PUBLISHED : Friday, 12 June, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 12 June, 2009, 12:00am

Debate over creationism should be out in the open

I am writing in response to two recent cases our group (Concern Group of Hong Kong Science Education) encountered regarding the new secondary biology curriculum.

Our group submitted a paper to the Legislative Council on April 16, urging for clarification from the Education Bureau regarding the statement that is the cause of the current row over creationism.

The article 'Creationism row hots up as objectors fight' (Education Post, May 15) mentioned a paper by a group of more than 60 educators, scientists and professionals - dubbed the Creationist 64 - which was sent to the Legco panel. The article argued that creationism was an acceptable topic for inclusion in the biology syllabus.

Recently we learned of another similar submission to Legco by a University of Hong Kong associate professor, Dr Pauline Chiu.

In contrast to our group's transparent approach, these submissions to Legco are not available on the Legco website. As a result, the public has no idea who is approaching Legco about this controversial issue, or what their viewpoints are.

Our group was able to obtain the documents and, to our dismay, we found that both submissions contained misleading information aimed at undermining science. They also contained propaganda concerning creationism and/or intelligent design, ideas which have been debunked (a fact not acknowledged in the paper), and repeated attempts to dilute science to allow supernatural ideas such as intelligent design to be taught in science classes.

The two submissions show many parallels with the behaviour of their counterparts in the USA:

Attempts to avoid public criticism by preventing the public from seeing their views and their identity. Our group, by comparison, is transparent: our submissions are available for public view and critique; moreover we can be found on Facebook.

Undermines the definition of science and even avoids mentioning it to allow supernatural ideas be 'smuggled' into the science class.

Failing to be open about their true position and agenda as creationists or proponents of intelligent design - the 'Creationist 64' used almost exclusively creationist/intelligent design propaganda but did not reveal that fact in the papers to Legco and the Education Bureau.

Omitting crucial facts. Dr Chiu omitted the fact that intelligent design embraces supernatural causes - not science - and is unsupported by evidence,

Not revealing themselves as Christians, who are bound to oppose evolution and support creationism/intelligent design because of their personal beliefs.

We respect Christians and their belief in divine creation by a deity but we strongly oppose their attempt to smuggle personal and religious beliefs into the science classroom and call it science.

To influence legislators and officials in the Education Bureau by such acts is not what we expect in a democratic society such as Hong Kong, especially from 'educators, scientists and professionals'.

To allow an open discussion, we have put both of their papers on our website

It is unfair in a public debate to hide true opinions from public scrutiny.

We have also issued rebuttals to their papers which are also available on either the Legco website or on our site.

VIRGINIA YUE (convener and spokesperson), Concern Group for Hong Kong Science Education

High hopes for orals after 2008 unfairness

The Ombudsman recently highlighted flaws in the setting of some of last year's exam papers.

One aspect that was not mentioned was the dozen or so English oral papers set for Form Five candidates.

In this exam, candidates are given a task, with three suggested areas to discuss in order to complete that task.

If, for example, the task is to tell a waiter what they would like for dinner, the three suggestions may be 'what appetizer to order', 'what main course to order' and 'what dessert to order'. However, with many of last year's papers, the suggestions were along the lines of 'what food to order', 'what drink to order' and 'how to settle the bill'.

While this last suggestion does form part of the dining experience, it does not match the given situation of presenting the order to the waiter. Yet many of last year's oral sets had this out-of-place third suggestion.

The exams authority may offer a rebuttal that the instructions advise that students 'may' wish to discuss the suggested, but it is unfair to offer question papers with irrelevant and misleading suggestions.

To make matters worse, the grading given is purely subjective, and there is no recourse for challenging the final marks given, unlike that of almost all the other exam papers.

One hopes that the oral exam papers this year are of a higher calibre.

G. MARQUES, Lai Chi Kok