New Delhi, Jan 23: The Indian scientific community is a miffed lot after Union minister Satyapal Singh at a public event in Aurangabad, Bihar recently stated that "Charles Darwin's theory of evolution is wrong".
Even after creating a major storm, the minister of state for human resource development in the Narendra Modi cabinet remained stuck to his claim on Monday and went ahead with his demand to hold an international debate on the whole issue.
Along with casting aspersions on Darwin's evolution theory stating that "nobody, including our ancestors, in written or oral, has said they saw an ape turning into a man", Singh suggested it needs to be changed in school and college curriculum.
Darwinism is a theory of biological evolution that states that all species of organisms arise and develop through the natural selection of small, inherited variations that increase the individual's ability to compete, survive, and reproduce. It was developed by Darwin, a 19th-century English naturalist, and others.
Several prominent scientists of the country wrote an open letter addressed to the minister, where they urged him 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."
Some of the scientists who signed the letter are HC 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 and Jayashree Ramadas, former Centre Director, HBCSE (TIFR), Mumbai, to name a few.
Read the letter below:
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 the 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.