South Korea will remove evolution from its high school textbooks

It appears that the United States is not the only country having a hard time accepting evolution. According to a report in Nature, a South Korean creationist campaign has achieved victory in its efforts to see specific examples of evolution removed from high school text books. Their breakthrough is part of a larger campaign to see evolutionary theory removed as much as possible from educational materials.

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. The group started a petition to remove references to

South Korea will remove evolution from its high school textbooks

evolution from high school textbooks and it now appears that this strategy has worked. The South Korean Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MEST) announced that textbook publishers will revise editions that exclude examples of the evolution of the horse and the Archaeopteryx, which is an ancestor of modern day birds.

The announcement has shocked a number of biologists who complain that they were not consulted. According to Dayk Jan, an evolutionary scientist as Seoul National University, the South Korean ministry sent the petition directly to the publishing companies where they judged it for themselves. In its defense, STR claims that its group includes professors of biology and high-school science teachers.

Moreover, the creationist-minded group is looking to take the issue even further. According to the report in Nature:

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. To back its campaign, the group highlights recent discoveries that Archaeopteryx is one of many feathered dinosaurs, and not necessarily an ancestor of all birds. Exploiting such debates over the lineage of species "is a typical strategy of creation scientists to attack the teaching of evolution itself", says Joonghwan Jeon, an evolutionary psychologist at Kyung Hee University in Yongin.

The STR is an independent offshoot of the Korea Association for Creation Research (KACR), according to KACR spokesman Jungyeol Han. Thanks in part to the 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 scored a hit with a successful 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.

South Korea's strong creationist sentiment is apparently due in part to its large Christian population. When it comes to evolutionary skepticism, surveys show that South Korea's numbers are comparable to those of the United States. 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. In fact, there are only 5-10 evolutionary scientists in South Korea who teach the theory of evolution in undergraduate and graduate schools.

A recent gallup poll in the United States indicated that around 40% of Americans do not believe that humans evolved from less advanced forms of life. That contrasts to 59% acceptance in Canada, and upwards of 80% in some European countries.

To counter the work of SRT, Dayk Jang is now organizing a group of experts, including evolutionary biologists and theologians who believe in evolution. Their ultimate goal is to improve the teaching of evolution in the classroom and in broader public life.

Image via Shutterstock / Maridav. Body image via Wikipedia