Heresy in Israel! Chief education scientist dismissed for denying evolution and global warming
Photo by Ilan Assayag, www.haaretz.com
Dr Gavriel Avital, former chief scientist for the Israeli education ministry, is the latest of a long series of high-profile scientists ‘Expelled’ for voicing skepticism at evolution.
Published: 19 October 2010(GMT+10)
Heresy. Is that the right word to use here? It seems so harsh! But that is precisely how skepticism of evolution1 and anthropogenic global warming2 are treated in modern academic, political, and social discourse. Creationists can’t really expect a fair hearing in the public square any more. Any who hint that even ID should be given a hearing, even if they make plain their allegiance to the orthodox Darwinist dogma, are berated, ostracized, and even dismissed from their employ. Dr Gavriel Avital is merely the latest of a long series of high-profile scientists who have voiced skepticism at these sacred cows of modern academia and has paid the ultimate professional price—termination.
Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar has dismissed the chief scientist of his ministry, Dr Gavriel Avital, over his statements denying the “fundamental tenets of science”—evolution and anthropogenic global warming.3 The news reports are quite straightforward; there is no other cited reason for his dismissal.3
Avital has been an outspoken critic of evolution and anthropogenic global warming during his time as chief scientist, and has attracted the disapproval of numerous scientists in Israel for it. In February 2010 two Israeli Nobel Prize laureates issued an open letter to Gideon Sa’ar saying,
“We don’t see any alternative other than to replace Dr. Gavriel Avital with an individual suited to fill the position, one who could do so faithfully and professionally.”4
Lest any think it was because of poor performance that these scientists wanted him sacked, the letter went on to state:
Dr Gavriel Avital is merely the latest of a long series of high-profile scientists who have voiced skepticism at these sacred cows of modern academia and has paid the ultimate professional price—termination.
“We view Dr. Avital’s remarks gravely because they undermine the standing and importance of science and take us centuries backward, even as the world celebrates the importance of Charles Darwin’s discoveries and the great contributions he made to human knowledge and scientific development, and is striving to uproot benighted doctrines such as intelligent design.”4
I find remarks such as this perplexing. I wonder what the creationists Newton, Kepler, Pasteur, Lister, Maxwell, Joule, Kelvin, Steno, Faraday, etc. would think of such comments. All but three were contemporaries of Darwin, and a number were very public in their criticisms of his work.
His personal doubts about evolution are well known, but what exactly did Avital propose as the educational solution? He said:
“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.”3
He’s not talking about not allowing evolution to be taught—he assumes children will be taught evolution because it’s in the textbooks. Rather he simply wants to give children the right to hear other views. Avital is not the one suppressing alternate views—evolutionists are.
Evolutionists’ tactics to silence their opponents
Evolutionists are in the habit of bullying and forcibly silencing their critics. Confessed evolutionists Michael Reiss and Richard Sternberg were dismissed from their posts because they hinted that people should be able to think for themselves about creation/evolution. Creationists and ID proponents have suffered similar fates, whether students, teachers, or academics (See Discrimination against creation scientists).
Whenever creationists try to discuss the evidence, typical evolutionist responses are: “all true scientists believe in evolution”, “creationists are liars”, or “creationists don’t publish articles in the peer-reviewed literature”. Such ‘arguments’ are just more smokescreens evolutionists use to avoid dealing with the actual arguments.
“All true scientists believe in evolution” presumes a self-serving and inaccurate definition of “scientist”. Though a minority, there are many practising scientists (with Ph.Ds. and active in scientific research) both past and present who don’t believe in evolution. It also presumes that majority vote decides truth. As evolutionists are so fond of pointing out, Copernicus and Galileo were almost lone soldiers fighting the tide of geocentrism. And yet we know today that the majority were wrong, and Galileo and Copernicus were right.5 But this is a double-edged sword—evolution cannot be proclaimed right just because it has the majority vote in academia.
For a similar reason, the appeal to “peer-reviewed literature” holds no water either. Evolutionists are the “peers” who review and edit such journals. How can IDers and creationists expect to get a fair hearing when evolutionists won’t let them speak?6
Creationists are often branded “liars”, or are treated as committing some ‘sin’ against ‘science’ by their very existence. However, this idea of ‘science’ is more like scientism, which states that science is the only way of knowing. However, that very premise can’t be proved scientifically, so it’s a self-defeating statement and thus false. Neither is evolution a scientific question, it’s a historical question, just like creation. It needs experimental science to make its historical reconstructions plausible,7 but the reconstruction itself is interpretation based squarely on some form of naturalism—God either doesn’t exist, can’t act in history, or refuses to. Evolutionists play fast and loose with the term “science” (whether knowingly or not) because the public views “science” as reliable. Science is a very useful way of investigating the world, but evolution is not science.
These charges have been answered time and again, and yet evolutionists generally respond merely by putting up the same smokescreens (they are not legitimate arguments), or by actively seeking to discredit and silence the dissenters. There are no attempts at rebuttals, because to do so they’d have to acknowledge there are arguments to rebut.
Why such language and tactics?
They assert that the truth of evolution is so obvious that it’s impossible to honestly disagree with it if someone understands it.
Such emotive and religious sentiments are communicated not just because evolution is assumed to be true. It’s more than that. Secularism’s fundamental tenet is not a denial of the existence of a god/s per se, but that said god/s never interfere in the real, physical world.8 This is assumed to be intuitively obvious—i.e. it’s impossible to reasonably disagree with. This principle is applied to evolution, so they then assert that the truth of evolution is so obvious that it’s impossible to honestly disagree with it if someone understands it. Dawkins says it most bluntly:
“It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I’d rather not consider that).”9
Such a worldview ignores both philosophy10 and the history of science.11 But secularism must sustain such a view in order to survive, and creationism and ID call that very foundation into question. Therefore, we became the heretics—the pariahs of a secular regime that will do anything to keep any god (especially the Christian God which it rebelled against) from interfering in history. But since we know that the God who intervened in history, the God of the Bible, is also its sovereign, secularism cannot win.
- I use the word “evolution” throughout this article in the “molecules-to-man” sense, which includes the naturalistic origin of life. This sense is the most common understanding of the term in popular usage. Terms such as “natural selection”, “mutation”, and “speciation” are often held to be synonyms of “evolution”, but this obfuscates the issue because molecules-to-man evolution is qualitatively different from these concepts. Return to text.
- The scientific merits and faults of anthropogenic global warming are beyond the scope of this article. Suffice it to say that the tactics used by the most ardent adherents to anthropogenic global warming are strikingly similar to the evolutionary establishment. Debate is not allowed; you either toe the party line or you are ostracized (often to the point of ending a skeptic’s career). See Grigg, R., The ‘Great Global Warming Swindle’ debate, 1 August 2007. Return to text.
- Kashti, O., Sa'ar dismisses chief scientist for questioning evolution, Haaretz.com, 5 October 2010; Velmer, T., Chief scientist who questioned evolution theory fired, Ynetnews, 4 October 2010. Return to text.
- Kashti, O. and Rinat, Z., Scientists irate after top education official questions evolution, Haaretz.com, 21 February 2010. Return to text.
- At least, closer to the truth than their contemporaries. They proposed heliocentrism, which is not just that Earth revolves around the sun, but that the sun is the centre of the universe. The most accurate understanding is geokineticism, which merely states that the earth moves—the sun is not the centre of the universe. Return to text.
- Kulikovsky, A., Creationism, science and peer review, 2 February 2008. Return to text.
- Likewise, since there is a severe lack of experimental support for evolution (or any naturalistic net increase in novel biological information ex nihilo on even the smallest scales), evolutionary historical reconstructions are rendered extremely improbable (but not impossible!) a priori. Return to text.
- Atheism is the logical end of such thinking because there’s no practical distinction between a god who never intervenes (deism), a god who is everything (pantheism), and a god who doesn’t exist (atheism). However, all three can live in uneasy truce when allied against the opposite idea: that God (or possibly gods) exists and can and does intervene in the real world independent of us. Return to text.
- Cited in Dawkins, R., Ignorance is no crime, Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, 15 May 2006. He thinks there may be a fifth category originally subsumed under “insane” better stated as “tormented, bullied or brainwashed”, but he makes it clear he has never retracted this statement. Return to text.
- Weinberger, L., Whose god? A theological response to the god-of-the-gaps, Journal of Creation 22(1):120–127, 2008. Return to text.
- Williams, A., The biblical origins of science, Journal of Creation 18(2):49–52, 2004; Sarfati, J., The biblical roots of modern science: A Christian world view, and in particular a plain understanding of Scripture and Adam’s Fall, was essential for the rise of modern science., Creation 32(4):32–36,2010. Return to text.