The Bush war on science (Part CXIII):
    the Big Bang is just an opinion

Yes, it happened. A Bush political appointee told a NASA web designer that the agency shouldn’t take sides over the Big Bang vs. creationism in cosmology.

I’ve argued in the past that since most anti-Darwinists don’t object to scientific cosmology &#8212 which is after all just as contrary to a literal reading of Genesis as is natural selection &#8212 their objection to Darwin must have other roots, in particular to the perceived moral implications of the denial that human being are made in the Image of God.

Well, that theory may have some substance to it, but the premise needs work. It turns out that some especially ignorant and bigoted Biblical literalists do want to deny the Big Bang along with natural selection. That isn’t surprising, I suppose. What ought to be surprising, but also isn’t really surprising by now, is that the Bush Administration has put some of those especially ignorant and bigoted Biblical literalists in positions where they can threaten and boss around actual scientists.

It turns out that George Deutsch, the juvenile Bushoid who told the top climate guy at Goddard that there would be “dire consequences” if he didn’t shut up about global warming, also applied his talents for obscurantism and censorship to the origins of the universe:

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.”

The good news is that the NASA Director just sent out a memo telling the political hacks to knock it off and let the scientists do their work. The bad news is that NASA, like the rest of the government, is still infested with an especially noxious species of political hack. And note that Dean Acosta, the NASA director’s press secretary, says that NASA will, in fact, insist on referring to the “Big Bang theory” just as the junior commissar insisted:

The memo also noted that The Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual specified the phrasing “Big Bang theory.” Mr. Acosta, Mr. Deutsch’s boss, said in an interview yesterday that for that reason, it should be used in all NASA documents.

Of course “Big Bang theory” is correct, just as “theory of relativity” is correct. But that’s because “theory” doesn’t mean what the ignorami think it means.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

9 thoughts on “The Bush war on science (Part CXIII):
    the Big Bang is just an opinion”

  1. Poor Superman

    So, the Bush administration is going to try and be pro-science. Here we go. 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…

  2. Poor Superman

    So, the Bush administration is going to try and be pro-science. Here we go. 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…

  3. Poor Superman

    So, the Bush administration is going to try and be pro-science. Here we go. 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…

  4. Poor Superman

    So, the Bush administration is going to try and be pro-science. Here we go. 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…

  5. It's Just a Theory

    Last night the science wing and the reason driven political wing of the blogshere (Chris Mooney, John Lynch, DarkSyde, World O'Crap, Sean Carroll, Tim F., Phil Plait, Amygdala, John in DC, Altrios, Mark Kleiman, PZ Myers) lit up with righteous…

  6. It's Just a Theory

    Last night the science wing and the reason driven political wing of the blogshere (Chris Mooney, John Lynch, DarkSyde, World O'Crap, Sean Carroll, Tim F., Phil Plait, Amygdala, John in DC, Altrios, Mark Kleiman, PZ Myers, Mike the Mad Biologist)…

  7. It’s Just a Theory

    Last night the science wing and the reason driven political wing of the blogshere (Chris Mooney, John Lynch, DarkSyde, World O’Crap, Sean Carroll, Tim F., Phil Plait, Amygdala, John in DC, Altrios, Mark Kleiman, PZ Myers) lit up with righteous…

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