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Big Bang Brouhaha

NASA official quits after ordering change to science materials.

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A NASA public-affairs officer ordered that materials for middle school students on the agency’s Web site—which discuss the most prominent theory of the origin of the universe—be revised so as not to offend religious perspectives.

The public-affairs officer, George C. Deutsch III, has since resigned from the agency.

The New York Times reported Feb. 4 that Mr. Deutsch told a Web designer hired by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to make revisions to the Web site material.

Mr. Deutsch, 24, said in an Oct. 5 e-mail obtained by TheTimes that “it’s 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,” his message continued. “And I would have to think that young people would only be getting one-half of this debate from NASA.”

After learning about Mr. Deutsch’s e-mail, NASA Administrator Michael D. Griffin released a memo, stating, “It is not the job of public-affairs officers to alter, filter, or adjust … scientific material produced by NASA’s technical staff.”

Mr. Deutsch has also been accused by NASA’s top climate scientist of curtailing the scientist’s contact with the news media.

Mr. Deutsch, a political appointee at NASA, was an intern in the 2004 Bush-Cheney re-election campaign.

The Big Bang theory—which holds that the universe expanded rapidly from a hot, dense state 14 billion years ago—will be used in developing the National Assessment of Educational Progress in science for grade 12 in 2009.

“The Big Bang is a theory, and so is gravity,” said Jay B. Labov, the senior adviser for education at the National Research Council’s Center for Education. “There is a tremendous amount of evidence to support [the Big Bang].”

NASA officials and Mr. Deutsch were unavailable to comment for this story.

Vol. 25, Issue 23, Page 22

Published in Print: February 15, 2006, as Big Bang Brouhaha

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