One of Israel's most noted scholars yesterday denounced remarks by the Education Ministry's chief scientist, who cast doubt over the weekend about both evolution and global warming.
Dr. Gavriel Avital, triggered an uproar in the academic community when he said he would encourage students to consider other theories besides evolution.
"There are many people who don't believe the evolutionary account is correct," he said. "There are those for whom evolution is a religion, and they are unwilling to hear about anything else."
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."
"There won't be a need for us to bomb Tehran, because Tehran has already come to us," he added.
Jonathan Erez, a professor at Hebrew University's Earth Sciences Institute, echoed Kolodny's sentiments.
"We have returned to the dark Middle Ages," Erez said. "It's difficult to believe that a man who harbors such opinions has climbed the ladder to become the Education Ministry's chief scientist.
"It's remarkable, and it places Israel on a lower rung from a global standpoint. The education minister has to draw the appropriate conclusions immediately, because it is clear that Avital is not fit for the job," he said.
Geography teachers also joined the chorus of Avital's critics, particularly due to his comments on global warming.
"A significant part of the geography curriculum is devoted to 'educating toward sustainability' and the environment," a teacher at one Tel Aviv school said. "This stands in contradiction to Avital's comments."
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