The Sciences

People at NASA must be breathing a sigh of relief…

Bad AstronomyBy Phil PlaitFeb 10, 2006 5:46 AM


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

... because now that George Deutsch doesn't work there any more, the patently ridiculous things he said today on a Texas radio show (in four parts: 1, 2, 3, 4) don't reflect badly on NASA. I better stop here and once again reiterate that what I am writing here is my own opinion, based on the evidence presented. I don't speak for anyone but me. People at NASA, at my workplace, my friends, family, passersby and pets may hold their own opinions independent of mine. Remember now, for those of you who have forgotten what has happened in the past two days (allow me torefreshyourmemory), that Deutsch resigned shortly after it became clear that his resume did not accurately reflect reality. He said he graduated from Texas A&M, but in fact he never got his degree. His defense?

"When I left college," he said, "I did not properly update my résumé. As a result, it may appear misleading to some. However, I was up front with NASA about my undergraduate status when they hired me."

Think this through, fellow BABloggers. You have not yet graduated college. You are offered a job. You give them your resume. Remember, you have not yet graduated college. Does your resume say you graduated? No, it won't. It'll say you're still in college. After you graduate, you update it to say you graduated, not before. So if he gave them a resume that was "not properly updated", then why did it say he graduated? We know his resume said that; someone at NASA provided it to Andrew Revkin, the New York Times reporter who broke this story. When I was finishing graduate school, I was applying for jobs. On my resume, I had something like "PhD in Astronomy, 1994 (expected)". I remember quite clearly writing that, to make sure people understood I was close to finishing my degree. So I have some experience here. If I had it written on my resume that I had graduated before I really had, I would have been lying. Of course, the fact that Deutsch didn't have a degree is not the real issue here. The real issue is the culture of scientific suppression and distortion being fostered politically in this country. But this particular post is about Deutsch. I'll tackle the greater issue later. So I ain't buying that claim about his resume. But he has so much more to sell!

What I said about intelligent design did not affect the presentation of the Big Bang theory in the subsequent Einstein Web story. This is a very important point, because I have been accused of trying to insert religion into this story, which I was not trying to do.

I certainly never accused him of trying to "insert religion" into the web site, when he told the author to put the word "theory" in every time the Big Bang was mentioned. I said he was motivated to do that due to his religious beliefs about Intelligent Design, a non-scientific ideology which is antithetical to science. His own email about this makes it very clear: "[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." He was allowing his religion to motivate his decisions about how science should be taught. That's a big no-no. Our Constitution makes that clear, and Judge Jones reiterated it after the Dover trial. Next! Talking about Jim Hansen, the global climate researcher he is on record as trying to stifle, he said:

What's sad here is that there are partisan ties of his, all the way to the top of the Democratic Party. And he's using those ties, and using his media connections, to push an agenda, a worst case scenario agenda of global warming... and anybody who is even perceived to disagree with him is labeled a censor and is demonized and vilified in the media, and the media of course is a willing accomplice here.

Did I say my irony gland exploded a few posts back? I must have been wrong, because what was that huge bang I just felt in my head? This guy is claiming someone else has partisan issues? Let me remind you, we have a 24-year-old college undergrad with no apparent relevant science or public affairs experience, given the post of Public Affairs Officer at NASA, again apparently on the basis of working for Bush and Cheney during the 2004 campaign. If he had some actual qualifications for the job, they have yet to surface. And he's trying to smear Hansen on politics. Wow. He goes on to say

The interesting thing, is that [there] is no evidence for censorship...

Maybe he should read a NYT article written by Revkin (a story which increasingly seems to be writing itself), which says that several scientists have come forward with evidence that they were censored: "They called or e-mailed The Times and sent documents showing that news releases were delayed or altered to mesh with Bush administration policies (emphasis mine)." Oops! And yet, Deutsch isn't finished:

... what you do have is hearsay coming from a handful of people who have clear partisan ties and they're really coming after me as a Bush appointee and the rest of the Bush appointees, because this is a partisan issue.

Well, we actually have emails Deutsch sent, and documents from scientists, but forget about those for the moment. What's more important is the idea that Deutsch is claiming he's in trouble due to politics. Well, duh. But apparently it hasn't occurred to him that it's his politics that landed him where he is. When asked "Was it NASA policy or Bush policy to make scientific opinions in line with creationism or certain ideals?" he says:

It has never been NASA policy or Administration policy to insert religion into any science. At all. Period. I have never been told to censor science, to squelch anything, or to insert religion into any issue.

Of course, that doesn't mean Deutsch didn't censor, squelch, or insert. It just means he was never told to. That doesn't change the fact that he was politically and religiously motivated, and there's evidence he censored and squelched. And as far as religious injection goes, I covered that already. On the radio show, he was asked about why he resigned.

I resigned of my own volition. I resigned because I was unhappy with the negative media publicity I was getting... I wasn't happy with the negative media publicity NASA and NASA PR was getting, which I felt was wholly unfair.

Actually, the NYT article, the articles by Nick Anthis, and of course my own, have been scrupulously fair to NASA (though Anthis does lay some blame on NASA for letting Deutsch do what he did-- this is certainly debatable, but hardly "wholly unfair"). We understand this political appointment was foisted on them. I cannot speak for Revkin and Anthis, but I know I don't hold NASA responsible for Deutsch or his actions. I hold him responsible, 100%. I find all this sad, infuriating, and maybe just a little bit funny (in an outrageous, satirical sort of way). And exasperating. I thought this would blow over today, but evidently Deutsch can't resist reloading after shooting himself in the foot. I'm glad he's gone from NASA. They have enough on their plate at the moment without having to deal with Deutsch's claims. Mr. Deutsch, if you read this: you did this to yourself. You can try to blame Dr. Hansen as much as you want, but playing the politics card shines a big light on what you yourself did, and your motivations behind it. You can try to sell it, but I'm not buying. And I don't see a whole lot of others folks reaching for their wallets, either.

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

1 free articleSubscribe
Discover Magazine Logo
Want more?

Keep reading for as low as $1.99!


Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

To The Magazine

Save up to 70% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2022 Kalmbach Media Co.