It Don’t Matter If You’re Black or White

July 2, 2009

I was prepared to overlook the distaste, poor reasoning, and trite humour from the Hong Kong Standard’s columnist (below) but I could not ignore the blundering attempt at grouping south Asians with Black African-Americans.

In case anyone missed it, just read the first paragraph of the article (below):
Distaste (e.g. “open a white guy’s body and find a black guy inside”)
Poor reasoning (ditto)
Trite humour (ditto)

I don’t know anyone (except for this columnist) who has referenced Michael Jackson as a “brown” man. South Asians, or people with a trace of South Asian blood, sometimes regard themselves as brown, but to say Wacko Jacko is brown? How silly.

Here’s what Michael Jackson said in his Black or White song:
See, it’s not about races
Just places
Where your blood
Comes from
Is where your space is
I’ve seen the bright
Get duller
I’m not going to spend
My life being a color

But, if
You’re thinkin about my baby
It don’t matter if you’re black or white

I said if
You’re thinkin of
Being my baby
It don’t matter if you’re black or white

I said if
You’re thinkin of
Being my brother
It don’t matter if you’re black or white

Reference: The Standard

Michael Jackson: moonwalker who strayed from his brothers

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The autopsy of Michael Jackson will produce shock results for sure. Forensic pathologists will open a white guy’s body and find a black guy inside.

One wonders which Michael Jackson will be immortalized in statues. The nice young man with the Afro? Or His Royal Weirdness with the wig-like flowing locks and detachable nose? Which nose will sculptors recreate? The one that collapsed, the one made out of ear cartilage, or a random one from the biscuit tin under his bed?

Commentators keep talking about Jackson’s contribution to race relations, but, with all due respect (ie, none) they are talking garbage.

When the Jackson Five made their breakthrough in the 1970s, many people (including me) celebrated. For the first time, people with brown skin, black hair and big noses were entertainment superstars so big that there was a shockingly bad cartoon series made about them. In the 1970s, this was the ultimate sign of success. If brown people could appear in execrable cartoons, we could do anything. I realized that I no longer had to content myself with aspiring to be a waiter in a small cafe where no one goes. I could be a MAITRE D’ in a small cafe where no one goes. At last, something to aim for.

In gratitude, I bought several copies of Off the Wall, Michael’s first big hit album. Later, I got a job in a cafe in Hampstead, London. The manager assigned me to permanent washing-up duty. This was even more menial than waiter. “Brown people are capable of greatness,” I complained, giving him a cassette of Off the Wall. “Have you heard this?”

The manager, whose heart and brain were twin lumps of coal, replied: “Jacko ain’t brown anymore. Check it out.” During my lunch break, I bought a copy of Melody Maker. It was true. Jackson had dyed his skin white. I was so shocked I threw my sandwich into the waste disposal and kept the wrapper. How could Jackson, supposedly blazing a trail for brown people, abandon us? But the following day, Jackson told his fans that he’d contracted a weird skin disease which had turned him white. I believed him.

Then some time later, the manager showed me a picture of Jackson with white skin, Kirk Douglas’ chin, an upturned Caucasian nose, and long, flowing hair like Elizabeth Taylor. For a day or so, I postulated the existence of a rare disease which whitened your skin, did cosmetic surgery on your nose, gave you a Kirk Douglas chin, and made your hair long and wavy. Hero- worshippers like me put years of practice into fooling ourselves. But this time, I failed.

Jackson had left his brothers. Not just Jermaine and gang, but his brothers all over the world. This once- brown boy devoted the rest of his life to reshaping himself in various ways with teams of surgeons. He probably tried having eight legs or two heads. But the easiest thing to fix – his skin tone – stayed lily white. He let us down. If he hadn’t, I could have made it. I could have been a waiter.

Comment on this article

Breaking News! Hong Kong Education Bureau Rejects Creationism and Intelligent Design

June 26, 2009

It took almost 5 months, including plenty of public outcry and petitioning and promotion by the Concern Group for Hong Kong Science Education, but finally the Education Bureau has been made to make clear its stance on the teaching of evolution. This development was reported in an article placed in the Education section of the South China Morning Post (see below).

No doubt there will be another “wave” of irrational protests and emotional letters of appeal from Cretinists and IDiots in Hong Kong, but for now they have clearly been told to “Stay Out Of Science” by the Education Bureau and by reasonable and rational people.

Related Posts:
Teach Only Darwin’s Dangerous Idea
Dismissing Creationism and Intelligent Design part 6

Reference (SCMP; subscription required)

[A picture of the Noah’s Ark entertainment complex in Hong Kong. Photo credit: SCMP]

Victory for Darwin
Creationism rejected in new guidelines on the biology curriculum
Liz Heron
Jun 26, 2009

The Education Bureau has announced that creationism and intelligent design will form no part of the senior secondary biology curriculum.

The move has been hailed as a victory by leading scientists at the University of Hong Kong, who in February called for curriculum guidance on evolution to be upgraded to reflect current scientific thinking.

The four scientists, who include dean of science Sun Kwok and science faculty board chairman David Dudgeon, accused the bureau of encouraging schools to promote creationism in biology lessons through the guidelines.

The Concern Group for Hong Kong Science Education, which is lobbying for changes to the guidelines, has also welcomed the paper but says it does not go far enough.

The calls were prompted by a clause in the biology guide, which comes into force in September, that states: “In addition to Darwin’s theory, students are encouraged to explore other explanations for evolution and the origins of life.”

The bureau’s paper was drawn up for the Legislative Council’s education panel, after the Concern Group called for a panel debate on the issue. The panel demanded a report from the bureau and postponed a decision on the debate. Last month, the row intensified when the “group of 64” mounted a counter-offensive calling for the clause to be retained.

The bureau’s paper points out that the curriculum aims to strengthen students’ understanding of scientific inquiry in biology and its links with technology, society and the environment.

“In the topic `Evolution’, the emphasis is put on Darwin’s Theory, as it is currently the most widely accepted scientific theory on evolution,” it states. “Students are expected to understand the process and mechanism of evolution based on Darwin’s Theory. Students should recognise that biological knowledge and theories are developed through observations, hypotheses, experimentations and analyses and [be] aware of the dynamic nature of biological knowledge.”

The paper also states: “In the biology curriculum framework, creationism or intelligent design, which was mentioned in the recent submissions to the Legislative Council panel on education concerning the biology curriculum, is not included. In addition to Darwin’s Theory, students are encouraged to explore other explanations on evolution such as that of Jean-Baptiste Lamarck and Sir Alfred Russel Wallace.” It stresses that non-scientific explanations are not included.

Professor Dudgeon said: “The bureau has recognised that the Darwinian theory of evolution constitutes the core of modern biology and that intelligent design and creationism have no place in the modern science curriculum.

“It is a victory for the students and it will help to ensure that our science teaching remains world class. Clearly this guidance needs to be circulated to all secondary schools before the next semester.”

Concern Group founder Virginia Yue Wai-sin, said the paper only partially met demands in its petition for action by the bureau. “It is moving in the right direction,” she said. “They have excluded creationism and intelligent design from the curriculum and they also emphasise scientific methods in greater detail. Yet they have just failed to take the critical step of saying that intelligent design and creationism are not science. We will continue to pursue answers to these questions with the bureau.”

The “group of 64”, which includes 40 academics and seven teachers, argued that there was no universally accepted definition of science. But spokesman Stephen Tsui Kwok-wing, a molecular biologist at Chinese University, said yesterday: “We accept and respect the clarification of the biology curriculum guidelines from the Education Bureau. We reiterate that the purpose of our letter was not to promote the teaching of creationism or intelligent design in secondary schools.”

However, “group of 64” member Chris Beling, an associate professor in HKU’s physics department, said: “The EDB’s response has many good points but its tacit approval of Darwin’s theory, which has so many blatant errors, is not commendable.

“Understandably, Bible-based creationism is not to be taught as science, but it is regrettable that intelligent design is lumped in the same basket, seeing it has all the characteristics of good science. Fortunately, these are only guidelines and we live in a free society.”

An Education Bureau spokeswoman said the paper was based on the 138-page biology curriculum and assessment guide for the new senior secondary curriculum and its interpretation demanded a “holistic” understanding of the guide.

Cyd Ho Sau-lan, chairwoman of Legco’s education panel, said: “I find paragraph five enough to tell the stance of the administration. It says very clearly that intelligent design or creationism is not included.”

She hoped the debate was now over. “I don’t think the panel is in a position to engage itself in a debate between theologians and scientists. It could be an endless one,” she said.

Biblical Maths Tries To Keep Noah’s Ark Afloat

June 23, 2009

There was a hilarious attempt (below) by a supporter of the Noah’s Ark myth to explain how Life on Earth arose from the “survivors of a great global flood” who were apparently cajoled into a wooden ark that had a storage capacity equivalent to 522 railway stock cars. The letter writer’s use (or abuse?) of biblical maths gives a whole new meaning to the term Imaginary Numbers. I think it is far easier to understand Complex Numbers, rather trying to wrap my head around the rubbish churned out by Christians trying to explain their fairy tales.

The replies (also below) easily trump the “Biblical Maths” letter by being even funnier and much more sincere.

Related Post:
Raiders of the Lost Ark’s Intelligent Design

Reference (SCMP; subscription required)

Biblical maths explains how it was possible

Jun 07, 2009

I would be happy to help Ian Stones (“Ark attack”, May 31) with his mathematical and philosophical (not scientific) problem of accepting the biblical account of the Flood.

On the 10 million species: most present-day species stem from interbreeding within a genus (that is, the animal “kinds” spoken of in the Bible). Instead of 10 million, Mr Stones should take a more scientific figure of around 8,000 genera. This equals 16,000- plus animals, considering two of each kind were taken onto the ark. Biblical dimensions of the ark give a volume of 43,200 cubic metres (the equivalent of 522 railway stock cars). It was not necessary for the animals to be fully grown when they entered the ark, and their median size would have been that of a rat. Indeed, research suggests only 11 per cent of the animals would have been larger than a sheep.

Obviously the ark was of a sufficient size to contain 16,000 animals and enough food for them. How long does it take for introduced species to spread throughout a new territory? Much less time than you’d be willing to allow, Mr Stones.

I hope the above offers Mr Stones an explanation of some simple biblical maths.

Gordon Arthur, Sai Kung

Ark points to part of wider, important debate

Jun 07, 2009

Ian Stones’ letter (“Ark attack”, May 31) serves to bring into focus a matter that is being debated in Hong Kong’s theological and academic circles – whether Darwinism or creationism (the belief that God created the universe) should be included in Hong Kong’s public school science curriculum.

This debate has raged for years, especially in the United States, and one thing is certain: these two concepts cannot coexist in one system as they are totally incompatible.

Creationists are almost certainly theists in their orientation and hold that intelligent design, a euphemism for God, is responsible for the whole of creation, or at least the important parts. However, Darwinists hold that it is solely Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution that creates the living world as we see it today.

This matter is so important to me because I would want my child to be educated on the basis, at least so far as science is concerned, of scientific fact and evidence, and not in any way influenced by biblical mythologies.

What I do not want to see is any furtherance of any of these misinformed ideas of seemingly benign religious zealots, moving stealthily along a path that will lead to a situation where we are all expected to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of our gardens. Intelligent design is a misnomer for prejudicial ignorance and archaic superstition.

Paul Gifford, New Territories

Bizarre theory

Jun 14, 2009

Gordon Arthur’s letter (“Biblical maths explains how it happened”, June 7) in reply to my letter (“Art attack”, May 31) deserves applause for its creativity.

All cultures have wonderful creation stories such as the Hindu Brahma trinity. Mr Arthur takes literally, the Hebrew story that God disliked the humans he had created, so except for the family of one 600-year-old man, he drowned the lot. Despite all the genetic evidence, Aztecs, Eskimos, Africans, Indians and Chinese are all supposed to be descended from that old Hebrew.

To try to explain the rich diversity of life we see in every habitat around the world, Mr Arthur redefines the concept of biological genus and claims baby ancestors of all plants, animals and fungi were crammed on a supertanker-sized boat for nine months. It should be obvious why this kind of myth needs to be kept out of science classes.

Ian Stones, Mid-Levels

A very long hop

Jun 14, 2009

Concerning the “Great Flood”, could Gordon Arthur (“Biblical maths explains how it was possible”, June 7) please explain how kangaroos got to Australia from Mount Ararat?

Since they can neither fly nor swim, they must have gone overland through modern-day Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, India, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, a distance of some 14,000km. Given that the last 5,000km are made up of thousands of islands, is he suggesting that they “hopped” across? And where are the kangaroo colonies that one would expect to find along the way?

Perhaps he could also explain how kiwis (New Zealand), rheas (South America), bison (North America), and giant tortoises (Galapagos Islands) came to their indigenous locations?

Patrick Bateman, Mid-Levels

Dismissing Creationism and Intelligent Design part 6

June 19, 2009

Two more letters to the editor (below), again supporting reason, science and evidence. It should be clear to the Education Bureau (at least) that there are rational people in Hong Kong who care about the proper teaching of science.

Previous Related Posts:
Dismissing Creationism and Intelligent Design part 5
Dismissing Creationism and Intelligent Design part 4
Dismissing Creationism and Intelligent Design part 3

Reference (SCMP; subscription required)

Creationism has no place in the science class


May 29, 2009

I have been following the ongoing debate on the teaching of science and creationism in Hong Kong with interest.

The teaching of intelligent design, now referred to as creationism, has no place in a classroom. We currently have no proof that an intelligent entity created the entire universe. The various arguments put forward by creationists to justify their belief are based on half-baked criticism of the well researched and proven theory of evolution. They provide no hard testable scientific evidence to support their claims. Creationism is therefore not a scientific theory at all.

If creationism is not science, should we be teaching it in a science class? I think not. Firstly, a science class is for teaching science and how science impinges on our daily lives. It is not in the business of giving religious beliefs air time. Secondly, there is no debate to be had, as creationism is not science. Thirdly, to accept creationism into the science class opens the doors to any religious idea independent of any scientific proof. Not only that but, whatever creationist story you choose, you run the risk of offending someone of a different faith. These three points alone should be sufficient to exclude creationism from a science class.


Debate over creationism should be out in the open


Jun 12, 2009

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

Raiders of the Lost Ark’s Intelligent Design

June 7, 2009

As any good archaeologist or scientist knows, digging deeper (i.e. “raiding”) to uncover more details of the bigger picture is what drives us to a deeper understanding of 42.

Hong Kong’s newest “attraction” is Noah’s Ark. It will be interesting to uncover exactly why this kind of “theme park” was proposed by Sun Hung Kei Properties and ultimately given the green light by the government.

Reference (SCMP)

Ark attack

May 31, 2009

It is no coincidence that many who propagate the Noah’s Ark myth as history are creationists who claim that intelligent design is science.

Their claims lack evidence and collapse when they are asked to explain some simple mathematics.

First, how much wood and labour would be required to build a wooden boat 4,000 years ago, big enough to accommodate 10 million species?

Second, how many hundreds of thousands of tonnes would be stored for 40 days’ worth of food, including fresh meat and prey for the carnivores?

Third, how long would it take for these 10 million species to propagate to all the different islands and continental environments they occupy today?

If the Ark’s maths fails, then would we allow our children to be taught the “intelligent design” version of creationism – that the millions of species we see around the globe today were designed and suddenly put in place after the flood?

Ian Stones, Mid-Levels

Related Posts
These Two Pairs Of Toeses Are Truly Roses
Moses Supposes Erroneously

Dismissing Creationism and Intelligent Design part 5

May 27, 2009

Here are yet more letters to the editor, largely supporting reason, science and evidence. The “Hong Kong Beling duo comprising father and son” is sad. (Perhaps I might blog some more on this later?)

Reference (SCMP)

Teach science not creationism

May 16, 2009

If Hong Kong’s creationists get their way, who knows how many fairy tales will be introduced into science classes? Which versions of creation should be taught as science? Buddhist, Hindu, Taoist, Islamic, Genesis version 1, Genesis version 2, Australian aboriginal, the John Frumm religion?

Religious beliefs from texts written by pre-scientific societies have suppressed science as it challenges the beliefs that the sun revolves around the Earth, that diseases are caused by sins and curses and that rain can be made by dancing or sacrifices.

As the Hubble telescope is being repaired to enable better views of distant galaxies created not long after the big bang, should we allow astrology to be taught alongside astronomy, alchemy to be taught alongside chemistry? Should we allow creationists to teach that evolution couldn’t give rise to new viruses, but some intelligent designer is responsible for Sars, avian flu and swine flu?

The Education Bureau needs to decisively stop mythology being taught in science classes.

Ian Stones, Mid-Levels

Evolution explains the complexity of organisms in an elegant way

May 22, 2009

In “Creationism row hots up as objectors fight back” (Education Post, May 15), Stephen Tsui Kwok-wing refers to “the complexity of living organisms today” and “gaps in the fossil record” as pieces of evidence that are “not compatible” with evolution.

But this is simply not the case. While organisms are complex, this does not preclude evolution. Natural selection, a mechanism that drives evolution, is a perfectly workable solution that gets around the problem of complexity by referring to small, gradual, accumulated changes in genetic material due to hereditary variation and non-random reproduction over a long period.

It is an elegant solution because it breaks down the seemingly overwhelming improbability of complex organisms into small, slightly improbable but yet still plausible steps. Simply because organisms are complex does not mean evolution is false; quite the contrary, because complexity is something evolution succeeds in explaining.

Professor Tsui also cites “gaps in the fossil record” and the “Cambrian explosion” as evidence against evolution, but these are not arguments. Simply because we lack complete, unbroken sets of fossil records for every evolutionary transition does not invalidate evolution.

The fossil record is not perfect, but we are fortunate to have the many records we do, and every fossil record that has been discovered has served to corroborate, rather than refute, the theory of evolution.

David Dudgeon was correct when he said: “There is no controversy over evolution”. The scientific community at large has accepted evolution as the explanation for the development and diversity of life on Earth because all the evidence available supports it. This is the nature of science.

Creationists scrutinise every piece of evidence supporting evolution, but fail to notice that there isn’t a shred of evidence supporting the beliefs they so adamantly espouse. We must realise that creationism is dogma, not science, and as such should be kept firmly within the realm of religious studies and out of biology lessons.

GARETH CHENG, Year 11 Student, German Swiss International School

Teach intelligent design in philosophy classes

My name is John Beling and I am an undergraduate physics student at the University of Liverpool. I was born, grew up and went to school in Hong Kong. The secondary school (West Island School) I went to taught Darwin’s theory of evolution in GCSE science classes.

I appreciated the teachers doing this, but while teaching it they assumed it to be absolutely true and discredited any opposing views. This biased view provoked me to start much discussion on the origins of life with my fellow students.

Although intelligent design (ID) was not taught I did look into it outside of school after my father – Chris Beling, particle physicist at the University of Hong Kong – said it was credible and scientific and could potentially be taught alongside Darwinian evolution.

ID does not challenge evolution, it challenges the specifically Darwinian idea that life is the result of a purely random, undirected process that mimics the power of a designing intelligence. ID is not a critique of natural selection, it is based on our knowledge of, not ignorance of, the cause-and-effect structure of our world.

For instance, our knowledge suggests there is a cause sufficient to produce digital code. We know that that cause is intelligence from common sense. Bill Gates has said DNA is like a software programme, only much more complex than anything that has been written.

People will say that ID is not science but religious propaganda. We must ask: “Is there any scientific evidence for the involvement of intelligence in the origin of nature and its laws of operation?”

I am sure any strict atheist scientist would agree with me that this is a perfectly legitimate scientific question. Therefore, put simply, if ID has no evidence whatsoever it should be considered religious propaganda. However, if it does have, the situation changes dramatically, following which ID could potentially be introduced into the science curriculum.

I am against creationism being taught in science classes because it does not have much of a scientific basis – it definitely should be taught in philosophy and theology classes – but I am for the theory of ID being taught in science classes at secondary schools in Hong Kong. I believe ID is a legitimate scientific theory that can be falsified.

JOHN BELING, Liverpool University

Beling’s arguments laughed out of court

I have been following Chris Beling’s posts around various online forums where he continues to trot out tired old creationist canards like the irreducible complexity of the bacteria flagellum (a long debunked argument that was laughed out of court in the 2005 Dover trial), a rehash of the “puddle” fallacy (see Douglas Adams’s famous analogy of an egocentric puddle) and design from morality.

He has no valid arguments against evolution and, when pressed, it becomes obvious he is arguing from nothing more than his personal moral need for a supernatural overlord.

He has yet to present any case for intelligent design as a scientific theory in its own right, which of course it isn’t – it fails to make any predictions, it fails to produce any supporting evidence, it is not falsifiable. Poking holes in a scientific theory does not an alternative theory make.

There is no controversy in the legitimate scientific community about the fact of evolution. The genuine scientist looks at the gaps and tries to find an answer through observation and data. The IDeologue is satisfied with non-answers such as “goddunit”.

ALETHEA DEAN, Discovery Bay

Sacrificing education on the altar of religion

I was intrigued to read about the views on the teaching of evolution of the “group of 64”. I would refer Professor Tsui to the article entitled “15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense”, published in the July 2002 edition of Scientific American.

This article explains how natural selection can produce sophisticated structures and explains rather comically that, “Even if a creationist does accept a fossil as transitional between two species, he or she may then insist on seeing other fossils intermediate between it and the first two. These frustrating requests can proceed ad infinitum and place an unreasonable burden on the always incomplete fossil record.”

Curious as to what may motivate the group of 64 to take a position at odds with the overwhelming majority of scientists, I decided to Google the four members identified in the Education Post article. Could it be that these were renegade scientists struggling valiantly against a vast conspiracy?

Alas, the evidence points to a less edifying explanation. Professor Tsui’s page on the Chinese University of Hong Kong website includes a photo endearingly titled “my church”. Chris Beling is described as a Christian at Anissa Chan Wong Lai-kuen is principal of St. Paul’s Co-educational College, whose website states its mission includes to “uphold the founding Christian spirit of our schools … “, and Professor Ho Kin-Chung is an adviser to Stewards Pooi Kei College, whose website states that “Our moral education is based upon the principles stated in the Holy Bible.”

The group of 64 would have us believe that this dispute is a scientific one, but it appears instead to be a dispute between religion and science. Entertaining as this dispute may be, it is important that the integrity of Hong Kong’s education system is not sacrificed on the altar of religion.


Dismissing Creationism and Intelligent Design part 4

May 25, 2009

These cretinists and IDiots will not back down. When provided with reason, science and evidence that clearly dismiss their claims, they still refuse to accept how fallacious and dishonest their stance is. This is why Richard Dawkins (evolutionary biologist and aetheist) has vowed to never publicly debate with proponents of creationism and intelligent design. Perhaps Hong Kong might well consider this tact too? Difficult though, I know.

Also, there is a further danger when being moderate about people’s religious views (see 2nd SCMP article below regarding the professor(s) attempting to appease or pander to the religious). Give them an inch and they’ll take, er, the whole planet!

Previous Related Post: Dismissing Creationism and Intelligent Design part 3

Reference (SCMP)

Creationism row hots up as objectors fight back
Group of 64 takes on the Facebook 400

Liz Heron
May 15, 2009

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.

Creationism ‘should not be taught’

Elaine Yau
May 15, 2009

Paul Chu Ching-wu says there is no room for the teaching of creationism in local schools.

He made the comment following his talk at the HKCEC science forum.

The age-old standoff between science and religion was one of the many topics covered in the exchange.

While saying that he did not believe science and religion necessarily had to clash, Professor Chu said there was no room for religious indoctrination in science lessons.

“Even the United States is moving away from the teaching of intelligent design in biology lessons now,” he said. “There are many unknown things in this world. Should we teach them all?”

Professor Chu recognised the role of religion in civilisation. “Knowledge is infinite. Human life is limited. There’s no way for humans to study everything. Religion will always exist alongside science,” he said.

Professor Yang also said he thought science and religion could complement each other.

“There’s a limit to what we can understand through academic studies,” he said. “My views on religion have undergone some changes over the years. When I was young, I thought I could do many things and academic studies were unlimited. As I grow older, I discover academic studies have limits, no matter how successful they are.”

Moses Supposes Erroneously

May 12, 2009

After much delay and anticipation Hong Kong’s very own Noah’s Ark theme park, which forms a significant portion of Sun Hung Kei’s Ma Wan Park public tourist development project, is apparently only open to certain religious groups (see SCMP references below). Time will tell whether Moses Cheng Mo-chi, christian, lawyer, and chairman of the Ma Wan Park advisory committee, will decide to open Noah’s Ark to the public.

I stand to be corrected but supposedly there is a “full-size representation” 20-metre high model of Noah’s Ark on show. Are we to erroneously believe that only a few thousand years ago, during a massive flood that covered the entire Earth, Noah and his wife stuffed pairs of the world’s animals into such confined surroundings for 40 days and 40 nights? Worse still, it is deceitful to teach children this story as literal truth when our understanding of all life through science (e.g. evolution, geology, physics, etc, etc) provides so much more wonder and awe than simply saying “God did it”.

I also wonder how Moses Cheng will promote Hong Kong’s most hilarious theme park? (And this is saying something considering the competition from Hong Kong DisneyLand!!) His soon-to-be posted HKSAR Name of the Day is certainly attention grabbing, which is a gimmick all in itself!

References (from SCMP):

Ark should not be off-limits
May 09, 2009

My family and friends who live in Ma Wan have been looking forward, with much anticipation, to visiting the Noah’s Ark theme park, a part of the Ma Wan Park, following its completion late last year.

Organised groups have visited Noah’s Ark since January, but they appear to have been mainly from certain religious organisations.

Local residents still have not been invited, which means that our legitimate expectations have been overlooked.

I hope that the park advisory committee and its chairman will issue an invitation to Ma Wan residents in the near future.

K. Y. Tan, Ma Wan

Noah’s Ark prepares to cast off after finding its Moses
Ben Kwok
May 06, 2009

With recent events such as our financial and health woes taking on biblical proportions, it came as little surprise yesterday when Moses was named to run a theme park that includes Noah’s Ark.

Lawyer Moses Cheng Mo-chi has become chairman of the Ma Wan Park advisory committee, a body set up by developer Sun Hung Kai Properties (SEHK: 0016) and the government to oversee tourism operations on the island overlooking the Rambler Channel and beside the Tsing Ma Bridge.

Ma Wan Park has a nature garden that opened two years ago and a full-size representation of Noah’s Ark covering 270,000 square feet that was completed at the end of last year and will be open to the public soon, complete with hotel.

In keeping with the biblical theme, it should be noted that 60-year-old Mr Cheng, who sits on the boards of 11 listed companies, including Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing (SEHK: 0388, announcements, news) , is a Christian and regular churchgoer.

And in keeping with the ark theme, members of the advisory committee have been selected two-by-two.

There are a pair of district councillors from Tsuen Wan and Kwai Tsing, two Sun Hung Kai board members – executive director Chan Kui-yuen and non-executive director Eric Li Ka-cheung – and a pair of operations managers, also from the developer.

Official: Hong Kong Sevens Equals Sex And Drugs And Rock And Roll

March 30, 2009

It had to take an academic to tell us the obvious. The obvious being that the perennially successful Rugby Sevens Tournament in Hong Kong has, gasp, major sexual overtones. Hong Kong Anorak, sorry, Anthropological Society members apparently skulk around and prey on extrovert partying fans to observe plenty of signs of in-your-face sexuality, phallic symbolism, and even discreet discretionary behaviour that definitely indicates sex (even when they don’t!). The SCMP reported all this on Sunday March 29 (notable excerpts from the article are referenced here) using only one source, a single academic Dr Joseph Bosco.

I could imagine anthropologist Bosco’s delight when at 5pm on Sunday, during the pre-finals entertainment intermission, Elvis eventually emerged from a shoddily made-up jukebox shell much to the bewilderment and amusement of the entire crowd. Yes yes (exclaim Hong Kong anoraks!), we told you so. Hong Kong Sevens equals sex and drugs and rock and roll. And Elvis confirms it!

Reference to Hong Kong Sevens Equals Sex …

March 30, 2009

Here is an excerpt of the SCMP article.

Studying the mysterious ways of the Sevens tribe
Action on the pitch isn’t the only thing worthy of attention this weekend

Simon Parry
Mar 29, 2009

As thousands of revellers poured noisily into the Hong Kong Stadium at the start of the Rugby Sevens on Friday night, one unlikely looking little group filed quietly into a corner of the ground. Bookish, plainly dressed and sober, they must have looked a little out of place as they took their seats.

The presence of this small, intense-looking huddle of individuals may have puzzled some of their rowdier fellow spectators as they peered inquisitively around, scribbling notes and appearing to be far more absorbed in the antics of the crowd than the action on the pitch.

This odd group of observers was not there to watch the rugby, however. They were there to watch the fans. They were members of the Hong Kong Anthropological Society and their mission was to learn about the rituals and behaviour patterns that surround the hugely popular festival of rugby that has become one of the city’s most celebrated annual events.

Their academic antennae had been alerted by a talk on the Rugby Sevens delivered this month by Chinese University anthropologist Joseph Bosco – and their willingness to observe the phenomenon may have been fired in part by Dr Bosco’s assertion that a lot of what goes on concerns a universal pursuit: sex.

“It is clear to even a casual observer that sex is a major theme of the Sevens,” Dr Bosco says in a study based upon his years of observation at the event. “One way this can be seen is from the costumes worn by spectators. Sex-themed T-shirts are common too. One I saw read: `Sex instructor, first lesson free. Ask wearer for details. Satisfaction guaranteed’.”

Other costumes give out less obvious signals, he found. “Wearing Catholic and other religious habits is quite common,” he says. “The purity and asceticism and celibacy represented by the costume is in fact meant to symbolise the inverse: debauchery and sex.”

The Rugby Sevens is an event, Dr Bosco found, where women have the freedom to be as overtly sexual as men. “There are women in sexy costumes – sexy nurses, devils and belly dancers – men dressed as women, men in animal costumes ranging from apes to Dalmatians, men in Borat-style underwear as well as a group of Borat lookalikes,” he observes.

Other fans have turned up dressed as condoms, Arabs, superheroes and even as patriot missiles, which, Dr Bosco points out, “in addition to being powerful weapons are also phallic symbols”.

And some of the bizarre outfits almost defy categorisation. “Some have obvious interpretations – gorillas as animalistic males, chickens as bearing H5N1 bird flu, and superheroes of various sorts as epitomes of strength and virility, perhaps with a sense of irony,” Dr Bosco says.

However, some are “obscure and hard to interpret”, he admits, citing one group of fans he saw wearing helmets made out of scooped-out watermelons.

The crowd, he points out, is “overwhelmingly Caucasian”.
“All the booing is playful and not hostile, especially since the boos and cheers come from throughout the stadium,” he says. “Booing the Australians and the French is one of the traditions of the tournament.”

One of the few areas where cultural misunderstanding can take place is in the exchanges between fans and security guards, Dr Bosco points out. “The guards are older Chinese men and women and have no idea what is going on,” he says. “The chaos of the carnival aspects familiar to those of British or Anglo-Saxon culture is frightening to them. They cannot distinguish between a group having fun and a group about to cause a riot.”