Scientists urge excluding God from Biology - guidelines on creationism criticised
(This world is never stranger than what it appears now, I remember when I was studying for Psychology in a Baptist University in USA, Biology is about Biology, Mathematics is about Mathematics and Theology is about Theology. I had many Christian friends and there never was a complain about preaching religion as science by some atheist friends. When I was reading this article, I am shocked to discover that the so-called education system in HKSAR are delibrately tuned so Christian right can preach Creationism and Intelligent Design as science in Biology class, and some conservative Christian school already doing so. So some Baptist Christian in USA is more liberal than some self-righteous Christian in most secular place in South East Asia; or because there are separation between church and state in the establishment clause in USA Constitution?
Leading Hong Kong scientists have criticized the Education Bureau for tacitly encouraging schools to promote creationism in biology lessons through its guidelines on teaching evolution.
Four senior scientists are calling for guidance on biology teaching in the new senior secondary curriculum launched next September to be upgraded to reflect current scientific thinking.
The University of Hong Kong's dean of science Sun Kwok, science faculty board chairman David Dudgeon, former manager of its Genome Research Centre William Mak and geologist Jason Ali, say that would leave no room for teaching about creationism and intelligent design in biology.
Schools have discretion over how they teach academic subjects under flexible bureau guidelines and at least 30 aided schools teach creationism as an "alternative explanation" for evolution within biology.
Guidelines on the topic in HKCEE and A-level syllabuses require teachers to introduce students to the idea that evolution is a scientific theory supported with evidence.
A bureau spokeswoman said both syllabuses aimed to develop students' "skills, values and attitudes related to scientific thinking" but stipulated that alternative explanations to the theory of natural selection should be discussed.
"Evolution and other explanations should be discussed constructively and impartially against the evidence available, pointing out the limitation of science to provide a complete answer," she said.
The same objective applied in the senior secondary curriculum and assessment guide for biology classes leading to the new Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education.
"In section II, genetics and evolution, students are expected to understand that evolution is a scientific theory supported with evidence and are encouraged to explore other explanations for evolution and the origins of life in addition to Darwin's theory," she said.
Professor Kwok said the advice showed a failure to understand what scientific knowledge was all about. "Science is limited to what we can observe because scientific theories have to be tested by experiment or observation. So, by definition, it is limited, but that doesn't mean that any alternative theory can be discussed in the science class. Certainly, there is no room for creationism and intelligent design. Debates within science classes should be limited to true scientific debates between competing scientific theories."
Professor Dudgeon, a freshwater ecology expert, said: "There are no substantive competing scientific explanations for evolution. Every fossil dig that people go out on essentially produces evidence that supports Darwin's theory. Each one could produce evidence that refutes Darwin's theory but it does not.
"It is ludicrous, if this theory is so important, that we are teaching alternatives. We are not still teaching students that the moon is made of green cheese or the earth is flat."
The bureau had missed a "golden opportunity" to bring the teaching of evolution up to a level that "reflects international best practice and scientific rigor" in the new senior secondary curriculum.
Noted Sars and bird flu researcher Malik Peiris, who is HKU's chair professor of microbiology, said: "In biology, we should confine ourselves to the basic philosophy of the scientific method. Creationism does not fit in that category. However, it may be discussed to illustrate the social context in which science operates."
Schools that offer creationism as an alternative to evolution in biology include 27 run by the Church of Christ in China Association.
A spokeswoman for the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority said there were no questions on creationism or intelligent design in existing exam papers for science subjects and no plans to introduce such questions.
The big divide: fact or faith
Chan Yau-chi, principal of United Christian College in Shek Kip Mei:
"When we teach about Darwin we treat it as one part of the subject. We teach students creationism as a counterbalancing theory."
Wong Shiu-hung, principal of Kwai Chung Methodist College, said:
"Our religious belief does not approve of evolution. We organise schools upholding Christian faith. If teachers have such a religious background, we encourage them to integrate their faith into lessons."
Siu Sze-chuen, headmaster of Newman Catholic School:
There was no space for creationism because examiners did not accept it. If exam pressure was reduced, "it surely would be a good thing" to introduce creationism as an alternative.
Biology teacher Chan Hiu-ki, Yuen Long Lutheran Secondary School:
stages class debates on the subject. "One side supports the idea that evolution is the theory of the origin of living organisms and the other argues all organisms were created by God."
Amy Nip and Liz Heron