Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar yesterday dismissed the chief scientist of his ministry over past statements denying the tenets of evolution and global warming.

Dr. Gavriel Avital has generated controversy in the past for his statements questioning the validity of Darwin's theory of evolution. He has also challenged conventional theory on pollution's effects on global warming. "Someone who holds the opinions of Avital cannot serve as chief scientist of the Education Ministry," said a ministry official.

"It is Sa'ar's right to fire me," Avital said. "I speak about principles and somebody did not like this."

Avital was named chief scientist last December. He was the first to be named to the post without a background in education. Avital's academic training was in the field of aerodynamics. He is also a member of Likud. In 2006, he was on the party list for the elections but failed to earn a seat in the Knesset.

Avital sparked a furor among environmental activists and scholars earlier this year with remarks questioning the reliability of evolution and global warming. In a series of written and oral statements casting doubts on the fundamental tenets of modern science, Avital proposed other methods of teaching - which led several environmentalists to call for his dismissal.

"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.

"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."