Korean creationists face resistance in textbook changes

Scientists in South Korea have finally taken note of a drastic change due to be made in their country’s high school biology textbooks thanks to a report in Nature that got their attention. In response to the efforts of the Society for Textbook Revise (STR, Engrish strikes again), Korean scientists have banded together to petition their government to reconsider the decision made by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology.

At the crux of the issue are examples of an evolutionary ancestor of modern birds, archaeopteryx, and an evolutionary ancestor of modern horses. STR, an offshoot of the Korean Association for Creation Research, has derided these examples as atheistic materialism and demanded the removal of such material from public science education. So STR, where’s that apple?

ohiou.edu
From the Witmer Lab’s collection: archaeopteryx

How exactly does STR manage to convince the Ministry to tell textbook publishes to drop the examples? Apparently the Ministry just forwarded STR’s petition to the textbook publishers and told them to judge for themselves, as evolutionary scientist Dayk Jang  at Seoul National University tells Nature, rather than decide for themselves to impose the change or shred it.

Of course, Korea’s top scientists are not backing down now that they can no longer turn their backs to this problem. They are making a loud and clear declaration that they are not going to take it. Jae Choe, Korea’s preeminent evolutionary biologist, linked up with other scientists to organize a petition to reverse the decision. The government also established a panel of experts in the field to revisit the controversial decision.

STR continues to pursue an example-by-example dismantling of evolution in the texts their country uses to teach future Korean students (and fellow Hopkins bio majors). When I first about the move by Korean textbook publishers last month, I myself felt quite shocked and dismayed by a country that seemed a little saner than ours when it came to discussing ideas that are fundamental to the research many of us in the sciences peruse and pursue. While this may seem like a big deal in the context of an East Asian nation that cherishes the pursuit of science, we actually have much worse problems here.

—Ian Yu, Managing Editor

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3 responses to “Korean creationists face resistance in textbook changes

  1. “Jae Choe, Korea’s preeminent evolutionary biologist, linked up with other scientists to organize a petition to reverse the decision.”

    Uh…yeah…because if he doesn’t, he’ll be OUT OF A JOB. But he can always find a beneficial area of study to focus on to make the world a better place.

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  2. I am not a creationist, but I do have problems with sensationalist articles. It’s very easy to misinterpret this.
    I don’t see what the big deal is, since Archeopteryx [1] is no longer considered a transition between dinosaurs and modern birds, with some doubting that birds are even descended from dinosaurs: birds are found earlier in the fossil record than the dinosaurs they are supposed to have descended from. That’s a pretty serious problem, and there are other inconsistencies with the bird-from-dinosaur theories. Stephen J. Gould himself has complained about the inaccurate presentation of horse evolution in texbooks:
    Once ensconced in textbooks, misinformation becomes cocooned and effectively permanent, because, as stated above, textbooks copy from previous texts.
    As well as the paleontologist David Raup: some of the classic cases of Darwinian change in the fossil record, such as the evolution of the horse in North America, have had to be discarded or modified as a result of more detailed information—what appeared to be a nice, simple progression when relatively few data were available now appears to be much more complex and much less gradualistic. For whales, you have a fully aquatic whale found at the beginning of the transition sequence. Unfortunately, you don’t find the real reason for disagreement until the last paragraph:
    The professor of genomics at Seoul National University Jang Dae-ik said “the problem is that the writers of the science textbooks have neglected the new materials on the theory of evolution over the several decades. It even contains the references to Ernst Haeckel’s recapitulation theory which has been disproven a long time ago. This kind of lapse in up-to-date knowledge invites such an attack.”

    Please do your research next time before jumping on the bandwagon. Yes, creationists should be fought against, but that means that we need to have our facts in order.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090609092055.htm
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125624463802402117.html
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/44867222/ns/technology_and_science-science/#.T87K-tVYvK1
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recapitulation_theory

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