”Nature seems to be distinctly intelligent,” said Dr. Gajanan Rao, Founder of Good Earth School to a packed hall. And it was the perfect beginning for “Footprints in the sand of time,” – as the bi-centenary birth anniversary of Charles Darwin was celebrated at Good Earth School Naduveerapattu, with the staff and student community from 10 schools from in and around Tambaram. After the welcome song and speeches, the day was taken over by the two main speakers of the day, Prof. P. Dayanandan, professor emeritus, Department of Botany, Madas Christian College, Tambaram and Dr. Sridhar Ganapathy, Teacher, Good Earth School, Naduveerapattu.

Prof. Daya, began his talk with the aid of colourful slides. He spoke of the religious conflict faced by Charles Darwin and how he handled it. Darwin, “the master of observation” had a rich legacy to leave for humanity – for he freed the human mind to go beyond petty theories and dogmas. “Darwin was no ordinary scientist. Even if he had not proposed the theory of evolution he would still be counted among the great scientists for his work in geology, fossils, classification of some animals, a variety of studies on plants and his numerous publications. We remember him mostly for his work on evolution,” said the prof. before he gave the essence of the concept of evolution:

Life has a history measured in millions and billions of years

Life originated nearly 4 billion years ago

All living things are descendants of common ancestors

Random mutation in genetic material is the cause of variations

Natural selection preserves organisms with characters suitable to survive in their environment

All life (30 million living species and 600 million extinct) are related to each other

Biodiversity is a product of evolution

About 500 human genes are shared with all living things

Human beings are a recent product of evolution

His voyage on “The Beagle” to the Galapagos, his discoveries and observations there have revolutionised thinking in the world of science, as his publications, The Origin of Species” and the “The Descent of Man” have done. In the latter book Darwin predicted that evidence of human origins will be found in Africa and the great apes.

“Fossils and radiometric dating” was presented by Mr. Shridar Ganapathy, Geologist senior teacher, Good Earth School.

With slide he brought out that “Organisms have changed over time, and the ones living today are different from those that lived in the past.

Over time, populations split into different species, which are related because they are descended from a common ancestor. Thus, if one goes far enough back in time, any pair of organisms has a common ancestor. This explained the similarities of organisms that were classified together. They were similar because of shared traits inherited from their common ancestor. It also explained why similar species tended to occur in the same geographic region.”

Many fossils were shown to show that fossils are evidence of ancient life preserved in sedimentary rocks and that on Earth, they are clues to what living things, ecosystems, and environments were like in the past.

He also discussed that fossils were found in a place popularly known as the “Sriperumbudur bed” that comprises parts of Gunduperumbedu, Manimangalam, Mosur, Vallam, Kaavanur and Poonamallee villages.

Talking about Radiometric dating, he said that

“Radiometric dating of rocks is carried out with radio active isotopes like uranium 235 and using the inherent property of half life period of the isotopes which ranges from few thousands, millions to billions of years. This helps in determining the absolute dating of the rocks in millions of years and hence the age of ancient organisms fossilized in the sedimentary beds and that Carbon dating is another important atomic clock used for dating purposes of organic bodies which is widely used for historical times like the ancient civilisation and evolution of Man kind is based on the radioactive decay of the isotope carbon-14, and it can be used for dating events precisely for a period of 50,000 years.”

The post lunch session saw the presentation of projects done by the various school. The kids spoke with conviction and confidence, clearly showing that they were deeply involved in their subject. Sri Anand Jain Vidyalaya, Tambaram, had chosen “The Geological Time Frame”, while Christ King H.S., Tambaram had done their project on “Evolution of plants” with K.V. 2, Tambaram had “Dawinism” on record. Nadeem, Std. XI, Crescent M.H.S., Vandalur,spoke of “Cloning a better tomorrow” and did well by highlighting the effects and reiterated the fact that it should be done with care.