HOW did the world begin? Are human beings related to lower forms of life as the theory of evolution suggests, or is God the Creator? These are the questions a group of students from the Hongkong International School has been asking. They have joined the great debate sparked by a biology teacher in a secondary school who wrote to the South China Morning Post questioning the wisdom ofincluding the theory of evolution in the A-level biology exam paper. The teacher argued that the inclusion ''favours students who are atheists and totally disfavours the majority of candidates from religious schools''. ''Evolutionary theory is not a confirmed scientific law,'' he said. In response, another reader, Dr David Dudgeon of the department of Zoology at the University of Hongkong, quoted the case of Galileo being persecuted by the Catholic Church for his scientific beliefs. Yet another reader said that rejecting the theory of evolution because biologists did not have all the answers yet was ''like damning a novel-in-progress because the plot is incomplete''. The debate showed that, although the theory of evolution was supported by a vast amount of scientific evidence, it was not universally accepted. Some people rejected the theory because they claimed there were two many gaps in the evolutionary record. Others believed the theory conflicted with the Biblical account of the creation of life. Hongkong International School pupils also had a wide range of views on the subject. Alex Lee, 13, agreed that science and religion often clashed when it came to the issue of evolution and ''it has always been a difficult, almost impossible task to combine the two''. Ricky Heyse, 13, said that, as a follower of the Christian faith, he ''strongly believes that God made man''. But he did not discount evolution. He thought the evolution of mankind helped make other animals smarter. ''The evolution of humans induced the intelligence in animals,'' he said. As a child, he ''would always think of animals as being dumb and retarded because I would always tease a dog with a bone''. ''Eventually the dog would learn to steal the bone from me. Other animals use strategies that we would never think of. We learn from them and they learn from us,'' he said. Gregory Leung, 13, said science might tell him whether the monkey was the close relative of human beings, ''but so could religion''. ''I believe in the one true God,'' he wrote. ''In the Bible, it states that God created all the animals on the Earth. This influenced me a lot''. Mark Boey, 14, also thought evolution and creation were not mutually exclusive. ''I agree that the theory of evolution seems convincing,'' he wrote. ''I do not doubt that God created life on earth. ''Did God create life as it is at the beginning? Did the species change over time? Or is it a mix between science and faith? I believe that God created life on Earth and it might have evolved over the millions of years through many mutations.'' Robert Go, 13, is another believer that the discussion on the origin of life should not see evolution pitted against creation. ''I strongly support the religious belief of the creation of man,'' he said. ''My religion portrays the Universe constructed in six days. But how long was a day? That is why I believe apes and chimpanzees have evolved into man,'' he said. Some proof of this theory was the oreopithicus, he said. ''The change from ape to man must have transition stages. The skeleton of the oreopithicus was found to have features that resembled both that of modern man and also monkeys.''