Saturday, 28 February 2009
Friday, 27 February 2009
Anyway, here are some of the Most Unfortunate Novel Names in the UK and US taken from the BBC story and from the source of the story, The Baby Website, which has a collection of silly names:
Britain's Most Bizarre Names
America’s Bizarre Names
Dr Leslie Doctor
Dr Thoulton Surgeon
Les Plack (dentist)
Thursday, 26 February 2009
Sentry boxes (i.e. for security guards) are a relatively common sight on the streets and pavements of Hong Kong. Guards sit inside and they usually have a small rotary fan turned on to keep them cool. However this is a bizarre box because it has a fitted air-conditioner, which appears to be about one-fifth the size of the box’s capacity. Providing the windows and door are nicely sealed, it wouldn’t take very long to turn this sentry box into a large walk-in refrigerator.
Wednesday, 25 February 2009
Tuesday, 24 February 2009
Further note: if there was an attempt at sarcasm (i.e. mansion, bodyguards), then that also failed. Culturally and generally speaking, Hong Kong Chinese are not the best when it comes to sarcasm (although admittedly, there is no indirect way of knowing for sure whether the letter writer is Hong Kong Chinese or not).
Feb 19, 2009
I refer to the story ("HK population passes 7m on surge in births", February 17).
It was reported that Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen had said he thought "Hong Kong's optimal size would be about 10 million".
If he gets out of his government limo and out of his government mansion and walks the streets of Hong Kong without his bodyguards to clear his way, then he will know what the optimal population size of Hong Kong is. Give us a break - 10 million?
Alec Leung, Mong Kok
Monday, 23 February 2009
Sunday, 22 February 2009
Is faith in God enough to challenge evolution?
The fierce debate over whether intelligent design has any place in school science lessons continues
EDUCATION MAILBAG SPECIAL
Feb 21, 2009
The promotion of creationism/intelligent design (CID) has no place in universities, other than in classes of theology or perhaps the history of ideas. To promote it as a theory that challenges evolution is mistaken for many reasons.
First, it offers no predictive power whatsoever. There is no way of testing it. It is therefore not a theory but a dogma. The flat Earth hypothesis is more robust scientifically as it can at least be tested. This point alone demolishes any legitimacy for CID in a science curriculum.
By contrast, evolution's ability to generate predictions which have been affirmed again and again, and not once contradicted in innumerable tests, means it does not require the presence or absence of dogmatic faith, just the ability to weigh evidence.
Second, if everything is designed, why are we troubled with MRSA and other microbial resistance? Evolution is present everywhere in the modern world - the food we eat, the clothes on your back, the plants growing on your window sill, the microbes that assail us - all have been produced by manipulating the principles of evolution, intentionally or otherwise.
What, in contrast, illustrates CID? Nothing, again, beyond blind faith.
Third, CID is not objective about the posited creator. It has to be a particular creator that emerged from a small Middle Eastern tribal culture.
Why this particular supreme being? Indeed, why invoke a separate deus ex machina, fraught with problems that have been struggled with down the ages when a much cleaner explanation, if you must have one, exists in, for example, Shaivistic theology?
The author Terry Pratchett captures this nicely in his allegory of mankind's gods as growing and shrinking in size as a function of the numbers of their believers.
The answer is, of course, that CID is a justification for the Abrahamic religions to continue proselytising.
Evolution cannot be allowed to be accepted, otherwise these three religions unravel conceptually, destroying their brand value.
This brand promotes individualism, from which emerged free-market capitalism and justifications for expropriating the planet for self-indulgence, to the point of threatening the biosphere that supports life.
For this reason it must be challenged. There are many other reasons to reject CID and insufficient space to extrapolate them.
By all means teach CID, but as the Abrahamic theology it is. It has no legitimacy within any rational science department.
RICHARD FIELDING, Professor of Psychology and Public Health, University of Hong Kong
Bureau is responding to imaginary demons
Proponents of creationism like to claim it as an alternative to Darwin's theory of evolution.
But it is no such thing. In fact, there is no conflict at all between these two ideas, because they occupy different "magisteria" (to borrow the terminology of Stephen Jay Gould).
Darwinian evolution and science are a matter of evidence and deduction: verifiable postulates often labelled as "theories".
Creationism (and its sibling "intelligent design"), like all faith-based stories is a matter of belief. Creationism is entirely untestable and unverifiable.
This is the whole point of religious faith - it is based on one's ability to believe despite a lack of evidence.
Science, on the other hand, requires evidence. Hence, the assertion (for example) that "the Lord works in mysterious ways" can justify anything from George W. Bush to pestilence and plague but does not explain any of these things.
It is therefore disappointing to find the Education Bureau responding to imaginary demons, orchestrating a conflict between science and religion ("Scientists urge excluding God from biology", Education Post, February 7) and mandating that alternative explanations to evolution could be discussed.
Of course, such ideas should be discussed but as part of a class on ethics or religion.
Moreover, I hope the principals of the two local schools were misquoted in saying that they either did not approve of evolution or that creationism offered a counterbalancing theory. Neither of these views is commensurate with a proper understanding of science.
MICHAEL SMALL, Mid-levels
How can scientists be sure there is no god?
The article "Scientists urge excluding God from biology" was quite enlightening. These four "eminent" scientists are certain there is no god?
I would love to hear how they were able to come to this conclusion? How were they able to ascertain this knowledge?
I hope they will share this amazing discovering with us who naively still believe in the God who created our world.
Professor Sun Kwok admits that "science is limited to what we can observe because scientific theories have to be tested by experiment or observation. So by definition it is limited".
But in spite of the limitations he goes on to say intelligent design should not be discussed. Why not? Based on what? A whim? His beliefs? It is obvious that evolution was never nor can be tested or observed. It is simply a theory.
I wonder too, where are the transitional forms? Not in drawings but actual transitional forms? They do not exist, do they?
No one can prove God does not exist. Christians and those who believe there is no God both have a religion. One is based on a creator, the other on self. I know which one I would choose.
TERRY SCOTT, Sha Tin
Scientific thinking is a vital skill in the modern world
I am very worried by the lack of understanding of science shown by the Education Bureau.
I am referring to the phrase "pointing out the limitation of science to provide a complete answer" used by its spokeswoman when discussing bureau guidance on biology teaching in the new senior secondary curriculum.
The point is, the basis of the scientific method is critical thinking and continually asking new questions. Religions say they have the complete answer, science says this might be incomplete, check the evidence yourself.
Newton's laws were a famous theory but one that has been proved wrong by Einstein. Newton's work is still rightly taught in science classes. However, creationism and "intelligent design" are not scientific theories and their place in the science classroom should be limited as to why they are not scientific theories.
It is important not to confuse what we want to believe with what the evidence shows us. Wong Shiu-hung, principal of Kwai Chung Methodist College said: "Our religious belief does not approve of evolution."
His religious belief may also not approve of sex before marriage, so would he therefore advocate teaching of a "scientific" theory that sex before marriage is impossible, to be believed despite the existence of single-parent families? Scientific thinking is a vital skill in the modern world. The Education Bureau needs to learn this skill itself.
ALLAN DYER, Wong Chuk
If man evolved from apes, why do we still have apes?
It was interesting reading about the continuing debate between creationists and evolutionists, which poses some interesting questions and observations.
As far as creation theory is concerned, it would appear self-evident that it happened. Everything is here in perfect order and balance.
Also, according to science, it has been so for billions of years. However, science has failed to adequately explain how it arrives at that figure.
What makes it even more interesting is the fact that the one (and I might add the only one) who claims responsibility for this creation has come and spoken about it. He called himself God. Science itself has not created anything without using what God put here in the first place as a base. Medical science has not been able to cure sickness or disease, heal crippled limbs, make the blind see or the deaf hear without using medicines, drugs or operations.
Yet God did it, as many bore witness who experienced or saw what we call miracles even if we do not know how it was done yet.
Evolution is a different kettle of fish. One big question remains unanswered. If man evolved from apes, why do we still have apes?
Perhaps science should be less concerned with how, when and where creation came about and more concerned with why God created this earth and all that there is upon it, and perhaps listen to the counsel he gave to those he spoke to.
Unfortunately it seems to be the disposition of many academics, who acquire only a minute fraction of the creator's intelligence, to become arrogant, and think that what they know is all there is to know.
STEVEN STRINGER, Queensland, Australia
We should teach students to ask the right questions
From the dean of science at HKU to the man in the street, I have yet to hear a compelling reason not to teach creationism next to evolution.
The point of education is less about giving students the "right answers" than teaching them to ask the "right questions".
The response of Professor Kwok reinforces my sneaking suspicion that many Hong Kong educational establishments completely miss this most important aspect of education.
Schools and universities should challenge students' thinking constantly, break set ways of perceiving things and stimulate young people's curiosity about everything.
Instead, we spoon-feed them with whatever version of knowledge we subscribe to and our educational leaders feel threatened by alternative and different ways of looking at phenomena.
The product is many men and women in the street who trot out the same banal and simplistic reasoning for taking challenge and choice out of education and defining "science" and "fact" as one, completely missing the fact that much of science is still an imputation of meaning on a set of observed data which can change over time.
KWEN IP, Sai Kung
Science needs religion to be meaningful
It is so sad to read the comments claiming that education should not allow teaching our kids that there is a God.
Science is the source of God's creation. We have a world like a big ship that has been rotating for a million years perfectly and protected amazingly. It is not coincidence or luck that all creatures and phenomena work in harmony and great co-operation, from sun and sunlight to the oxygen factory of trees on the Earth.
Or just consider our castle-like bodies, with all parts co-operating in perfect harmony from the lungs, heart and blood to the tongue, stomach and liver, which are all controlled by brain.
The whole universe is a book of science required to be read with the guidance of its source, religion, to be meaningful.
Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.
RICHARD AZIZ BUTT, Tsim Sha Tsui
Biased headline was inflammatory
I object strongly to the biased framework of your evolution versus creationism issue in Hong Kong schools, as expressed in the headline of your article "Scientists urge excluding God from biology". While the article itself was unbiased, the headline was inflammatory in the sense that it allows no debate (how could anyone want to exclude God?) Different standards apply to neutrality as to scientific fact.
No reputable paper would treat the issue of smoking as worthy of "debate" for the very good reason that there is a scientific consensus that smoking kills. Likewise, there exists a scientific consensus that there's no usable alternative to evolution. Without evolution, biology is merely pre-scientific taxidermy.
Furthermore, it is an insult to Teilhard de Chardin and other highly religious men who accepted both the existence of God and evolution to so question their integrity, even implicitly. It is also an insult to the intelligence of Hong Kong's students to prohibit them, in effect, from trying to reconcile the existence of God, if they choose to believe, with science. Einstein was able to do this.
EDWARD G. NILGES, Lamma Island
Alternative explanations are merely pseudoscience
It is worrying that Hong Kong's Education Bureau has ambiguous guidelines that support teaching alternative explanations to evolution in biology classes. Alternative explanations like creationism and intelligent design in biology, as with alchemy in chemistry and numerology in maths and physics, are pseudoscience and are therefore superfluous to science.
WILL LAI, Western
Saturday, 21 February 2009
Friday, 20 February 2009
Thursday, 19 February 2009
Wednesday, 18 February 2009
Tuesday, 17 February 2009
Monday, 16 February 2009
One important and common issue amongst the four letters is they all (mentioned in various guises) supported teaching critical thinking to children. I agree. We should be teaching people from a young age *how* to think and not *what* to think.
In other words (to paraphrase the Teach a Man to Fish proverb), we should teach people how to catch and eat fish, rather than to simply use up our limited resources to buy a fish from a fisherman or supermarket, take it home then clean, gut, de-scale, de-bone and fillet the fish, poach the fish fillets in a white wine, butter and parsley sauce, present it beautifully on a silver platter and then proceed to spoonfeed the dish to someone who knows nothing about catching and preparing fish.
I fully support teaching critical thinking skills, especially to children.
Sunday, 15 February 2009
Feb 14, 2009
Why not teach astrology, numerology and flat Earth beliefs as well?
The headline of your editorial last week was exactly three words too long ("Teach Darwin's theory of evolution, and others too", South China Morning Post, February 7).
If Hong Kong's Education Bureau supports the possibility of teaching alternative explanations such as creationism in biology classes in conjunction with evolution, then what's to stop alchemy from being taught in chemistry, numerology in mathematics, astrology in physics and flat Earth beliefs in geography?
Fortunately, there is substantial evidence within the scientific disciplines that eliminates the need to entertain any pseudoscience nonsense.
In contrast, since there is no substantial evidence to show that one religion or faith is better and more worthy than another, I support the teaching of all faiths in a social science or humanities class.
If the true aim of education is to nurture open, inquiring and critical minds, then what better demonstration than to teach students about all the world's faiths and then let individuals decide for themselves which faith, if any, they may wish to follow?
Creationism must be kept out of class
I refer to the article "Scientists urge excluding God from biology" (Education Post, February 7), criticising the Education Bureau's new biology curriculum guidelines on teaching evolution that encourage some schools to teach creationism.
The call of this group of local scientists for changing these misleading guidelines is timely on the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin.
Science curriculums should contain only materials about science. Ideas of creationism in science education or these ideas disguised as intelligent design, originated in the US.
Hong Kong should be careful not to allow these fundamental religious ideas to pervade our science curriculum.
It is alarming to learn from the article that at least 30 aided schools in Hong Kong teach creationism as an alternative explanation for evolution in their biology lessons. Accordingly, what the Hong Kong Examination and Assessment Authority said about no exam questions being set in this area and no plan for such appeared to imply that the teaching of creationism in some Hong Kong schools has already become a fait accompli.
This must not be allowed to continue. I must reiterate what I said in my letter published in this newspaper "Keep science and creationism apart" (April 22, 2007) that there is no place for creationism in science education. The reason is simply that creationism is not science but a religious belief.
As rightly pointed out by a leader in this newspaper (February 7), views such as creationism, which are not science, should be taught in humanities but not in science lessons.
We must design a sound curriculum in the Hong Kong SAR for a science education of the highest standard. Any teaching of creationism in schools is unprofessional on the part of the science teachers and unfair to their students.
I call on all science educators and science teachers in Hong Kong to urge the Education Bureau to take immediate action to rectify the guidelines on teaching evolution.
We must promote inquiry and free thought
It is very disturbing that the Education Bureau suggests discussion of alternatives to Darwin's scientific theory where science can't provide the answers. The reason is that the alternatives to Darwin's scientific method are not science. By linking the suggestion to the teaching of biology, the bureau demonstrated it doesn't understand the basic fundamentals of biology or Darwin's theory of natural selection.
The suggestion is not so benign when we examine what alternative theories to Darwin's natural selection theory the bureau would propose. The most probable is "intelligent design". This version of creationism purports that intelligent beings intervened at different times and places in earth's history to design biological structures which nature couldn't. The very small minority of scientists who voice this religious view cannot design experiments to test it and can produce no evidence to support it.
A more conventional creationist "alternative theory" is that a supernatural being created all living things 6,000 years ago and nothing has evolved since. The problem is that essentially all alternatives to Darwin's scientific method are alternatives to science. None withstand evidence or scientific rigour.
If the Education Bureau intends creation theories for the origin of life to be discussed, then the science classroom is not the place. I sense the education bureau is inclined towards one of the two conflicting Christian versions of creationism, whereas Buddhist, Islamic, Hindu and other versions of creationism would be of equal value to children. I support the view that the origins of religious beliefs, the creation, evolution and decline of religions, the histories of religious texts and their different explanations of where man came from would be valuable for children to learn about.
We can also learn from the Church of England's recent posthumous apology to Darwin for its reaction to his theory 126 years ago. That church does not propose teaching creationism as an alternative to science. We must stop the "thin end of the wedge" of creationism propagating in Hong Kong's schools and promote inquiry and free thought.
IAN J. STONES
Bureau must act to protect young minds
I fully support Professor Kwok Sun, David Dudgeon, Dr William Mak and geologist Jason Ali in their call to urge the Education Bureau to issue stringent rules to prohibit teaching of pseudoscience such as Creationism or Intelligent Design in any schools.
The comments by some of the schoolteachers/headmasters in the story reflects a worrying trend, that religious freedom is being abused to corrupt the minds of our students, and that our officials in the Education Bureau are woefully negligent and oblivious of how proper science teaching will be eroded if these schools are unchecked.
The Education Bureau must act responsibly to protect our young minds from being misled.
Saturday, 14 February 2009
Friday, 13 February 2009
Thursday, 12 February 2009
Wednesday, 11 February 2009
Tuesday, 10 February 2009
Monday, 9 February 2009
Hong Kong’s Education Bureau supports the teaching of alternative explanations to evolution, according to reports in the South China Morning Post on Saturday Feb 7. This suggests schools may be allowed to bring creationism, or its contemporary successor intelligent design, into classrooms. Evolution by natural selection is Charles Darwin’s Dangerous Idea and fully deserves to be in the biology class because it is real science. Creationism and intelligent design do not deserve to be in the biology class because they do not follow the same rules of science, and are therefore labelled as pseudoscience.
Here’s where critical thinking can keep out religious beliefs. Lumping creationism and ID in with evolution is a weak argument due to the use of faulty analogy. The faulty analogy supposes that a watch is an object of beautiful complexity with many parts precisely arranged to achieve a specific purpose known to the watch’s designer. Similarly, the universe has beautiful complexity with numerous parts precisely in place as if arranged by a master plan. Therefore the universe must also have a designer.
With critical thinking, we can see that with faulty analogy the things compared are not sufficiently similar in relevant ways. Here’s an example of a faulty analogy:
Kangaroos are warm-blooded mammals, nurture their young, and have joeys.
Humans are warm-blooded mammals and nurture their young.
Therefore humans have joeys.
This is why creationism and ID cannot be compared to evolution by natural selection because they are not sufficiently similar in relevant ways.
Sunday, 8 February 2009
Saturday, 7 February 2009
Friday, 6 February 2009
The landlord of Hong Kong’s long-lived Cantonese opera house, the Sunbeam Theatre in North Point, wanted to increase the monthly rent from HK$200,000 to HK$800,000 according to a news report in The Standard. But instead of a 300 percent increase in rent, he managed to get 249.5 percent.
It’s all in the numbers! Naturally, HK$800,000 is considered a profitable number because of the number 8. But isn’t it interesting that the landlord or/and the tenant avoided the number 7? And all because the monthly rent at HK$699,000 is considered luckier than HK$700,000.
The same superstition is seen at Chinese restaurants. You will never see a group of Chinese diners order 7 dishes. Even if diners know they will be completed satiated with 7 dishes, they will order another dish just to avoid the stigma of having 7 dishes on the table.
Thursday, 5 February 2009
Wednesday, 4 February 2009
Tuesday, 3 February 2009
Monday, 2 February 2009
Whenever fireworks are present, there will inevitably be some accidents. This is why I rhetorically asked whether such incidents have ever occurred before? The SCMP news report states the company had 3 previous accidents, in 2005, 2004 and 2001. You can be quite sure that those years did not see any “unlucky” fortune sticks being drawn!!
Fireworks fire not company's first mishap
Firm involved in Lunar New Year barge blaze had 3 earlier accidents
Feb 02, 2009
The company behind Tuesday's Lunar New Year fireworks display, during which fire broke out aboard an explosives-laden barge, has had a series of similar accidents in recent years.
Pyro Magic, headed by technical director Wilson Mao Wai-shing, has been involved in three other accidents, one fatal, in the past eight years. The worst was in August 2005, in which a man died and two crewmates were seriously burned when unused and partially burned fireworks packed aboard a barge exploded at the Western district public cargo working area.
Mr Mao and Pyro Magic were fined HK$14,400 after pleading guilty to a number of charges relating to that incident, which involved fireworks left over from the Symphony of Lights rooftop fireworks display.
In 2001, a barge full of fireworks left over from the Tourism Board's City of Life - Hong Kong Is It! campaign launch, conducted by Pyro Magic, burst into flames at the Tsing Yi dangerous-goods anchorage area. Eight workers escaped injury. The Civil Engineering and Development Department said it also had a record of a serious, although non-fatal, incident involving the company in 2004.
Mr Mao yesterday denied the company had a problem with safety. Last week's fire was caused when fireworks debris landed on wooden mortar racks during the show, he said. Using wooden racks was the universal standard because material such as aluminium, which could fly long distances in the event of an explosion, was more dangerous.
"The wooden racks are mounted on the sand bed that is placed on the steel non-flammable barge surface," he said. "If fire does happen and continues, the wooden racks will simply be burned out on the sand bed. If the fire is small, our crew will put it out quickly, but if the fire is considerably bigger, we will let the standby fireboat put it out."
Mr Mao said the company followed the regulations guiding fireworks displays set out by several government departments, regulations that became stricter every year.
"Before each fireworks display, Pyro Magic has to provide a method statement setting out the procedures and materials to be adopted in the fireworks display for the approval of the Civil Engineering and Development Department," he said.
"We are certain and confident about the safety of the fireworks displays and the safety of the public."
Mr Mao said the company's accident rate over the past 10 years was about 0.2 per cent. "We have experience performing over 1,200 shows. Our continuous effort to strive for a perfect safety record is always our first priority."