On the Torah and science front, however, there have been some disturbing developments. Now, since Bar-Ilan has a strong religious component to it, I'm not expecting them to, say, host a conference on the Documentary Hypothesis at the kollel. But certain events are so antithetical to science and scholarship that one has to be distressed at their taking place. Recently, Rabbi Zamir Cohen, whose material on how Chazal knew modern science is by far the most nonsensical of anything in the field, gave a presentation at Bar-Ilan. But at least he was only invited by a student's group; much more troubling is an event due to take place next week. Here is the email that I received:
HARUN YAHYA CONFERENCE IN ISRAEL
BAR ILAN UNIVERSITY LECTURE
DATE: Wednesday, January 12, 2011
TIME: 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm
LOCATION: Bar Ilan University, Ramat Gan, Chemistry Building # 211, Hall # CMT 10
REFUTING EVOLUTION THEORY ON A PURE SCIENTIFIC BASIS
How the Theory of Evolution Breaks Down in the Light of Modern Science
by Dr. Oktar Babuna, M.D. & Dr. Ali Sadun Engin, Ph.D.
With the contributions of Prof. Doron Aurbach
Ms. Seda Aral (Science Research Foundation)
Personal representative and media contact of Mr. Adnan Oktar (aka Harun Yahya)
Tel: +90 530 609 26 32
There are two aspects to this event which are disturbing. One is that a science division is hosting a pseudo-scientific lecture against evolution. The common ancestry of all species is accepted scientific fact; even scientists associated with the Intelligent Design movement, such as Michael Behe, do not dispute it. If someone wishes to refute it, let them follow the scientific process of doing research, publishing papers, and so on. Religious propaganda masquerading as a "scientific" refutation of evolution has no place being presented in a chemistry building. Would the geology department host a "scientific" refutation of the sphericity of the earth, or would the history department host an "academic" refutation of the Holocaust?
Second, hosting such an event by Jewish Biblical literalists would be bad enough on its own, but hosting this group of Muslim Koran fundamentalists is appalling. Oktar Babuna and Ali Sadun Engin are followers of Harun Yahya, a.k.a. Adnan Oktar; indeed, the event at Bar-Ilan is being advertised as a "Harun Yahya Conference." According to the Wikipedia entry about him, Harun Yahya's Islamic fundamentalism has also led him to antisemitic conspiracy theories and Holocaust denial, and there are numerous other disturbing reports about him. Is this the kind of person whose movement should be speaking at an Israeli university which in its mission statement "regards the sacred principles of Judaism as the manifestation of the Jewish people's uniqueness... supporting the safeguarding of these principles out of love and with the purpose of training and producing scholars, researchers and men of science knowledgeable in the Torah and imbued with the original Jewish spirit and love of one's brethren"? Is whoever arranged this conference so Jewishly motivated to refute evolution that he is willing to have these sorts of people speak about it?
While the Harun Yahya group has managed to present its propaganda at several universities in England and the United States (read more about this here), one would hope that the additional antisemitic aspects would be enough to prevent it from coming to Israel. I know that many faculty members at Bar-Ilan were disturbed to hear of this event. One can only hope that wisdom will prevail and it will be canceled, so as not to mar the reputation of such a wonderful institution.