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Daily Israel Report

Biophysicist: Scientist Gabi Avital To be Commended, Not Fired

Interview with scientist-author Lee Spetner: Dr. Gabi Avital was fired as Education Min. Chief Scientist for disagreeing with "orthodox science."
By David Lev
First Publish: 10/13/2010, 11:10 AM / Last Update: 10/13/2010, 1:13 PM

a7.org

Dr. Gabi Avital, the outspoken former Chief Scientist of the Ministry of Education, was let go from his job last week after giving an interview to Ma'ariv, in which he said, among other things, that computers were sometimes a crutch for children, preventing them from learning math skills, and that Darwinism was an unsatisfactory explanation for how the world came to be.

In addition, Dr. Avital took issue with the opinions of scientists who say that global warming is causing major climate change, and also said that the Arabs did not constitute a major demographic threat to Jews.

While the views of Dr. Avital, who had been on the job for 10 months, were well-known, the interview in Maariv he gave at the beginning of the school year was presented in a sensationalist manner. The interview proved to be Dr. Avital's undoing: Throughout September, the media harped on how Dr. Avital's views were at odds with accepted scientific opinion, and at the end of the month, Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar fired him.
Scientists who are critical of evolutionary theory are intimidated and silenced in a most intolerant manner. The hounding of Dr. Avital is reminiscent of the persecution by thought police in a totalitarian country.


According to Sa'ar, Dr. Avital's controversial views had nothing to do with his dismissal, but based on statements by prominent scientists, it's clear that his views on science – especially evolution -  had a great deal with his firing, says Dr. Lee M. Spetner, MIT trained biophysicist, former operations manager at Eljim facility of Elbit, who taught at Johns Hopkins and the Weizmann Institute for many years, and is author of Not By Chance, a critique of Darwin's theory of random mutations among other works.

“Scientists who are critical of evolutionary theory are intimidated and silenced in a most intolerant manner,” says Dr. Spetner. “From what I have read, all Dr. Avital suggested was that students be exposed to opinions critical to Darwin's theory of evolution. Hounding Dr. Avital for that statement is reminiscent of the persecution by thought police in a totalitarian country.”

While mainstream scientific opinion treats Darwin's views on evolution as sacrosanct, Dr. Spetner finds good reason to dispute them. “Although there is ample evidence that populations of organisms change and adapt to new environmental conditions, there is no compelling evidence that life arose by chance and evolved by natural means from some simple primitive cell into all the varieties of life that exist today,” he says. 

“The significant difference between inanimate matter and a living organism is the information it contains and the way it uses that information. To establish a theory that would account for the emergence of the complex life of today would require a theory as to how that information got built up through natural means. Evolutionary biologists have not seriously addressed this crucial issue.”

Thus, he says, Dr. Avital was on legitimate ground when he said that students should be exposed to alternative views – but as he was stepping on the toes of scientists who brook no contrary views on the issue, Sa'ar, subjected to severe pressure, fired Dr. Avital.

Besides evolution, Dr. Avital challenged yet another “darling” of scientific orthodoxy – global warming. contrary to the contention of global warming enthusiasts, Dr. Avital said in the Maariv interview,  “There is no evidence to correlate between the concentration of carbon dioxide and the rise in temperature. On the contrary, Al Gore's movie (“An Inconvenient Truth”) showed how the rise in temperature preceded the rise of carbon dioxide.”

But here, too, the vociferous orthodox view on global warming has prevailed, with scientists pressing Sa'ar to get rid of Dr. Avital. “His views on anthropogenic global warming represent another source of intimidation to follow a faulty pseudoscientific doctrine of a majority. Most of the leading climate scientists (those who are not feeding off the enormous funding of the global-warming bandwagon) say that there is no valid evidence of anthropogenic global warming,” says Dr. Spetner.

In the end, Dr. Avital's views on science, as well as his views on politics were just too much for Sa'ar. in the interview, the scientist criticized the government's policy on foreign workers, said that leftist writers demoralized the nation, and that leftist groups like the New Israel Fund received money from European countries, and “simply wish to fan the flames of controversy and foment unrest in Israel."

Rather than defend an independent-minded man of science, Sa'ar dropped him like a hot potato, in order to ensure “industrial quiet” for himself and avoid the barbs of those opposed to Avital, said the scientist-author.

That is a shame, added Dr. Spetner. “I think that rather than firing Dr Avital for his views on evolution and global warming, he should be commended for his courage to buck the popular trend and for courageously coming out on the side of what he thinks is right.”