Friday, June 19, 2009

Creationism in Hong Kong schools?

Earlier in the year, a number of scientists in Hong Kong complained to the territory's Education Bureau about the new biology syllabus for schools, which included a clause stating that "in addition to Darwin's theory, students are encouraged to explore other explanations for evolution and the origins of life, to help illustrate the dynamic nature of scientific knowledge" (the latest version of the document on the bureau's website lacks this statement). Such wording has been used by advocates of creationism and Intelligent Design (ID) in the United States to legitimate the teaching of these so-called 'alternatives' to evolutionary theory in classrooms.

In May, a group of 62 people including education professionals replied to this criticism saying that there was no problem with the above wording and continued to impute that ID was a valid alternative to evolution. As a result, a group called the Concern Group for Hong Kong Science Education has set up an online petition calling on the Education Bureau to clarify its position on the teaching of evolution and to refute the claims of ID supporters in Hong Kong.

It's interesting how these hot-ticket issues have somehow become transplanted wholesale into a society which until lately has not seen such a polarized opposition between the secular and religious. Lacking the social and historical context (or baggage) of the ID debate in the US, the position of the pro-ID supporters in Hong Kong would seem very mild and entirely reasonable to an unsuspecting public. After all, what's wrong with teaching 'both sides' of the issue? To those who are aware of former creationist arguments against evolution, however, the sort of evidence and explanation used by the pro-ID camp seem uncannily familiar. They are not so much in favor of scientific even-handedness (suppose one wanted to teach 'both sides' of the Newtonian theory of gravitation...) but specifically wish to discredit evolution. As such it is quite disingenuous for the issue to be framed as merely giving voice to 'alternatives'.

As a social phenomenon, I'm quite curious to see how this plays out. Why is it that the ID or creationist movement has only started gaining prominence beyond the US around this decade? Reports have surfaced in the news about similar problems plaguing science educators in the UK and other European countries. In Turkey, the creationist movement is largely driven by one man, who goes by the pen name Harun Yahya, who although framing his opposition to evolution from an Islamic perspective, simply reuses the arguments of the Christian anti-evolutionists. So, future intellectual historians of our times: why is this happening now? And why simultaneously in societies so different from each other and from the US, where all this started?

5 comments:

Lim Leng Hiong said...

"So, future intellectual historians of our times: why is this happening now? And why simultaneously in societies so different from each other and from the US, where all this started?"

I think that it's not the overall differences in the societies that is the key, but the common motivations of creationist/ID supporters within these societies.

Not sure about the movement suddenly gaining prominence, it seemed incremental to me. Even in Singapore, opposition to evolutionary theory goes way back; as a schoolkid I already heard the "how could you believe that you came from monkeys" line.

Maybe eight years of the Bush administration and its creationist/ID supportive environment that allowed institutions such as the Creation Museum and the Discovery Institute to thrive, sparked off the fervour of those who wish to emulate their methods.

Eterna2 said...

I am pretty worried. I hope SG don't end up like US. I think religion and science should be kept apart.

http://creation.com/singapore-events-calendar

Look at the link above. I am kinda worried that these talks will lead to more people having misconceptions about evolution.

I think we are importing a lot of the conservatives ideas from the US.

Adrian said...

It's glad to see the growing concern about creationism in Hong Kong. Please note that the latest syllabus still contains the statement "in addition to Darwin's theory, students are encouraged to explore other explanations for evolution and the origins of life, to help illustrate the dynamic nature of scientific knowledge". Please find in p.23, "New Senior Secondary Curriculum and Assessment Guides"-Biology (S4-6)
http://www.edb.gov.hk/index.aspx?nodeID=2824&langno=1

SL said...

Hi,

I am a feature writer researching for an article on Creationism/proselytizing during science lessons and in general curriculum, and Evolution literacy (or the lack of) in schools.

And I am writing to find out if you have any information or personal experience to share. If you do and are open to an interview, I can be reached at numbers2322@gmail.com


Cheers

Da Xiang said...

I think religion are being given too much respect than they deserve, that is why creation post a problem even in our society. Problem meaning it a stone that is blocking a hole preventing young one from progressing and it mislead them into other direction.

Therefore I believe that all religion should be banned. So we can start by pointing out that alternate explaination like ID/creation (are there others?) is wrong. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that intelligent design actually shoots itself quite intelligently isn't it.

If a dear is intelligently designed why does it failed to escape the lioness? If a lioness is intelligently designed why isn't it always successful in its hurt? Intelligent design is just like the story of the best spear in the world and the best shield we have learnt in primary school.