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September 19, 2020

Korean creationists face resistance in textbook changes

July 9, 2012

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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