Good news from South Korea

South Korea is strongly infected with the Evangelical Christian plague, and for a while there, there was real concern that the creationist lobby in that country was gaining some clout, and like Texas, was going to censor evolution from their biology textbooks by removing mention of fossil evidence. Good news, everybody! The scientists and educators got their act together and fought back.

On 5 September, the panel concluded that Archaeopteryx must be included in Korean science textbooks, and it reaffirmed that the theory of evolution is an essential part of modern science that all students must learn in school.

The battle is not over, of course. The polls aren’t promising.

Duckhwan Lee, president of the Basic Science Council and the panel leader, says he hopes that the panel’s guidance will eventually improve the public’s understanding of evolution. In July, a survey by Gallup Korea, a research firm based in Seoul, found that of 613 respondents, 45% believed in evolution and 32% believed in creationism.

32% creationist? That’s bad news.

Perspective: the US is 40-50% creationist.


  1. Sastra says

    As I understand it, convincing cultures with no native tradition of science to understand and adopt scientific concepts is often an uphill battle. They tend to see scientific consensus as a matter of culture itself. That is what YOU people believe, but this is what WE believe over here.

    Bad enough in the US.

  2. says


    Good news, everybody!

    This degree of ignorance is not acceptable coming from someone like you Pr. Myers.

    Everyone —with a tidy bit of education— knows that good news are addressed to everyone, not everybody.


  3. says

    But Evangelical Creationism isn’t part of traditional Korean culture. It’s an imposed frame, too

    I remember how astonished I was to learn that there are people who don’t accept evolution (on a forum about the Narnia films. I have a soft spot for the books in my heart and I adore the costumes, they even bothered not to have badly hidden zippers).
    I think I literally said “This is stupid, did you never go to school” and the answer was “yes”
    It was also the first time that I encountered the view that having a boyfriend/girlfriend whom you might not marry was a bad thing.

  4. Tyrant al-Kalām says

    Tomfrog, there is no such rule in English

    There is nowespecially if you’re a mad professor.

  5. says

    There is some hope. Unlike Texas, South Korea isn’t as religiously homogenous. I think that 30~40% creationist is as high as that ceiling is going to get. The percentage of Christians that are creationists might be higher in South Korea than here, but the percentage of Christians to the whole population is lower.

    Herds of Higgs Bosons

  6. Brandon says

    You could barely get a more striking illustration of how bad Abrahamic religions are for scientific literacy. There’s no particularly good reason, other than their Evangelical Christians, for Koreans to reject evolution at a much higher rate than Japan, yet here we are. I spent three years dating a Korean woman that was a highly educated Evangelical Christian (MS in a biomedical research field, finishing a DDS now), and she was among those evolution deniers. It’s truly hard to comprehend for me.

  7. says

    The South Korean youth is very very internet savvy. I expect we’ll see a sudden dramatic shift-over as the current generation’s kids grow up and realize they don’t need to pay lip-service. It could happen surprisingly quickly.

  8. says

    Ms. Daisy Cutter, Vile Human Being, #3

    Tomfrog, there is no such rule in English.

    My mistake was that I thought people like yourself with cognitive abilities must know about Futurama.
    I’m kidding of course and sorry for not making the joke more apparent. I sometimes forget about Poe’s Law.

  9. alexanderz says

    Actually the situation could be worse there than in the US since Korea is much more urban and centralized than USA. Imagine if 32% of New Yorkers were creationists!

  10. Lou Jost says

    Sastra, are you sure that S Korea had no science tradition? Parts of the Orient were way ahead of western science a few hundred years ago, and learning is highly valued in many oriental cultures today. Much more than in the US.

  11. jiuguizi says

    I remember my wife (then gf) and I stopping in Seoul on our way home once and taking a long taxi from Incheon to Seoul at night. For most of the drive, there were very few lights other then these eerie glowing red crosses, kinda floating off the ground as they were too faint to illuminate anything around them. I can get behind just about anything shy of the North invading again that would make me never have to get freaked out by those on my next trip there someday.

  12. naturalcynic says

    Good news from South Korea:
    Garrett Morris yells: The Rev. Sun Myung Moon is still dead!!

  13. Sastra says

    Lou Jost #13 wrote:

    Sastra, are you sure that S Korea had no science tradition? Parts of the Orient were way ahead of western science a few hundred years ago, and learning is highly valued in many oriental cultures today. Much more than in the US.

    No, I am not sure that S Korea had no science tradition, but I’ve read some interesting arguments that the cultures of the east tended to approach science in a different way than was developed in western Europe. Their technological thinking was top-notch — well ahead of the west in many areas. But the concept of explanation, of argument, debate, and demonstration to persuade skeptics, was often sublimated by a desire for internal harmony. Dissent — particularly outside dissent — wasn’t encouraged. The version of science which evolved in eastern countries was — I think — pretty weak on the idea of checks and balances.

    That’s not to say of course that scientists in the east today can’t or don’t do rigorous science. They of course do. But a culture which places a very high value on consensus at the expense of skepticism will I think have trouble accepting the concept of a hard-won scientific consensus. In general, they lack the western respect for the maverick, the dissenter, the contrarian who thinks outside the box and shakes things up by questioning authority and examining sacred cows. That is not properly respectful. You get instead a lot of waffle about harmonious cultural beliefs, harmonious cultural truths, and harmonious cultural science.

    I’ve read more than a few scientists complain about this — not so much about the scientists, but students and the general public. I’ve not heard it said specifically about S Korea, though — only China.

  14. Pierce R. Butler says

    Speaking of South Korea, the residents of Jeju Island are trying to resist the construction of a large US Navy base which seems likely to ruin local fisheries and devastate large rare coral formations, a resistance assiduously ignored by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature as it holds a worldwide gathering just a few minutes away.

  15. Lou Jost says

    Sastra, thanks for your answer. You may be right about that. My eastern scientist-friends are diplomatic and reluctant to directly confront colleagues who are on the wrong track.

  16. ibyea says

    I am a Korean, so I kind of know what you are talking about. Especailly if it comes to age, young people questioning older people could be considered rude. Honestly, I always hated that aspect of the Korean culture.

  17. ibyea says

    Which meant that when I contradicted my dad about how it’s not true that women and men think differently, he got really pissed off, saying he got years of experience. Sometimes, I let him know I don’t give a damn about his experiences when it comes to reality. This, of course, pisses him off.