KAIST's doctor honoris causa degree
February 9, 2011
Dear Professors of KAIST:
I hope my email is not bothering you. I work as assistant professor of mathematics in the department of mathematical sciences.
I really didn't want to write to the all faculty members of KAIST for any reason, but I happened to be reading yesterday one very unbelievable news regarding the commencement that will take place this coming Friday, and considering its potentially perpetual and grave damages it could incur to both the short term and the long term, domestic and international reputation of KAIST as a scientific research institution, I thought that someone really has to express his or her concerns about it.
Regardless of all other matters, I was not quite able to believe that KAIST decided to confer the honoris causa doctoral degree to His Excellency Mr. President Young-gil Kim of Handong Global University in Pohang. (This university, according to their website, wishes to train leaders, and thus change the world for God and His glory.)
I was seriously worried, and I wished to express my serious concern regarding this matter for the following reasons.
First, although this is not the first time and there were some degrees conferred to people under the same conditions, I would like to draw your attention that President Young-gil Kim is a present member of the Board of Trustees of KAIST. It is my understanding that there is no written rule that prohibits it, however it appears to me that conferring such degrees to a present member of the Board may not be up to the highest ethical standards that KAIST should strive to achieve and maintain.
Second, this is now about the science. As we, the faculty, all agree, KAIST is the leading educational institution that represents various values of the science and technology in Korea. Thus, it should work hard both internally and externally to promote the science, discover new truths, and let the society benefit from the fruits of the science. These efforts we are required to make in part also include the protection of the science and conscience of the scientists from politics, ignorance, coercion, and other various attacks from what are so-called pseudo-sciences, and nonverifiable superstitions. Given these duties of the scientists of KAIST as well as those of KAIST, I seriously doubt if it is a good decision for KAIST to confer His Excellency Mr. President Young-gil Kim the honoris causa doctoral degree.
President Young-gil Kim was one of the founders of what is called 'Korea Association for Creation Research', and he had served as the president of that Association for a long time in a very substantial manner. A purpose of the association is to promote the idea that God has created the universe as well as all living creatures of the planet Earth, while evolution has serious flaws. Whether he believes it or not is solely his freedom, however for an institution like ours, especially an institution that should be the fortress of the science and the truth, I have felt this is not the right thing to do to confer him the degree. If we were MIT, or Stanford, will we still award such degrees to him? What will the scientists in the world think about this decision of ours? If we do it, will they trust our results then? Will they acknoweldge the degrees our students get? Will they acknowledge us? Will we exist? Or, further should we exist? We, a university of scientists, try to give a degree of doctor to someone who created an organization whose main purpose is to promote a pseudo-science. I cannot imagine any worse nightmares than this to KAIST. KAIST that gives a degree to a pseudo-science is contradicting its very existence.
The above view that I state, whether you agree or not, is just my opinion, and it has no association with anyone in the department I work. I am writing the email to follow my conscience as a scientist. If you like, please let me know if you have either agreement or disagreement about the above view. Highly likely I will not be able to answer all your emails, but I wished the voice of mine be heard to the scientists of KAIST regarding this matter, and I wished to let the scientists know that not all KAIST faculty members agree to this decision to confer him the degree.
Thank you very much.
Assistant Professor of Mathematics
Depeartment of Mathematical Sciences