India has decided to remove references to Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution from school textbooks. The textbooks in question are used in ninth and tenth-grade science classes in Indian public schools.
For the 2021-22 school year, the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), a government organization responsible for choosing textbooks and setting curricula for India’s 256 million students, announced that questions about Darwinian evolution would be removed from ninth and tenth-grade exams in India.
Although the topic was still taught, this decision resulted in evolution being removed from the science textbooks that ninth and tenth-grade students read.
Scientists’ reaction to removal of Darwinian Evolution
Indian scientists have expressed their concerns over the government’s decision to remove the theory of biological evolution from the list of approved subject matter for early high school students. The government, which is aligned with the Hindu nationalist movement, has been accused of politicizing science.
Important: Over 2200 scientists, teachers & educators have released a statement protesting NCERT's axing of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution from the NCERT curriculum.
They have urged India's government to reverse these "dangerous" changes in textbooks. pic.twitter.com/5IZBxcTQcE
— Srishti (@seekingsrishti) April 22, 2023
The nonprofit Breakthrough Science Society said that the removal of the theory of biological evolution is a cause for serious dismay in the scientific community.
They believe that students will be handicapped in their thought processes if they are not exposed to this fundamental discovery of science.
Additionally, over 4,000 scientists and researchers have signed an open letter to the NCERT calling for the decision to be reversed, according to Breakthrough Science Society.
Evolutionary biologist Amitabh Joshi has called the decision to remove evolution from science textbooks a “travesty” and argued that it goes against the notion of a well-rounded education.
Krishna Kumar, the former head of NCERT, has also criticized the decision to remove Darwinian evolution from textbooks. He served in this position before the rise to power of the nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its leader, Narendra Modi, in 2014.
In an interview with Al Jazeera, Kumar expressed his concerns about the deletions from the textbooks. He emphasized that it is important for students to have knowledge about Darwin and his theory of evolution. He questioned how students could pass the 10th standard without knowing who Darwin was.
Efforts to replace Darwinian theory with ‘Vishnu Avatars’
Some Hindu nationalist groups in India have rejected Darwinian evolution and have been promoting an alternative theory of evolution that centers around the Hindu god Vishnu.
The new theory proposed by the Hindu nationalist groups says that the various forms of animal and human life are seen as living embodiments, or avatars, of Vishnu.
In Hindu scripture, there are ten Vishnu avatars that have appeared on Earth, representing different groups of life forms. Together, they are known as the Dashavatara.
These avatars appeared on Earth at different stages, with each successive set of life forms being more complex than those that came before, essentially following the steps of traditional evolutionary theory.