02/05/2006: And from the front lines of the Rethugnican war on science....
A week after NASA's top climate scientist complained that the space agency's public-affairs office was trying to silence his statements on global warming, the agency's administrator, Michael D. Griffin, issued a sharply worded statement yesterday calling for "scientific openness" throughout the agency.Quoth Josh:
"It is not the job of public-affairs officers," Dr. Griffin wrote in an e-mail message to the agency's 19,000 employees, "to alter, filter or adjust engineering or scientific material produced by NASA's technical staff."
The statement came six days after The New York Times quoted the scientist, James E. Hansen, as saying he was threatened with "dire consequences" if he continued to call for prompt action to limit emissions of heat-trapping gases linked to global warming. He and intermediaries in the agency's 350-member public-affairs staff said the warnings came from White House appointees in NASA headquarters.
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.
They called or e-mailed The Times and sent documents showing that news releases were delayed or altered to mesh with Bush administration policies.
In October, for example, 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.
And in December 2004, a scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory complained to the agency that he had been pressured to say in a news release that his oceanic research would help advance the administration's goal of space exploration.
It's not just evolution that's beyond the pale anymore. Bush administration campaign flacks are making NASA employees put the word 'theory' in front of references to 'big bang' in NASA publications. Lucky we can still talk about dinosaurs.The thing that has me at a slow simmer whenever I think of this is the duplicity of the PR types who misuse the word "theory" in support of their nefarious ends.
It sounds broad brush but facts, empiricism really have become an issue of the day.
This is best seen in some of the ID debates, and basically, they get away with it because of the scientific ignorance of the general public.
In common, non-technical parlance, "theory" is used as a synonym for speculations ranging from "hypothesis" to "wild-assed guess": "My theory is that Timothy Treadwell was a paranoiac with delusions of both gradeur and persecution." Something that's not necessarily supported by facts or observations, and not really worthy of being taken seriously.
However, in strict, scientific usage, a theory is something that is much, much more than a guess. The Wikipedia entry on "Theory" summarizes the scientific meaning quite well:
In scientific usage, a theory does not mean an unsubstantiated guess or hunch, as it often does in other contexts. Scientific theories are never proven to be true, but can be disproven. All scientific understanding takes the form of hypotheses, or conjectures. A theory is in this context a set of hypotheses that are logically bound together (See also hypothetico-deductive method).However, when ID proponents say that evolution is "just a theory", or creationists in the bAdministration force NASA webmasters to modify references to "the Big Bang" so they read as references to "the Big Bang theory", they're pandering to the scientific ignorance of the average American, who's likely to be bamboozled into thinking, "Evolution/the Big Bang is just a theory? Well then obviously it doesn't have much going for it...."
Theories are typically ways of explaining why things happen, often, but not always after their occurrence is no longer in scientific dispute. For example, "global warming" refers to the observation that worldwide temperatures seem to be increasing. The "theory of global warming" refers instead to scientific work that attempts to explain how and why this could be happening.
In various sciences, a theory is a logically self-consistent model or framework for describing the behavior of a certain natural or social phenomenon, thus either originating from or supported by experimental evidence (see scientific method). In this sense, a theory is a systematic and formalized expression of all previous observations made that is predictive, logical, testable, and has never been falsified. [emphasis supplied --LRC]
Placed in this context, Bush's calls for more math and science teachers, and a greater emphasis on math and science education in his State of the Union message is almost laughable. It's clear from the actions of his bAdministration underlings that the last thing he and his Religious Right "base" want is a greater understanding of mathematics and science by the American public. God forbid that the sheeple start thinking, and thereby realize what pathetic foolishness Fundagelical Christianity is....
Len on 02.05.06 @ 11:46 AM CST