Right Opinion

Bridenstine to Lead NASA? Why Not?

Cornwall Alliance · Sep. 25, 2017

By Bill Mundhausen

President Donald J. Trump recently nominated Rep. James Bridenstine (R-OK) to lead NASA.

Science Magazine promptly raised two objections. First, Bridenstine rejects climate change alarmism. Second, he’s a politician, not a scientist.

Professional advocates for science should come up with more substantive analysis. Reason, not ideology, should rule.

Let’s consider climate change.

NASA’s mission is pretty much the antithesis of that of the climate change movement.

Climate change alarmists would ratchet back mankind’s use of energy and technology to reduce our impact on the planet.

NASA’s mission is advancing technology through space exploration. That involves burning lots of fossil fuels not only as direct rocket fuels but also to generate electricity to make liquid hydrogen fuel. A NASA director who accepted climate alarmists’ goals might never launch another rocket.

During its earlier years, some might have construed part of NASA’s mission statement to support climate research. But NASA removed the phrase “to understand and protect the home planet” in 2006.

NASA’s mission is space science, not climatology. This is not to say a director can’t take an interest in climate research, but it’s not his job. It’s not directly relevant to space exploration.

The objection that NASA can’t be led by a politician is equally wrong.

The agency’s source of direction and funding is very political. NASA has always had credentialed scientists, but they haven’t been able to get funds to advance space exploration. A leader with political savvy is exactly what NASA needs.

Beyond that, Bridenstine is an advocate for science. He was the executive director of the Tulsa Air and Space Museum and Planetarium. He is a member of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee.

That Bridenstine isn’t a scientist can’t be the Science editors’ real objection. Only three of NASA’s 20 past administrators were scientists — 15 if you include engineers. But climate alarmists are loathe to do that. Why? Because engineers, including some retired NASA engineers, are prone to question climate alarmism.

So, does Bridenstine’s skepticism about climate alarmism disqualify him?

We depend on science to do what science does best — perform disciplined research and pass the results to decision-makers. Actual climate scientists try to do that. But science journalists fail to report the continuing controversies. They perpetuate the myth of an overwhelming consensus. The myth is not just that climate changes or that humans contribute to climate change (so far so good). It is that humans’ contribution will be catastrophic but can be averted by policies that cost trillions of dollars (not so good).

Bridenstine recognizes that myth for what it is. Far from disqualifying him, that’s one of his best qualifications.

Bill Mundhausen, chairman of the Orion Center science museum in Camdenton, MO, is a contributing writer for The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation.

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