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Creation's Tiny Mystery
Chapter 6: Reaction from the National Science Foundation

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Inquiry by a Member of Congress—1977 Proposal

My interview with the news magazine Christian Citizen (Melnick 1981) prompted an individual to contact his U.S. Congressional Representative about the NSF handling of my 1977 proposal. The correspondence between the Congressman and the NSF was forwarded to me.

The NSF gave what appears to be a misleading account of my situation. The first letter, dated June 1982, and addressed to Robert Walker, Representative from Pennsylvania, was written by Francis Johnson, Assistant Director of the Division of Astronomical, Atmospheric, Earth, and Ocean Sciences. It reads in part:

Mr. Anderson is correct when he states in his letter that Dr. Robert Gentry is the world's leading authority on the observation and measurement of anomalous radioactive haloes. Because of his recognized capabilities, Dr. Gentry's research was funded by the Foundation during the early 1970's. In 1977, however, a proposal presented by Dr. Gentry was declined. . . That action was based upon the recommendations of six of his peer scientists, who found that the proposal did not measure up to either Dr. Gentry's earlier standards, as evidenced by his previously successful proposals, or to the standards of the Foundation. . . . (Johnson 1982; Appendix)

This letter implies that all six reviewers gave negative evaluations of the 1977 proposal, when, in fact, four reviews were actually positive. (The two negative ones focused on my superheavy element research.) It also suggests a decline in the standard of my research. How did the NSF determine that this proposal "did not measure up to" my earlier standards or the standards of the Foundation? Usually the NSF takes the publication record during the preceding grant period as a prime indicator of whether an investigator is making progress in his research. Three reports were published during the 1974-76 grant period, and after the rejection of my 1977 proposal, five additional scientific reports were published in the next five years. Thus as far as my scientific publications were concerned, there certainly had been no decline in my standards. Moreover, the words, "Dr. Gentry is the world's leading authority on the observation and measurement of anomalous radioactive haloes," are in the present tense. If, by the NSF's own admission, [p. 83] I still had that reputation at the time Johnson wrote the letter (June 1982), then my research after 1977 did continue to maintain the standards of my earlier endeavors. And if the NSF classifies someone as an authority in his field, doesn't this imply he has met the Foundation's "standard" of scientific merit?

Representative Walker was not given the full picture. By withholding copies of my correspondence with Dr. Todd, Johnson glossed over the NSF's discriminatory treatment of my proposal. But more to the point, if my appeal letter had been sent to Walker, he could have seen that the NSF avoided responding to my evidences for creation.

To find out if Johnson's failure to send my appeal letters was inadvertent, I called him around July 28, 1982, and pointed out that, in all fairness, his correspondence with Walker left a distinctly erroneous impression. He responded that he was under no obligation to send my appeal letters and drew the conversation to a close. In his letter Johnson assured Walker that the NSF would "be pleased to review and evaluate a proposal from Dr. Gentry at any time. I assure you that any submission will be given a fair, honest and open appraisal by his peers and that if they judge his ideas as worthy of support, he will be funded" (Johnson 1982; Appendix).

The issue is what standard will be used to judge whether my ideas are "worthy of support" or not? If scientific credibility hinges upon whether the data support evolutionary ideas, then obviously my research would not measure up to the "standards" of the NSF.

Inquiry by a Member of Congress—1979 Proposal

After hearing me speak at the June 1982 meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Santa Barbara, another citizen wrote to his Congressional Representative about my funding difficulties with the NSF in 1979. Johnson again responded on behalf of the NSF, writing to Representative Robert J. Lagomarsino of California as follows:

. . . Only about half of the proposals we receive can be funded. Criteria used are stated in our booklet "Grants for Scientific and Engineering Research" (NSF 8 1-79, copy of relevant page enclosed). The holding of unorthodox scientific views is not a barrier to the receipt of NSF support, and the best evidence for this is the fact that during the 1970's NSF funded several of Dr. Gentry's proposals including one for $54,900 for the study of "Nuclear Geophysics of Radiohalos."

[p. 84]

Please reassure your constituent that NSF funding decisions are based on well-identified criteria and that Dr. Gentry's views have not been a barrier to his receiving NSF support. (Johnson 1983; Appendix)

Johnson cites my previous grants as evidence that the NSF was fair about my earlier proposals. However, he omits relevant information about them: the previous NSF support was given during the early 1970's, a time when the implications of my work for creation were not realized by the scientific community at large.

The creationist implications of my research were published more forthrightly just before and during the periods in which my proposals were refused—in 1977 and 1979. Scientists who had given tentative support to my work in the early 1970's began to give up their hopes that I would discover a conventional explanation of polonium halos in granites, and their attitudes shifted significantly. As one reviewer of the 1979 proposal wrote, "I have previously supported the need for (Gentry's) unorthodox interpretations as a challenge to the rest of the scientific community. Lately, I have concluded that newer, independent efforts are required. . ."

So my experiences show that, contrary to Johnson's words, the publication of "unorthodox scientific views" about creation science did indeed present a "barrier to the receipt of NSF support," once its reviewers understood the issues.

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