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Wednesday, February 15, 2021

Think the culture war over Intelligent Design concerns only the topic of evolution? Think again: By extension, governmental mentions of long-accepted astronomical theories like the Big Bang now come with qualifications.

Last week my colleague Andrew Revkin reported that a 24-year-old NASA political appointee with no scientific background, George C. Deutsch, had told a designer working on a NASA Web project that the Big Bang was “not proven fact; it is opinion,” and thus the word “theory” should be used with every mention of Big Bang.

It was not NASA’s place, he said in an e-mail message, to make a declaration about the origin of the universe “that discounts intelligent design by a creator.”

In a different example of spinning science news last month, NASA headquarters removed a reference to the future death of the sun from a press release about the discovery of comet dust around a distant star known as a white dwarf. A white dwarf, a shrunken dense cinder about the size of earth, is how our own sun is fated to spend eternity, astronomers say, about five billion years from now, once it has burned its fuel.

“We are seeing the ghost of a star that was once a lot like our sun,” said Marc Kuchner of the Goddard Space Flight Center. In a statement that was edited out of the final news release he went on to say, “I cringed when I saw the data because it probably reflects the grim but very distant future of our own planets and solar system.”

An e-mail message from Erica Hupp at NASA headquarters to the authors of the original release at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said, “NASA is not in the habit of frightening the public with doom and gloom scenarios.”

Never mind that the death of the sun has been a staple of astronomy textbooks for 50 years.

It may seem surprising, but in terms of ID theory, it makes perfect sense. If the creator theory holds for the development of life on Earth, it should hold for the creation and development of the universe. If anything, it only makes ID’s underpinnings in creationism/Bible studies even more transparent.

In which case… It might eventually undermine Intelligent Design’s whole argument. As long as it was limited to just the always-hot evolution debate, it could have drawn modest popular support. But once it’s applied to less controversial areas of scientific inquiry, it might be harder for a wider audience to keep the faith in ID as an all-inclusive scientific theory.

Hopefully, all this conspires to give the ID crackpots enough rope with which to hang themselves. Then they can start working on the next iteration of sugar-coated pseudoscientific claptrap, while everyone else is content to keep their faith and their science separate.

- Costa Tsiokos, Wed 02/15/2006 09:45:34 AM
Category: Politics, Society, Science | Permalink |

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