Creationism row hots up as objectors fight back

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 May, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 15 May, 2009, 12:00am

The row over teaching creationism in school biology lessons has intensified after 64 people signed a statement calling for controversial curriculum guidelines to be retained.

The group, which includes 40 academics and seven teachers, lodged its plea with the Legislative Council's education panel this week, just a month after another opinion group backed by hundreds of supporters called for the guidelines to be scrapped.

The groups were formed after four scientists at the University of Hong Kong accused the Education Bureau of tacitly encouraging the teaching of creationism through its guidelines for the new senior secondary curriculum.

A clause in the biology guide states: 'In addition to Darwin's theory, students are encouraged to explore other explanations for evolution and the origins of life.'

Initially, the bureau declined to answer questions about whether teaching of creationism was allowed but after the Concern Group for Hong Kong Science Education pressed the panel to call for the guidelines to be tightened up, it released a statement on the issue to RTHK's The Pulse.

The TV programme carried the following comment from the bureau: 'Creationism is not included in the biology curriculum framework, nor is it considered as an alternative to Darwin's theory.'

But now the group of 64 is calling for the clause to be retained in its original form, arguing it is 'stimulating, balanced, non-biased and has worked well for Hong Kong as well as being consistent with the 3+3+4 reform'. The group, which includes the Open University's dean of science and technology Ho Kin-chung, St Paul's Co-educational College principal Anissa Chan Wong Lai-kuen and HKU physicist Chris Beling, claims there is no universally accepted definition of science, while there is still controversy over Darwinian theory.

Spokesman Stephen Tsui Kwok-wing, a molecular biologist at Chinese University, said: 'Good education is not just a matter of learning facts but also includes the process of learning to critically think through issues.'

Professor Tsui cited the complexity of living organisms today and gaps in the fossil record as examples of evidence not compatible with the Darwinian theory of evolution. 'It is well known that in the Cambrian explosion many species appeared at the same time,' he said. 'It is not compatible with the dogma of random mutation in natural selection.'

But HKU science faculty board chairman David Dudgeon, one of the four scientists calling for the guidelines to be changed, said: 'There is no controversy over evolution. These people manufacturing controversy are simply mischief makers.'

The Concern Group, which now has more than 400 members on Facebook, held a meeting last night to prepare a rebuttal to the group of 64.

The education panel resolved at its meeting on Monday to call on the bureau to provide a position paper before scheduling a debate.