NASA administrator Charles Bolden in an interview with Al Jazeera, tells us all we really need to know about the Obama administration:
“When I became the NASA administrator — or before I became the NASA administrator — he charged me with three things. One was he wanted me to help re-inspire children to want to get into science and math, he wanted me to expand our international relationships, and third, and perhaps foremost, he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science … and math and engineering.”
This administration truly resembles a Saturday Night Live skit more than it does any prior administration. Three priorities for NASA? I would have thought of some other things: 1. Replacement for the shuttle for orbital missions; 2. Setting up a moonbase; 3. Setting a goal of landing on Mars by 2020.
My guess is that Bolden will be thrown to the wolves. He certainly seemed to be a lousy head of NASA even before his inept interview. However, the problem is not Bolden but rather the man who appointed him.
My favorite living historian, Victor Davis Hanson, weighs in here with some comments about the beyond parody Bolden interview:
OK—if it is a correct transcription, here are four off-the-top-of-the-head problems with this nonsense:
1) NASA is supposed to launch rockets and other craft, study space, and travel above the atmosphere. Its duties, especially at a time of budget restraints, are not to make any one “feel good,” much less “the Muslim world.” (e.g., why not “the Latin American world” or “African world”?).
The “Muslim world,” I think, feels pretty good about itself; in contrast, I fear we in the West apparently do not. (e.g., so far no Muslim leaders that I know are reaching out to the West to assure us that they both respect Western civilization and want to emphasize their admiration for our culture).
I wouldn’t mention the “Cairo initiative.” Bad idea. That was the most embarrassing speech given by an American president in a decade. Last June Obama misled his audience on nearly every “fact” presented, from the absurdity of Muslims in Cordoba supposedly serving as beacons of tolerance during the Inquisition (there were essentially no Muslims in Cordoba by that time), to the assertion that Muslims helped to jump start the Renaissance and Enlightenment (when in fact, flight from, or reaction against, Islam in the eastern Mediterranean had far more to do with both European intellectual awakenings). An early 15th-century Greek scribe fleeing the steady year-by-year Ottoman advance toward Constantinople, bringing with him a manuscript of a previously unknown Greek author, or Romantic Enlightenment thinkers like a Lord Byron writing of the need for a Greek revolution against the Turks, is not a sign of an Islamic pedigree for Da Vinci or Voltaire. Wait — maybe the president meant that attitudes toward Islam, as in fear of Islamic absolutism, helped to foster these two intellectual movements?)
2) Worry not, Gen. Bolden, about Muslims and space. Relax — soon there will be an intercontinentally-delivered Iranian bomb. The Syrians like space — otherwise they would not be testing Scuds. And not long ago, Dr. Khan did his best to make Muslims acquainted with the potentials of nuclear energy released in the stratosphere. Where did this idea originate that Muslims are not interested in space? Was it an article from Rev. Wright’s newsletter (e.g., “Pastor’s Page”) that suggested the Jews had new bombs that could detect Arabs — a sophisticated “ethnic bomb”?
3) It is beyond the power in 2010 of even Gen. Bolden to change the Islamic history about and attitudes toward science. To read of Ottoman scientific investigation between 1500 and 1900 is to learn of real trepidation among any Muslim scientists challenging the “authority” of the Prophet, by claiming near divine knowledge about the way things work, whether at work on lighthouses or munitions. There is a reason Dr. Khan went to the West to learn bomb-making rather than to Libya or Yemen — and it had nothing to do with the failures of the West to remind Muslims of their glorious scientific past.
4) Once more, no worry, Gen. Bolden: we know you support “diversity” and wish to make the other feel good about himself. Otherwise you would not be at NASA. But al Jazeera? These were the guys that broadcasted the snuff videos of beheadings and, in Iraq, always seemed, strangely, to be right on the scene with cameras just as American Humvees were at the opportune moment blown into the sky by massive IEDs. Al Jazeera, in other words, is antithetical to everything NASA used to be.
Oh well, if NASA under the Obama administration will not do much about real space exploration it certainly has made a cool game about it: Moonbase Alpha!
Update: Rats! Apparently the game isn’t even that cool according to a review of it here.