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"Science Is Respected and Protected and Highly Valued..."

This is from a New York Times story on openness at NASA:

In October... 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...

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 [and who was a] 2003 journalism graduate of Texas A&M.

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 Deutsch memo was provided by an official at NASA headquarters who said he was upset with the effort to justify changes to descriptions of science by referring to politically charged issues like intelligent design. Senior NASA officials did not dispute the message's authenticity.

Mr. Wild declined to be interviewed; Mr. Deutsch did not respond to e-mail or phone messages. On Friday evening, repeated queries were made to the White House about how a young presidential appointee with no science background came to be supervising Web presentations on cosmology and interview requests to senior NASA scientists.

The only response came from Donald Tighe of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. "Science is respected and protected and highly valued by the administration," he said.

The wrongheadedness of this is difficult to measure. In fact, it's exactly NASA's place "to make a declaration such as this about the existence of the universe," given that such a declaration is supported by overwhelming scientific evidence and has the support of the vast majority of the scientific community. Were NASA to do anything else, it would in fact be making this a religious issue.

What's next? NASA press releases giving equal space to the Big Bang, Intelligent Design, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster?

(Now that I think about it, though, were the scientists at JPL to give their press briefings in pirate regalia (FSM adherents find it offensive to teach their beliefs while dressed any other way), it would probably increase their viewing audience.)

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