NASA Gets Uppity

Well here’s a new wrinkle. Here’s a new outpost of the global war on secularism and rational thought. Here’s a new battalion of God’s Holy Warriors, a new incursion by the ambassadors of theocracy. Barely post-pubescent White House hacks with shiny new journalism degrees and whole months of experience working on political campaigns, explaining cosmology to the benighted people at NASA and telling them what to say – and that’s just one example.

A week after NASA’s top climate scientist complained that the space agency’s public-affairs office was trying to silence his statements on global warming, the agency’s administrator, Michael D. Griffin, issued a sharply worded statement yesterday calling for “scientific openness” throughout the agency. “It is not the job of public-affairs officers,” Dr. Griffin wrote in an e-mail message to the agency’s 19,000 employees, “to alter, filter or adjust engineering or scientific material produced by NASA’s technical staff.”…Other National Aeronautics and Space Administration scientists and public-affairs employees came forward this week to say that beyond Dr. Hansen’s case, there were several other instances in which political appointees had sought to control the flow of scientific information from the agency…In October, for 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…

Oh, not that again…

The Big Bang memo came from Mr. Deutsch, 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. A 2003 journalism graduate of Texas A&M, he was also the public-affairs officer who sought more control over Dr. Hansen’s public statements. 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.”

Is that staggering, or what?! It’s not NASA’s place to make a ‘declaration’ about the ‘existence’ of the universe (does Deutsch want to deny the existence of the universe? Is he plotting some kind of quasi-Berkeleyian move? Or did he mean to say ‘origin’ and then get confused?) that discounts intelligent design by a creator! Shades of Kansas and its exciting new science curriculum that has been rewritten in order not to rule out supernatural explanations; shades of the dear clever Dover school board that got its head handed to it first by the electorate and then by Judge Jones; only more so, if only because of the breathtaking conceit – even, dare I say, arrogance. Remember that fool Haggard lecturing Dawkins – ‘But please, don’t be arrogant’ – right after inadvertently revealing his own entire ignorance of evolution coupled with his eagerness to set a zoologist straight on the subject? This is like that. Or like that combined with The Adventures of Brownie in New Orleans, or those two combined with Dennis the Menace or Home Alone. A youthful hack with a political-reward job tells people at NASA what’s what about the Big Bang! And tells them they’re not allowed to ‘discount’ intelligent design by a creator! And then comes right out and says it’s a religious issue! I’d better stop before I run out of exclamation points – but you must admit, it is quite something. I keep shaking my head in disbelief – it is not NASA’s place. It is not NASA’s place! Oy veh.

PZ comments at Pharyngula. So does Phil at Bad Astronomy.

5 Responses to “NASA Gets Uppity”