Rafael Hui Si Yan, GBS, JP (Chinese: 許仕仁, born 1948) is the 3rd Chief Secretary for Administration of Hong Kong and a former career civil servant. He was appointed on June 30, 2005 (for two years, until June 30, 2007).
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?)
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 MAILBAG
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 www.eulertruthbible.wordpress.com. 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.
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!
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."
The District Council at the heart of banning alfresco dining in Central and Western complained that the government had passed the buck to district councils on the use of public open space without providing proper guidelines for approvals (see reference).
"We are being set up. We shouldn't be the ones to make the decision," council chairman Chan Chit-kwai said, urging the government to issue guidelines for their reference.
Point 1. When I first read about this commotion yesterday, I immediately suspected "the problem lies with lack of communication between government departments and district councils". It turns out there are at least 3 levels involved: Development Bureau, Lands Department, and poor little "left out" District Council.
Point 2. Who actually gets the rent money? If the rent goes directly to the Lands Department, then it is little wonder the District Council are causing such a commotion.
Restaurants take aim at outdoor ban Key players oppose decision on public spaces in Central and Western
Olga Wong May 22, 2009
A ban on alfresco dining in public open space in Central and Western district has hurt Hong Kong's image as a world city, two major players in the food and beverage industry say.
The complaints came as the district's councillors gave a three-month grace period to an Italian restaurant yesterday to comply with the ban. The councillors, under pressure to reverse the ban, said they did not want to approve the cases by themselves and called for government guidelines to help their decision making.
The ban, imposed by the district council in January, was triggered by a revelation last year that the Times Square developer had profited from renting out a public piazza and limited public access.
"I'm surprised that Hong Kong said it's Asia's world city. It is taking a backward step," said Grant Baird, operations director of the Epicurean Group. The group manages about 50 restaurants in the city, of which at least 10 are in Lan Kwai Fong.
"The move basically kills the business like the smoking ban," corporate development director Larry Cowle added.
The pair were responding to the plight of the Gaia Group, which had been told by the Lands Department that its licence for running an Italian alfresco dining facility at Grand Millennium Plaza in Sheung Wan would end in mid-July because of the council's opposition. The facility had been approved since 2004.
Representatives of the Epicurean Group and Igor's Group, another high-class catering company, attended a council meeting to show support for Gaia. Both said the decision would "kill their business". "It's a big decision and the council is trying to represent Hong Kong. I don't think it's very good," said Mark Cholewka, operations director of Igor's, which would have nearly 40 restaurants by next month, some on waterfronts.
Gaia's chairman David Cheung stressed in the meeting that its Italian restaurant had been paying a HK$180,000 annual fee for operating at the plaza and the business had not caused any public disturbance. Some elderly people had even said the tables and chairs provided by the restaurant made the plaza a friendly space to rest and meet old friends.
The councillors said they were willing to reconsider the decision. They complained that the government had passed the buck to district councils on the use of public open space without providing proper guidelines for approvals. "We are being set up. We shouldn't be the ones to make the decision," council chairman Chan Chit-kwai said, urging the government to issue guidelines for their reference.
While some councillors complained the Italian restaurant allowed customers to smoke outdoors, others said they could not judge whether it had abused the use of public open space. Mr Chan said the council would send a team of volunteers to inspect about 100 public areas in the district and gauge public views on the use of such places.
The inspection and survey would take six months.
In the meantime, it agreed to allow Gaia to operate outdoors temporarily until October while it sought advice from Secretary for Development Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor.
A spokeswoman for the Development Bureau said it would monitor further developments, adding that an application for commercial use of a public open space would be considered on a case-by-case basis, taking account of lease conditions and views of relevant district councils.
In their vengeance, overzealous District Council members have decided to ban all restaurants in Central and Western (which includes SoHo and Lan Kwai Fong) from using or renting public spaces as dining areas. This will have a negative impact on the area’s alfresco dining atmosphere.
This is yet another “HK Red Tape Moment” that makes you sigh and shake your head. The Central and Western District Council's decision is based on their apparent resentment that rent money was being paid direct to the Lands Department, without the council’s initial knowledge. In fact, anyone can approach the Lands Department and request to use government-owned land, and this is sometimes allowed in return for a rental fee. There is little wrong with that practice.
The problem lies with lack of communication between government departments and district councils. Each has its own jurisdiction and powers that can sometimes be at odds with each other. I suspect the chairman of the council's committee, Chan Hok-fung, and his cronies, suffered a “loss of face” when they discovered Gaia Ristorante in Grand Millennium Plaza was giving rent to the Lands Department (supposedly behind their backs), and therefore used their position to settle scores.
Chan uses the excuse that “restaurants should not be allowed to profit from occupying public space”. So what will Chan and his cronies do instead? Will he rely on limited government coffers to provide public benches, which are clearly needed in Grand Millennium Plaza? Unlikely. Or will he keep public spaces bland, featureless and unusable? Likely.
Alfresco dining in public spaces across Central and Western off the menu from July
Olga Wong May 21, 2009
All outdoor dining areas on public open space in Central and Sheung Wan are to be closed from July after a row erupted this year.
The first restaurant affected is Gaia Ristorante in the Grand Millennium Plaza. The Italian restaurant has rented a portion of the plaza for outdoor dining since 2004. Restaurants in Lan Kwai Fong could also be affected.
The Central and Western District Council's decision was criticised yesterday by diners and an academic, who said the move was irrational and would affect the area's vibrancy.
The council will hold an objection hearing today for the restaurant. The council's food, environment, hygiene and works committee decided to ban commercial activities on public open space after the Times Square saga, in which the developer was found to have profited from leasing the piazza for commercial activities without approval while limiting public access.
Although Gaia has been paying the Lands Department an annual fee of about HK$180,000 for operating on the plaza - and the outdoor facility covers only 40 square metres, about 5 per cent of the plaza's area - the department informed the restaurant last month that its licence for outdoor dining would end on July 15.
The chairman of the council's committee, Chan Hok-fung, said restaurants should not be allowed to profit from occupying public space. "If we approve the case of the Italian restaurant, should we allow other restaurants as well?" he said.
A spokesman for the restaurant said its outdoor facility had become a public gathering place.
"We encourage the public to use our outdoor tables and chairs freely before the restaurant opens at noon and we beautify the plaza with greening," he said. "The decision will force us to lay off some waiters serving customers sitting outdoors."
Mr Ngan, a man in his 60s who sits outside the restaurant every morning, said: "Why close it down? The restaurant sometimes offers us drinks."
A Mrs Cheung, 70, said it was a good place to meet old friends. "Where do we sit if they take away all the tables and chairs?"
Ng Mee-kam, associated professor of urban planning at the University of Hong Kong, said she could not believe the decision, remarking that "the council is taking a step backward".
She said cities in Europe have been introducing commercial elements into open gardens to foster community spirit.
Lawmaker Patrick Lau Sau-shing urged the government to provide district councils with guidelines over the use of public open space. He also suggested using fees paid by restaurants to improve the design of local open space.
"The alfresco dining is an attraction to tourists and residents," he said. "The council should conduct a proper public consultation before making such a decision."
Gaia Ristorante's outdoor dining area which is clearly being used by the public. Photo: Oliver Tsang
Moses supposes his toeses are Roses, But Moses supposes Erroneously, Moses he knowses his toeses aren't roses, As Moses supposes his toeses to be! Moses supposes his toeses are Roses, But Moses supposes Erroneously, A mose is a mose! A rose is a rose! A toes is a toes! Hooptie doodie doodle Moses supposes his toeses are Roses, But Moses supposes Erroneously, For Moses he knowses his toeses arent roses, As Moses supposes his toeses to be! Moses (Moses supposes his toeses are roses) Moses (Moses supposes erroneously) Moses (Moses supposes his toeses are roses) As Moses supposes his toeses to be! A Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose is A rose is what Moses supposes his toes is Couldn't be a lily or a daphi daphi dilli It's gotta be a rose ‘cos it rhymes with mose! Moses! Moses! Moses! (Dance Sequence) A … A!!!
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 LAI SEE 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.
Perhaps Thomas Jefferson said it best with: “Reason and free inquiry are the only effectual agents against error“. Much error exists in the world and this blog, from the perspective of one Hong Kong SAR resident, is a small attempt to minimize errors.