Following Satyapal Singh’s denial of evolution, a small survey of over 1,700 individuals (both adults and children) from 12 States in India found that public acceptance of evolution was high at 68.5%. While only 5.5% did not believe in evolution, the percentage of people not sure about evolution varied from 14.6% in Delhi to 45% in Haryana. Along with the lowest acceptance (41%) of evolution, Haryana had the highest percentage (13.6%) of people rejecting the theory.
In the light of Satyapal Singh Union Minister of State for Human Resources’ denial of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, a small survey carried out on over 1,700 individuals (both adults and children) from across 12 States (142 people per State) in India has found that public acceptance of evolution was high at 68.5%. There was not much difference between males (72%) and females (69%), and non-religious (74%) and religious people (67%).
In January this year in Aurangabad, Singh said: “Darwin’s theory [of evolution of humans] is scientifically wrong… Since the man is seen on Earth he has always been a man,” he said. “Nobody, including our ancestors, in written or oral, has said they saw an ape turning into a man…”
The survey carried out offline and published in the Journal of Scientific Temper found 82% of respondents in Delhi, 79.8% in Maharashtra and 78.7% in Kerala believed that evolution was definitely true. Shockingly, public acceptance of evolution was just over 41% in Haryana, which is the least among the 12 States surveyed.
The two-member team of Dr. Felix Bast and Heena Tahilramani from the Department of Plant Science, Central University of Punjab, Bathinda found only 5.5% believed evolution was ‘definitely false’. Only one southern State of Kerala was included in the survey.
Rejecting the theory of evolution
Along with low acceptance of evolution in Haryana, 13.6% in the State believe that evolution is ‘definitely false’. At 16.2%, Odisha had the highest percentage of people not believing in evolution; the percentage of people in Odisha who believed in evolution was 62%. Gujarat too had a worrying 8.7% not believing in evolution.
Though public acceptance of evolution was highest in Delhi (82%) followed by Maharashtra (79.8%), there was none in Maharashtra who did not believe in evolution; As much as 3.4% of people did not believe in evolution in Delhi. Equally striking is the fact that despite having the highest literacy rate in the country, 1.7% of respondents in Kerala did not believe in evolution. Except Maharashtra, all other States showed greater percentage of people not believing in evolution than Kerala.
Not sure of evolution
Another discomforting truth that the survey unearthed is that large percentage (14.6% in Delhi to 45% in Haryana) of people said evolution was only “probably true”. Though Kerala was the second lowest after Delhi in terms of people not fully believing evolution, the percentage is quite high at 19.6%. It varied from 20-33% in the other States.
“This is based on a small survey and we did not include the other southern States. We will be correcting for these in out next survey which we plan to undertake soon,” says Dr. Bast. “Over all, public acceptance of evolution is high in India, particularly when compared with the U.S., where a 2006 study found only 40% accepted the idea of evolution.”
Trend in the U.S.
According to the paper published in Science, over a 20-year period, the percentage of people in the U.S. accepting evolution has declined from 45% to 40%, while those rejecting it too reduced from 48% to 39%. The percentage of adults in the U.S. who were not sure about evolution shot up sharply from 7% in 1985 to 21% in 2005.
According to Dr. Bast, the higher acceptance of evolution in India compared with the U.S. is because creationism-evolution controversy is almost absent in India. “Pseudoscience concept such as creationism is not taught in schools in India while the case is very different in conservative States in the U.S where creationism is taught along with evolution,” he says.