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February 6, 2006


As you’ve all probably heard, a furor has erupted about yet another wingnut political Appointee, a certain George Deutsch, a 24-year old Press Officer at NASA, who took up the vital task of putting the secularist astrophysicists in their place

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.”
(emphasis added)

I have only a couple of things to add to the fine discussions going on elsewhere.

  1. Yes, Big Bang Cosmology is a Theory. A very well-established Theory. Just like Quantum Electrodynamics is a Theory, Plate Tectonics is a Theory and (yes) Evolution is a Theory.

    I don’t care if you don’t believe in Quantum Electrodynamics. Really. And it’s fine with me if you feel it more theologically-congenial to believe that færies blow the continents around, like soap bubbles in the bath.

    Just don’t presume to tell me that these are the subjects of legitimate controversy and that we, as scientists, need to tread lightly. And don’t expect me to listen respectfully, while you expound on the Færie Theory of Continental Drift.

  2. Stop calling it “The Big Bang Theory.” Nobody calls it that. Makes you sound like a rube.

Update (2/7/2006): Deutch Resigns from NASA

Not, apparently, because he’s a political hack and a scientific ignoramus. But because he lied on his resumé.

As NASA’s top Climate Scientist says,

He’s only a bit player,” Dr. Hansen said of Mr. Deutsch. “He’s amusing because he goes to these extremes, but the problem is much broader and much deeper and it goes across agencies. That’s what I’m really concerned about.”

“On climate, the public has been misinformed and not informed,” he said. “The foundation of a democracy is an informed public, which obviously means an honestly informed public. That’s the big issue here.”

But, in this instance, I guess we’ll take what we can get.

Posted by distler at February 6, 2006 8:53 AM

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Re: Rubes

Not to mention the heliocentric theory and the germ theory of disease.

Or what about number theory and tennis theory? If there is tennis theory, then maybe tennis is just a theory.

Posted by: Greg Kuperberg on February 6, 2006 11:02 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Rubes

Posted by: Bryan on February 7, 2006 5:08 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Too dumb for College Station

Ha ha!

Y’know, I deliberately decided to avoid the “dumb Aggie” angle of the story. Seemed unnecesarily petty. But it turns out I “misunderestimated” Mr. Deutsch.

Which is yet another manifestation of DeLong’s Law:

The Bush Administration is worse than you imagine possible, even after taking into account that they are worse than you imagine possible.

Posted by: Jacques Distler on February 7, 2006 5:29 PM | Permalink | PGP Sig | Reply to this

Re: Rubes

It is amazing that a 24-year-old college dropout could dictate NASA policy from the public affairs office. It is like the most powerful man in the military in Catch 22: ex-PFC Wintergreen in the mail division.

Posted by: Greg Kuperberg on February 8, 2006 1:41 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Milo Mindbender

Where is Joseph Heller when we need him?

Posted by: Jacques Distler on February 8, 2006 2:05 AM | Permalink | PGP Sig | Reply to this

Re: Milo Mindbender

That should be Milo Minderbinder, who was only slightly less powerful than ex-PFC Wintergreen. :-)

Posted by: Greg Kuperberg on February 8, 2006 2:31 AM | Permalink | Reply to this


Hell, even electromagnetism is a Theory. It postulates charges on microscopically tiny particles that noone has ever seen. But will any Just A Theory People stick their fingers in a socket?

Posted by: Aristotle Pagaltzis on February 8, 2006 6:28 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Rubes

I am sure you are all shocked to hear this, but the George Deutsch affair is getting little mention in the Right Wing blogosphere. All I’ve found so far is one measly post that provides the expected linguistically ignorant defense of Mr. Deutsch. Just pathetic.

Posted by: Evan on February 8, 2006 12:13 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Cannon fodder

Sad, I agree. Until you realize that they have battalions of little George Deutsch’s running around. They can afford to sacrifice a few to enemy fire.

What I wonder is: what will this particular George Deutsch’s next sinecure be?

Posted by: Jacques Distler on February 8, 2006 12:34 PM | Permalink | PGP Sig | Reply to this

Re: Rubes

On climate, the public has been misinformed and not informed, he said. The foundation of a democracy is an informed public, which obviously means an honestly informed public.

Yeah… like honestly telling them that green science is anti-ideologically motivated crap!

Posted by: island on February 8, 2006 12:51 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

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