You are here

Creationist interference at NASA?


Creationism emerged as a subsidiary theme as allegations of political interference with climate science at NASA were in the news. In a story in The New York Times (January 29, 2006), Andrew Revkin described climate scientist James E. Hansen's allegations that "officials at NASA headquarters had ordered the public affairs staff to review his coming lectures, papers, postings on the Goddard Web site and requests for interviews from journalists." In passing, Revkin mentioned a recently appointed public affairs officer at NASA headquarters named George Deutsch, who reportedly rejected a request from a producer at National Public Radio to interview Hansen on the grounds that NPR was "the most liberal" media outlet in the country and that his job was "to make the president look good."

In a subsequent story in the Times (February 4, 2006), Revkin reported, "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." Among these appointees was George Deutsch, described by the Times as "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." Deutsch "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."

In his e-mail message, Deutsch wrote that the Big Bang is "not proven fact; it is opinion," 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." Revkin added, "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."

Deutsch resigned from NASA on February 7, 2006, the same day that Texas A&M University, where he claimed to have received a degree in journalism, confirmed that he in fact did not graduate. The question of Deutsch's degree was apparently first investigated by Nick Anthis, a recent graduate of Texas A&M who runs The Scientific Activist blog; Anthis told the Times (February 8, 2005) that "It seemed like political figures had really overstepped the line. I was just going to write some commentary on this when somebody tipped me off that George Deutsch might not have graduated." Hansen, for his part, suggested that Deutsch represented only the tip of the iceberg of the administration's political interference with science: "The problem is much broader and much deeper and it goes across agencies. That's what I'm really concerned about."