One of Korea’s top universities to offer course teaching creationism

Posted on : 2015-08-12 17:41 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
One disgruntled student says Yonsei University now may as well offer credit courses in African voodoo practices

Among the people who believed in the literal truth of the Bible, there are those who maintain that the world is around 6,000 years old rather than 4.6 billion years, and that the universe and Earth were created in just six days. Known as “creation science” or “creationism,” this position has been offered as a counterargument to the theory of evolution, chiefly by fundamentalist Protestants in the US and South Korea who claim the infallibility of scripture. South Korea was the butt of international jokes in 2012 after a petition circulated by a group called Society for Textbook Revise [sic] resulted in the revision of science textbook accounts on archaeopteryx fossils that are considered strong evidence for evolution.

Three years later, creation science is once again the focus of controversy after news that a course on it has been instituted at one of the country’s leading universities - taught by an engineering professor for academic credit.

Yonsei University, which has Protestant affiliations, is adding a course on creation science for the second semester of the 2015 academic year in September. The focus of the class is on using creationism as a basis for scientifically examining the events of the Bible. Aimed at first-year students, the course carries one credit and is taught by Choe Yoon-shik, a professor of electrical engineering. A similar class had previously been instituted at the university fourteen years before.

The move has generated controversy ahead of registration for the fall semester, with students taking to Facebook to post messages criticizing it.

“It is an international embarrassment that subjects like that are being taught at a university,” wrote one.

“If we accept a course like this, we should also be accepting African voodoo practices as medicine,” wrote another.

Choe, the professor who developed the class, responded to the controversy on Aug. 10.

“It isn’t about how creationism is correct and evolution is always wrong,” he said, adding that he found the response “baffling.”

“As a Christian studying and teaching engineering, I have often had to think about faith and science. My aim is to talk about these concerns with students - not to try to boost creation science,” he explained.

In his course outline, Choe writes that scientists in the Christian faith “often experience conflict between the words of the Bible and their scientific understanding.” The course, he explains, is intended to “find the parts of the Bible that can be tested scientifically and aid Biblical understanding through a scientific approach to creationism and evolution.” Topics include “the emergence of life,” “the origin of species,” “creation and evolution,” and dinosaurs.

“The details of the course outline give the impression that he’s trying to teach creation science as ‘science,’” said philosopher of science and Seoul National University liberal studies professor Jang Dae-ik on Aug. 11.

“It’s against the mission of education to take a pseudo-discipline that repudiates the established theory and teach it as if it were a specific theory rather than an opinion,” Jang argued.

The Korean Association for Creation Research argued that similar courses have been offered at roughly a dozen schools, but almost none with the name “creation science” in the title.

“It’s been accepted somewhat at mission schools, but there have been issues in the past where the schools don‘t recognize it and then it becomes known later what the class was about, so they tend to be cautious,” the group explained.

In a 1987, the US Supreme Court ruled that requiring the teaching of creationism alongside evolution in schools was an unconstitutional violation of the separation of church and state.

“In the middle ground between creationism and evolution, you have things like ‘monotheistic evolution’ or ‘evolutionary creationism,’” said Yang Hee-song, a theologian and president of the Chungeoram Academy.

“They’re trying to harmonize the views, to say that God does exist but that he carried out the creation process using the methods of evolution,” Yang added. “The problem is the overrepresentation of extreme views like creation science among conservative denominations.”


By Bang Jun-ho, staff reporter


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