By Ananya S Guha
Darwin’s theory of evolution has been dubbed a myth and falsity by the junior minister of education, Satyapal Singh. He further said that it should not be taught in schools and educational institutions. So in one sweep, he submerges a scientific theory, which has been studied and further researched upon, into the seas of ignorance. It is not clear if he subscribes to the Victorian debate whether God created man, or the latter evolved out of lower species. To say however that Darwin’s theory should be summarily taken out of syllabus spells how a body of knowledge and discourse, even if incomplete, is arbitrarily dismissed. But this is not new for the present dispensation. First the victim was Indian history, now it is scientific history. Although scientists have shown the incompleteness of Darwin’s theory, no one has had the temerity to dismiss it as hogwash. Because it was and is a theory, it has a speculative design about it. But how could anyone come out with a fatuous statement like this? What is the purpose behind such sensational statements? What research has the minister undertaken to prove this?
The curiosity of all discoveries and inventions has been relegated to the world of myths. Science has become myth and myth science. If the scientific mode is based on empirical facts, then myths become the opposite dialectic, not based on evidence. So if man did not evolve, the minister’s opinion assumes that he emerged out of thin air, akin to a miraculous descent from anywhere. While the Bible claims that God created both man and woman, the Victorian dialectic was a healthy debate between science and spirituality. It might still be a matter of debate if the two could coexist. However, one didn’t annul the other to justify itself. It was a matter of individual choice and preference.
Our minister takes an extreme position. His is not a view that some mightn’t believe in the theory of evolution. He wants an outright rejection of Darwin. It is difficult to believe that the concerned minister is a doctoral degree holder. Our ministers seem to have a predilection for making sensational statements. The whole idea is to reject scientific temper, one of the cornerstones of our constitution. The present ruling dispensation glorifies ancient India and wants to claim that all scientific discoveries have come down from the ancient period. That could be true in some cases, as is evident in the case of mathematical concepts. Unfortunately, ancient India didn’t have anything to say about human evolution.
There were many theories of evolution, some claim. But the minister is disputing only Darwin’s, which is the most acceptable. In a recent television discussion, panelists demanded that there should be more research done. But further research doesn’t mean mingling religion with fantasy. While upholding the truth value of Vedic texts, they must be studied as religious texts and not as the scientific ones. If we mingle science and religion as a single entity of discourse, we lose the distinctiveness of both. The minister’s attempt seems to discredit all Western theories. Knowledge is not the prerogative of any particular country. All nations contribute to human civilization by constantly adding and subtracting from this huge body of knowledge.
The minster’s guffaw sent the electronic media scurrying to make the most of this controversy. One television channel immediately summoned an RSS thinker, a scientist who would make a representation on behalf of his organization, a professor, and two students, who looked overawed in front of the luminaries. At least two of the luminaries responded by saying that the minister was both right and wrong and that more research should be done on this. To this, the scientist said that more research is being conducted into this area. In a byte, another scientist stated vehemently that he knew his DNA came from a monkey’s. The debate was summed up by the moderator, who called for a middle position: the minister’s position was both wrong and right. While Darwin must be churning in his grave, the curriculum makers in India have a lot of work in their hands.
The evolution and creationism debate is passé. The scientist does not come in between science and creation. Sometimes scientists are also believers as well and they might act irrationally, as is the case with the minister.
Meanwhile, the syllabus makers must not give a short shrift to a well-established scientific theory. To do so would be to deny the spirit of our constitution.
Ananya S Guha is Regional Director, Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), Shillong.
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