A junior education minister has been accused of pandering to religious hardliners after dismissing Darwinism as a myth because nobody had witnessed the literal process of ape turning into man.
Satyapal Singh, MP for Baghpat in the state of Uttar Pradesh, and a former Mumbai police commissioner, challenged the idea that Charles Darwin’s writings on evolution should be automatically taught in science classes.
"Our ancestors haven’t mentioned anywhere that they ever saw an ape turning into a man. No book we have read or the tales told to us by our grandparents had any such mention," he said.
He reiterated his comments in a television interview yesterday.
"Darwin’s theory is being challenged the world over. Darwinism is a myth," he said, adding: "If I’m making a statement I can’t make it without a basis. I am a man of science. I have completed my PhD in Chemistry from Delhi University."
Online reaction was predictably a mixture of howling rage, banner-waving support and vicious mockery – with many suggesting Mr Singh was playing dog whistle politics for rightwing Hindus. An editorial on the Indian news site The Wire said: “Singh’s remarks are dangerous because he is a minister with the power to change what’s printed in school and college textbooks. .”
Prof Raghavendra Gadagkar, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Sciences at the Indian Institute of Science, in Bangalore, responded on NDTV, saying: "It seems to be aimed at politically polarising science and scientists, and that is the real danger we must guard against."
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