What exactly is going on in South Korea is, frankly, unclear. We were very skeptical of an initial report in Nature (“South Korea surrenders to creationist demands“) claiming that evolution was being purged from textbooks at the insistence of Christian creationists in the country. That just had too much of the flavor of Darwin-brewed propaganda.
Our friends at Uncommon Descent offer more plausible indications that information on evolution is simply being updated, to keep up with current views in the evolution community itself. That would be a good thing. South Korea, by the way, does an enviable job of giving its young people a solid science education, ranking 6th in the world.
But get this: While some Darwinists have worriedly taken note of spreading doubts about evolutionary theory in Europe, Asia has emerged as the hottest new frontier for the scientific critique of Darwinism.
In Korea, a mainstream publisher of popular and science texts, Book 21 Publishing Group, has brought out an edition of Explore Evolution, a textbook presenting both sides of the evolution debate. The translation was done by a pair of Korean academics, Seung Yup Lee and Eung Bin Kim, whose scientific specialties are respectively in biomimetics and environmental microbiology. Both teach at universities, Sogang and Yonsei, ranked in Korea’s top ten.
Dr. Lee’s research fuels his questions about macroevolution. His work on the amazing “natural design” of the South American Hercules beetle and its humidity-sensing shell was highlighted in Nature. In the Preface to the Korean Explore Evolution, Lee advocates investigating “alternative theories” to undirected Darwinian evolution.
Korea also has its own Research Association for Intelligent Design, with an impressive masthead of biologists, chemists and other scientists at top research institutions. Sogang University in Seoul hosts an Annual Symposium on Intelligent Design. The event has included presentations on William Dembski and Robert Marks’s Law of Conservation of Information and on protein translation as evidence of intelligent design.
China, of course, is Asia’s biggest market for ideas. Illustra Media has had considerable success distributing DVDs of prime ID-related titles there. If you’ve ever wondered what Stephen Meyer or Jonathan Wells would sound like if they spoke fluently in the Cantonese dialect, or Jay Richards or Guillermo Gonzalez in Japanese, you no longer have to wait to find out.
Producer and director Lad Allen had Unlocking the Mystery of Life and Privileged Planet dubbed into Cantonese and Mandarin, moving a hundred thousand copies into China via Hong Kong. He estimates that three or four times that many DVDs were illegally pirated and copied. “They’re sold on the street for a buck,” said Allen, who’s not complaining. Non-existent copyright enforcement is a fact of life in China.
Illustra has completed a Japanese translation of The Privileged Planet, lip-synced by Japanese actors in Tokyo. But Unlocking the Mystery of Life is Illustra’s most-translated film, with editions in Khmer (Cambodian), Thai, Sri Lankan, and Mongolian as well as a variety of European languages.
On the book-publishing side, Center for Science & Culture senior fellow Paul Chien has been largely responsible for introducing intelligent design to China. A biologist at the University of San Francisco, Chien has translated Phil Johnston’s Darwin on Trial and Michael Behe’s Darwin’s Black Box among other titles.
He recently finished work on Denyse O’Leary’s By Design Or By Chance?, to be followed by Stephen Meyer’s Signature in the Cell.
Publishing in China is tricky, not only because of copyright and related complications that mean you never really know how many copies of your books have been printed and sold. This is China, after all, where ideas can be dangerous things. Because publishing houses are all government-owned, Chien has found it prudent to work with publishers in the provinces some distance from Beijing.
Even so, one of his Chinese editors lost his job for editing a pro-ID book. Dr. Chien knows of two professors who were expelled from teaching because they criticized Darwin. Still, compared to the U.S., he regards the situation in Chinese academia as relatively open.
From informants in the country, Dr. Chien knows that ID “is doing really well in academic circles, among science professors, philosophy professors, and grad students. They use the material in their classes. This is the frontier of science.”
Photo credit: ericbrunstad/Flickr.