HKUST hosts supporter of intelligent design on a mission to 'make disciples' A university lecture billed as 'inspirational science' this week turned out to be an argument for the controversial theory of intelligent design by a US professor who believes God gave her a personal mission to 'make disciples of all nations'. The lecture, hosted by Hong Kong University of Science and Technology on Wednesday, was by Hong Kong-born Deborah Chung Duen-ling, chair professor of material science at University of Buffalo, New York. HKUST promoted the event as an inspiring way of 'integrating science, music and life', but made no mention of its religious slant. Professor Chung's talk took the form of personal reflections on her life and work interspersed with musical interludes on the piano. 'This format of lecture is rarely done by scientists but by means of which she has already touched over 10,000 lives over the world,' HKUST said in its publicity for the event. But Professor Chung, who lived in Hong Kong in the 1960s before going to the US to study, left her audience in no doubt about her beliefs. A spokesman for the university said Professor Chung had not said in advance that the lecture had a religious agenda. 'Had Professor Chung said it was an evangelical talk or if we knew it was, then naturally we would promote it as such,' he said. The only reference Professor Chung had made to religion in correspondence ahead of her non-fee lecture was a comment from a student who had heard her talk, quoting the professor's motto as 'Your life is a gift from God, and how you spend your life is your gift to God'. The comment was included in an internal e-mail advertising the event. The spokesman said he considered it debatable whether the talk was religious. However, in a 'personal testimony' posted on the website of Ying Wa Girls' School Alumnae Association, Professor Chung states clearly that the talks, which she has given in the US, China and Indonesia, were conceived after 'God spoke to her' in 1998 while she was on a flight between Buffalo and San Diego. 'I physically heard God's voice. He said in Cantonese, 'Go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit',' she wrote, adding that she also had a vision of 'a white, majestic, beautiful and symmetric place far away in the clouds'. 'God made it clear that I should use the unconventional combination of science and music and that he would make it possible for me to do the task ... within a few months from the call in 1998, I began to preach and give evangelistic concerts often titled 'Science, Music and Life'.' Professor Chung, who is a deacon of Buffalo Chinese Christian Church, added that she had taken the talk to universities in the mainland in 2002. 'The universities in China spent considerable money and effort in putting up the concert-lectures. This willingness is partly because of the importance of my invention of smart concrete in the eyes of Chinese researchers and government research funding agencies,' she wrote. Professor Chung declined to comment on her evangelical approach, but said in a statement her talk was intended to inspire young people to live a life of purpose and to devote themselves to science, music and the arts. Her lecture began with a series of PowerPoint slides showing collapsed bridges, a plane crash and the aftermath of the Columbia shuttle disaster which she said illustrated the 'limitations of advanced science'. Scientists had designed robot hands, but they couldn't play the piano like her, she said, and no matter how sophisticated planes became they wouldn't fly like birds or grab branches. She gave examples of complex organisms and machines that relied on the functioning of their component parts to add her weight to the theory of intelligent design, a creationist alternative to Darwinism. Professor Chung also took a swipe at supporters of evolution, dismissing the theory that a skull on show at Xian Museum was that of an ape-man as 'speculation'. There was 'insufficient data' to argue that there was a link between apes and man, she said. Professor Chung did not take questions at the end of her lecture. The clash between supporters of creationist intelligent design and those who back theories of evolution came to a head in the US when a group of concerned parents in Dover, Pennsylvania, successfully sued a school board in 2005 to have lessons on 'design' removed from biology lessons. A federal judge found the concept to be religious rather than scientific. HKUST biology professor Andrew Miller said there was a 'pervasive movement in the US at the moment' pushing intelligent design as a scientific theory. 'I certainly think universities should be places where anything can be discussed openly,' he said. 'It would be nice if someone were to give a talk on this at a university where they exposed themselves to much more rigorous academic questioning. That would give a more balanced picture.'