Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Evolution Education is Pushed a Step Back in Korea

by Gary Berg-Cross

OK, we have some progress in Norway, but a now step back in South Korea (SK). Nature magazine reports that South Korea has surrendered to creationist petition demands to:

"remove references to evolution from high-school textbooks claimed victory last month after the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MEST) revealed that many of the publishers would produce revised editions that exclude examples of the evolution of the horse or of avian ancestor Archaeopteryx.

The petition was spearheaded by independent body called the Society for Textbook Revise , which is an offshoot of the Korea Association for Creation Research. They won acampaign to remove mentions of the evolution of the horse and of the Archaeopteryx (as we know an avian ancestor from the late Jurassic period) from secondary school textbooks in May. They apparently used conflicting debates in evolutionary research on the Archaeopteryx's capacity to fly as support for its position. Revise is not done, they now want to remove excerpts on human evolution and references to Darwin's infamous finch research from On the Origin of Species.

The move has caught SK biologists off guard and they are alarmed saying that they were not consulted about the petition.

“The ministry just sent the petition out to the publishing companies and let them judge,” says Dayk Jang, an evolutionary scientist at Seoul National University.

We'll see what they do about the new drive. Until now the Nature article notes, the scientific community has done little to combat the anti-evolution sentiment. Says Dayk Jang:

“The biggest problem is that there are only 5–10 evolutionary scientists in the country who teach the theory of evolution in undergraduate and graduate schools,”

Having seen the fierce debates over evolution in the US, he adds:

" some scientists also worry that engaging with creationists might give creationist views more credibility among the public."

People commenting on the Korean phenomena make some interesting points. One is that Christianity in South Korea is a bit different because it is a mix of Western religion, along with older practice from Confucian philosophies that are built into their daily lives. So some are "Christian" on Sunday, but Confucian daily at home and perhaps at work.

Among the influences are a degree of Asian-Korean social conformity. So they conform to "modern" Western tradition of being Christian. It goes with a large capitalist trend. They may not be so Bible studying and believe much of what the it says.

In this they may be part of a modern tendency for their Korean version of unconscious "hivemind". This triggers upset at people like Dawkins and Stephen Hawking if they say that the God concept is unfounded. They don't need to read the source articles to have an emotional reaction. So evolution is attackable.

Sounds familiar in a way. It's System 1's Associative Memory and bias at work in modern culture - see the Blog on this. It still simplifies human thought and puts critical thinking in that familiar secondary role forcing us to re-actively catch up.

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