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Darwin’s ‘Ape To Man’ Theory: Much Discussed But Less Understood

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Union minister Satyapal Singh claiming Darwin’s theory ‘wrong’ as none of his ancestors have ‘seen’ an ape turning into a man, created much debate and eventually, led to a strong rebuttal by the scientific community. We often get to hear statements like, ‘Darwin’s theory has got no proofs, it’s just a theory’, ‘why are monkeys today are not turning into men’ often. Darwin’s theory is the most talked about but far less understood.

We have been patterned to look at life and society in one particular way. For us an ever-changing, infinite world is something incomprehensible. We cannot realise the fact that all of us, all the people on this earth have a common ancestor; that animals and plants too originated from the same primate organisms. We opt for an easily comprehensible ‘soul’ concept that we were all created!

Darwin, truly a man of science, took almost 12 years to publish “Descent of Man” (1871) since the discovery of the first fossil of Man in Neander valley in Germany (1856). He took on a voyage lasting five years on HMS Beagle and collected an enormous amount of data which made him come up with a theory that connected the missing links he perceived in nature. Fourteen different species of turtles who have differently adopted themselves to the different atmospheres in Galapagos islands and several such examples became the basis to his groundbreaking theory.

People who say that the theory of evolution was an idea that suddenly popped up in Darwin’s mind are ignorant of another major fact. That the idea of an organism originating from another organism was carried from the fifth and sixth BC by Anaximander and Empedocles to many scientists and taxonomists who classified organisms into Kingdom, Phylum… to family, genus, species etc. On being faced with the challenge on whether to classify few primate organisms under plants or animal kingdom they felt that both could have had a common origin. The idea took the perfect shape of a theory in the hands of Darwin.

Darwin observed that there is a lot of variations (in a way, imperfections) in nature. The number of species that got extinct is way more prominent in number compared to the existing ones. As explained by Darwin, organisms produce random variations (at gene level though restricted by the frame of the gene pool) which if beneficial helps the organism to survive, the rest perishes. Nature ‘selects’ the organism which can adapt itself to the change. These variations add up and reach a certain stage where the organism is characteristically different from the source organism. For example, common ancestors of man (homo sapiens), apes, gorillas, chimpanzees, monkeys etc. had a common ancestor some 20-30 million years ago. The tree of life branched out. The prolonged period of variation-natural selection led to the present Homo Sapiens. In man, the socio-cultural aspects have also contributed in shaping him, unlike the animal world which is gene-driven.

Thanks to people like Satyapal Singh who blabber out their foolishness that time and again people of Science come forward denouncing such claims. Science has always been a guiding light in dispelling myths. Scientists from University of Huddersfield in the UK by their work on Y-DNA have come up with evidence to prove that the Indian male lineage is spread across central Asia, Europe and South Asia. This has substantiated that the Aryans had actually migrated from central Asia some 2000 years ago. Scientists also suggest that there have been multiple migrations. All this again has proved the fact that we all share a common lineage and are biologically connected with every person living on this earth. This idea has got all the potential to bring in oneness, break our preset pattern of thought and do away with divisive tendencies. Thanks to Darwin, for he has laid a scientific base for future generations to enrich it with scientific discoveries.

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        An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

        Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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        Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

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        MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

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        A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

        As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

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        Find out more about her campaign here.

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        A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

        A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

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        A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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