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NASA Space Government Politics

NASA Science Under Attack 590

The Bad Astronomer writes "The New York Times is reporting that NASA science is being harassed and even sometimes suppressed by presidential political appointees. The article details how NASA scientists dealing with such topics as global warming and the Big Bang are under attack for ideological and religious reasons." The submitter also has a running commentary summarizing a bit of the background of the story on his blog.
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NASA Science Under Attack

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  • by Kranfer ( 620510 ) on Monday February 06, 2006 @08:36AM (#14649877) Homepage Journal
    NASA's Science programs have been under attack since the Mercury missions... First by scientists and such. They were never popular in the science community then. But now being attacked by ideological people? I find this a little disturbing. As science is the search for truth... And me, as a republican, I think science needs to be left alone for the most part. We need to go back to the moon, and on to Mars.
    • by Ihlosi ( 895663 ) on Monday February 06, 2006 @08:53AM (#14649936)
      And me, as a republican, I think science needs to be left ...

      To some other influential republicans, however, science is already too left, and therefore, not right.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      I thought Science was about Fact. Haven't we all learned from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade that truth is to be found down the hall in Philosophy 101?
    • And now you discover why some people (such as myself) who think that socialism is a horrible idea, that government is entirely too large, and that handouts to poor people just make them poorer hate the party you've chosen. The Republican party no longer stands for those values.

      Stop believing in a party and start having some ideals of your own. Measure candidates against your ideals rather than against their party affiliation. Be open to listening to what people are saying about them instead of treating

    • As science is the search for truth...

      Hate to break it to you... science is not the search for truth. That would probably fall under philosophy.

  • The article in full (Score:4, Informative)

    by ben0207 ( 845105 ) <> on Monday February 06, 2006 @08:37AM (#14649884) Homepage
    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.

    Not His Own Words

    Climate Expert Says NASA Tried to Silence Him (January 29, 2006)

    "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."

    The statement came six days after The New York Times quoted the scientist, James E. Hansen, as saying 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.

    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.

    They called or e-mailed The Times and sent documents showing that news releases were delayed or altered to mesh with Bush administration policies.

    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, according to an e-mail message from Mr. Deutsch that another NASA employee forwarded to The Times.

    And in December 2004, a scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory complained to the agency that he had been pressured to say in a news release that his oceanic research would help advance the administration's goal of space exploration.

    On Thursday night and Friday, The Times sent some of the documents to Dr. Griffin and senior public-affairs officials requesting a response.

    While Dr. Griffin did not respond directly, he issued the "statement of scientific openness" to agency employees, saying, "NASA has always been, is and will continue to be committed to open scientific and technical inquiry and dialogue with the public."

    Because NASA encompasses a nationwide network of research centers on everything from cosmology to climate, Dr. Griffin said, some central coordination was necessary. But he added that changes in the public-affairs office's procedures "can and will be made," and that a revised policy would "be disseminated throughout the agency."

    Asked if the statement came in response to the new documents and the furor over Dr. Hansen's complaints, Dr. Griffin's press secretary, Dean Acosta, replied by e-mail:

    "From time to time, the administrator communicates with NASA employees on policy and issues. Today was one of those days. I hope this helps. Have a good weekend."

    Climate science has been a thorny issue for the administration since 2001, when Mr. Bush abandoned a campaign pledge to restrict power plant emissions of carbon dioxide, the main heat-trapping gas linked to global warming, and said the United States would not join the Kyoto Protocol, the first climate treaty requiring reductions.

    But the accusations of political interference with the language of news releases and other public information on science go beyond climate change.

    In interviews this week, more than a dozen public-affairs officials, along with half a dozen agency scientists, spoke of growing efforts by political appointees to control the flow of scientific information.

    In the months before the 2004 election, according to interviews and some documents, these appointees sought to review news releases and to approve or deny news media requests to interview NASA scientists.

    Repeatedly that year, public-affairs directo
    • Login Information (Score:4, Informative)

      by ObsessiveMathsFreak ( 773371 ) <> on Monday February 06, 2006 @08:59AM (#14649952) Homepage Journal
      Or you can get usernames and passwords here [].
    • by mjbkinx ( 800231 ) on Monday February 06, 2006 @09:29AM (#14650060)
      You know, there's this nice service [] to transform NYT links to their RSS pendants which don't require a login. Just as a hint for future submitters.

      Try it. []

  • by the_humeister ( 922869 ) on Monday February 06, 2006 @08:39AM (#14649894)
    The article doesn't mention whether this has happenend in previous administrations. Although I guess I'm not quite that surprised that it is happening now. It's really too bad.
  • Meet George Deutsch (Score:5, Informative)

    by aapold ( 753705 ) * on Monday February 06, 2006 @08:51AM (#14649930) Homepage Journal
    as mentioned in the article, NASA public affairs officer George Deutsch is the one who sent out the memo insisting that the word "Theory" be included with every mention of the Big Bang.

    His memo reads:
    "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." "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."

    Religious issues at NASA. I only wish this were some loony story, but it appears legit.

    Given his young age (twenty four), you might imagine George Deutsch having an impeccable resume. He graduated in 2003 from Texas A&M with a degree in journalism, then in 2004 was an intern in the Bush-Cheney re-election "war room". Here is a link [] to some of his articles he wrote while at the Texas A&M Battalion.
    • by ianscot ( 591483 ) on Monday February 06, 2006 @09:42AM (#14650129)
      Those excerpts were well worth a look. Among the bits from Mr. Deutsch's college career, we get an off-the-wall apologia for the defense team in the trial over Laci Peterson's death. Young Mr. Deutsch buys the satanic cult that framed Scott Peterson. Because, you know, well... "Satanism -- Boo"!

      The position that IDers' "Teach kids the controversy" position was a slippery slope has just been vindicated, again. Deutsch is right, his position is "more than a science issue." No matter what the area of discussion, he's going to bounce things off his religious beliefs. The thing is, his religious beliefs aren't about truth or morality or justice; they're about reinforcing human authority to speak for God with absolute authority. If it's convenient to cast doubt on a murder conviction because it'll fan the spectacular claims of rampant satanic cults running loose in America, so be it. That helps keep the flock in line. Good deal, write it up George.

      In a theocracy, religion gets inserted into every area of life, with the aim being to reinforce the power of those in charge. That's what these people want. They want scientists to be running scared from the local party representative. It's their very own Cultural Revolution, albeit with different idols to worship. And it can happen, even here.

    • by Syberghost ( 10557 ) <syberghost AT syberghost DOT com> on Monday February 06, 2006 @10:21AM (#14650347) Homepage
      But, the Big Bang *IS* a theory. NPOV would require it be referred to as a theory. Wikipedia calls it a theory; are they a tool of the Religious Right?

      I'm an atheist and this doesn't sound wrong to me; it's a theory. What's the big deal in insisting it be called such? Is the truth so damaging to somebody's agenda here?
      • Indeed. What's scary about this, however, is not that it's being labeled as a theory (which it is, along with everything else in science), but that it's being done so for purely religious/ideological reasons. Once you allow such decisions to be made on the basis of anything other than fact, you knock out the support beams of NASA as a scientific agency.
      • by IPFreely ( 47576 ) <> on Monday February 06, 2006 @10:53AM (#14650534) Homepage Journal
        Sure, it's a theory. That's not the point.

        Does the minister of your local church teach the controversy? Or does he teach that ID is right and everything else is wrong? Should he be forced to teach the controvercy and not impose any particular idea?

        A minister of a church can teach whatever idea he wants, including ID, because it is an institution of religious philosophy and that is what they do.

        On the other hand, NASA is an institute of science. What they do there is science research. They will refer to all sorts of scientific ideas there because it is part of their job. Discussing ID is not part of their job because it is not relevent to what they are doing. So they shorthand the word "theory" out for brevity and convenience.

        1. Which institutions should be allowed to stick to their basic reason for existance and be allowed to narrowly focus on that topic (be it theology or research)?
        2. which institutions should be forced to "teach the controvercy" even though it may not be relevent to them?

        Should churches be forced to "teach the controvercy" rather than just teach genesis? Or is "teaching the controvercy" only something the other side should? Should they be allowed to shorten their discussions so they focus only on those aspects that are important and relevant to them?

        I'm not looking for right or wrong. I'm looking for consistency. If you have a rule, apply it the same everywhere, not just where it is most convenient to one point of view.

      • by rjstanford ( 69735 ) on Monday February 06, 2006 @11:06AM (#14650615) Homepage Journal
        I think the main problem here is a conflict between two definitions of the word "theory" - from

        1) A set of statements or principles devised to explain a group of facts or phenomena, especially one that has been repeatedly tested or is widely accepted and can be used to make predictions about natural phenomena.

        This is the one that most people are using when they're talking about things like the big bang theory.

        6) An assumption based on limited information or knowledge; a conjecture.

        AKA guess, hunch, belief. This is the one that ID proponents seem to be using to defend their use of the word. Heck, it confused me when I first encountered the scientific term, but IIRC that was something I learned in school before turning 10, so intentionally misleading people over the definitions is both annoying, and sad in that its so successful.
  • Sad really (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 06, 2006 @08:52AM (#14649935)

    such a young life, wasted

    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."

    you have to feel pity , that such a young person (24) can have have such a magnitude of delusion and be in a position to corrupt others with their issues

    • Re:Sad really (Score:5, Insightful)

      by badfish99 ( 826052 ) on Monday February 06, 2006 @09:08AM (#14649981)
      If you want to go far in politics, you've got to bet on one side or the other. I suppose he thinks that in 30 years time, the US will be a cleric-ridden theocracy, and then he'll be at the top of the tree.

      Given the way things are going, this might be a better way to bet your career at that age, than siding with the left wing.

      • Re:Sad really (Score:5, Informative)

        by vertinox ( 846076 ) on Monday February 06, 2006 @10:53AM (#14650531)
        If you want to go far in politics, you've got to bet on one side or the other. I suppose he thinks that in 30 years time, the US will be a cleric-ridden theocracy, and then he'll be at the top of the tree.

        The bad thing on his part is that he hasn't even done his research on religion. If you read, Stephen Hawking's "Brief History of Time", he talks about how the Vatican in the mid 80's had declared that the Big Bang theory conforms to their doctrine and is the preferable sicentific explanation. Wheras, Hawking had expressed his doubt at one time shortly before this proclamation that there might have not been a singular big bang, but a possible "no begining, no end universe" (which he of course speculates but doesn't really go for) which would make Creationism impossible.

        In fact the Big Bang is almost required for a creationist type of event.
        • The Vatican (Score:5, Insightful)

          by meringuoid ( 568297 ) on Monday February 06, 2006 @11:35AM (#14650815)
          If you read, Stephen Hawking's "Brief History of Time", he talks about how the Vatican in the mid 80's had declared that the Big Bang theory conforms to their doctrine and is the preferable sicentific explanation.

          The Vatican are wise to do so. Big reason: they screwed up horribly over Galileo, they took way too long to catch on to the whole Darwin thing, and they don't want to look like fools again. The Vatican is therefore keen to show the world that religion can coexist with a rational understanding of the universe.

          So: they are interested in scientific research, especially when it treads on ground that used to be exclusively God's. They loved the Big Bang; it's a singular creation event of absolutely enormous glory and power. Relativity and cosmology all come down, in the end, to something not far from Let there be light! No wonder the Vatican are happy. That's a tremendously impressive god, with a fabulous sense of style.

          And how about evolution? How much cleverer of God to set up the system such that life can build itself! And on such a simple principle, too. That's the work of not just an intelligent designer, but a competent one. Much better than the clumsy, cack-handed work of a god who has to do everything himself.

          Now, if you're an ancient religious organisation, planning to still be around and relevant a thousand years from now, isn't this the way you'd go about it? You don't fight against the discoveries made about the world by reason; Augustine understood that. You incorporate them. You show that they're fully consistent with what you've taught all along - if only you take a larger, more enlightened view of things. A view so much closer to God's, don't you think? And how better to understand God than to understand his works?

    • Re:Sad really (Score:5, Informative)

      by Vengeance ( 46019 ) on Monday February 06, 2006 @09:16AM (#14650016)
      You left out the very best part!

      [Deutsch's email] 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."

      Or is that the worst part? It's certainly the scariest.
  • by DingerX ( 847589 ) on Monday February 06, 2006 @08:57AM (#14649947) Journal
    What's going on can be seen in the "refocus on space exploration" mentioned in the article. Relatively speaking, the most expensive part of NASA is manned space exploration, and it is economically the least efficient way to find out about the world around us. Human trips to the Moon and to Mars can tell us plenty of things about those planets that unmanned spacecraft cannot. But they're also hugely expensive, and a lot of that money goes to the massive engineering effort needed to bring the mission about -- read, a lot of money goes into the hands of a few private firms that are on good terms with the Bush administration.

    On the other hand, "scientific research" at NASA is a problem. Here we have a prominent government research facility that does all kinds of research: research that requires large teams, or specialized equipment, or a permanent base beyond what the worlds' research universities can supply. And, unfortunately, much of the information it puts out, particularly in the sublunar spheres, tends to be either insignificant in terms of Lockheed Martin's participation, or contrary to the government's stated policy on environmental issues or the imminent second coming of Christ.

    This administration has exercised tighter control over the bureaucratic aspects of government than any other in recent memory -- just look at what's happening in the State Department, the Pentagon, and the CIA. The one constant has been the apparent demand for "Good News" that corroborates and does not falsify the central administration's gospel. Is it any surprise they'd go after NASA as well?
  • by ursabear ( 818651 ) on Monday February 06, 2006 @09:08AM (#14649980) Homepage Journal
    If indeed the administration and the political glitterati wish to filter what (non-quack) scientists have to tell us, then I believe we are being done a disservice.

    I (very strongly) feel that science should not be seen through the rose-colored glasses of contemporary ideological/religious beliefs. It wasn't too many years ago that excellent medical scientists were treated as village idiots because the scientists' beliefs were not in-line with ideology. Before that, if a scientist had suggested giving processed mold to people with infections, the scientist would have been burned at the stake in some rural village square.

    It is incumbent on the individual to discern whether or not the results of clean, unbiased science has implications on beliefs and value systems. It is not the job of ideologues to decide on our behalf.
  • Stop it, (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Fiachra06 ( 945611 ) * on Monday February 06, 2006 @09:09AM (#14649983) Journal
    Don't NASA have enough to deal with. Any good scientist will tell you that science cannot disprove the existence of God or gods no matter what you discover. Even with the heretical writings of Galileo and Copernicus freely available to all ~90% of the worlds population still believe in a higher order of sprirtuality. There are many reasons to force NASA to do things differently. Religion or ideology should never, ever be those reasons. When will the hardcore religious faithful who try to influence these things realise that science poses no danger to their beliefs. Their actions only perpetuate a growing distaste for religious involvment among so many people worldwide.
    • NASA does have enough to deal with, but political and even religious involvement in scientific research is built into human history. Since early religious interpretation of the stars, used to predict when to plant and when to reap crops, they've been interwoven. When religious leaders make statements about their deity bringing famine to the ungodly, and some smart aleck points out that overgrazing by the local baron's goats have changed the watercourses that supply the farmers, religion and fincance and pol
    • Re:Stop it, (Score:3, Insightful)

      by abb3w ( 696381 )
      Any good scientist will tell you that science cannot disprove the existence of God or gods no matter what you discover.

      True. However, it can disprove (to forensic evidentiary standards sufficient to withstand a court of law) specific items of religious doctrine; EG, that the sun goes around the earth. If your doctrine also claims that the religious leaders can never be wrong, and they've been claiming this for 1600 years, then you have a Problem with science if it provides heliocentric evidence.


  • by Half a dent ( 952274 ) on Monday February 06, 2006 @09:12AM (#14649998)
    For the sake of journalistic balance can we please not refer to God but to "God theory" instead. Thank you.
  • by DoofusOfDeath ( 636671 ) on Monday February 06, 2006 @09:15AM (#14650008)
    For the record, not all religious people ignore empirical evidence. The Bush administration is NOT the thinking Christian's wet dream.
    • I believe in the divine creation of the Universe, and I also believe in the big bang. The idea that such vast (approaching infinity) amount of matter could be produced from a single point of space/time to expand outwards at such a rate as to neither collapse back upon itself (too slow) nor stretch out into nothingness (too fast) but instead develop into planets, stars, comets, galaxies, nebulae, et al is nothing less than the definition of a miracle.
    • The Bush administration is NOT the thinking Christian's wet dream.

      Really, I'm surprised that the religious right has picked this fight at all. There used to be an understanding among both scientists and theologians that science and religion operated in separate realms - Reason and Faith - and that they could coexist peacefully as masters of their own domains. By firing these shots across the border, Religion has broken the truce, and in so doing risks subjecting itself to the scrutiny of Reason in the publ

      • Keep in mind that the Islamic countries of the middle east were once at the pinnacle of science and reason, but now have become theocracies besieged on all sides by modernity. Europe's "Dark Ages" under Christian theocracy put a lid on science for a millenium. Any good arguments why it couldn't happen again?

        It would be materially more difficult to pull it off now.

        When Rome and the Caliphs respectively killed off their science, they had a strong advantage: Knowledge in permanent form was difficult and expen
    • For the record, not all religious people ignore empirical evidence. The Bush administration is NOT the thinking Christian's wet dream

      No, they don't. I think the most useful classification of religious folks came from Dawkins, who characterized thus:

      The know-alls, who ignore empirical evidence, and see scripture as the only valid source of information.

      The know-nothings, who accept empirical evidence, but maintain that when evidence is lacking, any belief is equally valid. This group is in constant r
  • by CyricZ ( 887944 ) on Monday February 06, 2006 @09:16AM (#14650011)
    This is the sort of nonsense that real conservatives should stand up against. I'm talking about the conservatives who share more in common with libertarians, rather than liberals. The sort of people who realize that a strong economy is built around knowledge, which is directly derived from science, regardless of religion. Then again, such people have been purged from the ranks of the Republican Party over the last while.

    • What's ironic about this is that when the Big Bang Theory first became popular, the biggest objections to it came not from religious conservatives, but from liberal scientists. The theory was (at least partially) consistent with the Genesis account of a creation event, and that was philosophically unacceptable. The Steady-State Theory was put forth to refute the notion that the universe has a beginning and to eliminate the possibility that God had anything to do with it.

      Isn't it odd that the current gener
  • by swestcott ( 44407 ) on Monday February 06, 2006 @09:20AM (#14650025) Homepage
    this guy is a hack and defintly has an agenda

    more info on this guy here eutsch.html []
    • by cyclone96 ( 129449 ) on Monday February 06, 2006 @10:55AM (#14650547)
      Disclaimer: I work for NASA.

      The parent is right, he's a hack. This kid's email is being blown way out of proportion here. A 24 year old with a degree in journalism would be laughed out of my office had he those comments to me, I don't care who appointed him. That's true of at least 99% of my coworkers.

      His email was in regards to a web site for kids being made by a contractor that he must be the government monitor for. My guess that his management gave him that to do because as a new guy, it was something where if he screwed up it wouldn't cause too many problems. Like you do with the new guy anywhere else. Although by landing in the NY times they apparently failed in their objective - I'm certain there were a few heart attacks when this story rolled out.

      It's not some systematic, sinister work by the administration - it's a kid who pulled some strings to get his first job, and you are witnessing him screwing up. Big time.
  • by Shihar ( 153932 ) on Monday February 06, 2006 @09:31AM (#14650066)
    After reading the NYT article, I think a lot of this was over blown. Basically the accusations boil down throwing the word theory after big bang, NASA press releases trying to tie absolutely everything to the presidential vision, and earth sciences taking a hit.

    Throwing the word "theory" after big bang is technically the right treatment for the word. It is a theory. It is a pretty damn strong theory, but theory none the less.

    As far as the PR office stuffing a reference to the presidential vision on space exploration in every single press release, while irritating, really isn't much of a crime in my opinion. Press releases are not scientific journals; they are the PR office at work. Part of the PR offices job is to drum up support for various initiatives. Claiming everything under the sun could help the study of other plants is probably technically correct. The NASA earth scientist are really just pissed that they got their work mentioned in the context that it could do something good for the presidential vision. NASA earth science and the rest of NASA have always had a problem with each other. I am not terribly surprised to see them feuding over the wording of press releases.

    As far as earth sciences taking a hit and going under major restructuring, this shouldn't come as a surprise. The president pretty explicitly stated that NASA was to be realigned to focus on manned missions to space. Unsurprisingly, the means cuts in everything unrelated. Now, you might very well disagree with this, but it is certainly not secret sinister plot.

    The only thing "scary" going on that the NYT article brought up is that they let some 24 year old idiot who clearly has no idea what he is doing into NASA's PR office. This "gem" shows pretty clearly that his head is deeply implanted up his ass.

    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."

    Now yes, the big bang theory IS a theory and should e called as such. That said, it isn't called a theory for religious reasons. Further, this fucking moron seems to be under the delusion that the big bang theory is something that religious folks don't like. Most Christians absolutely LOVE the big bang theory as it upset the long held scientific belief that the universe was forever and stats that the universe has a beginning.

    Honestly, I think the news story here is that an idiot 24 year old kid got appointed into a job way over his head and acted like a moron.
  • by ochnap2 ( 657287 ) on Monday February 06, 2006 @09:31AM (#14650067)
    Being non-USian I'm very happy with this kind of things, because it means the start of the decline of USA in science and technology. A few years of this and the table will a little more leveled...


    (Sarcastic mood. Sorry)
    • by seanellis ( 302682 ) on Monday February 06, 2006 @11:13AM (#14650665) Homepage Journal

      Yes! Bring it all back! The inquisition! Clamps on free thought! An end to funding of that eeeevil physics stuff! Public executions of Witches! Decriminalisation of murder of Gays, Heathens and Single Mothers! A theocratic president telling you how to think! The whole enchilada!

      But meanwhile, over here in England, we'll be watching, waiting for the inevitable collapse of your economic and social systems, and then, under the inspired leadership of Good King Harry, we'll load up the warships and TAKE BACK THE COLONIES!

      Pat Buchanan will be promoted to Court Jester! New York will be renamed Chittingfold-on-Sea! Tea will be the only drink available in Boston! Everyone in Florida will be forced to wear knotted hankies on their heads and complain about the heat! Automobile production lines will be retooled to build Morris Minors! Beer will be served at slightly above room temperature! The decimal currency system will be replaced with a sensible system using mixed base-12 and base-20 arithmetic! Bowler hats will be available on the National Health!

      Land of Hope and Gloryyyy, Mother of the Free....


      Sorry about that. We now return you to your regular programming...
  • by lheal ( 86013 ) <lheal1999@yahooS ... com minus distro> on Monday February 06, 2006 @09:45AM (#14650145) Journal
    "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."

    I know the group-think is that Mr. Deutch is out of line, a right-wing religious political hack. And that's accurate, I think.

    On the other hand, "The Big Bang is a theory, like relativity. It's there because it explains something in a workable way, until someone comes along with something better. That needs to be noted in NASA's work if we want to be credible." Deutch should have said that, but he didn't. Anyone attending a scientific conference knows that the Big Bang is a theory.

    The real trouble isn't trying to balance NASA's coverage of the origins of the universe, but editing the individual works of other people. It's one thing to edit a web site, but it's over the line when you start editing conference presentations.

    • by LMCBoy ( 185365 ) * on Monday February 06, 2006 @10:28AM (#14650394) Homepage Journal
      We cannot ignore that the word "theory" is widely misunderstood outside the scientific community, where it means something closer to "wild guess" or "stab in the dark" than a rigourous, well-tested hypothesis that is almost certainly correct, or close to correct.

      This yahoo's attempt to insert "theory" after "Big Bang" in press releases is not out of want for scientific rigor; it is the point of a very disturbing wedge, one whose ultimate goal is a society in which everything is subservient to theology, even the physical sciences. We are sliding down the slippery slope, toward Sagan's Demon-Haunted Land.

  • by AngryNick ( 891056 ) on Monday February 06, 2006 @10:08AM (#14650280) Homepage Journal
    Time and time again, history has shown that mixing science with politics or religion (which is often politics cloaked in a form of "righteousness") always results in pure evil.

    Because societies hold those in the sciences with great regard, it only makes sense that politicians and governments in need of substantiation cling to them. Scientist, in turn, are often willing participants in the symbiotic relationship, feeding off the money and influence that flow from the bosom of the rich and powerful. This isn't limited to politics; it happens in pharmaceuticals, educational institutions, the food industry, and nearly every other human endeavor that requires smart people to prove something right or wrong and announce their findings.

    It is difficult to consider any science independent if its existence is funded by purveyors of mind control, greed, or world domination. I wish there were a way for science to be funded without the overarching control of the funding organization, but we all know that's just not going to happen. Therefore, we must challenge every conclusion by looking at it from different perspectives and "funding models", be it other governments, democrat/republican funding, different religions, etc.

    I consider myself religious and somewhat political, but I will never ask my preacher what I should blindly think about evolution or fully embrace un-reviewed science from a government entity.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 06, 2006 @10:22AM (#14650354)
    All I ever wanted to do when I was growing up was to be a scientist and to make a positive contribution to mankind's knowledge and to society at large. In many ways, I was a success in pursuing these goals. I spent eight years working at a major national laboratory while I pursued my Ph.D. I went on to become a professor at a major university. I published papers and I released free software---some of which was even used in the field of astronomy. I thoroughly enjoyed teaching. I even had NSF funding for my work.

    However, all of that changed with the selection of the Bush regime. First and foremost, I simply couldn't believe that my fellow citizens would elect someone like this (hell, even Reagan looks moderate by comparison). Rational thinking certainly suffered a huge blow with that one. Since then, all I have seen is an administration increasingly under the influence of intolerant Christian fanatics and frankly, I'm not even sure if it's limited to just the administration. Everywhere I look, I see people turning to religion and superstitition. If it isn't evangeligal Christianity, then it's a bunch of new-age hocus pocus and astrology. Even in my own family, I have become an outcast as other members of the family have turned to various forms of religion. The fact that the administration is trying to manipulate scientific results is only icing on the cake---and not at all surprising. One thing is certain though---science is under attack everywhere I look.

    Sadly, all of this has really made me re-evaluate why I went into science in the first place. I will always love science, but what actual incentive is there for doing it anymore? The administration attacks it and my fellow citizens would rather build churches than support it. At some point, you just reach a point where you have to ask yourself "why am I working so hard to help these people and *this* society?"

    In my case, I didn't have an answer. I often thought of ways I could voice a dissenting opinion. Do I protest? Do I write articles? Do I send money? Do I sell out? Do I stay and fight? If I take a stand, will anyone be listening? Or will they just continue shouting at each other? In my case, I quietly withdrew into myself. I stopped publishing and I stopped caring about everything I had worked so hard to achieve. In the end, I could not reconcile my desire to help mankind with my unwillingness to help a society largely populated by hostile religious fanatics. Thus, I simply left my academic position and dropped out of science altogether. To hell with it, "the people are going to get what they deserve in the end" I thought.

    Today, I'm still interested in science, but it's mostly just a private affair--I keep it to myself and underground. Mostly, I'm waiting to see what happens with the next few years. Maybe the pendulum will swing back to the left and we'll return to some level of sanity. If that happens, I might consider re-entering public service. If things keep going as they are though, I'll probably just pack it up and leave altogether. It was fun while it lasted---I guess.

    I suppose that many will say that "dropping out" is not a solution. I would largely agree with that, but I'd also add that I think everyone has a breaking point. I certainly reached mine and did what I felt I had to do to maintain my sanity. On the other hand, maybe this is how the administration really intends to kill science. I just don't know.

  • Move to Australia. (Score:3, Informative)

    by dsmatthews ( 866278 ) on Monday February 06, 2006 @10:33AM (#14650412) Homepage Journal
    Finding that things are getting a bit silly at home? Immigrate to a better society.

    Big brains and open minds are welcome in Victoria, Australia and we don't suffer from the extremes of religiosity that divide so many other places.

    We don't have the huge budgets of some countries, however the CSIRO still does world class science. on []

  • by CmdrGravy ( 645153 ) on Monday February 06, 2006 @10:49AM (#14650510) Homepage
    "The big bang theory" is a technically correct way of referring to the big bang theory and "The big bang fact" would technically be incorrect.

    However being forced to add the word theory to every mention of the phrase "big bang" provides no real benefit in delivering clear and understandable explanations of scientific discoveries or ideas. Simply using the phrase "big bang" does not give anyone the false impression we are discussing an absolute fact, you would hope most people would be educated well enough to have at least some grasp of the underlying science and the way language is used and be able to avoid jumping to incorrect conclusions.

    Instead you would have to suspect that anyone advocating this policy has an ulterior motive and in this case the muppet involved has been so kind as to outline his motive for us. Surprisingly from someone who would seem to be in a position where he was supposed to help scientists present their work clearly and coherently to the public he is instead more concerned with pushing his own private religious agenda than the job he is, presuambly, supposed to be doing.

    I don't know the guy but already I don't like him. Whether I like him or not is irrelevant however, I think there is enough evidence here of him abusing his position for him to do the honourable thing and resign, or be fired.
  • See a trend here? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HangingChad ( 677530 ) on Monday February 06, 2006 @11:00AM (#14650582) Homepage
    Puts Arabian horse manager in charge of FEMA, hilarity ensues when the first big disaster strikes.

    Puts political fund raisers in charge of Corporation For Public Broadcasting because a politically independent organization just can't be trusted to be unbiased.

    Puts Haliburton in charge of Iraq reconstruction. We're still there, the electricity still doesn't work very often.

    Puts 24 year old campaign worker in charge of PR at NASA. ROFL! If it wasn't so creepy and pathetic it would be funny.

    Ignorance and incompetence. The only question is how much more damage we'll take before 2008? As a Republican I'm joining with independents and Democrats to run all these fuckers out of office, then, hopefully, we can start engaging in meaningful discussions during the years we're going to spend cleaning up the mess that's going to be left behind.

  • by Hosiah ( 849792 ) on Monday February 06, 2006 @11:06AM (#14650621)
    From []:

    Galileo also was warned by a Pope not to inquire too deeply into the nature of God's creation. Using a telescope, which he had constructed, Galileo had been able to confirm by observation that Copernicus had concluded correctly that the earth orbits the sun, and not the opposite as had been assumed during the dark ages.

    But the Church had difficulty in accepting pluralism in Galileo's time. In 1542 Pope Paul III created The Holy Roman and Universal Inquisition. This institution was authorised to interrogate, if necessary by torture, and prosecute people for heresy. Galileo was never tortured, but in 1633 he was shown the instruments of torture twice.[ii]

    As a result of his treatment Galileo recanted his support for Copernicus, and so avoided such torture on the rack, which might well have physically disconnected his mind and brain from his body. He was allowed to retire to his villa where he died a virtual prisoner in 1642. Sir Isaac Newton was born on Christmas Day the same year.

    The trial and conviction of Galileo sent a warning to scholars across Europe. It was unsafe to study the handiwork of God by direct observation, and doubly unsafe to draw inferences from such observations.

  • by payndz ( 589033 ) on Monday February 06, 2006 @11:24AM (#14650738)
    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.

    In other news: NASA announces that per Presidential order, its new sole mandate is 'to carry men closer to the heavens, that they may touch the face of their Creator'.

    So, can we expect just another two years of this creeping stupidity and madness... or another six? Or ten? Or...

  • (Note: I'm not affiliated with CafePress or -- this is a genuine suggestion...)

    Why not bop over to CafePress [] and send a Flying Spaghetti Monster mug to George Deutsch? You can get his contact information with "finger", but I'll list it here. Please don't send anything obnoxious. On the other hand, Mr. Deutsch sounds like a man who could use a few dozen Flying Spaghetti Monster mugs (or perhaps a "This mug holds coffee and pisses off Jesus" mug or two).

    name: gdeutsch
    George Deutsch
    postal address: NASA Headquarters
        300 E ST SW
        Washington DC 20546-0001
    postal code: 20546-0001
    room number: Building: HQ, Room: 3C54
    surname: Deutsch
    telephone: +1 202 358-1324
    title: Public Affairs Officer, Science Mission Directorate
  • by sjames ( 1099 ) on Monday February 06, 2006 @11:43AM (#14650875) Homepage Journal

    If it wasn't such a serious problem, I would find it amusing the way the right-wing loonies under Bush are so actively borrowing ideas from Chairman Mao. It's unfortunate that the social and economic axies have been conflated in the U.S. Most of the Soviet and Chinese abuses that trouble Americans are related to their authoritarianism rather than their leftism. The only real difference is that Mao's religeon was Communism.

    The Republican party is slowly but surely becoming just as authoritarian as those hated leftist bogeymen. Taking the average of republicans in power and Democrats in power on a 2D graph, the republicans are closer to Stalin and Mao than the Democrats. Of course, with the current anti-terrorism terror within the U.S. government, many of the Democrats seem to be trying hard to close that gap.

    Of course, Leftism was always a red herring in U.S. politics. The Authroitarians in the U.S. have always assigned the name 'Leftist' to the authoritarian abuses that Americans find truly abhorrant meanwhile painting themselves as their opposite while truly opposing only their economic policies.

    It would seem that the days of Republicans pushing for a smaller government that stays out of people's lives is a relic of the past.

  • by neurogeek ( 824576 ) on Monday February 06, 2006 @01:05PM (#14651545)
    In 1986, the space shuttle Challenger was launched in freezing weather conditions. Engineers suggested that the materials used for the booster rockets would not perform properly at these temperatures. Indeed, evidence suggested that failure was narrowly avoided in previous launches at temperatures between 40 and 60 degrees Farenheit. Nevertheless, NASA administrators insisted that the launch go on. It has been suggested that the pressure to launch was greater because the school teacher aboard was to speak during the President's State of the Union address that evening.

    Six astronauts and one school teacher died.

    This account is based on a chapter in "Visual Explanations: Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative" by Edward R. Tufte, in which evidence from the Congressional hearings on the Challenger accident is presented.
  • by Enrique1218 ( 603187 ) on Monday February 06, 2006 @01:10PM (#14651597) Journal
    I not surprise by this. The administration survives by its ability to control the flow information to the public and relies on spin heavily. George Bush is a walking diaster but with spin at worst he looks like an average president. His administration backed out of Kyoto and deregulated several industries with respect to emission guidelines all the while spouting that global warming needs more study. Now, it would not look good on his part if NASA says global warming is a reality and its getting worst. So, politicians tone down anything that gets to the press and leans on anyone that will leak any contradiction. All the while, the winters are warmer, the hurricanes are getting stronger (remember New Orleans), and energy costs are skyrocketing (I guess the deregulation savings don't get passed on to the consumer).
  • by StefanJ ( 88986 ) on Monday February 06, 2006 @01:21PM (#14651729) Homepage Journal
    Commissar^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^HMr. Deutch's activities are exactly what one would expect from a Wedge Strategy devotee who has found himself in a position of power.

    You know what it is, the "Wedge Strategy?"

    The social consequences of materialism have been devastating. As symptoms, those consequences are certainly worth treating. However, we are convinced that in order to defeat materialism, we must cut it off at its source. That source is scientific materialism. This is precisely our strategy. If we view the predominant materialistic science as a giant tree, our strategy is intended to function as a "wedge" that, while relatively small, can split the trunk when applied at its weakest points. The very beginning of this strategy, the "thin edge of the wedge," was Phillip ]ohnson's critique of Darwinism begun in 1991 in Darwinism on Trial, and continued in Reason in the Balance and Defeatng Darwinism by Opening Minds. Michael Behe's highly successful Darwin's Black Box followed Johnson's work. We are building on this momentum, broadening the wedge with a positive scientific alternative to materialistic scientific theories, which has come to be called the theory of intelligent design (ID). Design theory promises to reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions.

    This is from a document, put together by the Discovery Institute, called "The Wedge Strategy": []

    The wedge document is several years old now. If a new version was produced, the accomplishments section would now include:

    • Successful takeover of executive branch of federal government.
    • Positioning of our cadres in government research organizations.

  • by sycomonkey ( 666153 ) on Monday February 06, 2006 @01:46PM (#14652029) Homepage

    Having people prove you wrong isn't persecution.

    Having people hunt you down and kill you because of what you believe, is. Since this hasn't happened to christians in america, ever, at all, I think it's time the other members of my faith started shutting up and showing their faith and values through the most effective means of all: by example.

    I feel most of us feel the same way, but the few of us that are loudly calling for the derailment of everyone who thinks differently, they are by far the loudest voices.

    The key is to ignore them.

    • While you may be right about those few loud voices, it is a big mistake to ignore them.

      While you are ignoring those few loud voices, other are listening and believing. Those loud voices are gathering adherents and getting louder and stronger. One day, you may wake up to find that those voices are no longer the few but the many and they have taken over.

      Ignore those voices and one may wake up one day in the United Christian States of America, where religous freedom is extended to all who believe in Christ, ab

Time to take stock. Go home with some office supplies.