Evolution and intelligent design in Hong Kong

Sir

Your News story 'Hong Kong evolution curriculum row' (Nature 457, 1067; 2009) reports a call by faculty members at Hong Kong University for a sentence to be removed from new guidelines for secondary-school biology education. At present, these state: “In addition to Darwin's theory, students are encouraged to explore other explanations for evolution and the origins of life, to help illustrate the dynamic nature of scientific knowledge”. You also note that a professor criticized the university for not letting him teach intelligent design in his course on the origin of the Universe.

I was born in Hong Kong, was educated at local missionary schools and Hong Kong University, and am now overseas doing research in the field of evolution and development. As a scientist, I believe that the purpose of education is not only to pass knowledge to future generations, but also to develop students' analytical and critical thinking. Central to both aspects is the need to focus on facts and testable views supported by evidence. This is all the more important given the limited amount of time available for teaching and its support by public funding. Evolution fulfils these necessary criteria, whereas intelligent design, being untestable and unsupported by evidence, does not.

Hong Kong is a multicultural society, deeply imprinted with traditional Chinese culture and values, but also facing a constant inrush of ideas from the West. The fundamental cause of these controversies is more than just a cultural clash. It reflects a lack of long-term public education in evolutionary biology. In the year of Darwin 200, it is time to rectify this situation.

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Hui, J. Evolution and intelligent design in Hong Kong. Nature 458, 571 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1038/458571b

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