David Coppedge Trial: 01 Apr ’12

No, our title doesn’t mean this post is an April Fool’s joke. But it’s a delightful coincidence that today is the first time in more than a week that we’ve found a news article about the suit filed by David Coppedge, the creationist who claims he was wrongfully demoted (and later fired) by his employer because he was promoting Intelligent Design (ID) on the job. As you recall, he used to work as a computer technician for Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which is part of Caltech. He also maintains a creationist website: Creation-Evolution Headlines — which was recently moved here.

Our last post on this subject was David Coppedge Trial: 23 Mar ’12. That was at the end of the trial’s second week, and we announced that because of the absence of news coverage we were abandoning our efforts to post daily about what we had thought would be an interesting courtroom contest. Since then there hasn’t been a thing in the news — literally nothing. Until today.

In the Whittier Daily News of Whittier, California we read JPL, former employee fight over religion in science. Alas, that paper is owned by Media News Group, and their owners like to sue bloggers who excerpt their content without permission, using an outfit called Righthaven LLC. They’ve run into problems with their litigation lately, but we still avoid newspapers we know are associated with them. Therefore, all we can do is give you the general idea of their story, and we can also repeat a few of their direct quotes from others. To learn more you’ll have to click over there to read the story for yourself.

The newspaper quotes a couple of people from the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), who say the intelligent things we’d expect of a pro-science organization, and then they quote John West (whom we affectionately call “Westie”). He’s one of the neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute‘s creationist public relations and lobbying operation, the Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids, a/k/a the cdesign proponentsists).

Westie is not only a Discoveroid “senior fellow,” he’s also Associate Director of the Discoveroids’ creationist “think tank,” which consumes almost half of the Discovery Institute’s’ $4 million budget (see Their 2007 Tax Return). That makes him one of the chief Keepers of their wedge strategy.

The newspaper quotes two sentences spoken by Westie, and we think it’s safe to copy those:

“What happened to David Coppedge, that’s not a free society.”

And he also said this:

“Science is supposed to be open to discussion.”

Apparently responding to that, the newspaper quotes NCSE’s Robert Luhn as saying:

“We are not teaching alchemy side-by-side with chemistry.”

Then the newspaper quotes Westie again:

“The fact that the other side won’t engage in debate and will engage in ad hominem shows you that how weak the other side’s argument must be.”

That’s amusing stuff, and it’s especially appropriate for today, but upon reflection we realize that the article is utterly void of news about what’s been happening in the courtroom. We don’t know a thing about the third week’s activities — it’s as if that week never happened.

So there you are. Now you’re as up-to-date as we can make you. And please, dear reader, we have a request. In your comments, don’t copy anything from that newspaper.

Addendum: We found an actual news article! In the La Cañada Valley Sun we read Fired JPL worker’s skills questioned. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

A Jet Propulsion Laboratory manager offered testimony this week that appeared to undermine the claim of former JPL worker David Coppedge that Coppedge was let go from the rocket science lab because of his belief in the intelligent design of the universe.

[…]

On Thursday, JPL manager Greg Chin laid out the specific complaints that he addressed with Coppedge prior to Coppedge’s dismissal in 2011.

Aha! So that’s why the Discoveroids have been so quiet lately. Here’s more:

Chin said Nick Patel, who replaced Coppedge as the informal “team lead” for the information systems support office on NASA’s Cassini mission to Saturn, had reported, “There were several sloppy mistakes other [administrators] had to fix.”

Chin also said a client complained that Coppedge failed to keep accurate records of off-site backup data, which could have caused a delay in retrieving information and did require extra cleanup work.

Hmmmm. Somehow, we don’t think this is helpful to Coppedge’s case. Let’s go on:

William Becker, the attorney representing Coppedge, began his cross-examination of Chin by asserting that the March 2009 meeting had as much to do with beliefs about the origins of the universe as it did with work-related tasks.

“You two had a disagreement as to what was a personal belief and what was a scientific fact,” Becker said. “And you didn’t want to hear his views about [intelligent design] in that meeting.” Chin said that was true, but the meeting was about workplace conduct.

One last excerpt:

Chin is scheduled to take the stand again Monday.

There’s more in the article, so click over there to read it all.

Copyright © 2012. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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16 responses to “David Coppedge Trial: 01 Apr ’12

  1. The Whittier Daily News also reports that Josh Youngkin, a DI attorney, is assisting Becker in the case. We’ve long suspected that the DI was providing legal assistance, perhaps financially as well as personnel-wise. However, I was under the impression that Luskin was on the case, and the article suggests that it’s Youngkin and not Luskin who’s actually doing the legwork for the DI.

  2. Jack Hogan

    That article was written by J Brian Charles, the guy who was tweeting about the trial when it fist began and who was in the courtroom during some of Coppedge’s testimony. He wrote an article or two at the start of the trial for the Pasadena Star-News.

    He does not seem to have anything new to report. There’s nothing new about the trial on his twitter feed either.

  3. We just added an addendum to the post about a real news article we found. The trial really was in session last week, and it was about testimony that didn’t help Coppedge’s case.

  4. The Brian Charles story stated that there were 21 witnesses left to call – and from what I’ve read so far they must be exclusively on the defense side. If Coppedge loses, which seems almost certain, the cost of the trial in legal fees will be greater than the combined total of the settlements that they DI regularly touts as “victories” for ID viewpoint discrimination. They will be in a net loss position in their legal war against the real world. I look forward to seeing how they will spin that…

  5. Tomato Addict

    I found a few Creationist blogs reposting accounts of Becker’s questioning and crowing loudly about victory. Any description of JPL’s cross-examination was conspicuously absent.

  6. Tomato Addict says: “I found a few Creationist blogs reposting accounts of Becker’s questioning and crowing loudly about victory.”

    Yes, Big Science is going down.

  7. Klankclopper’s opinion on the testimony of the HR rep was totally hilarious and in keeping with Never-Held-A-Job Dave’s ignorance about how companies work. The Klunker laments that the HR rep failed in her investigation because she didn’t even ask the interviewees about their religious backgrounds and possible biases.

    Oh, yeah, that would be a sweet conversation.

    HR: So, Doc, tell me about your religious beliefs and any animus you have against Mr. B.Z. Body’s religion.

    Doc: Uh, we really need to have this conversation in your manager’s office with my lawyer present.

    Srsly, Klankbanger doesn’t know the first thing about Supervisor 101 which is what you can and cannot discuss with an employee or even a person interviewing for a job.

    Also hilarious is Becker’s line of questioning that Chin didn’t want to hear about Coppedge’s softball team.

    Chin: Coppy, you need to shut your pie hole about softball! You’re driving everyone crazy!

    Coppy: Wait, wait! Let me just tell you what the umpire did on Saturday. You won’t believe it!

    Chin: No, I don’t want to hear about anything. You need to STFU, dude!

    Coppy: Well, this umpire was blind as a bat. I mean glasses THIS thick!

    You know, Becker should have contracted me to write his screenplay. I would have done a much better job.

    As for the articles in LaCanada and Whittier, meh, just filler – with the exception of one point. The fact that the DI has their in-house lawyer assisting Becker is significant. The DI never gets directly involved in this stuff. This is a new small step.

  8. Ceteris Paribus

    @Doc Bill: “The fact that the DI has their in-house lawyer assisting Becker is significant. The DI never gets directly involved in this stuff. This is a new small step.”

    “Never” is a bit too broad. According to Barbara Forrest, the DI was deeply involved in the Kitzmiller v Dover case, but dropped their involvement when it turned out the CSC attorneys and the Board attorneys could not play nice with each other in regard to some of the witnesses the CSC was providing for the defense. As Forrest explains “They [the DI] were scared to death of a case they had not initiated and could not control.”

    You can read Forrest’s account here:

    http://www.csicop.org/specialarticles/show/vise_strategy_undone_kitzmiller_et_al._v._dover_area_school_district/

  9. The DI instigates deeply but seldom follows through. Throughout Kitzmiller they denied encouraging the board even though their lawyer consulted with the board early on.

    In Kitzmiller there was no involvement by CSC legal beagles. The experts lined up by Thomas More Law, at the last minute, wanted their own separate counsel which left TML in the lurch and they balked at that idea. The DI experts then vamoosed on their own accord.

    The DI also didn’t lift a finger to help Thomas More Law in defending the case. They only wanted to protect their own from perjury! In fact, later they denied any involvement which was caught out in a lie.

    Younkin is the first DI stooge I’ve heard of to actually sit in court and be named as “assisting” counsel. So in this instance the DI is directly involved and paying Younkin to assist. It’s the first time I’m aware of that they’ve done this openly.

    Of course, the DI wins no matter the outcome for old Coppedge. They either get bragging rights or another Expelled. It’s probably worth a few hundred grand either way.

  10. Ceteris Paribus

    @Doc: Those details comport with Forrest’s account of the DI in Kitzmiller. So combining the DI’s observed behavior in Kitzmiller and Coppedge the take away is this:

    In Kitzmiller the DI was unable to be in a position to both initiate and control the trajectory of events, so went back home. In Coppedge they have managed to accomplish their goal.

    And since the very basis of theocracy is to have the sole authority to initiate and control public policy, the DI is behaving exactly as we should expect an organization of theocrats to behave

  11. I think the DI hoped they would get a quick settlement from JPL for an obviously frivolous lawsuit but got stuck when JPL balked. “Eviloutionist Persecution Costs Money – Again!” would have been the headline.

    The first suit was so unbelievable as to be unbelievable. Coppedge sued for “demotion” from a non-existant position having suffered no loss in grade or pay. My contention is that the DI egged him on to sue promising to support him. At that time Coppedge knew about the impending layoffs (announced some years earlier) and probably knew he was low port on the network router. Coppedge and the DI were probably absolutely gleeful at that fulfilled prophesy.

    Unfortunately, the DI has managed to introduce “intelligent design” into the reporting of the case and it hasn’t been helpful to see headlines along the lines of, “NASA scientist fired for promoting intelligent design,” none of which, of course, is true.

    Even if the suit gets thrown out the actual testimony will get buried under propaganda, just as Judge Jones predicted and articulated in his written decision on Kitzmiller. Also unfortunate is that the DI will parlay Coppedge into a Christian persecution narrative eagerly lapped up by gullible and ignorant state politicians who will continue to promote “academic freedom” bills and so forth. Grrrrr.

  12. West: “What happened to David Coppedge, that’s not a free society.”

    But what happened to Chris Comer is?

  13. John West comments on the Coppedge case on some christian radio show:

    [audio src="http://podcasts.moodyradio.org/IntheMarketwithJanetParshall/2012-03-27_In_The_Market__hour_01.mp3" /]

    It starts at 9:00 min.

  14. It is hard to believe this trial is still going on. It is not like somebody died. It is inconceivable to me that a victim of downsizing can have grounds for a lawsuit. Poor performers and troublemakers usually get the ax and that is how it should be. It is sad that evolution is still controversial. It this guy was going around shilling DVDs about the existence of leprechauns and getting in people’s face about it that would there even be a trial at all?

  15. Well, sparc … that’s an incredibly balanced treatment of the trial and its related matters … NOT!!

  16. Tomato Addict

    Troy: “I[f] this guy was going around shilling DVDs about the existence of leprechauns and getting in people’s face about it that would there even be a trial at all?”

    Well sure, the Blarney Institute would be all over that.