Surrender to Creationist Demands? Implications for Women’s and LGBT Rights
The creationism versus evolution debate when discussed in an educational setting does not occur exclusively in the United States. On June 12, 2012, the science journal Nature reported the “successful” petition by the Society for Textbook Revise (STR) to remove references to evolution from high school textbooks in South Korea. According to Nature, South Korea’s Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MEST) announced that many publishers will produce revised editions of high school textbooks that exclude references to and examples of evolution. STR’s ultimate goal is to remove the theory of evolution from textbooks and to alert the public about the negative effects of evolution theory. STR, established in October 2009, is an organization that sprouted from the Korea Association for Creation Research (KACR), which introduced creationism to South Korea in the early 1980s.
The source of the picture: http://www.nature.com/news/south-korea-surrenders-to-creationist-demands-1.10773
A group of Korean Christian scientists founded KACR in 1981 after attending a seminar entitled “Creation or Evolution?” offered by Henry Morris, who is widely known as the father of modern creation science and cofounder of the Institute for Creation Research (ICR); Duane Gish, a former vice president of ICR; and others at the ’80 World Evangelization Crusade held in Seoul, South Korea. KACR’s vision and mission unmistakably echo Christian fundamentalism that believes in the inerrancy of the Bible. KACR’s vision is to “save all the nations of the earth.” For the association’s members, Korea has become the gateway through which the gospel spreads to Asia as it continues its “westward” journey through China, Central Asia, and the Middle East before it returns to Jerusalem, from where the gospel first started to spread. KACR’s mission is to recover the faith in creation from both atheism and humanistic evolutionism, and the theory of evolution is considered a huge obstacle for the spreading of the gospel. Thus, to reinstate the faith in creation by exposing the falsity of evolution theory while at the same time revealing scientific evidences of creation is considered crucial for an evangelizing mission.
Some biologists in South Korea have said that they were not consulted by the MEST regarding the revisions of the nation’s textbooks. Other concerned people have rightly pointed out that one particular religion’s creation myth should not and cannot replace the theory of evolution in textbooks, for it not only confuses myth with science but it also violates the separation of religion and state as declared in South Korea’s constitution. Like many others who were dismayed by Nature’s report, I was also astounded by the extent to which creationism, more accurately Christian creationism, has encroached into education cloaked as a credible scientific theory in South Korea. This Nature report illustrates how conservative/fundamentalist Christianity is pervading South Korean society as a dominant social, political, cultural, and religious force.
I am not really interested in debating how creationism can most effectively be disputed by “real” science, or whether the theory of evolution is accurate or has flaws, since all theories are subject to ongoing interrogation. But, one of the disconcerting matters here is persistent anti-intellectualism in an educational setting, not to mention the stance of conservative churches, regarding biblical interpretation and theology. The literal interpretation of a creation story found in the book of Genesis is accepted and propagated by so-called highly educated people—members of the KACR include biology professors in universities and science teachers in high schools—as the most plausible scientific theory that presumably does not contradict one’s belief system.
Such literal interpretation of the Bible is detrimental to women and sexual minorities. For women this means complete submission to the male head of the household, be it father or husband, since man represents the very first human being created by God and woman is the embodiment of the one who brought original sin into the world by listening to the evil snake. For sexual minorities, this literal interpretation offers only two options—either accept eternal condemnation as a sinner or completely conform to “natural” gender binarism and heteronormativity since there is no place for LGBT individuals in the creation order. Believing in and teaching creationism is not just an attempt to figure out the “blood types” of Adam and Eve (see the yellow chart below) but also to view woman’s role only as a helper of her spouse, and to value sexuality solely in relation to reproduction, thereby rendering all other expressions of human sexuality inappropriate and unworthy.
The source of the picture: http://kacr.or.kr/library/itemview.asp?no=3611
No matter how wonderfully and intelligently framed, Christian creationism as propagated in South Korea or anywhere else will always serve to consolidate a heteropatriarchal power structure that is deemed the right order of creation as seamlessly planned and designed by the creator. Anyone who cherishes the value of critical thinking in education will have to think seriously about the implications of the encroachment of creationism in the educational system and its impacts on women’s and LGBT rights, whether in South Korea or in the United States. Creationism, a fundamentalist Christian teaching, only indoctrinates instead of fostering a critical mind. However, if one woman was strong enough to turn the world upside down by eating the “forbidden” fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, to paraphrase abolitionist and advocate of women’s rights Sojourner Truth, women together can turn the world right side up by refusing any knowledge that indoctrinates.