David Coppedge Trial: It’s Over!

The trial has ended in 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.

After yesterday’s worthless AP story which was repeated about 100 times around the world, we finally have something different. In the Whittier Daily News of Whittier, California we read Closing arguments conclude in JPL evolution case.

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.

They say that closing arguments have ended and that the lawyers don’t expect a decision before June. Okay. They also describe Coppedge as “the onetime head of the Cassini mission to Saturn.” Can journalism get any worse?

Actually, it can. Let’s visit 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).

They posted this article at their blog yesterday, and the title alone tells the story: Ignorance Isn’t Bliss: Coppedge’s Accusers Don’t Understand Intelligent Design.

The Discoveroid article purports to quote trial testimony of JPL witnesses who “admit” that they don’t know much about intelligent design, never read a book about it and don’t intend to, but they think it’s a religious doctrine and they have no interest in watching DVDs or learning anything about it. The post concludes with this:

If all this testimony is correct, it seems that David Coppedge was surrounded by people at JPL who were opposed to ID, were sure ID was a religious viewpoint, but also knew next-to-nothing about intelligent design and had no interest in studying it. And each of these people quoted here were individuals who either complained about David and/or authorized his demotion and ultimate termination. For David Coppedge, ignorance isn’t bliss — especially when it’s the ignorance of hostile coworkers.

What a nightmare for Coppedge! He was surrounded by people who were hostile to ID, yet … they didn’t understand it!

You know what that reminds us of? Many years ago there was a cartoon in the Saturday Evening Post of a featureless but apparently middle-aged gentleman seated at a bar, speaking with an also featureless but very leggy showgirl. Classic setup. The caption was: “Your wife doesn’t understand you? What is there to understand?”

While you’re pondering what that has to do with anything, we’ll be searching for more news. Stay tuned to this blog.

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

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26 responses to “David Coppedge Trial: It’s Over!

  1. SC said: “He was surround by people”. Did you mean “surrounded”? And “while your pondering”. Did you mean “you’re pondering”?

  2. The DI “report” seems rather incomplete. After all, we expect that JPL questioned its witnesses regarding Coppedge’s “manner of discussion,” shall we say. Yet the DI shares no such information here. Did JPL’s counsel decide to forego those lines of questioning? Did they forget about it?

    Things that make you go “hmmm” …

  3. Gary says: “Did you mean …”

    Yes, both times. I posted in haste. Thanks for spotting that stuff. All fixed now.

  4. The cartoon you described is a perfect analogy for ID… That’s great!

    The Daily News story has the huge gaff about Coppedge being the head of the Cassini mission, but on the positive side also has a few stingers about ID. The writer clearly equates ID and creationism, and calls attention to the DI’s involvement in the case. It’s a pretty good story compared to most.

    Mr. Anonymous at ENV apparently has the Rodney Dangerfield perspective about ID. Well deserved, of course. However, his argument about whether or not Coppedge’s co-workers understood ID is beside the point – Coppedge had no right to harangue them about ID, or any other subject, if they did not want to hear it. They have no obligation to “understand” ID. It’s also a bit of delicious irony that the anonymous ENV writer is trying to make the case that people erroneously thought ID was religion when the person making the ID case to them was a particularly zealous evangelical christian. What else would they think?

  5. Not much new in the article. It was written by the same guy who said he was in the courtroom for a couple of days at the start, Brian Charles.

    Now that it is over, I have a few questions.

    Can Coppedge get hit with JPL’s legal fees if he loses? I’m assuming he can be and that he will lose.

    Will JPL now start talking about this publicly? I’m guessing they may not, so as not to give Team Coppedge more publicity and an opportunity to debate the trial in public.

    When will trial transcripts become available? This is what I am most interested in.

  6. ID in a nutshell…

    Look at those complex molecular machines and processes. They could not have evolved. A supernatural entity had to have zapped them into existence.

    Classic creationism in a nutshell…

    Look at the giraffe, the platypus, etc. They could not have evolved. God had to have zapped them into existence.

    Huge difference, right? How could anyone think ID is a form of creationism? /s

  7. Jack Hogan asks: “Can Coppedge get hit with JPL’s legal fees if he loses? … Will JPL now start talking about this publicly? … When will trial transcripts become available?”

    I donno about fees. Usually the answer is no, unless a statute specifically allows them for the kind of case involved. I agree that JPL may never talk. As for transcripts, there are court reporter’s notes, but transcripts are almost never made because of the cost, so there probably won’t be any unless there’s an appeal.

  8. Poor David…..why didn’t those at JPL people “get it”?
    Logic ,,,jeez.
    Will

  9. JPL or at the very least NCSE (sp?) might talk in this case in order to have some counter publicity or at the very least some internet record for counter publicity.

    If there was a normal employment lawsuit I don’t think anyone would say anything. However I don’t think anyone would care either. However, you can pretty much count on the creationists and ID’ers to try to re-write history and smear JPL passivly or even actively. In this case JPL has an active interest in preventing this.

  10. SC said:

    I agree that JPL may never talk. As for transcripts, there are court reporter’s notes, but transcripts are almost never made because of the cost, so there probably won’t be any unless there’s an appeal.

    Thanks. But disappointing for those of us who want more info. Hopefully at a minimum NCSE will make sure the judge’s decision is publicly available.

  11. Jack Hogan says: “disappointing for those of us who want more info.”

    One never knows. The transcript of the Scopes Trial was published, but I don’t know who paid to have it done. For the Coppedge trial, maybe someone with access to the court reporter’s tapes will transcribe the closing arguments. I’d certainly like to read those.

  12. The Discoveroid article purports to quote trial testimony of JPL witnesses who “admit” that they don’t know much about intelligent design, never read a book about it and don’t intend to, but they think it’s a religious doctrine and they have no interest in watching DVDs or learning anything about it.

    Too bad I wasn’t a witness. I’d say that I have read enough ID material to speak at length of the the similarities and differences between its strategies and that of “scientific” creationism. I would then show that ID is defined such that the only way t0 not be accused of not “undertanding” it is to rave about it. Then I’d show examples of where ID peddlers threw “you don’t understand ID” tantrums at “Darwinists” but just “looked the other way” when self-described creationists described ID the same way.

  13. There was a point in the Kitzmiller trial when Judge Jones realized the circus was in town. He had heard just enough bamboozle from the bamboozlers that he didn’t need to hear any more.

    Pick any scientific theory and ask yourself if you could explain it in general terms to an 8th grader. Germ theory? Sure. Thermodynamics? Why not? Hot things get cool. Atomic theory? Absolutely. You got neutrons, protons and electrons and atoms and elements and molecules and chemical reactions. Big Bang? You could mention Hubble or leave it with the microwave background that provided evidence for the theory, or the results of COBE.

    Oh, and the theory of biological evolution. Without even mentioning the fossil record you could point out the relatedness of all biology and get the point across.

    The point being that without getting into equations of state and the calculus you could outline roughly any modern scientific theory accurately, at least to a first approximation.

    Apparently not so with “intelligent design” creationism. NOBODY can explain it properly. EVERYBODY misunderstands it totally. Even to a first approximation nobody gets it right. Why is it after 20 years of books, websites, lectures, court cases and all the rest, NOBODY has a clue what ID is? Why is that?

  14. One of the many reason I’s like to see transcripts…

    IIRC, one report stated the Cassini Project had four sys admins before the project’s funding was cut by almost 50%. Two of them had to go. One of the two chosen was Coppedge. He is essentially arguing one of the two retained should have been let go instead of him.

    JPL should have little problem showing why they chose to keep those two. This article states JPL said that Coppedge’s skill set had become “obsolete”. Combine this with Coppedge’s problems getting along with the people he is supposed to support and his layoff becomes a no-brainer if JPL can demonstrate the other two sys admins had more current skill sets and got along well with the people they were supporting.

  15. docbill1351

    The information you seek is in the court documents available at the NCSE site. Coppedge programmed network routers and monitored the network with HP’s OpenView. First, JPL switched the Cassini project from their own network to the JPL network. Cassini didn’t need to program nor monitor their network any more; it was gone! Second, JPL and Cassini were both moving into a Linux environment and Coppedge hadn’t bothered to get educated on Linux whereas the other sysadmins had come up to speed.

    Thus, Coppedge had nothing to do and was outclassed by other members of his own team. Any way you cut it Coppedge maneuvered himself out of a job.

    Or, look at it this way. JPL knew that Coppedge had a lawsuit against them. Would they sack a guy who had already called down the legal system on them? I recall in the depositions that JPL lawyers met with the supervisors to discuss the layoff situation and that Becker was trying to weasel in some kind of collusion, but I suspect that JPL legal wanted to make sure everything was done properly and that, ironically, Coppedge was treated fairly.

    P.S. In the HuffPo comments it’s about 230 to 4 against Coppedge. The peers are not fooled. I’ll wager neither will be the judge.

  16. Doc Bill: yes, its pretty amusing that Becker argued (1) nobody at JPL except Coppedge understood ID, but yet (2) it isn’t harassment because they were having scientific conversations. Simultaneously. Its sort of like arguing that its not harassment if I talk to you in Swahili after you tell me not to, because you didn’t know I was actually complimenting you.

    In any event, the Whittier article makes it sound like Becker ended up aruging the case was solely about unfair termination. Which leads me to believe the Judge shot down all his earlier efforts to make it about free speech, religion, etc.

  17. @docbill1351

    Thanks. That’s exactly the kind of thing I was looking for. I’m sure they tried but I don’t see how Team Coppedge could effectively rebut that.

    A fact of life in the IT industry is that if you do not make the effort to keep your technical knowledge and skills current and marketable you will significantly increase the odds you’ll be out of a job sooner or later.

  18. docbill1351

    Yes, Eric, I meant to tell you this: Wale suruali kufanya kitako yako kuangalia kubwa.

  19. docbill1351: “Without even mentioning the fossil record you could point out the relatedness of all biology and get the point across.”

    It was the relatedness issue that gave me by big “D’Oh” moment (realizing that even the OEC interpretation of Genesis can be safely dismissed as an allegory) around 8th grade (~45 yrs ago). Then learning the basics of cell chemical structure sealed it. I’m pretty sure it was that which made biochemist Michael Behe, early on in the ID strategy, realize that it would be absurd not to concede at least common descent. And to this day, major ID peddlers always stop short of specifically challenging common descent, or, heaven forbid, one of their biggest champions.

    IIRC Coppedge denies common descent (or at least pretends to), so the first question I’d ask him is if he ever pestered Behe about it.

  20. retiredsciguy

    docbill asks, “Why is it after 20 years of books, websites, lectures, court cases and all the rest, NOBODY has a clue what ID is? Why is that?”

    Well, we do have a clue what ID is, but for some reason the DI just doesn’t want to admit that it’s all just an attempted scam to skirt the Supreme Court’s ruling barring the teaching of creationism in public schools.

    Yep. I do know that I’m stating the obvious. You were just a bit more subtle, Doc. By the way, where did you learn Swahili? Certainly not at Purdue.

  21. docbill1351

    I actually know one impolite word in Swahili, besides “lion.” I learned all my languages at the Univ of Google Translate.

    Положим, что в трубе и курить.

    Meanwhile, you don’t need a Russian translator to understand that the DI is already preparing for the Coppedge loss and the injustice of it all because the judge was duped by treacherous JPL lies!

  22. docbill1351 said:

    Положим, что в трубе и курить.

    Translation (and this is from my one year of foreign language… at Purdue… 23 years ago): Pardon me, what is (???) smoking”?

  23. I note that the “the onetime head of the Cassini mission to Saturn” phrase is now gone from the story. It does include “the systems administrator,” though (italics added), ignoring the other three. They just can’t resist creeping inflationary credentialism.

  24. Tomato Addict

    DocBill> “Meanwhile, you don’t need a Russian translator to understand that the DI is already preparing for the Coppedge loss and the injustice of it all because the judge was duped by treacherous JPL lies!”

    Undoubtedly someone slipped them a Hungarian Phrasebook to ease their understanding.

    It’s good to be back!

  25. docbill1351

    Actually, “my hovercraft is full of eels” makes more sense than anything Becker presented at trial!

  26. docbill1351

    Since I have no life, I checked out the comment thread on the Coppedge story at the HuffPo and it’s up to 277. Coppers picked up a few supporters, all of whom babble incoherently, and the score is 272 against, 5 for.

    The tribe has spoken.

    A large number of comments simply voted thumbs down on Coppedge handing out DVD’s at work. For those commenters the trial was over right there.

    Of course, remember how the Disco Tute spun that: Coppers was merely loaning DVD’s to interested employees. Just like Apple Annie in the snow, so meek, so humble, wouldn’t hurt a fly …