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Top scientists wade in to evolution row

Evolutionary theory should be taught in schools, says think-tank

A life-sized model of an archaeopteryx, which some scientists believe to be the first bird A life-sized model of an archaeopteryx, which some scientists believe to be the first bird
  • Stephen Hong, Seoul
  • Korea
  • September 6, 2012
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The Korean Academy of Science and Technology (KAST), the country’s leading science think-tank, said yesterday that “evolutionary theory should be taught to all students as it is the essence of modern science.”

This could represent a decisive turn in the intellectual battle over the teaching of evolution in high school textbooks.

The controversy began last year when the Society for Textbook Revise (STR) petitioned the Ministry of Education over the use of the archaeopteryx as an example of an intermediary species in evolutionary theory.

The society followed up with a second petition in March this year, calling current teaching on the evolution of the horse “a figment of the imagination.”

The Ministry of Education forwarded the petition to publishers, six of whom agreed to consider amending their textbooks. An article in the journal Nature on June 5 brought the issue wider attention.

However, at a press conference in Seoul, KAST said the archaeopteryx should not be removed from textbooks “as it is evidence that theropods evolved into birds.” But they added that current textbooks need amending to provide supplementary information.

They said further information is needed to explain “what kind of species existed before and after creatures like the archaeopteryx” because there are also other fossils and evidence outlining the evolutionary process.

To illustrate their point, they said the “straight-line” evolution theory of a horse contained in books should be replaced by “a more elaborate evolutionary model with numerous branches in different directions.”

STR spokesperson Baeck Hyun-jue told ucanews.com that though he welcomed the scientists’ opinions, ultimately “both creation and evolution theories should not be taught in schools because they are ideologies.”

He said evolutionary theory is now very much like “religious doctrine,” in that it does not tolerate any scientific challenge.

Kim Dong-won, manager of the Korea Foundation for the Advancement of Science and Creativity, which editorially supervises science textbooks, told ucanews.com the Foundation will pass the scientists’ opinions to publishers and the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education. He added that the Foundation can “only recommend” that publishers consider the opinions.

The Seoul education office is mandated to approve what textbooks are used nationwide.

One of the scientists at yesterday’s press conference, Lee Duck-hwan, a chemistry professor at the Jesuit-run Sogang University, said the publishers said they would try to reflect the scientists’ suggestions regarding the textbooks after reviewing them.

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