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

Posted by Abhaya Diwakar in History, Specials
February 16, 2018

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.