IOS organises two-day online international conference on “Environment, Social, and Religious Consequences on Human Evolution”

A two-day online international conference on “Environment, Social, and Religious Consequences on Human Evolution” was organised by the Institute of Objective Studies on November 20-21, 2021. Professor Arvind, Vice-Chancellor, Punjabi University, in his inaugural address, talked about the changing climate and its effect on human evolution. Calling the theme of the conference interesting and relevant, he said connecting the evolutionary idea with other aspects opens the door of opportunities to advance the conversation around the given topics. Prof. Arvind pointed that, in a sense, we have still not absorbed the philosophy of the theory of evolution, therefore dialogues like these play an important role in the evolutionary process. Prof. Arvind also discussed the notion of evolutionary psychology that involves understanding the evolution of standard human behavior. The distinct response of each human is also connected with the evolutionary theory. Our identity, behavior, psychology, thinking, values have evolved over the period of time.

Prof Seyed E. Hasnain, Honorary Professor, National Science Chair-SERB, in his key-note address, talked about the COVID 19 pandemic as an example of an evolutionary trajectory. He discussed the chaos and tragedy brought by the pandemic, which held the world to a standstill. All of the world and its technological advances stood powerless before the force of nature. He also discussed the problem of evolving variants, which are growing faster than one could imagine. He stressed the need for well-funded public health and infrastructure.

Dr. Md. Asrarul Haq, Former Director, Ministry of Environment and Forests, Govt. of India, in his address as guest of honour, spoke on biodiversity and examined its importance in our society and the need for conservation of the biodiversity. The issue of exploiting biodiversity is emerging out to be a crisis of the contemporary world. If we continue to erode the resources at this pace, we might face the extinction of resources in the coming time soon. He said creating awareness among the masses to preserve our biodiversity is needed today as most people are not concerned about conserving biodiversity and even laws related to environment.

Prof. M. Afzal Wani, Vice Chairman, IOS, talked about the non-physical aspect of evolution. He said there is a great shift in human behavior with the advancement of science and technology. He also focused on the social, religious, and political context of evolution. To understand the evolution of thought and behavior, it is important to take a hold of truthfulness and avoid fabricated truth. A collaboration of natural sciences, environment, religion, social behavior would help understand the evolution process better, he said. In his concluding remarks, he proposed adopting the approach of universality in every system necessary for human survival - one knowledge, one human experience with a little room for behavioral differences rather than placing two ideas in contradiction to each other.

Prof. M. Ishtiyaque, Former Vice-Chancellor, Magadh University, in the Presidential address, said that the conference presents a platform to discuss the three important aspects of human evolution. Briefing the talk of each speaker, he welcomed everyone with an open heart.

Prof. Haseena Hashia, Asstt. Secretary General, IOS, presented the vote of thanks to all the attendees, speakers, and organisers.

Earlier, Prof. Z.M. Khan, Secretary General, IOS, introduced the IOS and welcomed all the participants and speakers, while Dr. Imtaiyaz Hassan, Asstt. Professor, Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Basic Sciences, Jamia Millia Islamia, and Convenor of the conference moderated the session.

Session- 1; Chairperson: Prof. S.N. Kazim, Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Basic Sciences, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi,

Prof. M. R. N. Murthy, Institute of Bioinformatics and Applied Biotechnology, the first speaker of the session, said that much of our understanding of everything comes from science. Science has always evolved with the advancement of technology; for example, until the discovery of Copernicus, it was believed that Earth was the center of the universe. Later, he talked about Darwin’s four postulates. The essence of Darwin’s theory is that the way animals behave is a result of evolutionary history; evolution has shaped the behavior of animals. Similarly, human culture and behavior are also a consequence of evolution. On the scope of religion, he said that every religion, in order to survive, has to be pro-science and not anti-scientific. Other ways suggested by him include reconciliation of science with religion, brotherhood, supporting women empowerment, non-violence, conservation of the environment, and respecting each other’s differences. Prof. Murthy hopes for a better future, where people are not fighting wars, killing each other but having mutual respect for people’s differences.

Prof. K.P. Mishra, President, Asian Association for Radiation Research, spoke on “Spirituality with Science Can Catapult Humans to Superhuman Capabilities.” He pointed out how with the evolution of time, inequalities in society emerged. Ancient society was more egalitarian, more adaptive, and less divided in different castes, classes, religions, etc. Humans although made most of the scientific inventions and technological advancements as they progressed but deteriorated the environment with overexploitation and mismanagement of resources. On the discourse of the role of religion, he said that religions unintentionally impeded human progress; the greater purpose of human evolution was hampered by religions all over the world. As an alternative, Prof. Mishra suggested spirituality, which gives power and hope to people. Prof. Mishra tried to connect the dots between science and spirituality. According to him, science and spirituality seem converging. Spirituality, like science, has the capacity to be powerful when followed by scientific methods.

Prof Dinesh Kumar Patel, Head, Dept. of Botany, Harishchandra PG College, Varanasi, talked about the inaccessibility of water for irrigation, especially in arid and semi-arid areas of Varanasi. Due to this, non-conventional resources are used. The use of wastewater irrigation negatively impacts the produce as well as contaminates the land resource, leading to health-related issues and environmental concerns. Accumulation of metals such as sodium, zinc, copper, nickel, iron, etc., in plants and vegetables are some of the drawbacks of using contaminated water for irrigation. In his concluding remarks, Prof. Dinesh pointed out that wastewater irrigation leads to the accumulation of heavy metals in soil and vegetables, depending on the intake of contaminated produce.

Session-2; Chairperson: Prof. Ehteshamul Haque, Dept. of Electrical Engineering, JMI, New Delhi

Dr. Gustavo Zubieta-Calleja, Director, IPPA, President, Zubieta University, Bolvia, in his presentation on “Human Evolution beyond Earth: Adaptation to Chronic Hypoxia and Biospaceforming” talked about the process of human evolution. Pointing to the logical observations made by Charles Darwin, he said that humans adapt as per changing times. Discussing the nature of adaptation in blood components at high altitudes, he said that at sea level, red blood cells (porters of oxygen) amount to 36 per cent that rises to 50 per cent at high altitudes. He further busted the myth of the “loss of adaptation,” which has been used with no scientific evidence and facts to back the claim. He said that it takes some time for Hematocrit (red blood cell) to adapt- in his case, around 40 days to adjust from high altitude to sea level. Given the high altitude adaptation formula, he said the more time we have, the better possibility of adaptation we get. Dr. Zubieta-Calleja, along with other colleagues, has overcome the challenges of Hypoxia in areas 4100 m above sea level and coined a related term, “normoxia”. He coined the term “biospaceforming,” which means the adaptation of all living beings on earth to space.

Prof. Atiqur Rahman, Dept. of Geography, JMI, New Delhi, started the presentation on “Challenges of Water Resources in Present Day Scenario” by explaining the importance of water for each living organism and the need for judicious use of water resources. Prof. Rahman shed some light on the discourse of water pollution globally, with a special reference of India. The relation between increasing GDP and resource consumption was excellently explained by him. He said that the increasing GDP of any country is one of the reasons why people are exploiting the resources injudiciously. For example, increased economic activities involve setting up a lot of manufacturing industries, which is one of the main components of water and air pollution. Citing a study conducted on water pollution of Yamuna River, Prof Rahman outlined some of its findings. It was found that Delhi, which covers just 2 per cent (22 km) of the total length of the river, releases about 70 per cent of the pollutants in the river.

Dr. Bilal Ahmad Kutty spoke on the topic, “Concept of Environment from the Islamic Perspective.” Quoting the Holy Quran and Hadith, Dr. Bilal pointed out some of the verses that support the conservation of resources and saving our environment. He said that humans are responsible for the ongoing environmental crisis, and it is the duty of every individual to save the environment from degradation. The Holy Quran has a comprehensive understanding of each component of the environment, where a total of 199 verses of the Quran discuss about the same. Dr. Bilal said that Allah created everything in equilibrium, and therefore, we must be mindful of spending all the resources. Overexploitation of resources is similar to disobeying the commandments of Allah, prescribed in the Holy Quran.

Alka, Research Scholar, Dept. of Chemistry, SRM-IST, Ghaziabad, spoke on “Preparation, spectral analysis and biological application of Schiff base ligand and its transition metal complexes.” While presenting the study, Alka pointed out the objectives and other details of the study. Explaining Schiff base ligand, she said that it is a compound that contains carbon-nitrogen double bond. In the conclusion of the report, she said the study show, from the experimental point of view, that free ligand shows lesser activity.

November 21, 2021

Session-3; Chairperson: Prof. Urmi Vajpayee, AND College, University of Delhi.

Prof. M. Affan Badar, Indiana State University, USA, said there is a need to sensitise students, especially engineering students, to deal with the ongoing crisis. He proposed an upgrade in the curriculum to inculcate environment-friendly behavior. A global system engineering approach or a global engineering education system is the need of the hour. Delving upon the Islamic perspective, he said the Almighty has specifically mentioned conservation of resources, and reckless use of resources has been viewed as sinful. He talked about the corruption of using excessive natural resources sponsored by power and wealth and called for conscious consumption of resources. There is a need to sensitise our students about climate change to slow down the deterioration- educating people at the community (religious and social gathering) as well as institutional (school, university) level. At community level, he said we have to be mindful of the waste, especially plastic waste, generated on a daily basis; adopt reduce, reuse, and recycle approach; minimising wasting water with the installation of sensory faucets. Talking about solving the problem with the global perspective, Prof Badar mentioned some of the models like the DEJI Systems Model and the CDIO framework. He finished his talk with an appeal to stop wasting and overexploiting the natural resources and suggested a global approach to negotiate with the issue.

Prof. Suhel Parvez, Head of the Department, Medical Elementology and Toxicology, Jamia Hamdard, New Delhi, started the talk with the discussion on the contaminants in the environment. Citing the examples of food products consumed by people, he explained the extent of toxins present in animals, seafood, vegetables. The issue of adulteration of food impact all humans, physically and psychologically. The suggestions to resist and reduce the issue include chemical analysis of soil and its produce and creating models for field studies. In concluding remarks, Dr. Sohail suggested the need for a system, which can complement both field study and lab studies to address climate change.

Prof. R. P. PANDEY, Asstt. Professor, Biotechnology and Biomedical Engineering, SRM University, Sonepat, while talking about antimicrobial resistance as a “silent pandemic”, said that pathogens are securing a place to survive in our environment. The factors contributing to antimicrobial resistance are environmental, drug-related, patient-related, physician-related factors. Stressing the interconnectedness of humans and the environment, he said we have to give attention to our environment and its component proportionately; toxins in the environment would eventually get to humans, plants, animals, and other living beings.

Dr. Swati Joshi, Asstt. Professor, School of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Era University, Lucknow, spoke on “Impact of religion and culture on menstrual practices.” Explaining the physiology of the menstrual cycle, Dr. Swati delved into the notion of stigmatising menstruation in our society both from cultural and religious perspectives. She discussed how the biological process had become a taboo subject. The general perception of menstrual cycle is believed to be impure, unclean, and untouchable. Almost all the religions practiced in India label menstruation as “impurity” in women’s bodies. Culturally, women are asked to isolate themselves with the day-to-day chores and live in isolation until the cycle ends. Destigmatising menstruation and starting a conversation around it is the need of the hour.

Dr Kiran, Dept. of Livestock Products Technology, Veterinary College, Nandinagar, Karnataka, presented a study on “Biochemical and proteome profile of layer breeder hen skeleton muscles.” Stating the objective of the study, Dr. Kiran said that it was carried out to determine various physicochemical and biochemical characteristics of thigh and breast muscles of chickens. Out of many parameters explained by Dr. Kiran, it was concluded that pH level was higher in the thigh muscle, R-Value was higher in breast muscle, water-holding capacity was very low in breast compared to thigh muscle, MFI was significantly higher in thigh muscle numerically, etc.

Hina Majid, Research Scholar, Islamic Studies, MANUU, Budgam, J&K, presented her paper on “Islamic Ethics and Its Relevance in Environmental Conservation.” Hina Majid pointed to the solutions available in the Holy Quran for the issue of environmental degradation. She said that Islam offers a pro-conservation outlook to look after the resources and hold accountable to those who are responsible for the devastation of our environment. Explaining why Islam calls overexploitation of natural as fitnah, she said that the meaning of fitnah is not limited to killings, test, and treachery but also include changing of resources from their original form, creating disorder and chaos in society, which most human beings are responsible for. In her concluding remarks, Hina Majid stated that the protection of the environment is central to Islamic beliefs and humans have the responsibility of safeguarding the same.

Session-4; Chairperson: Prof. M. Z.M. Nomani, Faculty of Law, AMU, AligarhDr. Deepak Moda, Dept. of Geography, Maharishi Dayanand University, Rohtak, presented the paper on “A Critical Analysis of the Performance of MNREGA in Nuh District, Haryana.” Dr. Moda explained the geographical, cultural, and social determinants of Nuh District. The objective of the study was to analyse the performance of MNREGA in Nuh District during the financial year 2020-21. It was found that 96.96% of the rural households had valid MNERGA job cards. On average, MNREGA provided a total of 63 days of employment as opposed to 100 days, guaranteed in the act. 41.55% of the total beneficiaries were women. A total of 2319 works had been completed under it, accounting for 11.37% of the total works completed, with around 3311 ongoing projects. Out of a total fund of Rs. 259.80 crores, 143.26 crores were directly paid to laborers as wages.

Prof. Dr. Thyagaraju Kedam, UGC BSR Faculty Fellow, Dept. of Biochemistry, Sri Venkateswara University, Tirupati, talked about Selenium, a trace metal, which aids in preventing cell damage. It performs multiple roles such as boosting immunity, controlling thyroid, reducing asthma symptoms, working as antioxidants, etc. On daily dietary allowances in each stage of life, Dr. Kedam said in the US, it is 50-55 micrograms per day and 25-30 micrograms in India, which is very less. Concluding the study done by him, he pointed out how selenium-enriched diet was obtained by the experiment subjects (rats) more than any other element tested via the experiment.

Dr. M A Shah, Special Laboratory for Multifunctional Nanomaterials, P.G. Dept. of Physics, NIT, Srinagar, J&K, explained how science, society, and sustainable developments are connected and the need for a peaceful society for scientific development to occur. According to Dr. Shah, some of the issues of humanity include healthcare, and disease water treatment and remediation, energy storage and production, food processing and storage, environment and pollution, unemployment, poverty and starvation, population, etc. In his concluding remarks, he said that new research must be timely reported and properly communicated because the future of human evolution is dependent on that. Dr. Shah located the entire sustainable goals and the vices permeated in the name of climate change with special reference to Nanotech science and its multifunctionality. 

Mr Gulam Gilani, Dept. of Biological Sciences, Aliah University, Kolkata, started the presentation with a detailed description of the Calicivirdae (CV) family of viruses, which has ss-RNA genetic material. It was concluded that a total of 1317 SSRs and 55 cSSRs were present in the genome-wide scan of six of two Caliciviridae. The SSRs showed ubiquitous presence across the species, albeit varying incidence rates, while several species of Caliciviridae genomes lacked any cSSR. There was a bias towards the occurrence of SSRs and cSSRs in the coding region compared to the non-coding region. 

Sharandip Kaur, Research Scholar, Lovely Professional University, Punjab, presented the paper on “Impact of Climate Change with reference to the reproductive health of women and children.” Explaining the impact of climate change, Kaur delved upon the health perspective, especially on reproductive women. The sexual and reproductive health and rights of women are at a risk in the changing climate. Many countries do not document comprehensive climate-related gender desegregated data. As the concluding remarks, she said there is a need for advocacy to enhance the reproductive health and rights of women due to climate change. Introducing gender-transformative measures, setting the target for inclusive, gender affirmative measures by multi-sectoral stakeholders, gender analysis of the available data of those affected by the climate change, investing in the health system to address the underlining causes of vulnerability to climate changes were some of the suggestions given by her. 

Session-5; Chairperson: Prof. Anita Kamra Verma, Kirori Mal College, University of Delhi

Prof. Zafar Mahfooz Nomani, Faculty of Law, AMU, Aligarh, spoke on “Islamic Response to Environmental Sustainability, Equity, and Peace.” Prof Nomani emphasised adopting a holistic approach in terms of environmental laws. Not questioning unsustainable technology, policies, development measures, etc., might lead to catastrophe, he stated. Further, Prof. Nomani discussed the Islamic perspective of the environment. He pointed that laws have some limitations; if a law is coercive or oppressive, we can opt for religious and ethical philosophy of environment. The environmental laws might not be inclusive of the diversity a territory has to offer. Quoting the Islamic verses on sustainable development, he said the Quran talks about not just equality but generational equity, along with judicious use of resources- all of which is the hallmark of inter-dimensional equity of the modern-day. The main objective of Islamic law is to promote a balance of deen, duniya, nafs, and nasl. Islam discourages hoarding of resources and advocates for a balance in sustenance. The invention of Islamic environmentalism emanates from the principles of unity, creation, balance, and responsibility.

Prof Hamidullah Marazi, Dean, School of Social Sciences, Central University of Kashmir, talked about the environmental disasters in the context of Kashmir. Prof Marazi pointed out the shrinking of forests that consequently force the wild inhabitants into the public space. Other environmental concerns include pollution, water depletion, destruction due to the continuous conflict in the region, floods, etc. Prof Hamidullah said that recent studies show a total of 24 % of people globally affected by environmental factors and 23 % of total deaths. On the teachings of Islam, he said that Islam had laid a framework to conserve and save the environment. Not just Islam, other religions too focus on saving the environment from exploitation. In his concluding remarks, he said there is a need for a set of robust strategies to overcome the damage and abuse of resources.

Dr. Aijaz Ahmad, Asstt. Professor, Dept. of Islamic Studies, AMU, Aligarh, focused on “The Scientific Theory of Evolution and the Response of Muslim Scholar.” Discussing the theory of evolution, he said in the 19th century, Christian theology formed the basis of the theory of evolution. This view was later challenged by the modern theory of evolution given by Darwin, which became the foundation of modern biology. He said that prior to Darwin’s theory, many Muslim scholars provided material on the evolution theory of Darwin. The claim that the evolution of people through common ancestors through the process of natural selection has been criticised by Muslim scholars. He argued many of Darwin’s claims in a systematic manner. He also mentioned Muslim scholars who back Darwin’s theory with evidence from the Quranic verses. The difference between their claims is that Darwin refused to accept the existence of God. Also, some other Muslim scholars point to the limitations and disparity in Darwin’s theory of evolution.

Md Shafiullah, Research Scholar, Dept. of Sunni Theology, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh, presented the paper on “Gender Equality in Islam.” The status of women in Islam is highly debated and misunderstood across the globe, according to Md Shafiullah. Debunking the idea that Islam promotes the oppression of women, he said the Holy Quran has clearly explained the position of women in many verses, which advocates for equality in every aspect of life. However, there are some societies that practice gender inequality in the name of Islam. The ethical qualities mentioned in the Quran for both men and women have social and political dimensions- the Quran makes no reference to the ethical and intellectual supremacy of women over men. Md Shafiullah competently explained socio-cultural, financial, legal, and emotional aspects- none of which preferred men over women, unlike the societal practices of our society in the name of Islam.

Iqura Fatima Iqbal, Research Scholar, Dept. of Islamic Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, discussed about “Environmental Ethics, Human Evolution, and Islamic Perspective.” On environmental crisis and its threat to living beings, she said technical solutions need redesigning and restructuring. Fatima I. Iqbal stated that the Quran accentuated maintaining a balance in nature. Discussing environmental ethics, a discipline and philosophy that studies the moral relationship of human beings to their environmental values, she delved upon Islamic environmental ethics and evolution, formulated by the Almighty, which is the Quran, Hadith, and Sharia. Islam believes that the environment is the creation of Allah, and hence, it is the duty of each of us to preserve nature by using their intellect and power, she asserted.

Tanjeel Ahmed, Ph.D. Scholar, Dept. of Sunni Theology, AMU, Aligarh, discussed the social structure of our society as prescribed in the Quran, he listed out the verses that focus on day-to-day activities commended by the Almighty. He also talked about the meditative and spiritual aspects of offering namaz.

Aal E Fatima, Human genetics and toxicology laboratory, Dept. of Zoology, AMU, Aligarh, spoke on “The pattern of Ocular morbidities in patients in eye hospital.” The presentation started with the discussion of the impact of vision loss in people and its effects on their day-to-day activities. The prevalence of the impairment of the ocular system could trigger by climatic, environmental, socio-economic, literacy factors. To reduce the prevalence of visual impairment.  Enlisting the details of the study conducted to understand the prevalence of ocular morbidities, she said that conjunctivitis and refractive error are the most common causes of ocular disorder among children, and a majority of the causes were treatable or preventable. Therefore, there is a need for raising awareness among school children to maintain ocular hygiene. Cataract was the most common in the elderly population. Early detection and timely intervention can prevent visual disability.

While conducting the Valedictory session, Dr. Imtaiyaz Hassan, Asst. Professor, Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Basic Sciences, JMI, New Delhi, gave a brief summary of the two-day seminar.

Prof. Shakeel Ahmad, M.K. Gandhi Chair Professor, Dept. of Geography, JMI, New Delhi, while expressing his views as guest of honour in the valedictory session, applauded the efforts of the organisers to conduct the seminar on a very relevant and appropriate theme- “Environment, Social, and Religious Consequences on the Human Evolution.” He said that evolution is also a long-term procedure that takes place each day as per the changing times. The best solution, he said, is to adapt to the ongoing circumstances and act accordingly, as resisting change could prove to be disastrous. Every change, he believes, has to be assessed holistically- looking at the positive as well as the negative impact. He suggested converting the conflict into cooperation because unless we cooperate, conflicts do not resolve.

Prof. Faizan Ahmad, Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Basic Sciences, JMI, New Delhi, in his chief guest remarks, said that since the creation of the earth, it has been in a perpetual state of flux, and the planet earth has witnessed many changes, especially environmental changes. Although early humans survived such changes, major climate shifts may have changed some of the defining traits of humanity. From the beginning of their existence on earth, humans have adapted to their environment, which has now become a challenge to cope up with the unprecedented change in earth’s environmental balance. Prof Ahmad said that the relationship between science and religion is a difficult one. Some believe that the two can never coexist, while others believe that science provide evidence and backs religious beliefs. The conflict between the two is simply the state of knowing versus the state of unknowing. In his concluding remarks, Prof Faizan Ahmad said religion and science are just different ways of solving challenges of our society.

In the Presidential remarks, Prof. Afzal Wani presented a fresh take on the theme. He said that science and religion are tools to explore the creation and understand the creator. The creator is the only source of knowledge, he asserted. The contradiction of religion and science is futile if it does not lead to any action. It is time for the curtain of ignorance, partisan, and partiality to fall. He said that scientists and spiritualists should collaborate to explore, understand, and rationalise to find the truth and gather the knowledge. The intent should not be to validate one over the other, but it should always focus on the exploration of knowledge. The resources have to be used as per the need of humans; the sensitivity of bio-diversity should be given the utmost importance and not the superiority of religion over science and vice-versa.

Prof. Haseena Hashia presented the vote of thanks to the participants, speakers, organisers, and all those who were, directly and indirectly, involved in the two-day seminar.



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