Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Modern Humans Interbred with Two Groups of Denisovans

There is now more evidence that were were “one big happy family.”  Here is a short recap:
Beginning around 1.8 million years ago, a hominin form called Homo erectus left Africa for points east, eventually settling in Indonesia and China. These early humans were characterized by having heads roughly ¾ the size of modern humans with very large brow ridges and with their widest point just above the ears. They were also the first humans to conquer fire and perfect hunting.
Then, at some point, between 300 and 500 thousand years ago, a population group migrated from North Africa into Europe and, eventually into East Asia. The European branch became the Neandertals, between 200 and 250 thousand years ago, and the East Asian group eventually became the Denisovans. The Denisovans then spread east and south, eventually mixing with other populations, some of which were the precursors of the Melanesians and native Australians. The bulk of the Neandertals hunkered down in Europe and tried to outlast the bitter cold of not one but two glaciations.  Despite this, while often pilloried in cultural literature as being half-witted brutes, Neandertals were a very complex society, with advanced weaponry and hunting behavior, grave goods, habitation structures and who practiced ritual behavior. Some populations of Neandertals eventually  expanded their range into Western Asia and steppic Russia and interbred with the Denisovans.  Unfortunately, as a culture, we know next to nothing about the Denisovans. 
Roughly 100 thousand years after this, there was yet another wave of migration, between 100 and 60 thousand years ago, of early modern humans from North Africa, who moved north and East mixing with both the Neandertals in Europe and, perhaps, Western Asia and the Denisovans in East Asia.
And now we learn that the modern humans arriving from Africa interbred with not one but two groups of Denisovans.  From Gizmodo:
We know so little about the Denisovans that they don’t even have a formal scientific name, though scientists are considering Homo sp. Altai or Homo sapiens ssp. Denisova. Indeed, as these names suggest, Denisovans were a branch of humans, having diverged from Neanderthals some 200,000 years ago. We know this because the Altai fossil yielded a near-complete genome, which scientists have been poring over since it was first sequenced in 2010.

But in addition to the Neanderthal ancestry, genetic anthropologists also learned that Denisovan DNA lives on in modern humans, especially among Oceanians and East and South Asians. This means anatomically modern humans, or Homo sapiens, must’ve interbred with a population of Denisovans. But as new research published today in the science journal Cell points out, our ancestors mated with Denisovans on at least two different historical occasions. So the traces of Denisovan DNA embedded in the genomes of some people living today originated from at least two distinct Denisovan populations.
Given Palaeolithic population densities, this is not surprising.The research seems to indicate that there were early modern human/Denisovan mixes in both Asia and Oceania.  What this means is that, once the Denisovans and Neandertals split, the Denisovans migrated east and northeast (as humans will do) and established population centers in these areas.  When the modern humans came (Huh.  I wonder what is over that hill?  Oh look, humans...sort of.) it made sense to intermingle with them.  We already know that Neandertals and modern humans could, and did, mix.  It is, absent any knowledge to the contrary, reasonable to assume that the Denisovans looked mostly modern human. 

Interestingly, the research seems to indicate that the rate of interbreeding of Neandertals to early moderns was much more limited than with moderns and Denisovans.  This is at variance with other studies (and fossil material) which seems to indicate more sustained contact.  It would be nice if we could find a bit more fossil evidence to get a handle on what at least one Denisovan looked like. 

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Human Evolution, Walking and FoxP1

The Smithsonian has an interesting article on hox genes and how a discovery may inform about how walking came about:
What does a mouse have in common with a cartilaginous fish known as a little skate?

At first glance, you might think not much. One’s fluffy, with big ears and whiskers; the other breathes with gills and ripples its way around the ocean. One is a lab animal or household pest; the other is most likely to be seen in the wild, or the bottom of a shallow pool at an aquarium. But it turns out these two vertebrates have something crucial in common: the ability to walk. And the reason why could change the way we think about the evolution of walking in land animals—including humans.

A new genetic study from scientists at New York University reveals something surprising: Like mice, little skates possess the genetic blueprint that allows for the right-left alternation pattern of locomotion that four-legged land animals use. Those genes were passed down from a common ancestor that lived 420 million years ago, long before the first vertebrates ever crawled from sea to shore.
According to the story, when the researchers removed the FoxP1 gene (short for Forkhead Box P1) from the skates, they couldn't walk.  Further analysis revealed that the same thing happened to mice.  They simply lost the ability to coordinate their legs.  They couldn't walk.  This research suggests that the gene that allows us to do the simple act of walking originated over 400 million years ago.  Neat stuff.

Friday, March 09, 2018

Daniel Everett: Homo erectus Could Speak and Make Boats

Bentley University Global Studies professor Daniel Everett argues that Homo erectus could speak and had the ability to make ocean-going vessels.  The Guardian has the story:
“Oceans were never a barrier to the travels of Erectus. He travelled all over the world, travelled to the island of Flores, across one of the greatest ocean currents in the world,” said Daniel Everett, professor of global studies at Bentley University, and author of How Language Began. “They sailed to the island of Crete and various other islands. It was intentional: they needed craft and they needed to take groups of twenty or so at least to get to those places.”

While Everett is not the first to raise the controversial possibility that
H. erectus might have fashioned some sort of seagoing vessel, he believes that such capabilities mean that H. erectus must also have had another skill: language.

Erectus needed language when they were sailing to the island of Flores. They couldn’t have simply caught a ride on a floating log because then they would have been washed out to sea when they hit the current,” said Everett, presenting his thesis at the meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Austin. “They needed to be able to paddle. And if they paddled they needed to be able to say ‘paddle there’ or ‘don’t paddle.’ You need communication with symbols not just grunts.”
It is pretty clear that Homo erectus hunted, at least in some fashion, could control fire and evidence seems to be accumulating that they hafted spears and, at least late in the range, the European variant set up rudimentary complex settlements.

There is, naturally, skepticism that any hominin form prior to Neandertals were sea-going: 
But others say that there is little evidence that H. erectus was a sophisticated seafarer, let alone had a language. “I don’t accept that, for example, [Homo] erectus must have had boats to get to Flores,” said Chris Stringer, head of human origins at the Natural History Museum in London. “Tsunamis could have moved early humans on rafts of vegetation.”
Before dismissing that idea out of hand, remember that it is the best one going to explain how the New World Monkeys got where they are, since Africa and South America had parted ways some 180 million years prior to their arrival.

I think there is likely not enough evidence to know one way or another if Homo erectus could sail the high seas and had speech, although the only skeletal evidence that we have for that part of the anatomy suggests not. 

Thursday, March 08, 2018

A Mistake Rectified

I have been extraordinarily busy the last few weeks and had hoped to post about this at the time.  Ken Ham was invited to speak at the University of Central Oklahoma.  I have no sympathy for anything that Ken Ham either writes or speaks but what happened next was appalling.  After the invitation, pressure was put on the UCO student association by LBGT groups to disinvite him.  LGBT people make up (charitably) 5% of any given population.  Nonetheless, the UCO group in charge, in what is coming to be the typical, spineless response, rolled over and acceded to their demands.  According to school officials this was done independently of campus administration:
“The university may advise, but does not direct, the activities of [University of Central Oklahoma Student Association],” Johnson wrote. “In fact, in the spirit of the UCO policy on freedom of expression, the university President, Provost and the Vice President of Student Affairs supported and did not deny the proposal to bring Mr. Ham to campus to encourage conversation and debate of diverse perspectives. This was prior to UCOSA’s cancellation of the invitation to Mr. Ham.”
More information came out by way of student association president, Stockton Duvall:
He also said he had been bullied by “a very vocal group on campus that has little tolerance for opposing viewpoints.” Duvall did not specifically cite LGBT activists in his memo.
But according to emails obtained by Todd Starnes of Fox News, LGBT activists played a role.
“We are currently getting bombarded with complaints from our LGBT community about Ken Ham speaking on our campus,” Duvall wrote in an email to Answers in Genesis.
This ought to be simple. If you don't like what the speaker is saying, don't go.  It has been an interesting study in cultural norms to watch the LGBT community go from asking for tolerance to demanding tolerance to, now, demanding endorsement of their views and behaviors.  As far as they are concerned, it is now no longer okay to have a view that doesn't fit with the gay agenda and people who's views don't align shouldn't be allowed to speak. That the student government association obliged them is disgraceful.

But then this happened:
The University of Central Oklahoma (UCO) has decided to re-invite Christian creationist Ken Ham to present his views at the institution, after he was dis-invited last week.

The decision has been celebrated by some on the campus as a step forward for 'free speech', according to KOKO News 5. Ham's perhaps surprising re-invitation stands out in UK and US student culture, where the 'no-platforming' of controversial speakers has become more common.
Kudos to pastor Paul Blair of Fairview Baptist Church for leading the charge to get Ham re-invited. As much as I don't agree with Ham, I have no patience or sympathy with liberal fascism or bullies.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Ted Davis Waxes Theological, Todd Wood Responds

Ted Davis, like the rest of us, is tired of how the origins debate is playing out between mainstream and non-mainstream science.  He has great praise for those that display clear-headed thinking on both sides in the debate such as Michael Ruse and Todd Wood.  He writes:
I also tip my hat to YEC proponents Todd Wood and Paul Nelson. Each was featured in the YEC film, Is Genesis History?, but neither dismisses proponents of EC with the back of his hand. They both have the courage and conviction to seek the truth, even if takes them places where their creationist friends don’t want them to go. For example, on the same day the film was released, Dr. Nelson dissented from how his ideas were presented in the film. Dr. Wood didn’t do that, but he does candidly admit elsewhere that “Evolution is not a theory in crisis,” that “it is not teetering on the verge of collapse,” nor has it “failed as a scientific explanation.” He finds “gobs and gobs” of evidence for evolution,” denies that it is “just speculation or a faith choice or an assumption or a religion,” affirms that it “has amazing explanatory power,” and frankly says, “There is no conspiracy to hide the truth about the failure of evolution. There has really been no failure of evolution as a scientific theory. It works, and it works well.”
I am quite sure that this last quote will haunt Todd Wood to the grave because most evolutionary creationists (including myself) keep it in their back pocket. Wood has taken on some heavy hitters who have misused science and has done so in an honest and thoughtful way and he has truly striven to understand biodiversity as it pertains to his way of thinking. Furthermore, unlike many in the young earth creationist camp, his posts are free of invective and insult.  For these things and others, he should be commended.

Davis continues:
There’s always the danger than one can overplay one’s hand, or forget that those who see things differently are also made in the image of God. Sometimes, one’s opponents in a public disagreement really are mean-spirited, arrogant, or intellectually dishonest, tempting one to respond in kind. In such situations, do your best to take the high road. Stick with the facts, spell out why you hold different opinions, and be fair to ideas defended by others, even when you strongly disagree: no one has a monopoly on truth. Intellectual honesty and humility do not imply cowardice or lack of commitment to the Gospel. 
This is something I am often guilty of. I find it all too easy to take a blowtorch to the writings of Answers in Genesis in a nasty way, typically because I am writing in anger.  This often happens when I discover a post or article in which it is clear that the person writing the article has little knowledge of the subject about which they write and their tone is insulting or condescending.  It is all too easy to open up both barrels. He finishes with an admonition to avoid indoctrination:
Individual Christians have every right to think for themselves, without being browbeaten into submission by fear, accused of holding dangerous views simply for favoring a different interpretation of Genesis, or publicly shamed as intellectual cowards for accepting consensus science.
There is a great danger in taking the attitude that if two people have a disagreement about something, that one of them is not in the spirit. This behavior results in arrogance, haughtiness, broken relationships and lots of finger-pointing. We are all guilty of sin, especially the sin of self-righteousness.

Todd Wood responds by adding another way that he would like to see the debate change: less of “diagnosing the enemy”: 
There's two big problems I see with Diagnosing the Enemy. First of all, it's just a profoundly arrogant thing to do. How can anyone seriously think that reading a Facebook comment or blog article would actually reveal all the intricacies and complexities of human thought? Some days, I can barely put two words together, and you think that's going to actually reveal the inner workings of my mind and years of study and research and prayer and thought?

Also arrogant is the ulterior motive of Diagnosing the Enemy: I have the cure. Because, let's face it, diagnosing a problem isn't really the point, right? The point is: if only my enemy would watch my video or read my book or do what I tell them, then everything would be fine. Because not only can I diagnose your problem by engaging in a superficial reading of superficial comments, I'm the guy who's gonna cure you! When you think about it like that, it's obviously and embarrassingly silly, but it still doesn't stop us from reading certain triggers and sticking people in that pigeonhole.

Which brings me to the second big problem: It's dehumanizing. Instead of complex people with complex thoughts and attitudes and personalities, we reduce our enemies to one simplistic issue. There aren't just ideas out there that float around having battles by themselves. Ideas are held by real people with real personalities, and histories, and values, and fears. And all of that immensely complicated personality gets entangled with the way we think about the world and our faith. When disagreements pop up, though, these people for whom Christ died suddenly become defined by one perceived "defect."
I am of two minds about this response. It is certainly correct that people are complex and that a single blog post or Bookface post does not remotely capture their complexity.  As noted above, it is all too easy to fire off a response to a post that you know has gotten some basic information wrong.

The problem is that when an entire body of work of an organization continually misrepresents science and the authors of that body of work show absolutely no interest in correcting this misinformation, a response is necessary. When an entire body of work is continually scientifically inaccurate, it begins to inform about the people who are producing it.  In short, at least on one level, it makes it possible to “diagnose the enemy.”

 If you read all of the posts on my blog or my writings on BioLogos, you would get a pretty good idea of what I think about science and theology. It might even be possible to “diagnose” me a bit. To be sure, you would not have insight into what I think about abortion, gun control or how good a father I am to my children, but it would be pretty clear that I am a card-carrying evolutionary creationist.

Davis's post is a clarion call for both sides to take the high road.  That is often hard to do when you are being called “evil, stupid evolutionists” and you know that what they have written is just plain false.
Wood remarks that it is disheartening to see BioLogos identified as the “middle ground.” If we are not the middle ground, what are we? We are people who are firmly convinced in the salvation of Jesus Christ and the integrity and primacy of God's word to us.  We are also people who want to understand the universe that God has created, but to do so in an honest, forthright, and scientifically sound way.

Evolutionary creationists are dismissed by atheists such as Richard Dawkins, Jerry Coyne and Sam Harris for believing in fairy tales and being scientifically compromised by their faith.  This is a false charge.  We operate within the scientific framework with the understanding that everything around us is God's handiwork.  We are dismissed by many young earth creationists as being “compromisers” and not taking the bible seriously.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

One of the things that seems to drive this invective is that atheists are convinced the Bible is false and that we are idiots for believing in it.  Young earth creationists are convinced that their understanding of scripture is absolutely correct, beyond a shadow of a doubt.

It is easy enough to understand where the atheists are coming from, since they see nothing beyond the observable universe.   It is the YEC perspective that I find perplexing. It leads to people like Wood, himself, saying about evolutionary creationists that they “ought to know better,” even though, by his own admission, there is a massive amount of evidence for evolution.  Ken Ham takes it a bit further by questioning whether we are, in fact, Christians at all, and that if we pass on the EC perspective to our children, we are endangering their salvation.

Is it possible that Wood and his fellow YEC supporters are correct in their scriptural assessment?  It absolutely is.  Is it possible that we have evolution wrong?  Is it possible that the earth was created six thousand years ago?  Again, it absolutely is.  But the weight of evidence currently doesn't support those positions.  In fact, there is little to no empirical support for them.  Many good, devoted Christians are out there are wrestling with these facts.  To be told that they “ought to know better” than to accept them or that they aren't Christians if they do is insulting.  Further, as noted above, it betrays a troubling aspect of this perspective: the idea that our understanding of scripture is unbiblical. 

Secondary to this is that, in all of the young earth creationist literature that I have read, there is a remarkable lack of self-examination when it comes to scriptural interpretation.  To those who support the young earth model: we might be wrong about our interpretation of scripture, but you might be, also.  For the origins debate to change, there must be an acceptance of this on both sides of the aisle.  Only then will progress be made and name-calling cease.  

Friday, February 02, 2018

Jesuit Review: Creationism Isn't About Science, it’s about theology (and it’s really bad theology).

Eric Sundrup has an editorial in the Jesuit Review about what is wrong with young earth creationism.  He has some very good observations: He begins:
The Creation Museum is a $27 million example of how Christians can lose their way fighting the culture wars. After spending time there this Christmas, I left convinced that as wrong as the museum’s science is, the most frightening driver of its “logic” is an impoverished theology, which is coupled with a desire to win moral arguments. This toxic combination propels devout people into strange and unnecessary battles with modern science.
This is a point that I and many different researchers have made over the years: young earth creationism misses the broader picture. It reduces the majesty, glory and awe of the Bible and the message that God is telling us in favor of a flat, sterile, superficial understanding of the passages in Genesis. He continues:
Mr. Ham’s motivations for founding the museum and its parent organization clearly grew out of the culture wars. Answers in Genesis argues for the inerrancy of the Bible and specifically for a literal interpretation of Genesis because they think this provides them a strong footing in public discussions. And that, I think, is exactly how this group of Christians got lost. They are trying to win moral and theological debates with what look like scientific arguments.

Strangely, in their attempt to provide definitive empirical answers to moral and theological questions, creationists like Mr. Ham have more in common with some of their most strident scientific opponents than with the broader Christian tradition. They are proponents of the strictest form of biblical inerrancy and literalism. And in this mode they are actually advancing a mirror-image of scientism, in which God’s revelation, both in Scripture and in creation, is meant to convey a list of facts.
I think that this is one of the reasons that young people are leaving the church. Not only do they discover that they have been fed bogus science that doesn't stand up to even the barest scrutiny, when they have issues that require them to reach deeply into their faith, there is nothing there, just cold, impersonal facts. 

Mr. Sundrup's analysis is also not so unlike Joel Edmund Anderson's, in that, in his book The Heresy of Ham, Anderson notes that by focusing on science (or their understanding of science, anyway), Ham and other young earth creationists have, like their atheist counterparts, held up science as the ultimate arbiter of faith.  Modern science HAS to conform to the biblical passages.  If it does not, we are all lost.  This is nonsense for one simple reason: if biblical scripture in Genesis conforms to our understanding of 21st century science, then they are necessarily out of step with 20th century science, 19th century science, 18th century science and so on.  Since young earth creationist arguments don't change (except to move the goalposts), every new scientific discovery has to be shoehorned, manipulated, mangled and adjusted to fit the prevailing narrative. Scientific integrity be damned.  It never occurs to them that the narrative, itself might be wrong.

Indian Site of Attirampakkam Pushes Middle Palaeolithic of India Back to 385 Kya

Great Googlymoogly!  Fresh on the heels of the discovery of the Misliya site (upcoming BioLogos post) that the Middle Palaeolithic Levallois technology was present in Israel as early as 194 thousand years ago, we now have news from India that places the emergence of the same technology as early as 385 thousand years ago.  From Malcolm Ritter at the site PhysOrg:
Homo sapiens arose in Africa at least 300,000 years ago and left to colonize the globe. Scientists think there were several dispersals from Africa, not all equally successful. Last week's report of a human jaw showed some members of our species had reached Israel by 177,000 to 194,000 years ago.

Now comes a discovery in India of stone tools, showing a style that has been associated elsewhere with our species. They were fashioned from 385,000 years ago to 172,000 years ago, showing evidence of continuity and development over that time. That starting point is a lot earlier than scientists generally think Homo sapiens left Africa.
This tool style has also been attributed to Neanderthals and possibly other species. So it's impossible to say whether the tools were made by Homo sapiens or some evolutionary cousin, say researchers who reported the finding Wednesday in the journal Nature.
Nowhere is there any indication that modern humans are associated with the tools at Attirampakkam (ATM). In fact, there are no hominin remains whatsoever at ATM. The Indian subcontinent has always had a paucity of human remains, the most notable of which is the Narmada Homo erectus cranium.  In Europe, the Levallois technology, which also shows up at ATM, is almost exclusively associated with Neandertals and in the Levant, at the Skhul, Qafzeh, Tabun and Amud sites in the Mt. Carmel region, it is used by both Neandertals and early moderns. Consequently, while someone was using early Middle Palaeolithic tools at ATM, we don't know who.

What is incredibly striking about the ATM site is that, from 385 ky down to 172 ky, there is continuous technological evolution, beginning with what the describers call the “terminal Acheulean,” through a punch flake industry with points, to knives.  Another point made by the authors is that this Middle Palaeolithic industry appears and flourishes during a time where other sites in India are still using Acheulean technology.  This suggests “that spatial variability among Palaeolithic cultural sequences is larger than previously thought.”  From the Nature article1:
The behavioural transformations that mark the advent of the Indian Middle Palaeolithic at ATM are summarized by the following diagnostic features: the obsolescence of Acheulian large-flake reduction sequences, with a directional shift towards smaller tool components; the adoption and continuance of Levallois recurrent and preferential strategies; a gradual intensification of blade reduction; and an increased use of finer grained quartzite during phase II than during A gradual discontinuation of biface use—which becomes definite at ATM after approximately 172 ± 41 ka—has been reported at other Middle Palaeolithic and Middle Stone Age sites worldwide (see Supplementary Information and references therein).
This is an astounding find for so many reasons. It establishes the appearance of the Levallois technology, one we know originated in Africa, outside Africa over 150 thousand years earlier than we thought. This is a technology that was considered to have originated some 400 thousand years ago. We may now have to revise this date further into the past.

It shows a clear progression of human cultural evolution, from the late Acheulean hand axes, through Middle Palaeolithic Levallois technology to a more blade-oriented technology.  Sadly, it appears as though the site began to fall into disuse and the sequence stops cold around 74 kya.  This is not surprising since it coincides with the Toba supervolcano eruption in Indonesia.  Nonetheless, as the authors point out, it suggests multiple migrations out of Africa of first archaic Homo sapiens, then modern Homo sapiens, such as those in Misliya and that these groups interacted with the Archaic hominins they encountered along the way.

1Akhilesh, K., Pappu, S., Rajapara, H. M., Gunnell, Y., Shukla, A. D., & Singhvi, A. K. (2018). Early Middle Palaeolithic culture in India around 385–172 ka reframes Out of Africa models. Nature, 554, 97. https://doi.org/10.1038/nature25444

Friday, January 26, 2018

Just When You Had Forgotten About Adnan Oktar...

Adnan Oktar, otherwise known as Harun Yahya is back in the news.  The Hurriyet Daily News recounts the lurid tale:
An Istanbul court has issued a temporary restraining order against controversial TV personality Adnan Oktar and Gülperi Koçak, the mother of two young women, after a father claimed his two daughters were “forced” to be on Oktar’s program.

The Istanbul Anatolian 20th Family Court ruled for Oktar, known abroad as Harun Yahya, and Koçak to stay away from the 19-year-old and 17-year-old women for six months.

The court ruling came after the father, who lives in Austria, had not heard from his two daughters for a long time. The young women were then spotted on Oktar’s show.

Adnan, who has been described as the “most notorious cult leader in Turkey,” credits himself as a creationist and has written numerous books on the subject. On his TV program, he sits around with a group of plastic surgery-enhanced women, who he refers to as his “kittens,” discussing religion and social incidents.
Oktar, if you will remember, was responsible for sending out, unsolicited, copies of his anti-evolution book to hundreds of academic researchers.  I have posted several pieces over the years on this mercurial, flamboyant personality, including several interviews.  His books are, of course, worthless and, according to one source, often plagiarized.  Still, it is is amusing to see this larger-than-life figure at work. 

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Meanwhile, Over in Scotland...

Scotland seems to be having its own experiences with young earth creationism.  From Paul Hutcheon of the Sunday Herald:
A MEDICAL doctor described as one of Europe’s most active creationists has been reappointed to sit on the education committee of South Lanarkshire council.

Dr Nagy Iskander, who has claimed that a key tenet of evolution is “really illogical”, will be allowed to vote at meetings even though he is unelected.

Gordon MacRae, Chief Executive of Humanist Society Scotland, said: “Parents will be disturbed that unelected and unaccountable religious representatives from fringe groups continue to take decisions on their children's education.”

Local authorities are legally required to appoint three members, representing churches, to their education committees. In practice, the three individuals have equal standing to councillors but they are not accountable to voters.

A bid by Green MSP John Finnie to scrap the system in the last parliamentary term fizzled out and unelected religious figures maintain their privileged role.
This is what happens when you elect people to an education committee who have no background or interest in science.  In order to be on the education committee, new nominees should have to pass a basic test in science.  It is pretty clear from reading the rest of the article that Mr. Iskander has absolutely no idea what evolution is.  That doesn't seem to stop him (or anyone else for that matter) from having strong opinions on it. 

Monday, January 22, 2018

Meanwhile, Over in India...

There has been swift reaction to the statement of India's Union human resource development minister Satyapal Singh’s remarks that evolution is not a scientific theory and should not be taught in India's schools.  He also wrote that the theory of evolution had been disproved over thirty years ago and that we did not evolve from monkeys.  The Wire staff writes:
Singh had made his claims when he was at the All India Vaidik Sammelan, Aurangabad, Maharashtra, on January 20. Shortly after, Ram Madhav, the national secretary of the Bharatiya Janata Party, issued a tweet in support of Singh and drawing his followers’ attention to a campaign organised by supporters of the idea of ‘intelligent design’ to cast doubt on the popular theory bearing Darwin’s name.
Reaction was swift. Scientists produced and circulated the following (in part):
We, the Scientists, science communicators and scientifically oriented members of public, are deeply pained by your claim. It is factually incorrect to state that the evolutionary principle has been rejected by the scientific community. On the contrary, every new discovery adds support to Darwin’s insights. One should also note that it is no longer merely a mechanism for organic evolution, but several other evolutionary phenomena in nature. Statements such as ‘humans did / did not evolve from monkeys’ is an overly simplistic and misleading representation of evolution. There is plentiful and undeniable scientific evidence to the fact that humans and the other great apes and monkeys had a common ancestor.

You have also supposedly claimed that Vedas contain answers to all questions. Such an exaggerated claim cannot be substantiated with the evidence available and is an insult to the genuine research work on history of Indian scientific traditions. Vedic traditions through the Mimamsa discipline teach us ways of analysing Vedas through rationality and logical reasoning. Your claims are at odds with the very traditions you claim to uphold.

When a minister working for Human Resource Development in the country makes such claims, it harms the scientific community’s efforts to propagate scientific thoughts and rationality through critical education and modern scientific research. It also diminishes the image of the country at the global level and reduces faith of the international historical research community in the genuine research by the Indian researchers.

Therefore, we urge you to retract the reported speech at the All India [Vaidik] Sammelan with immediate effect and issue a clarification about the Ministry’s policy towards teaching the theory of evolution.
Singh stated that no Veddic writer has ever seen an ape turn into a man, therefore evolution did not happen. The sheer ignorance of the evolutionary process in this statement is so overwhelming that it is difficult to know how to correct it.That is is religiously-based is not a surprise. 

Aside: I have often thought to issue a challenge to young earth creationists of all stripes.  The challenge is this: find me a person who is firmly convinced that evolutionary theory is wrong and that the earth was created six thousand years ago...but who is a confirmed atheist.  This would be someone who is convinced of these ideas, based on what they see as the scientific evidence for them, AND that there is absolutely no God.  Every argument that I have ever seen promoting a young earth and no evolution has been religiously-based, whether it be Christian, Islamic, Veddic or other less well-known groups. 

Go on.  I dare ya..  If this person can be found,  I will contribute $25 to Answers in Genesis.