South Korea didn’t surrender to creationist demands

The real problem is the poor quality of the evolution chapters of high school textbooks


Deok-ha Yi





In South Korea surrenders to creationist demands Soo Bin Park wrote:


Mention creationism, and many scientists think of the United States, where efforts to limit the teaching of evolution have made headway in a couple of states. But the successes are modest compared with those in South Korea, where the anti-evolution sentiment seems to be winning its battle with mainstream science.

A petition 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.1


This is a gross misrepresentation of what happened in South Korea.


The Society for Textbook Revise (STR) argued that there were many problems in high school textbooks regarding evolution.2 Then some textbook publishers admitted that there were problems on the materials on Archaeopteryx and the evolution of the horse and promised to fix them by deleting, revising, or replacing with other example. STR’s agenda is clearly anti-evolutionist. The president of STR said in its webpage: “The ultimate goal of our activity is the removal of evolution from textbooks.”3 For a casual observer this may seem to be a victory of creationism and a defeat of evolutionism.


But if you look more closely, a very different picture emerges. I examined 19 authorized high school textbooks which dealt with evolution and found numerous passages and pictures which were downright wrong or dubious. I will list here only 10 instances:


1. “Archaeopteryx that appeared in the middle period of the Mesozoic era is thought to be an organism of intermediate phase between birds and reptiles.”4 So students may think that Archaeopteryx was the direct ancestor of modern birds. But this is controversial.


2. In <Picture 55 Vicissitudes of horse fossils> the pictures of Eohippus, Mesohippus, Merychippus, Pliohippus, and Equus are connected by one arrow.5 So the students will think that this picture is about straight-line evolution, that is, Pliohippus is the direct ancestor of Equus and Merychippus is the direct ancestor of Pliohippus, and so on. But it seems that the phylogeny of horse is more complicated.


3. “Based on that, Kimura published the neutral theory of evolution in 1968. He argued that ‘evolution occurs not by natural selection but by the accumulation of neutral mutations.’”6 But Kimura didn’t deny the importance of natural selection.


4. “Chimpanzees maintained the forms of common ancestors intact and humans evolved repeatedly to be the forms of present.”7 But the chimpanzee lineage not only evolved but also speciated into two species.


5. “Animals of primate order except human are called monkeys. Chimpanzees and orangutans are monkeys.”8 But Chimpanzees and orangutans are not monkeys. They are apes.


6. “Because the evolution of life proceeds slowly across a long span of time, we cannot directly observe the process of evolution.”9 But we can directly observe the evolution of fruit fly whose life cycles are sufficiently short.


7. According to <Picture 3-34 Evolutionary process of human> the orangutan-chimpanzee-gorilla lineage split from the human lineage, then the orangutan lineage split from the chimpanzee-gorilla lineage, and then the chimpanzee lineage split from the gorilla lineage.10 In that picture chimpanzee’s closest relative is not human but gorilla. But it was demonstrated by DNA analysis that chimpanzee’s closest relative is not gorilla but human.


8. “In Australia there are marsupials such as Kangaroos and Koalas that have not fully evolved placenta. They are lower mammals.”11 Is a Kangaroo a lower animal than a mouse? They are just differently evolved animals.


9. “When early humans appeared 15 million years ago, the climate of Africa became colder and drier. So, major parts of it transformed from forests to Savanna plains.”12 But nobody calls our ancestors who lived 15 million years ago “early humans”.


10. “Galápagos Islands of Sound America are islands that never have been connected to the continent and were formed by volcano eruption 300~500 years ago.”13 But Galápagos Islands are not so young.


Most of STR’s arguments about the evolution chapters of high school textbooks are ridiculous. But they succeeded to spot some materials that were scientifically problematic. Even if those who point out what is wrong with the textbooks are creationists and the aim of those creationists is to destroy evolutionism, you must fix them if they are really wrong. And this is not a victory of creationism or a defeat of evolutionism. There are so many examples of evolution that were well studied. So you can write a good textbook without Archaeopteryx or horse.


As I showed above there are so many problems in high school textbooks regarding evolution. And it is a shame that until STR pointed out, no one in South Korea had bothered to deal with those problems. Unfortunately many people who love evolutionism in South Korea mainly focus on the deletions of Archaeopteryx and horse. In my opinion they should focus instead on the other passages which await scientifically correct revisions.






1. Park, S., South Korea surrenders to creationist demands: Publishers set to remove examples of evolution from high-school textbooks. Nature 486, p. 14

2. STR webpage,

3. STR webpage,

4. Jo, H. et al., High School Science, 2nd ed., 2012, Chunjae education, Seoul, p. 150

5. Joen, D. et al., High School Science, 1st ed., 2nd printing, 2012, Mirae-N, Seoul, p. 166

6. Gwak, Y. et al., High School Science, 1st ed., 2nd printing, 2012, The Text, Seoul, p. 221

7. Jo, H. et al., p. 145

8. Sim, G. et al., High School Life Science II, 1st ed., 2012, Visang education, Seoul, p. 235

9. Gwon, H. et al., High School Life Science II, 1st ed., 2nd printing, Kyohaksa, Seoul, p. 224

10. Yi, G. et al., High School Biology II, 5th ed., 3rd printing, 2012, Daihaks publishing company, Seoul, p. 184

11. Jo, H. et al., High School Biology II, 1st ed., 10th printing, 2012, Mirae-N, Seoul, p. 180

12. Jeong, W. et al., High School Biology II, 3rd ed., 4th printing, 2012, Kyohaksa, Seoul, p. 174

13. Ha, Y. et al., High School Biology II, 7th ed., 2nd printing, 2012, Hyungseul, Seoul, p. 145