Evolution “prevails” in South Korea

Published in The Hindu on September 9, 2012

Archaeopteryx
A July 2011 research paper in Nature revealed that archaeopteryx is no longer a primitive bird. The panel constituted by South Korea to oversee the textbook revision, however, felt that this does not undermine the theory of evolution. _ Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Starting 2013, science textbooks in South Korea will continue to carry information on archaeopteryx, once considered the primitive bird fossil, and other examples of evolution, reports Nature. The major victory for science comes nearly four months after the South Korean government issued a petition to the publishers to revise high school textbooks by excluding examples of the evolution of archaeopteryx and horse.

If the sustained campaign led by the Society for Textbook Revise (STR) to remove “errors” and provide “correct” information to students convinced the government to issue the petition in May, the September 5 decision comes following an expert panel’s recommendation.

The STR members believe in creationism and wanted the textbooks purged of other “flawed” examples of evolution including that of human beings.

Nature played a vital role in first publishing the South Korean government’s May 2012 decision worldwide. Leading newspapers across the world, including The Hindu, reported the retrograde decision. The furore created by scientists from South Korea and many other countries forced the government to revisit its decision and set up the 11-member panel to oversee the textbook revision. It included five experts on evolution and fossils.

The panel favoured inclusion of archaeopteryx to explain evolution. This despite the fact that a July 2011 research paper in Nature revealed that it was no longer a primitive bird.

The panel favoured the inclusion of archaeopteryx as “the scientific debate about whether [it] gave rise to all birds or is just one example of a feathered dinosaur does not undermine the theory of evolution itself.” The panel also found the explanation on the evolution of horse “too simplistic” and hence wanted it either “revised or replaced” with another example.

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