Thursday, 7 June 2012

Creationists triumph in South Korea, as references to evolution excised from school textbooks

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Scientific debate over Archaeopteryx has
been exploited by creationists in Korea
Yesterday I blogged about a new Gallup poll revealing that 46 per cent of Americans hold creationist views, but today attention shifts around the globe to South Korea, following news that school textbook publishers are to remove several references to evolution from future editions as a result of a successful petition by a creationist organisation.

According to a report in the latest issue of Nature, the Society for Textbook Revise, an offshoot of the Korea Association for Creation Research, launched a petition calling on the South Korean Ministry of Education, Science and Technology to ask publishers to remove examples concerning the evolution of the horse and Archaeopteryx, a winged Late Jurassic creature believed to be an ancestor of modern birds. After the Ministry passed on the petition to textbook publishers, several took the decision to remove the examples from their books.

The focus on the specific example of Archaeopteryx represents a common creationist tactic, whereby genuine disputes among evolutionary biologists are exploited in an attempt to undermine the science as a whole. Archaeopteryx has long been believed to have been an ancient ancestor of birds, but more recent studies have suggested the connection to modern birds may not be as clear as was previously thought. Having successfully taken advantage of that particular scientific debate, the Society for Textbook Revise are apparently now aiming to persuade publishers to remove references to “the evolution of humans”.

Figures for those not believing in evolution in South Korea are relatively high, with almost one-third of those surveyed in a 2009 poll saying they did not. Considering that only 26 per cent of Koreans are Christian, it is possible that the problem lies with science education rather than religion – 41 per cent of those disputing evolution in the 2009 survey cited "insufficient scientific evidence", compared with 39 per cent who cited religious beliefs. Speaking to Nature Dayk Jang, an evolutionary scientist at Seoul National University, suggests evolution is not taught widely enough in the country's universities, with "only 5–10 evolutionary scientists" teaching the theory to students across the entire university system.
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