On the Death of George A. Keyworth: “You are a lunatic.”

The death at 77 of George Keyworth, Ronald Reagan’s “science advisor” from 1981 to 1985, recalls the roots of today’s anti-science zeitgeist in the Republican Party and farther reaches of American right-wing politics. Keyworth was the epitome of the technically educated but politically clueless rube, who rose from toiling at Los Alamos as a protege of loathsome Edward Teller to flacking for the most scientifically illiterate President of the 20th century. As chief huckster for the science-fictional Star Wars antimissile program, he turned his back on scientific facts in order to endorse his boss’s fantasies. Hedrick Smith’s account of the genesis of Reagan’s March 23, 1983, speech that launched the program quotes an aghast Secretary of State George Schultz bellowing at Keyworth you are a lunatic after reading his draft of the announcement. That should serve as an epitaph for a scientist whose expertise fell far short of speaking truth to power.

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