The Suppression of Scientific Dissent?
This week, the Israeli Education Ministry's chief scientist, Dr. Gavriel Avital, was fired, for challenging evolution and global warming. I was amused to see that some people saw this as the "suppression of dissent from the scientific orthodoxy." In other words, "here's a scientist who presented a scientific case against evolution, but he was suppressed for political reasons!"
Of course, the facts are entirely different. Dr. Avital is an aeronautical engineer, not a biologist. And he did not present any evidence against evolution. Rather, he revealed himself to be a religiously motivated person who is unfamiliar with the situation (or distorts it). Dr. Avital is quoted as saying the following:
"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."
Yes, there indeed many people who don't believe the evolutionary account is correct. However, that is irrelevant. What is relevant is whether there are scientists in the relevant fields who don't believe the evolutionary account is correct. And there aren't. Even those few scientists aligned with the Intelligent Design movement who argue against the neo-Darwinian explanations of evolutionary mechanisms fully agree that the evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of common ancestry - i.e. that people and monkeys share common origins. You might find one or two scientists in the relevant fields who even deny common ancestry, but they will be obvious Christian fundamentalists who also insist that the evidence shows Jesus to be the son of God.
Dr. Avital continued:
"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."
Yes, there are those for whom evolution is a religion and are unwilling to hear about anything else. However, that is not how evolution came to be accepted in the scientific community. (I myself originally denied evolution, and it wasn't religious beliefs that led me to change my mind!) More to the point, people such as Avital who challenge evolution clearly do so because of their own religious beliefs. They are fully entitled to those beliefs, but they are entirely unsuitable to have a position as chief scientist in the Education Ministry. The great Chief Rabbis of Israel, Rav Kook and Rav Herzog, would have been more suited to this role! They didn't have any problems with evolution.