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TOC speaks to experts and officials from the ministry, church and the scientific community. Lim Say Liang.

God sneaks into our classrooms – Part Two

Lim Say Liang

In “God sneaks into our classrooms” (Part One), we raised the spectre of stealth religion in our schools. In particular, Creationism.

The Online Citizen has managed to interview the following people for their views, including Kenneth R. Miller, a key proponent of the Theory of Evolution and Professor of Biology at Brown University in the United States. He was a key witness in the 2005 Tammy Kitzmiller  vs Dover Area School District court case in the US where "Intelligent Design" was "put on trial" (See here).

Here are their views:

Goh Po Boon Head, Publication Management, Curriculum Planning and Development Division, Ministry of Education

“The MSE [Mini Science Encyclopedia ] is not on the list of recommended Science text for use in primary schools. We would like to assure you that our curriculum and approved resources are secular in nature.  We will continue to remind schools to exercise care in the selection and use of additional enrichment resources for their students.”

EPB Panpac, publishers of Mini Science Encyclopedia (MSE)

Lim Geok Leng, the publisher and deputy general manager, Panpac, declined for the meeting to be recorded, considered an interview, and quoted. She also declined to divulge how many schools are offering the optional reference text.

It wasn’t made clear whether TOC’s request, a fortnight ago, to be put in touch with Ang Woon Chuan, MSE’s author, was relayed. Lim was noncommittal on how and when Ang might respond, or whether she would be available to.

There was no acknowledgment of negligence in the vetting of MSE; It is unknown whether "The Theory of Creation" will be excluded in the future edition or reprint of MSE.

Pastor Susan Tang, Free Community Church (FCC)

“To be honest, our church does not have an official stand on Creationism. We have a diversity of opinions in our membership which we encourage. We do not have a Pastor (who dictates what all should believe), we are run by a Church Council of which I am part that guides and challenges our members to think through their own faiths. We ask of our members to always respect the place of reason (science, knowledge, critical thinking) and human experience alongside scripture and tradition.

"There are many new questions that we can and should be asking if we take our faith seriously—this is nothing new—traditional theologies have been challenged in every generation and new theologies are being formed to address them in every new generation. In my personal opinion (which may differ from some FCC members) the Bible is not meant to answer questions of modern science.

"The Bible is rather, full of stories/mythologies about how ancient people understood the world around them in ancient times. To expect a 2000-year old text to provide answers to scientific and technological issues in the 21st century, or provide a theory of evolution, is ludicrous. What the Bible does provide instead, are lessons of inspiration, hope and courage for us through the stories and experiences of the faithful down through the ages."

Dr Carl Wieland, Managing Director, Creation Ministries International

“It’s a pity though that people cannot easily see that the naturalist/materialist view is not religiously ‘neutral’ either.  So without any mention of God, by exclusively presenting this view as fact, kids are in effect being ‘proselytized’ into this naturalistic/materialistic faith, one which also means that their parents’ faith, if it involves supernatural creation, is wrong. Now for those that happen to share that belief, there will be no reason to complain. They will only complain when there is even a hint of anything being discussed that this naturalistic view might be wrong. It is a pity if open discussion of such things is not permitted.… It’s crucial that people do not have blinkered views of reality, and are not afraid of fairly and openly discussing such matters. We are glad that we still have the freedom to at least have such discussions in the many strong and vibrant churches in your great nation.”

Professor Kenneth R. Miller, Brown University

“I have been outspoken on the need to keep creationism out of science classrooms in the USA.  From the comments that have been posted to the article, it seems that many people in Singapore feel exactly the same way, and I would agree with them. I don’t know enough about the laws and traditions of Singapore to state whether this is appropriate for your public schools. However, I see no reason to bring non-scientific views into any science classroom, anywhere in the world.”

Professor Alex Law, Acting Chair of the School of Biological Science, Nanyang Technological University

"Generally, it’s the Christian’s version of creationism that’s being pushed, but there are other versions of ‘creation’: What about Islam’s? Or the Mayan’s? Or the Icelander’s? Or Pangu, the Chinese version.

"They are all great stories, made up long before the human race knew what ‘science’ is. I have no problem with taking the Bible as a collection of stories: I have no problem if they teach creationism in Church. But creationism has no place in the science classroom.

"The bottom line is that creationism necessarily requires a supernatural creator, whose existence cannot be demonstrated scientifically.  Indeed, science does very well without such an assumption, and therefore we leave it out. Similarly, we do not address the question of ‘What came before the big bang?’ because that question cannot be addressed scientifically. With modern molecular biology, we have now a mechanistic understanding on how evolution could take place—in the changes in the DNA sequence. We can now understand how living organisms can change their phenotype, how new diseases emerge, and how cancer cells develop."

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