The Indian Institute of Science, Education and Research (IISER) on Friday defended its decision to include a question on the controversial comments made by Union Minister of State (MoS) Satya Pal Singh on Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.
In January, Singh, the MoS for Human Resource Development, had claimed that Darwin’s theory of evolution was “scientifically wrong” and suggested that it needed to be changed in school and college curriculum across the country. One of the questions in the IISER’s mid-semester exam, held on Thursday, asked 50 undergraduate students, who are pursuing an advanced course in evolution, to explain what was wrong with Singh’s argument.
After the question was shared on social media by an IISER student, a row erupted on the institute’s decision to include such a question. Sanjeev Galande, Dean of Research and Development at IISER, said the institute merely wanted to test the “students’ ability to think logically”.
“The question was aimed at judging the students’ ability to think logically on the matter. Neither was it politically inclined nor was it intended to demean anybody. At this institute, we test the logical reasoning capability of students, rather than testing them on knowledge gained by rote learning practices or memorising concepts,” he said.
In a departure from the norm, the question, worth 2 marks in the 35-mark exam, included a note that explained the rationale behind the question.
The note read, “This question is NOT asking why biologists believe evolution to be correct. It is asking why the quoted argument cannot be correct in terms of disproving the Darwinian theory of evolution.”
Galande said “the students loved answering the question”. The institute had hosted Singh when he visited the IISER on February 12. “We had a nice interaction with the minister during his visit… he wanted to know about the activities going on here and even spared some time to interact with the students,” said Galande.