Talkin' trash to the garbage around me.

08 February, 2006

Theories and opinions

NASA climate scientists finally had enough of a political flunkie telling them what they could or could not say. And not just any political flunkie, but one George C. Deutsch, who slithered his way into NASA's PR office by lying about - are you ready? - graduating from college.

Typically, your educational background is listed at the top of your resumé. So pretty much, young Mr. Deutsch lied from the get-go on his way to being appointed by the president for this post. Makes you wonder what else he fibbed about on the old job application, eh? Moreover, it makes you wonder about who is vetting these people - they've allowed some piss-poor appointees slide through, even by the most corrupt standards of cronyism. But I digress.

Here's what Mr. Deutsch, the holder of one high school diploma, had to say of his colleagues at NASA, many of whom happen to be, you know, rocket scientists:
The Big Bang is "not proven fact; it is opinion," he instructed one person working at NASA. "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."
Breathtaking in its arrogance and stupidity, isn't it?

Josh Marshall distills this incident down to its high ABV essence in this post at TPM:
Deutsch told the NASA guy that the Big Bang was not a "proven fact", which is certainly true. But in no meaningful sense is it mere "opinion."

It's not just some idea someone thought up which stands on an equal footing with any other idea anyone else could cook up. Among cosmologists today, it's the dominant theory about how the universe began. It is based on various theoretical work (which I won't try to understand or explain) and supported by a lot of astrophysical data.

The theory could turn out to be wrong. And it will almost certainly end up being revised in one or more ways. But it is not 'opinion'.

It's worth taking note of the word choice because it captures the mix of obscurantism and relativism which has characterized all the Bush administration's attitude about science and, really, pretty much all empirically based knowledge -- something we discussed at length here.


The Bush Administration's War on Science is threatening to relegate our nation's youth to the dark closet of ignorance. In Mr. Deutsch's case, they appear to have already succeeded.

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