Publishers in South Korea are set to remove examples of evolution from school textbooks following a petition driven by independent body the Society for Textbook Revise, according to a report in Nature.
The body, which is an offshoot of the Korea Association for Creation Research, won its campaign to remove mentions of the evolution of the horse and of the Archeopteryx – an avian ancestor from the late Jurassic period – from secondary school textbooks last month, using conflicting debates in evolutionary research on the Archeopteryx capacity to fly as support for its position. Its sights are now set on removing excerpts on human evolution and references to Darwin’s infamous finch research from On the Origin of Species.
Researchers in the field claim they were not consulted and that the petition instead went directly to the publishers who made the decision.
The news comes days after a poll by news site Gallup revealed that 46 percent of Americans believe in the creationist theory that God created man in the last 10,000 years. A third believe humans evolved under God’s guidance. When Gallup conducted the same poll in the US 30 years ago, the results were the same, give or take a few percent, demonstrating that despite countless research studies confirming otherwise, little has changed among the country’s conservative right.
In South Korea 26 percent of the population belong to a Christian denomination and over 23 percent are Buddhists, however the latter do not recognise any god or creator, so for many evolution does not conflict with the religion. This is compared to the US, where nearly 80 percent of the population is Christian.
Creationism in South Korea gained more attention following the 1980 World Evangelisation Crusade, which was held in Seoul. The following year, the Korea Association for Creation Research was setup. The association’s website stays up to date with current evolutionary research, publishing news stories that often state the facts as published, before going on to poke holes in the results, point out that “accidents” of “random mutations” were surely by design, before finishing off with a few references to “the Creator”.
The country’s anti-evolutionary sentiment appears to already be widespread within the schooling system, with a recent survey of trainee teachers in the country revealing half of those questioned disagreed with the statement that “modern humans are the product of evolutionary processes”.
The main issue threatening evolutionary research in South Korea, according to Dayk Jang, an evolutionary scientist at Seoul National University, is the lack of debate in the academic sector. “The biggest problem is that there are only five to ten evolutionary scientists in the country who teach theory of evolution in undergraduate and graduate schools,” Jang says, adding that some in the field fear opening up the debate in public could give creationism more credibility.