The Left won’t celebrate Darwin Day since they do not want to offend the Evangelicals and Islamists.
Every year, 12 February is celebrated worldwide as Darwin Day. This day celebrates a discovery that fundamentally changed the human perception of their own place in nature. Yet, those who speak of scientific temper in India are more obsessed with scoring brownie points against Hindutvaites’ reaction against Valentine’s Day rather than celebrate one of humanity’s greatest scientific discoveries.
The SLOBs who are eager to burnish their ‘rationalist’ credentials when it comes to many Indic cultural issues go quiet about Darwin day because Islamists and the Evangelists would be offended by any celebration of Evolution. It is a sad fact that some of the world’s worst creationist literature are printed by the Islamists, right in Delhi, and yet we hear little outrage.
Of course, ISKCON also publishes works promoting creationism. But unlike the Islamist creationists, they are only a marginal sect of Hinduism. Mainstream Hindus are very comfortable with evolution. In the early 1970s, Dr. David Gosling, now a faculty of Divinity at Cambridge University, conducted a survey of Indian scientists. He found that majority of scientists from Hindu background ‘consistently saw no conflict between science and religion concerning biological evolution’ whereas 62 percent of scientists with Christian background found a conflict between religious belief and evolution.
In a Pew survey published in 2009, 80 percent of Hindus and 81 percent of Buddhists in the US accepted evolution as the best explanation for the origin of human life well above the US national average of 48 percent. In India when such a survey took place in 2009, it was found that 52 percent of Indians were comfortable with evolution (20 percent found no role of God in evolution and 32 percent found evolution divinely guided). Only 43 percent chose a creationist account.
Clearly two hundred years after Darwin, the general Indian mindset has been more comfortable with his theories than its American counterpart.
Why Are Indians Not That Opposed Evolution?
Both Swami Vivekananda and Sri Aurobindo pointed out that the Indic knowledge systems, particularly Sankhya-Vedanta, have no problem with evolution. They have also rejected social Darwinism, which the West used to justify colonialism and racism. They have stated that evolutionary mechanisms for humans qualitatively changed with the emergence of human civilisation.
In the West, Jesuit paleontologist Teilhard de Chardin and Russian geo-chemist Vernadsky had pointed out the same: transition to noosphere from the biosphere. Global Islamists oppose evolution calling it ‘kufr’ (disbelief). But Indic Islamic savants have shown a consistent ability to include evolution in their scheme of philosophy. It applies to both Paranjothi Mahan and Hazrat Mahananda Baba.
In the context of science in India, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam provided a magnificent view combining the biological and what Jonas Salk called ‘meta-biological’ evolution. In his dialogue with Jain seer Acharya Mahapragya, he pointed out:
Evolution is not restricted to biology. Ideas also evolve, as well as nations, technologies, indeed anything that changes. When used in a considered way, the idea of evolution connotes more than change. It implies a process which, as in biology, is uninterrupted and causal, and which appears to follow an overall trend.
Dr. Kalam also stated that the human bodies ‘were designed over the course of millions of years for living in small hunting and gathering tribes’ and that ‘natural selection has not had time’ to make our bodies and minds adapt to the modern lifestyle. He then emphasised the evolutionary importance of ‘subtle, contextual and memory-based knowledge gleaned from living in a Nature-based culture, meaningful interactive learning with other humans and an ecologically based value system.’
All these aspects create a unique situation for the Right in India. They differ remarkably from the cultural-religious Right of the West which remains opposed to evolution. The Indian Right with it’s remarkable fondness to preserve diversity and opposition to monocultures of the mind, finds a natural ally in evolution which emphasizes the need for diversity in enhancing species survival. One hopes they realize the significance of the day and become pioneers in celebrating Darwin day in India.