Sunday 15 February 2009

Dismissing Creationism and Intelligent Design reference

[Four letters from SCMP’s Education Mailbag against creationism]

Feb 14, 2009

Why not teach astrology, numerology and flat Earth beliefs as well?

The headline of your editorial last week was exactly three words too long ("Teach Darwin's theory of evolution, and others too", South China Morning Post, February 7).
If Hong Kong's Education Bureau supports the possibility of teaching alternative explanations such as creationism in biology classes in conjunction with evolution, then what's to stop alchemy from being taught in chemistry, numerology in mathematics, astrology in physics and flat Earth beliefs in geography?
Fortunately, there is substantial evidence within the scientific disciplines that eliminates the need to entertain any pseudoscience nonsense.
In contrast, since there is no substantial evidence to show that one religion or faith is better and more worthy than another, I support the teaching of all faiths in a social science or humanities class.
If the true aim of education is to nurture open, inquiring and critical minds, then what better demonstration than to teach students about all the world's faiths and then let individuals decide for themselves which faith, if any, they may wish to follow?


Creationism must be kept out of class

I refer to the article "Scientists urge excluding God from biology" (Education Post, February 7), criticising the Education Bureau's new biology curriculum guidelines on teaching evolution that encourage some schools to teach creationism.
The call of this group of local scientists for changing these misleading guidelines is timely on the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin.
Science curriculums should contain only materials about science. Ideas of creationism in science education or these ideas disguised as intelligent design, originated in the US.
Hong Kong should be careful not to allow these fundamental religious ideas to pervade our science curriculum.
It is alarming to learn from the article that at least 30 aided schools in Hong Kong teach creationism as an alternative explanation for evolution in their biology lessons. Accordingly, what the Hong Kong Examination and Assessment Authority said about no exam questions being set in this area and no plan for such appeared to imply that the teaching of creationism in some Hong Kong schools has already become a fait accompli.
This must not be allowed to continue. I must reiterate what I said in my letter published in this newspaper "Keep science and creationism apart" (April 22, 2007) that there is no place for creationism in science education. The reason is simply that creationism is not science but a religious belief.
As rightly pointed out by a leader in this newspaper (February 7), views such as creationism, which are not science, should be taught in humanities but not in science lessons.
We must design a sound curriculum in the Hong Kong SAR for a science education of the highest standard. Any teaching of creationism in schools is unprofessional on the part of the science teachers and unfair to their students.
I call on all science educators and science teachers in Hong Kong to urge the Education Bureau to take immediate action to rectify the guidelines on teaching evolution.

Tuen Mun

We must promote inquiry and free thought

It is very disturbing that the Education Bureau suggests discussion of alternatives to Darwin's scientific theory where science can't provide the answers. The reason is that the alternatives to Darwin's scientific method are not science. By linking the suggestion to the teaching of biology, the bureau demonstrated it doesn't understand the basic fundamentals of biology or Darwin's theory of natural selection.
The suggestion is not so benign when we examine what alternative theories to Darwin's natural selection theory the bureau would propose. The most probable is "intelligent design". This version of creationism purports that intelligent beings intervened at different times and places in earth's history to design biological structures which nature couldn't. The very small minority of scientists who voice this religious view cannot design experiments to test it and can produce no evidence to support it.
A more conventional creationist "alternative theory" is that a supernatural being created all living things 6,000 years ago and nothing has evolved since. The problem is that essentially all alternatives to Darwin's scientific method are alternatives to science. None withstand evidence or scientific rigour.
If the Education Bureau intends creation theories for the origin of life to be discussed, then the science classroom is not the place. I sense the education bureau is inclined towards one of the two conflicting Christian versions of creationism, whereas Buddhist, Islamic, Hindu and other versions of creationism would be of equal value to children. I support the view that the origins of religious beliefs, the creation, evolution and decline of religions, the histories of religious texts and their different explanations of where man came from would be valuable for children to learn about.
We can also learn from the Church of England's recent posthumous apology to Darwin for its reaction to his theory 126 years ago. That church does not propose teaching creationism as an alternative to science. We must stop the "thin end of the wedge" of creationism propagating in Hong Kong's schools and promote inquiry and free thought.


Bureau must act to protect young minds

I fully support Professor Kwok Sun, David Dudgeon, Dr William Mak and geologist Jason Ali in their call to urge the Education Bureau to issue stringent rules to prohibit teaching of pseudoscience such as Creationism or Intelligent Design in any schools.
The comments by some of the schoolteachers/headmasters in the story reflects a worrying trend, that religious freedom is being abused to corrupt the minds of our students, and that our officials in the Education Bureau are woefully negligent and oblivious of how proper science teaching will be eroded if these schools are unchecked.
The Education Bureau must act responsibly to protect our young minds from being misled.

Tsuen Wan

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