Freethinker Sunday Sermonette: a Special Relationship

The US and Israel are near the top of the list in having citizens who believe in evolution -- at or near the top, that is, if you turn the list upside down. In international surveys the US ranks last and Israel 4th from last among 27 countries regarding belief in the proposition that "human beings developed from earlier species of animals" being definitely or probably true (US, 45%, Israel, 54%). There's another similarity. The US has fringe fundamentalist crazies in positions of authority (like the Texas State Board of Education) who deny evolution (and this just in: took The Enlightenment and Thomas Jefferson out of their textbooks, possibly because he was a Deist; but they put Thomas Aquinas in to make up for it!). And so does Israel. In fact Israel does the US one better, because the official is the chief scientist in Israel's ministry of education, Gavriel Avital:

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." (Haaretz)

Just like the family friend in The Graduate, God has only One Word for residents of "the Promised Land": Plastics. It seems enough to get the education Ministry's Chief Scientist to dutifully repeat Right Wing Talking Points (environmentalists are preachers of hate). Or maybe these are God's Talking Points. It's so hard to tell, these days.

Meanwhile, Chief Scientist Avital (former head of aeromechanics at Elbit Systems and a lecturer in aerodynamics at the Technion Israel Institute of Technology) will zealously do God's work:

"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." (NCSE)

The US and Israel. A Special Relationship.


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A sad comment on the influence of Religious extremism in Israeli politics and on first blush on both countries' educational systems, especially in regard to science, and in particular the biological sciences. Yet, one does also have to consider the fact that those two countries also have both been leaders in science and technology development. Israel is one of the world leaders in patents per capita and among its strongest suits is biotechnology. How does one jibe those two apparently contradictory sets of facts? Perhaps, just perhaps, there is more to the story, and the presence of religious extremists, even at some levels of influence, does not condemn the rest of the society to ignorance? It seems that a country that also has a strong secular intellectual stream of thought, and a mix of intellectual and other influences, can not only survive the political strength and popularity of its fundamentalists, but can lead in scientific progress.

Huh to that, eh?

Congratulations on your new blog site, Revere. There will surely be a great migration following your move.

I wonder if there will be any student trips to Washington DC from Texas. And if so, how will they explain the Jefferson Memorial?

Today are the regional elections in France and the Greens are going to do very well indeed. Clean air and tasty vegetables still make sense to some people. If a little country like Israel doesn't mind pumping plastic into the ground, so be it. But that certainly won't help their fruit and vegetable exports to Europe. Anyway, people are becoming more and more convinced that eating local, seasonal produce is the way to go... so I guess the Israelis will have to eat their own plastic if this keeps up.


It might be possible that the surge in anti-intellectualism in education is a reaction to the increased intellectualism of the current working population? I mean, you're talking about education and the benefits are long-term. So if this hypothesis about the roots of the anti-intellectualism movement being a backlash is correct, one would expect to see this pattern, with a high innovation rate, but a deteriorating educational system. The chickens will come home to roost, eventually, but that might take a decade or so.