Not all Republicans join “War on Science”

Because this blog entry is a continuation of two earlier entries relating to climate change, I’ve listed it under “Energy and Environment.” However, it also relates to my comments about Chris Mooney’s thesis that there is a “Republican War on Science,” in “Media and Entertainment.”

In an article in the February 5, 2006, Washington Post, entitled “NASA Administrator Calls for Openness in Statement to Staff,” Christopher Lee reports that NASA Administrator Michael Griifin has responded to a request from NY Republican and House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood L. Boehlert “to respond to charges by its most senior climate scientist that the agency had tried to keep him from speaking out about global warming.”

Lee quotes the following from a January 30 letter from Boehlert to Griffin: “Good science cannot long persist in an atmosphere of intimidation. Political figures ought to be reviewing their public statements to make sure they are consistent with the best available science; scientists should not be reviewing their statements to make sure they are consistent with the current political orthodoxy.”

Griffin’s response has begun with an e-mail to NASA employees that said, in part: “We have identified a number of areas in which clarification and improvements to standard operating procedures of the Office of Public Affairs can and will be made. The revised policy, when complete, will be disseminated throughout the agency.”

Clearly, Boehlert is one important Republican who has decided not to participate in what Mooney continues to characterize (with good reason) as a “War on Science.”

Unfortunately, he is up against many other Republicans in postions of power (and some misguided Democrats in congress as well) who continue to undermine science through rhetorical tricks. An example of that, according to Andrew Revkin in the February 4 issue of the New York Times, is an October, 2005, e-mail message from George 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. [James] Hansen’s public statements.”

Revkin reports that “an official at NASA Headquarters” told him that 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 article goes on to quote Mr. Deutsch, who wrote, in an appalling display of ignorance about the process of scientific inquiry, that the Big Bang is “not proven fact; it is opinion. 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.”

It appears that Republicans like Rep. Boehlert–indeed, all politicians who care about the integrity of science–have their work cut out for them. So do those of us who elect them. Living in Pennsylvania, I’ll have my opportunity to speak out against one of the worst offenders, Senator Rick Santorum, in the coming months.


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5 thoughts on “Not all Republicans join “War on Science””

  1. …can fill libraries. Of course that is true of all of us, so I am not joining the chorus of disdain for him.

    Here’s the sad thing, in my opinion: He still needs to learn that when you have dug yourself into a hole, the first step to getting out is putting down your shovel.

    But he’s only 24. There’s hope for him yet. That’s the last you’ll hear from me on this subject.

    Fred Bortz — Science and technology books for young readers (www.fredbortz.com) and Science book reviews (www.scienceshelf.com)

  2. Seems that Mr Deutsch is unaware of the expanding universe which can be electromagnetically traced back through time to a location in space.

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