Editorial: A retrograde decision

Published in The Hindu on June 15, 2012

The dethroning of Archaeopteryx as the basal bird last year has had the much anticipated effect — opportunistic creationists using the findings to further advance their unscientific and absurd views. According to Nature, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology of South Korea recently revealed its decision to “exclude” examples of the avian ancestor and horse from textbooks. The Society for Textbook Revise has been successfully campaigning to delete “errors” from the textbooks on the ground that evolution is an “unconfirmed theory.” If it has its way, even “the evolution of humans” and “the adaptation of finch beaks based on habitat and mode of sustenance” may be removed from textbooks. With this, South Korea joins a few American States where religious sentiments have won over science. The latest developments from Korea have naturally shocked many scientists. Though they fault the government for not involving experts before taking the decision, scientists share equal blame. While the movement to popularise creationism has been going on for years, the scientific community did little to counter it — by engaging the public and explaining the science behind evolution, as well as its limitations. As the latest Gallup survey of over 1,000 adults in the United States shows, education plays a vital role in people rejecting creationist views — those with postgraduate education were most likely to believe in evolution.

Though the fossil record is far from complete, several prized fossils central to the theory of evolution have been unearthed in the past few years. These fossils are either the crucial transitional fossils or those that highlight the stages of evolution. Unfortunately, researchers have failed to emphasise the significance of these discoveries. Most importantly, they have collectively failed in explaining the ways of science. The very fact that the latest research was able to knock down Archaeopteryx from the high pedestal is proof enough that unlike creationism, evolution science is not dogmatic but self-correcting in nature. Still, as the latest Gallup survey of over 1,000 adults in the United States shows, 46 per cent of Americans believe that God created humans in their “present form within the last 10,000 years!” The reason for this is not difficult to find. Not every American has a science background and most fail to understand the complexities of evolution. For them, obscurantist religious views are easy to comprehend. But rejecting evolution on the ground that there is insufficient evidence to support it is nothing but absurdity — religion offers no evidence or proof for its claims whatsoever.