South Korea to remove evolution from high school textbooks
South Korea may soon remove evolution from its high school textbooks, in what appears to be a victory for a creationist campaign there.
A report on science and science-fiction website io9.com said the campaign had sought to have specific examples of evolution removed from high school textbooks.
"The campaign, which was led by the Society for Textbook Revise (STR), is aiming to delete the 'error' of evolution from textbooks in order to 'correct' students' views of the world," io9.com said.
It said the group started a petition to remove references to evolution from high school textbooks - a strategy that appears to have worked.
According to io9.com, the South Korean Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MEST) announced textbook publishers will revise editions that exclude examples of the evolution of the horse and the Archaeopteryx, an ancestor of modern day birds.
But io9.com said the announcement has shocked a number of biologists who complain that they were not consulted.
Dayk Jan, an evolutionary scientist as Seoul National University, said the South Korean ministry sent the petition directly to the publishing companies where they judged it for themselves.
For its part, STR claimed its group includes professors of biology and high-school science teachers.
Meanwhile, the creationist-minded group is looking to take the issue even further.
Citing a report in Nature, io9.com said the STR is also campaigning to remove content about "the evolution of humans" and "the adaptation of finch beaks based on habitat and mode of sustenance," a reference to one of the most famous observations in Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species.
The group highlighted recent discoveries that Archaeopteryx is one of many feathered dinosaurs, and not necessarily an ancestor of all birds.
Joonghwan Jeon, an evolutionary psychologist at Kyung Hee University in Yongin, said exploiting such debates over the lineage of species "is a typical strategy of creation scientists to attack the teaching of evolution itself."
STR is an offshoot of the Korea Association for Creation Research (KACR), according to KACR spokesman Jungyeol Han.
With KACR's efforts, creation science, which seeks to provide evidence in support of the creation myth described in the Book of Genesis, has had a growing influence in South Korea, although the STR itself has distanced itself from such doctrines.
In early 2008, the KACR held an exhibition at Seoul Land, one of the country's leading amusement parks.
According to the group, the exhibition attracted more than 116,000 visitors in three months, and the park is now in talks to create a year-long exhibition.
Influence of Christian population
The io9.com article said South Korea's strong creationist sentiment is apparently due in part to its large Christian population.
"Nearly one-third of South Koreans don't believe in evolution, claiming that there isn't enough scientific evidence to support it, or that it contradicted their religious beliefs. Others simply stated that they didn't understand the theory — an indication that evolutionary biology is insufficiently taught in that country," it said.
It added there are only five to 10 evolutionary scientists in South Korea who teach the theory of evolution in undergraduate and graduate schools.
Also, it said a recent Gallup poll in the United States indicated that around 40 percent of Americans do not believe that humans evolved from less advanced forms of life.
That contrasts to 59-percent acceptance in Canada, and above 80 percent in some European countries.
Dayk Jang is now organizing a group of experts, including evolutionary biologists and theologians who believe in evolution, to counter this.
Their ultimate goal is to improve the teaching of evolution in the classroom and in broader public life. — TJD, GMA News