Saturday, February 04, 2006


Studies In Political Science

New signs of the imminent demise of science in America:

The New York Times has an article (free registration may be necessary) about attempts by Bush administration political appointees at NASA to control the flow of scientific information coming from the agency. One particularly egregious example:

George Deutsch, a presidential appointee in NASA headquarters, told a Web designer working for the agency to add the word "theory" after every mention of the Big Bang ... Mr. Deutsch [is a] 24-year-old presidential appointee in the press office at NASA headquarters whose résumé says he was an intern in the "war room" of the 2004 Bush-Cheney re-election campaign [and a] 2003 journalism graduate of Texas A&M.

In October 2005, Mr. Deutsch sent an e-mail message to Flint Wild, a NASA contractor working on a set of Web presentations about Einstein for middle-school students. The message said the word "theory" needed to be added after every mention of the Big Bang.

The Big Bang is "not proven fact; it is opinion," Mr. Deutsch wrote, adding, "It is not NASA's place, nor should it be to make a declaration such as this about the existence of the universe that discounts intelligent design by a creator."

It continued: "This is more than a science issue, it is a religious issue. And I would hate to think that young people would only be getting one-half of this debate from NASA. That would mean we had failed to properly educate the very people who rely on us for factual information the most."
[I will pause here to allow the consternation at the thought of NASA instructing the youth of America in matters theological to pass.]

More directly important for governmental policy and, therefore, more frightening:

James E. Hansen, [said] he was threatened with "dire consequences" if he continued to call for prompt action to limit emissions of heat-trapping gases linked to global warming. He and intermediaries in the agency's 350-member public-affairs staff said the warnings came from White House appointees in NASA headquarters.

The only official reaction to these and other examples came from Donald Tighe of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. "Science is respected and protected and highly valued by the administration." But Mr. Tighe can’t hide the President himself under the carpet when he insists on going out and making State of the Union addresses that show nothing but ignorance about and disdain for science. (See PZ Myers’ piece on the President’s request for legislation to prohibit, among other things, "creating human-animal hybrids" and the researchers who have inserted a complete human chromosome 21 into mouse embryonic stem cells, generating a line of aneuploid mice that have many of the symptoms of Down syndrome, thus creating an invaluable tool for research into treatment of a significant cause of human suffering.)

The only good news is that Michael D. Griffin, the current head of NASA took Mr. Deutsch and his compatriots out to the woodshed for a public tanning in an email sent to all 19,000 NASA employees:

It is not the job of public-affairs officers to alter, filter or adjust engineering or scientific material produced by NASA's technical staff.
But, as I said, he is the current head of NASA . . .

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