Oust Head Scientist for Challenging Evolution

Ten recipients of the Israel Prize, including two Nobel Prize laureates, joined calls yesterday for the dismissal of the Education Ministry's chief scientist over his comments questioning the validity of evolution and global warming.

In an open letter to Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar, the laureates wrote, "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."

At a Knesset session Wednesday, Sa'ar said Avital's remarks "are not in line with Education Ministry policy, and are unacceptable to me," adding that he and ministry director-general Shimshon Shoshani had launched "a process of clarification with the chief scientist." Ministry officials later said Sa'ar would prefer to have Avital leave his post.

"As scientists and Israeli citizens," the letter continued, "we read the remarks attributed to Dr. Avital with concern. The minimum that it is fitting and feasible to ask of him, in addition to having expertise in education, is that he bolster the status of science as a credible, effective basis for advancing education and society."

Avram Hershko and Aaron Ciechanover, Nobel Prize laureates in chemistry, were among the letter's authors, as were writer A. B. Yehoshua, jurist Amnon Rubinstein and other Israel Prize recipients in the fields of education, history and chemistry, among others.

"We view Dr. Avital's remarks gravely," the letter said, "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."