Why Teaching Evolution Is A Must

Aravindan Neelakandan

Apr 21, 2023, 09:14 PM | Updated Apr 22, 2023, 09:21 AM IST

Charles Darwin who pioneered the theory of evolution (Spencer Arnold/GettyImages)
Charles Darwin who pioneered the theory of evolution (Spencer Arnold/GettyImages)
  • If reports of NCERT dropping evolution from Class X textbooks are true, it is indeed regrettable.
  • Not only should evolution be re-included in the syllabus, it should be made the very basis of teaching biology in India—right from the primary classes.
  • "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution"—Theodosius Dobzhansky, 1973.

    "Truth does not pay homage to any society, ancient or modern. Society has to pay homage to Truth or die"—Swami Vivekananda

    Disturbing news reports of the NCERT removing Darwinian evolution from the tenth standard textbooks are doing the rounds.

    If these reports are true, irrespective of the reason why the lesson on evolution has been removed, it is not a welcome decision.

    If it has been removed on purpose then it is condemnable.

    Indian culture and civilisation actually pride themselves in this aspect - that we have no problem in accepting evolution.

    The greatest spiritual giants of India of the modern era, Swami Vivekananda and Sri Aurobindo accepted evolution and built upon it. From Sankhya philosophy to Veer Savarkar evolution, has been integral part of Indian worldview.

    Even irrespective of what the worldview of our ancient scriptures are, evolution has to be taught because it is a fact. It is a fact that forms the basis of biology.

    In fact our civilisational uniqueness of accepting evolution with ease, actually should have made our biology textbooks better and an example to the world.

    In the present scenario, evolution is being taught at the level of tenth standard. What a civilisational Indian Government should have done is that, it should have made Darwinian evolution as the very basis of teaching biology in India - right from the primary classes.

    Why do we have a base ten number system?

    It is because we have ten fingers which in turn is because of the way we evolved. Had we developed eight fingers in each hand through evolution then we would have had a hexadecimal system instead of the decimal system.

    Evolution is a common connecting thread through the various domains of biology, psychology, anthropology and sociology. It is essential to understand our biochemistry, our genomes and hence it is essential for the very survival of humanity.

    While other civilisations had problems with evolution, thanks to Sankhya and the diminishing of a creator-deity in Indian worldview, we have had no problem in accepting evolution.

    Let us not squander it.

    So it is the earnest prayer of this writer that for whatever reason, if evolution has indeed been dropped from the NCERT syllabus, it should be reinstated.

    The NCERT should also take a proactive step of making evolution and ecology the basis of biology education right from the primary class.

    Evolution is not a hypothesis. It is a fact attested by fossil records, biochemistry and genetics. Darwin in fact changed the worldview of entire biology from the concept of a creator-driven worldview to a more organic, dynamic worldview.

    Perhaps the educationists in NCERT will do well to listen to what the famous British biologist and wife of polymath evolutionist JBS Haldane, Helen Spurway, who became an Indian and who adhered to a Hindu way of life, told about evolution.

    Eminent Indian-born geneticist Dr. Krishna Dronamraju (1937-2020) whose PhD guide was JBS Haldane himself, had in his last book written in detail about the views of Haldane and particularly Dr. Spurway on evolution. It is worth quoting here in full:

    Haldane often referred to Spurway’s ideas and publications in his own lectures and writings with great care. It has long been tradition of Hinduism to regard animals as one’s own kin, but in the Christian world it was Charles Darwin who placed it at the center of his theory of evolution. It was typical of Helen Spurway that she simplified Darwinism in the Indian context by saying that “Darwin converted Europe to Hinduism.” Another aspect of Hinduism that influenced Spurway’s ideas was what she called the concept of Vaishnava and Saiva biology. The Vaishnava sect of Hinduism worships Vishnu, the Hindu God who is largely concerned with the preservation and maintenance of life, whereas Saivaites worship the God Shiva (or Siva), who maintains the cyclic process of destruction of cosmic order and its regeneration. When we speak of natural selection we are being Saivaite in our mode of thinking. And when we refer to adaptations, and so forth we are referring to Vaishnavite mode of thinking. The two coexist and their delicate balance maintains all we know about the universe.
    Krishna Dronamraju, Popularizing Science: The Life and Work of JBS Haldane, OUP, 2017. p.209

    Are we to forego all these and earn our generation and civilisation a bad name because of whatever reason, evolution has been dropped now?

    It is a crime against knowledge.

    The Government should proactively intervene and should not only bring back evolution but make it even more prominent in the syllabus.

    Aravindan is a contributing editor at Swarajya.

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