Education Min. Backs Away From Chief Scientist Over Evolution Remarks

Scientist who made statements dismissing evolution and global warming has been asked to clarify his position.

Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar found statements dismissing evolution and global warming made by the ministry's chief scientist over the weekend to be unacceptable, senior sources at the ministry said Tuesday.

Ahead of a request by MKs to discuss the matter in the Knesset, one of the senior sources at the Education Ministry said that chief scientist Dr. Gavriel Avital had been asked to clarify his position.

Also Tuesday, the National Academy of Sciences agreed to adhere to an Education Ministry request to delay any special statement criticizing Avital. Sources at the ministry said that the statements of the chief scientist were "unacceptable for the minister, and that is an understatement."

Three days ago, one of Sa'ar's aides sent a letter to Eyal Morag, whose blog, the Black Butterfly Effect, publicized Avital's statements.

"The statements of the chief scientist of the Education Ministry reflect only his personal views and do not reflect the policy of the ministry, those heading it and the professionals in charge [of the said] subjects," the aide wrote.

A source at the ministry said that the letter was in essence a vote of no confidence in Avital.

Avital was appointed to the post three months ago and he is the first chief scientist at the Education Ministry to be selected from a field other than education. A specialist in aerodynamics, Avital is a member of Likud and was on the party's list of candidates during the 2006 Knesset elections.

Earlier this week Haaretz reported on Avital's statements on evolution and the role of humans in global warming.

"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 over the weekend.

Commenting on global warming Avital said in the past that "all the signs of a fanatic faith are there [among green groups], radicalism and a great deal of hatred."

In response to a question on whether he recycles he said: "I try to put plastics in the regular trash. The earth is not being destroyed. God has promised us ... and the influence of humans is minor."

Since the report in Haaretz, the Education Ministry instructed Avital not to give interviews. However, one of the religious internet sites said it had spoken with Avital "who instructed us to read his articles and said that he stands behind his statements."

Avital refused to comment.