On Saturday January 20, 2018, several news outlets have reported your (Union Minister of State for Human Resource Development Satyapal Singh) speech made in the city of Aurangabad on the previous day. You have been quoted as saying, “Darwin’s theory of evolution is wrong. It has already been rejected by scientists some 30-35 years back. It is wrong to say that humans evolved from monkeys and such references should be removed from the science and history school textbooks.” The news report also included several other questionable statements attributed to you. However, for the purpose of this letter we would focus on this particular claim.
We, the scientists, science communicators and scientifically-oriented members of the public, are deeply pained by your claim. 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. One should also note that it is no longer merely a mechanism for organic evolution, but several other evolutionary phenomena in nature. Statements such as “humans did/did not evolve from monkeys” is an overly simplistic and misleading representation of evolution. There is plentiful and undeniable scientific evidence to the fact that humans and the other great apes and monkeys had a common ancestor.
You have also supposedly claimed that 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 Vedas through rationality and logical reasoning. Your claims are at odds with the very traditions you claim to uphold.
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 through critical education and modern scientific research. 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.
Therefore, we urge you to retract the reported speech at the All India Vedic Sammelan with immediate effect and issue a clarification about the Ministry’s policy towards teaching the theory of evolution.
H.C. Pradhan, former Centre Director, HBCSE (TIFR), Mumbai, Naresh Dadhich, former director, IUCAA, Pune, Govind Swaroop, former Centre Director, NCRA (TIFR), Pune, Deepak Mathur, former director, UM-DAE CEBS, Mumbai, D. Balasubramaniam, former director, Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad, Shrikant Bahulkar, Honorary Secretary, Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Pune, Jayashree Ramadas, former Centre Director, HBCSE (TIFR), Mumbai and others
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