South Korea is one of the most advanced countries in the world. Its blazing-fast internet helps fuel its citizens’ insatiable additions to MMORPGs and StarCraft, its economy is powerful and well-diversified, and education and good grades are prized, sometimes to a fault. However, this well educated nation is taking a bizarre step backwards by allowing its version of the Discovery Institute to revise its biology books to omit evidence of evolution, which sounds much like a judge allowing a prosecutor to throw away a defense attorney’s proof of his client’s innocence to skew the case in the prosecution’s favor. What’s even worse is that nearly half of the nation rejects biology in favor of creationism, putting it more or less on par with the U.S., which was second from the bottom in evolution acceptance polls conducted in Western nations; Turkey was the only country that scored lower. Why does half of South Korea reject evolution? Call it a success of proselytizing and apathy on the part of its biologists, academics, and the public at large about the integrity of their science education. Not enough people stepped up to defend their school system from the encroachment of religious zealotry.
Creationists’ predictable response to criticism of South Korea’s educational surrender has been to declare all those who strongly disagree with censoring science textbooks a pack of vicious atheists persecuting anyone with faith in a bid to promote their own beliefs. Or in other words, with huge, steaming piles of organic fertilizer that fail to address the problem at every level. If evolution is on such shaky ground, why go out of your way and censor books about it? And if skeptics are supposed to stay out of the believers’ realm (even though evolution has many proponents who still want to or like to believe in a deity or an unspecified higher power), then why a religious intrusion into the scientific realm permissible? Glaring double standards anyone? Or would they like to tell us that they’d welcome scientists lobbying to censor or edit their holy books to better fit with evidence of how the universe really works and petitioning school boards to teach Sunday School classes? Really, should we need to explain how this whole secularism thing works for the hundredth time for those who don’t get it? If you have a dear, long-held belief, you’re welcome to have it. Just don’t force it down people’s throats. If you call scientific evidence "just another kind of belief," then you simply don’t understand how science works.
What especially gets me is that the modern strain of "educated creationism" accepts that adaptations happen constantly, and mutations can cause beneficial changes over time and with selection at work. But then they’ll proceed to call the adaptations "microevolution" and demand proof of "macroevolution" while declaring that it would be impossible for the latter to happen and scientists who claim it does are just making it up as they go along. They think it makes them look refined and well informed. In reality, it makes them look desperate while they cling to their beliefs. If you accept that mutations can be beneficial in a certain environment, with enough time and the right selective pressures, you have accepted the entire scientific basis for evolution. The only big difference between bacteria evolving in a lab and animals evolving in the wild is the number of mutations. The supposedly refined creationist position is like declaring that the principle of internal combustion is sound and works in lawnmowers, leaf blowers, and go-karts, but there’s no way that it could work in a car, much less an aircraft, or a ship, or a rocket. Why the hell not? It’s the same exact thing adjusted for scale! But creationists in a desperate bid to hold on to their beliefs will find their way to move the goalposts and butcher the concept so they can keep their eyes and ears closed to the fact that they’ve already accepted scientific proof.
Even worse is that I’m sure that the creationist group that pushed so hard for the changes in South Korea has no clue what it’s doing wrong, assuming that it has the absolute divine truth on its side so all its machinations aren’t a breach of a social contract but merely correcting a world gone astray. They read about creation in very respected holy books, how could it not be true? Instead of realizing that evolution is a result of hundreds and hundreds of years of scholars asking questions and making new discoveries that challenged their views and represents the best explanation for the development and diversification of life we have today when we take all the evidence into account, they fervently latch on to the idea that evolution is a product of hundreds of years of intellectual debauchery and crazy people seeking to distance themselves from their deity. This is why they go out of their way to demonize Darwin as a precursor to the Nazis and immediately declare evolution to be an atheist religion. But considering that as we saw, they can’t argue with the evidence behind evolution without a logical fallacy involved or outright denialism, they decided to simply excise the evidence to help make a false argument. And hey, is a step back for a nation’s school system really too steep of a price to help a little group of creationist zealots quiet their cognitive dissonance and sleep soundly at night? They don’t think so.
[ photo illustration by D’Arcy Norman ]