Saturday, January 22, 2005

Bush Allows Hubble to Die: Threat to Creationists?

As reported today , the Bush Administration intends to cut funding to repairs to the Hubble telescope. As noted by Reuters:
The Bush administration plans to propose cuts in funds to fix the aging Hubble Space Telescope, a U.S. official said on Saturday, as the head of the telescope project said he hoped Congress would approve money for repairs.

This decision goes against the National Academy of Sciences who studied the Hubble problem. As reported:
A panel of experts assembled by the National Academy of Sciences to study the Hubble service issue said in a report issued on Dec. 8 that the space telescope was too valuable to science to be allowed to die in orbit. Concluding that the robotic option posed too many unknown challenges and might not be ready in time, the panel recommended that NASA send astronauts to repair Hubble as previously planned.

Dr. Louis J. Lanzerotti of the New Jersey Institute of Technology, the panel chairman, said on Saturday that he was surprised to hear that the Hubble mission might be cut. "The committee concluded that Hubble was one of the outstanding space science achievements of the United States and, with upgrades and servicing, could continue to contribute enormously to science," Dr. Lanzerotti said

One of the accomplishments, among many, has been to help scientists understand the age of the universe. This seemingly non-controversial research is described:
Though previous Hubble research sets the age of the universe at 13 to 14 billion years based on the rate of expansion of space, the universe's birthday is such a fundamental and profound value that astronomers have long sought other age-dating techniques to cross-check their conclusions. "This new observation short-circuits getting to the age question, and offers a completely independent way of pinning down that value," says Harvey Richer of the University of British Columbia, Canada.

Who could have a problem with that? Well if you are a fundamentalist "young earth creationism" believer, well that would simply contradict with your basic faith. As described:
The young earth creationist firmly maintains that Genesis chapter one is a literal, historical document that briefly outlines God's creative activity during six literal twenty-four hour days. If one assumes that the genealogies of Genesis chapters five and eleven represent a reasonable pre-Israelite history of the world, then the date of creation cannot be much beyond thirty thousand years ago.

And how does our President view evolution and creationism? Basically as being two equally worthy theories. As was related during the 2000 election campaign:
Texas Gov. George W. Bush, the GOP front-runner, believes both evolution and creationism are valid educational subjects.

"He believes it is a question for states and local school boards to decide but believes both ought to be taught," a spokeswoman said.

Thus, science efforts like the Hubble may be viewed as some sort of sinful Tower of Babel, as humans seek to study the universe and in that way somehow take a closer look at God himself.

As one Christian website, critical of the Hubble states:
The Hubble is perhaps one of the greatest scientific achievements of our time. However, one must remember the primary reason we are funding NASA and the space exploration effort - to prove that evolution is true! For all the advertising about the military, communication, medical and technological spin-off benefits derived from the space program, the single biggest reason we are in space is to prove evolution true. Consider the reason given for funding Hubble in the first place. We were going to be able to "see" back in time across the universe to the very beginning, perhaps even to be able to see the remnant of the Big Bang itself.

As one fellow blogger wrote about the threat to the Hubble from creationists:
They do not really support our space program because the facts evolving from that research might threaten their religious views of the timeline and method of Creation. It would not surprise me if the Hubble telescope's proposed demise is a result of Fundamentalist pressure on the White House.

And is it because we just don't have the money? To give one perspective, recall again the amount this nation is spending on the Iraq conflict. As summarized by Bloomberg last week:
The U.S. spent $102 billion through Sept. 30 on the invasion and occupation of Iraq, with costs averaging $4.8 billion a month, the Pentagon comptroller's office said today.

In 1993 the Space Shuttle serviced the Hubble telescope successfully. Certainly with advances in technology since 1993, a trip to the Hubble would be safer than ever.

And with our nation capable of spending $1.2 billion/week in Iraq alone, we could find the $1 billion for a peaceful scientific effort to save this telescope.

What about John Kerry? Kerry has supported NASA and has been critical of cuts to its budget that have threatened Hubble. As reported:
Kerry said that the most immediate impact of the Bush plan is that NASA’s resources are being stretched “even further than they were before the Columbia tragedy,” forcing NASA to make unpopular choices like canceling a space shuttle mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope. NASA is currently seeking industry proposals for servicing Hubble robotically, but space agency officials have made clear that the highest priority of such a mission is attaching a module to Hubble that can be used to guide the space telescope safely into the ocean at the end of its life.

We needed John Kerry in 2004. We need a President who believes in the pursuit of Science and not its restriction whether it be by limiting Embryonic Stem Cell research, or turning off the view to the far ends of the Cosmos. John Kerry has the vision to lead our nation and make the right decisions for our future. If not in 2004, then in 2008!



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