Creationism in Singapore and what we know so far

Over the past decade, the creationist movement in Singapore has largely been led by local churches and the Australian-based Creationist Ministries International (CMI). Many local creationists have drawn inspiration and arguments from American-based creationists, organising seminars in local churches and schools, putting up posters and writing many letters to the press.

Local creationists are well-funded and well-organised, riding on the steady growth of the Christian community which has jumped nearly two-fold from 9.9% in 1980 to 18.8% in 2015. Although many Singapore Muslims are creationists as well, the Muslim community has kept their beliefs largely to themselves. To date, no poll or study has been conducted on the proportion of creationists here. Worldwide studies of public acceptance of evolution never included Singapore. The other religious communities on the island (Hindus, Buddhists, Taoists etc.) have not expressed strong opposition to evolution.

The creationist movement is well and alive here. The CMI has been organising several seminars attacking evolution and promoting creationism. Foreign speakers have been flown in to give public talks, based in local churches or missionary schools. Three such events have already been scheduled in Singapore for 2017: http://creation.com/calendar?country=sg

Photo on top: A slide from a creationist talk in NTU

Photo below: The CMI Singapore calendar for April 2014

Pastor Lawrence Khong from Faith Community Baptist Church, known for his campaigns against the LGBT community, has criticised evolution earlier this year. On March 29, 2016, Khong released a video deriding Darwin’s theory of evolution as “a real deception from the Devil.” In April 23–24, 2016, Khong gave a 1 hour 40 minute sermon, The Deception of Darwinism, using creationist criticisms such as gaps in the fossil record and arguing that the evolution of complex organisms could not possibly come about by “chance.” Khong also leads a 100-strong network of Christian churches, LoveSingapore.

The Humanist Society has written this open letter to Lawrence Khong, offering to attend his services in exchange for his church’s attendance at our World Humanist Day, in order to facilitate dialogue. One of our members sought clarification with the Ministry of Education on the teaching of creationism in schools. The Ministry replied that creationism is not in the syllabus.

Creationists have written letters to the newspapers as well. Examples include this letter in 2005, as recorded by a local blogger, and another in 2012. Their letters have been met with rebuttals from humanists and scientists. There were also attempts to spread creationism in schools. One article in 2009 illustrated these attempts. In March 2014, Christian student clubs organised a creationist talk in Nanyang Technological University.

There were also posters attacking evolution at St Andrew Cathedral, at the heart of the Singapore business district. The poster states that “The Theory of Evolution is false! Even science has discovered that. Human beings are not descended from apes.”

The Humanist Society understands that evolution is not taught to every student in school in Singapore. Only Secondary school and Junior College (High School) students studying advanced biology subjects are taught the basic concepts of evolution. Some modules in local universities, such as NUS and NTU, do offer lessons on the theory of evolution. In a press letter, one professor has called for evolution to be taught to all students.

To promote public understanding of evolution, the Humanist Society has organised public talks on science and evolution through four seperate Darwin Days from 2011 to 2014. In 2015 and 2016, the Humanist Society celebrated Darwin Day in the form of field trips at the Botanic Gardens and the Singapore Zoo. Singapore has a special place in the history of evolutionary biology as a discipline. Alfred Russel Wallace, the naturalist who independently conceived the theory of evolution, spent time in Singapore during his expeditions in the Malay archipelago.