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As Indian Scientists Celebrate Darwin Week, Let’s Clear Some Misconceptions

On February 12, BSS not only commemorated the birthday of Charles Darwin, but will also see scientists taking up to the streets advocating for Darwin’s theory of evolution.

When we think of science, we may recall our school days of drab derivations in physics, chemical equations of chemistry and complex anatomical diagrams in biology. But we don’t think of science as the answers to the universe. Which it actually is.

Science is nothing but observations of our environment and explaining these observations with logic and facts.

This observation and deduction are perhaps what helped us reached this far, in terms of progress and development. From learning about ourselves via Darwin’s theory of evolution to Maxwell’s equation powering the internet – the harness of science has allowed us to master regions which we didn’t even know existed.

This understanding and bent towards science is what the Breakthrough Science Society of India has been trying to achieve since 1995. The BSS is a non-profit social welfare organisation creating a science movement in India. BSS is known for its ‘India March of Science’ – where people march to raise awareness about the impact of science.

On February 12, BSS not only commemorated the birthday of Charles Darwin, but the following week– known as Darwin week – will see scientists taking up to the streets advocating for Darwin’s theory of evolution.

Earlier marches conducted by the BSS. Source: Facebook/wikipedia

And to assert the theory, workshops and seminars will be conducted till February 18 – offering correct explanations about observed evolution in nature.

This comes at a crucial time when officials and superiors are denying the actual science behind this theory and are sowing seeds of doubt in the country.

So, along with the efforts of BSS, it’s only right we look into what the subject means. Here is a brief look at the theory of evolution.

The Evolution (Not Just Mankind)

The Theory of Evolution, in the most straightforward definition, explains the descent of single-cell organisms into complex beings through periodic genetic mutations that help it adapt to its surroundings better.

Basically a series of small, inter-connected, random changes that give the creature some advantage over time.

The systematic evolution of all mammals on earth. Source: Wiki common

Any organism we see around us, from the smallest of ticks to the largest of trees and whales, have all evolved from single-celled organisms.

And the facts support this in numerous ways.

With that in mind, let’s tackle some misconceptions:

The ‘Theory’ Argument

The most common rebuttal to the theory of evolution is that it’s just a “theory”. In everyday life, ‘I have a theory’ may mean a guess. But that’s not the case in the scientific world.

In science – theory means the accumulation of facts and evidence that supports an outcome.

Sources: Wikipedia

An example of such facts is fossils. Fossils not only show the different types of organism that lived on Earth millions of years ago, but also show how different they were to us.

By studying fossils, we can analyse how a species has changed over time.

Talking about fossils, here’s an article about India’s fossils: The 7 Best Places to See India’s Fantastic Fossil Finds

The Illustration Debacle

This famous illustration of man evolving from ape is what we commonly recall when we hear the evolution theory. But this visual representation couldn’t be more wrong.

Published first in 1965 in a book called “Early Man” by F. Clark Howell, the image was for representational purposes. It did have a warning not to interpret the photo literally.

However, upon the success of the book, the image became widely popular.The problem with the picture is that it shows one species changing into another. This is not the case in the real world.

Source:Wikipedia

Studies have shown that our descent was gradual. Indeed there was a time when there were six species of Humans or Hominids coexisting together.

So the evolution of species is more like a bush with many, many branches – rather than the straight line or one before the other as seen in the image.

Is Evolution happening even now?

Evolution is happening all around us – even as you read this. Let’s take the case of the DDT resistant mosquitoes in India. In 1959, DDT, a chemical insecticide, was found to kill 95% of mosquitoes in a region on the first application. The 5% that survived passed on their DDT resistant genes. And since the lifespan of a mosquito is small, generation after generation of mosquitoes inherited the resistant genes. Within a year, DDT was only killing 49% of mosquitoes. And that number has dropped steeply over the years. In short, the mosquitoes collectively evolved against DDT.

But in most cases, evolution happens over a very long period. Especially for complex beings like us.

Source: Wikipedia/ Berkeley.edu

The theory of evolution is a complex – covering fields like chemistry, biology and palaeontology. But it’s crucial to involve future generations in the search for answers about ourselves and about the universe.

Read about the human evolution in India: Here’s the Story of India’s Earliest Human Inhabitants!

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