi, a development biologist at Agharkar Research Institute, said: “Apes are not converted into humans. Our fossil records and DNA sequences show that we have evolved from a common ancestor.”
The statement written by Sule added: “You have also supposedly claimed that the Vedas contain answers to all questions. Such an exaggerated claim cannot be substantiated with the evidence available and is an insult to the genuine research work on history of Indian scientific traditions. Vedic traditions through the Mimamsa discipline, teach us ways of analysing the Vedas through rationality and logical reasoning. Your claims are at odds with the very traditions you claim to uphold.”
The statement added: “When a minister working for Human Resource Development in the country makes such claims, it harms the scientific community’s efforts to propagate scientific thoughts and rationality… It also diminishes the image of the country at the global level and reduces faith of the international historical research community in the genuine research by the Indian researchers.”