Wednesday 27 May 2009

Dismissing Creationism and Intelligent Design part 5

Here are yet more letters to the editor, largely supporting reason, science and evidence. The “Hong Kong Beling duo comprising father and son” is sad. (Perhaps I might blog some more on this later?)

Reference (SCMP)

Teach science not creationism

May 16, 2009

If Hong Kong's creationists get their way, who knows how many fairy tales will be introduced into science classes? Which versions of creation should be taught as science? Buddhist, Hindu, Taoist, Islamic, Genesis version 1, Genesis version 2, Australian aboriginal, the John Frumm religion?

Religious beliefs from texts written by pre-scientific societies have suppressed science as it challenges the beliefs that the sun revolves around the Earth, that diseases are caused by sins and curses and that rain can be made by dancing or sacrifices.

As the Hubble telescope is being repaired to enable better views of distant galaxies created not long after the big bang, should we allow astrology to be taught alongside astronomy, alchemy to be taught alongside chemistry? Should we allow creationists to teach that evolution couldn't give rise to new viruses, but some intelligent designer is responsible for Sars, avian flu and swine flu?

The Education Bureau needs to decisively stop mythology being taught in science classes.

Ian Stones, Mid-Levels

Evolution explains the complexity of organisms in an elegant way

May 22, 2009

In "Creationism row hots up as objectors fight back" (Education Post, May 15), Stephen Tsui Kwok-wing refers to "the complexity of living organisms today" and "gaps in the fossil record" as pieces of evidence that are "not compatible" with evolution.

But this is simply not the case. While organisms are complex, this does not preclude evolution. Natural selection, a mechanism that drives evolution, is a perfectly workable solution that gets around the problem of complexity by referring to small, gradual, accumulated changes in genetic material due to hereditary variation and non-random reproduction over a long period.

It is an elegant solution because it breaks down the seemingly overwhelming improbability of complex organisms into small, slightly improbable but yet still plausible steps. Simply because organisms are complex does not mean evolution is false; quite the contrary, because complexity is something evolution succeeds in explaining.

Professor Tsui also cites "gaps in the fossil record" and the "Cambrian explosion" as evidence against evolution, but these are not arguments. Simply because we lack complete, unbroken sets of fossil records for every evolutionary transition does not invalidate evolution.

The fossil record is not perfect, but we are fortunate to have the many records we do, and every fossil record that has been discovered has served to corroborate, rather than refute, the theory of evolution.

David Dudgeon was correct when he said: "There is no controversy over evolution". The scientific community at large has accepted evolution as the explanation for the development and diversity of life on Earth because all the evidence available supports it. This is the nature of science.

Creationists scrutinise every piece of evidence supporting evolution, but fail to notice that there isn't a shred of evidence supporting the beliefs they so adamantly espouse. We must realise that creationism is dogma, not science, and as such should be kept firmly within the realm of religious studies and out of biology lessons.

GARETH CHENG, Year 11 Student, German Swiss International School

Teach intelligent design in philosophy classes

My name is John Beling and I am an undergraduate physics student at the University of Liverpool. I was born, grew up and went to school in Hong Kong. The secondary school (West Island School) I went to taught Darwin's theory of evolution in GCSE science classes.

I appreciated the teachers doing this, but while teaching it they assumed it to be absolutely true and discredited any opposing views. This biased view provoked me to start much discussion on the origins of life with my fellow students.

Although intelligent design (ID) was not taught I did look into it outside of school after my father - Chris Beling, particle physicist at the University of Hong Kong - said it was credible and scientific and could potentially be taught alongside Darwinian evolution.

ID does not challenge evolution, it challenges the specifically Darwinian idea that life is the result of a purely random, undirected process that mimics the power of a designing intelligence. ID is not a critique of natural selection, it is based on our knowledge of, not ignorance of, the cause-and-effect structure of our world.

For instance, our knowledge suggests there is a cause sufficient to produce digital code. We know that that cause is intelligence from common sense. Bill Gates has said DNA is like a software programme, only much more complex than anything that has been written.

People will say that ID is not science but religious propaganda. We must ask: "Is there any scientific evidence for the involvement of intelligence in the origin of nature and its laws of operation?"

I am sure any strict atheist scientist would agree with me that this is a perfectly legitimate scientific question. Therefore, put simply, if ID has no evidence whatsoever it should be considered religious propaganda. However, if it does have, the situation changes dramatically, following which ID could potentially be introduced into the science curriculum.

I am against creationism being taught in science classes because it does not have much of a scientific basis - it definitely should be taught in philosophy and theology classes - but I am for the theory of ID being taught in science classes at secondary schools in Hong Kong. I believe ID is a legitimate scientific theory that can be falsified.

JOHN BELING, Liverpool University

Beling's arguments laughed out of court

I have been following Chris Beling's posts around various online forums where he continues to trot out tired old creationist canards like the irreducible complexity of the bacteria flagellum (a long debunked argument that was laughed out of court in the 2005 Dover trial), a rehash of the "puddle" fallacy (see Douglas Adams's famous analogy of an egocentric puddle) and design from morality.

He has no valid arguments against evolution and, when pressed, it becomes obvious he is arguing from nothing more than his personal moral need for a supernatural overlord.

He has yet to present any case for intelligent design as a scientific theory in its own right, which of course it isn't - it fails to make any predictions, it fails to produce any supporting evidence, it is not falsifiable. Poking holes in a scientific theory does not an alternative theory make.

There is no controversy in the legitimate scientific community about the fact of evolution. The genuine scientist looks at the gaps and tries to find an answer through observation and data. The IDeologue is satisfied with non-answers such as "goddunit".

ALETHEA DEAN, Discovery Bay

Sacrificing education on the altar of religion

I was intrigued to read about the views on the teaching of evolution of the "group of 64". I would refer Professor Tsui to the article entitled "15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense", published in the July 2002 edition of Scientific American.

This article explains how natural selection can produce sophisticated structures and explains rather comically that, "Even if a creationist does accept a fossil as transitional between two species, he or she may then insist on seeing other fossils intermediate between it and the first two. These frustrating requests can proceed ad infinitum and place an unreasonable burden on the always incomplete fossil record."

Curious as to what may motivate the group of 64 to take a position at odds with the overwhelming majority of scientists, I decided to Google the four members identified in the Education Post article. Could it be that these were renegade scientists struggling valiantly against a vast conspiracy?

Alas, the evidence points to a less edifying explanation. Professor Tsui's page on the Chinese University of Hong Kong website includes a photo endearingly titled "my church". Chris Beling is described as a Christian at Anissa Chan Wong Lai-kuen is principal of St. Paul's Co-educational College, whose website states its mission includes to "uphold the founding Christian spirit of our schools ... ", and Professor Ho Kin-Chung is an adviser to Stewards Pooi Kei College, whose website states that "Our moral education is based upon the principles stated in the Holy Bible."

The group of 64 would have us believe that this dispute is a scientific one, but it appears instead to be a dispute between religion and science. Entertaining as this dispute may be, it is important that the integrity of Hong Kong's education system is not sacrificed on the altar of religion.



  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  3. It's hard to say what to do. I think you should offer people/students all the 'opinions' on the given subject and let them decide what feels right to them. I think it is wrong to force either the scientific, or the spiritual explanation on to someone, but a conbination of all should be 'offered'.

  4. Thanks Utopie Liverpool Web. I have blogged a response (it will be uploaded on Thurs 9 July 2009).

  5. Lets all face the fact. There is no difference between the creationist saying "God did it" and Darwinians asserting "Evolution did it". Both are based on inferences about what "supposedly" happened in the "unobserved" past. Both believe the evidence supports their predictions, and neither is in a position to objectively show that their predictions are based on solid verifiable,testable and publicly observable empirical science.

    To say that evolution can and did produce the vast complexity of even the simplest life form by small increments is akin to saying that the global communications network was build by a million blind Freddie's, all working independently and uncoordinated,with no overall plan or purpose. It's all utter hype and conjecture, and no one can ever objectively show that this can happen in the real world. The reality is that natural selection is a localized evolutionary process that is utterly mindless and blind, having absolutely no foresight and no broader perspective. As such, it wouldn't have the foggiest notion of where anything and everything was evolving to,or even why, let alone orchestrate the Greatest Show on Earth. This would be equivalent to a bunch of blind folded chimps in white coats designing and constructing the CERN particle accelerator. Not likely mate,now or ever.

    There will come a time when future generations will look back on the Darwinian delusions and conclude that everyone involved was well and truly educated beyond their intelligence.

  6. Re "fossil as transitional between two species, he or she may then insist on seeing other fossils intermediate between it and the first two."

    Fact one! There is absolutely no way anyone can conclusively establish to "everyones" satisfaction that there were transitional fossils, let alone prove conclusively that any fossil is an intermediate.

    Fact! No one was there to see whether it happened that way, and no other way, or even whether it happened at all. It's all based on "subjective" evolutionary presuppositions, inferences, conjecture, interpretations, and speculation. I'm afraid that proving any historical based theory by offering "explanations" is a long way from verifiable empirical based science. Science by "explanations" is not regarded as the real thing. While evolutionists may interpret data as a verification of their predictions, other do not! And there is no way of establishing that those who disagree with the Darwinist's subjectively based interpretations are wrong.

    And this is precisely why even after 150 years of presenting "supposed" evidence 'proving' evolution untold millions don't buy it, and why the Darwinian establishment can't close. Millions remain skeptical and this reality must be faced. All the shouts that evolution is a "fact",and all the inquisitional styled efforts to impose Darwinism on students and the wider public, will ultimately fail. Sorry, but the creationist will always be there to frustrate the hell out of you Torquil, if you'll excuse the expression.