David Coppedge Trial: An Accurate News Story

While we wait for the judge’s decision in the suit filed by David Coppedge, which isn’t expected before June, we’re not surprised that there haven’t been any news stories since the trial ended a couple of weeks ago. See David Coppedge Trial: It’s Over!

As you know, Coppedge is 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.

Throughout this ordeal, we’ve frequently commented on the poor quality of the news coverage we’ve seen. Typical is an AP story we recently wrote about here: David Coppedge Trial: Week Six Begins. It repeated the standard misinformation that Coppedge worked for NASA (he didn’t), that the trial was about intelligent design (it wasn’t — Coppedge’s DVDs were excluded from the trial), and that Coppedge was some kind of scientist (he wasn’t) involved in exploring Saturn and its moons (he explored nothing — his job was to maintain JPL’s computer networks).

JPL’s attorneys steadfastly remained dedicated to trying their case in court, not in the press, so all such “news” stories were apparently based either on interviews with Coppedge’s lawyers, or the media’s “information” came from press releases, blog articles, and interviews provided by creationist activists, mostly 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).

Today, however, we were very much surprised to see an accurate news story about the case. It appears in the Los Angeles Times and it’s titled Computer specialist contends his views cost him his job at JPL. There’s nothing really new there — at least not to readers of our humble blog — but because it’s a fair and accurate story we consider it worth mentioning. The reporter is Ashley Powers, and we congratulate her on doing a fine job.

Instead of selecting excerpts to give you the full scope of the trial and its issues, which you already know, what we’ll do is quote some of the facts in today’s story which have been so often omitted from virtually all other coverage of this controversy. Here we go, with bold font added by us:

A computer specialist rankled some of his JPL co-workers by pressing intelligent design and other issues at work. Now a judge must decide if that is why he was laid off.

Fantastic! The lead sentence describes the true nature of the case. Let’s read some more:

That’s the question a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge presiding over Coppedge’s wrongful termination lawsuit is expected to decide in the coming months. JPL, which Caltech manages for NASA, contends Coppedge was laid off in 2011 as part of massive cutbacks because his skill set was outdated and his attitude obstinate.

We wish this reporter had been covering the trial all along. Where has she been? Let’s read on:

“What happened to David Coppedge — really what David Coppedge did to himself — had nothing to do with intelligent design or religion but with his own stubbornness,” defense attorney Cameron Fox said during closing arguments this month.

To anti-evolution forces, however, Coppedge is a warrior on the front lines of the national evolution debate. They’ve seized on his otherwise humdrum lawsuit, showering it with resources and publicity.

Do you realize, dear reader, how unusual it is to see competent reporting of this trial? In an act of journalistic fairness, however, the reporter gives the perspective from Coppedge’s lawyer:

“There is a worldview war in this country,” Becker said in an interview. “There’s a battle between people who think religious people are trying to disrupt the integrity of the scientific method and those who know we’re not.”

And then she actually gives the other side:

“The creationists keep losing,” said Glenn Branch, deputy director of the National Center for Science Education in Oakland. “They lost the science battle years ago.” He said latching onto the Coppedge case feeds a “narrative of victimization” that paints science and academia as hostile to religion.

And then she gives an objective account of her own:

For all the online buildup, the details of the Coppedge case are somewhat run-of-the-mill. Coppedge is a computer specialist who started as a JPL contractor in 1996. He was eventually brought onto the systems administration staff and given the title of “team lead.” He worked on computer networks for Cassini, the first spacecraft to orbit Saturn and its moons.

A bespectacled, white-bearded man, Coppedge never hid his embrace of intelligent design. He maintained a website dedicated to it and sat on the board of Illustra Media, which produces intelligent design DVDs. He tried to get his co-workers to watch at least two of them: “Unlocking the Mystery of Life” and “The Privileged Planet.”

That’s enough excerpts. It’s a good article, and if — for once — you want to read a balanced account of what this whole thing is all about, click over to the Los Angeles Times and read it all. Oh — we have to give you the final paragraph:

Coppedge had also waved off suggestions to update his computer skills and was saddled with a reputation for being “unwilling to listen and always having to do things his way,” defense attorneys said in court papers. In fact, during closing arguments, Fox asked the judge to recall Coppedge’s demeanor on the witness stand. He repeatedly wandered off topic to discuss intelligent design.

So there you are — finally, a good news story. The Discoveroids won’t like it. In fact, they’ll probably post a bitter blog article about it. That’s okay, we understand. There’s a worldview war going on.

Update: See Coppedge Trial & Klinghoffer’s Alternate Reality.

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

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7 responses to “David Coppedge Trial: An Accurate News Story

  1. It’s hard to come up with a comment on a good news article…there’s nothing to react to. I’m sure, however, that we’ll soon have a DI blog complaining about how mainstream press fails to understand ID and the Darwinist conspiracy.

    I wonder if the NCSE or other source will post transcripts of the closing articles?

  2. Ed says: “It’s hard to come up with a comment on a good news article”

    It wasn’t easy to post about it, but it was so unusual I couldn’t pass it by.

  3. Becker: “There’s a battle between people who think religious people are trying to disrupt the integrity of the scientific method and those who know we’re not.”

    Note the bait-and-switch. We don’t “think” that “religious people” are trying to disrupt the integrity of the scientific, we know that an active minority of religious people are trying, and succeeding, at least in terms of how the public perceives science. What Becker will never admit, but can’t outright deny without blatant lying, is that most religious scientists see the antics of those radical paranoid activists as disruptive to public perception of both science and mainstream religion. Hence the mandatory bait-and-switch.

  4. Spector567

    A couple things of note.
    Most of the comments on the article are not pro-ID or even religious in nature. I think most people get the fact that Coppedge was being inappropreate and this is a simple employment lawsuit.

    Also that Fox drew attention to Coppedge testomoney and his inability to stay professional even in court.
    “In fact, during closing arguments, Fox asked the judge to recall Coppedge’s demeanor on the witness stand. He repeatedly wandered off topic to discuss intelligent design.”

  5. Jack Hogan

    Spector567 said:

    Most of the comments on the article are not pro-ID or even religious in nature. I think most people get the fact that Coppedge was being inappropreate and this is a simple employment lawsuit.

    I think even most non-atheists/agnostics have a pretty low tolerance for aggressive pushy righteous religious proselytizing, especially in the workplace.

  6. Spector567

    That was basically the point. No matter how the DI wants to spin this the simple reality is that they have lost the propaganda battle with the public. People are not split on the issue, they are not debating it or sitting on the fence. They are saying that he was a prick and should be fired without reservation (of course he was actually laid off). You don’t even have the token creationist standing up and defending this guy anymore.

    Overall this entire case has been a loss for DI.

  7. The DI will spin the forthcoming JPL victory as yet another “expelled” case, never mind the details.