I’m getting a flood of email from Israel. As one correspondent explains, Israel maintains three kinds of state-supported schools: one kind for the ultra-orthodox, because the state has always fostered freakishly fanatical ignorance among the lunatic subset, and these schools teach no science at all; a fully secular system, particularly in higher education, because Jews have also had a strong scholarly tradition, and Israel depends on material strategies for its survival, and these schools teach science very well; and a general intermediate kind of school where religion may be taught but science is also taught. That situation may be in peril now. Gavriel Avital, the chief scientist in the education ministry, has made a few statements that show he is a lunatic.
“If textbooks state explicitly that human beings’ origins are to be found with monkeys, I would want students to pursue and grapple with other opinions. There are many people who don’t believe the evolutionary account is correct,” Avital said yesterday.
“There are those for whom evolution is a religion and are unwilling to hear about anything else. Part of my responsibility, in light of my position with the Education Ministry, is to examine textbooks and curricula,” he said. “If they keep writing in textbooks that the Earth is growing warmer because of carbon dioxide emissions, I’ll insist that isn’t the case.”
Nobody has explained to me yet how such a putz got appointed in the first place, but this isn’t a good sign. The man is a freakin’ incompetent.
Prior to his appointment, Avital said in a video interview with Machon Meir, a religious-Zionist Jewish studies institute, “Another scientific field that is problematic is biology, or life and environmental sciences. When your doctrine is based on Darwin’s theory of evolution and its implications, you are standing on unreliable foundations – that is, there is no God, there was only something primeval, and then there are certain random developments which led to the apex of all creation, the human being.
“Today I am pleased that more and more scientists engaged in pure science, rather than being employed in the name of an ideology, are reaching the conclusion that the world must have a master. Nothing is given to chance,” he said. “These are my opinions and I won’t deny them just because I was appointed to an Education Ministry position.”
The chorus of outrage is already building among sensible scientists in Israel.
Yehoshua Kolodny, a professor emeritus at Hebrew University who won the Israel Prize for his contributions to the study of earth science, responded furiously to these statements yesterday.
“Denying evolution is like denying science itself,” Kolodny said.
“Evolution is not a theory, but an observation point that anyone can see. Perhaps Dr. Avital did not notice that throughout history, various species existed and then became extinct. In 2009, the entire world celebrated 200 years since the birth of Darwin and 150 years since the publication of his book ‘The Origin of the Species,'” he added.
“When a top scientist ignores these things, it’s a cultural calamity,” Kolodny said. “There are no disagreements among scientists regarding evolution. Catholics and Protestants long ago ended their war against evolution, and Avital is for all intents and purposes joining the radical fringe of evangelicals in the United States.”
I have to disagree with Dr Kolodny on one thing: Catholics and Protestants are still fighting over evolution in the US. Apparently some Jews are simply joining them now, parroting the same drivel that had its origins in fundamentalist/evangelical Protestantism.
Still, let’s add a few international voices to that chorus. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org and politely suggest that Gavriel Avital is clearly not the right man for the job.