Discovery Institute: Another Creationist Is “Expelled”

YES, they’re wailing again. Who? The neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids). They have another martyr to write about.

The Discoveroid blog has this new article: Discrimination Lawsuit Filed against NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab for Harassing and Demoting Supporter of Intelligent Design. It says, with bold font added by us:

Supervisors at NASA’s prestigious Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) illegally harassed and demoted a high-level computer system administrator for expressing support of intelligent design to co-workers, according to a discrimination lawsuit filed today in California Superior Court.

How horrible! Let’s read on:

The lawsuit was filed by attorneys on behalf of David Coppedge, an information technology specialist and system administrator on JPL’s Cassini mission to Saturn, the most ambitious interplanetary exploration ever launched. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory is a NASA laboratory managed by the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) where robotic planetary spacecraft, such as the Mars Rovers, are built and operated. Coppedge was a “Team Lead” Systems Administrator on the Cassini mission until JPL demoted him for allegedly “pushing religion” by loaning interested co-workers DVDs supportive of intelligent design.

David Coppedge? We’ve seen that name before. Ah yes, he writes articles that appear at the website of the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) — the fountainhead of creationist wisdom. For example, this one: The Light-Distance Problem, by David F. Coppedge. An asterisk after that byline leads us to this at the bottom of that article: “David F. Coppedge works in the Cassini program at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.” Seems to be the same man. Someone by that name is active at other creationist websites too.

We continue with the Discoveroid article:

“For the offense of offering videos to colleagues, Coppedge faced harassment, an investigation cloaked in secrecy, and a virtual gag order on his discussion of intelligent design,” said attorney Casey Luskin of Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. Luskin serves as a consultant to the Coppedge lawsuit. “Coppedge was punished even though supervisors admitted never receiving a single complaint regarding his conversations about intelligent design prior to their investigation, and even though other employees were allowed to express diverse ideological opinions, including attacking intelligent design.”

The Discoveroid article quotes Casey. That’s very persuasive. Here’s one more excerpt:

Coppedge is suing JPL and Caltech for religious discrimination, harassment and retaliation; violation of his free speech rights; and wrongful demotion. Coppedge is represented by Los Angeles First Amendment attorney William J. Becker, Jr., of The Becker Law Firm.

“Intelligent design is not religion, and nothing in the DVDs that Coppedge shared deals with religion,” noted Luskin. “Even so, it’s unlawful for an employer to discriminate against an employee based on what they deem is religion.”

Yeah, yeah. Illegal discrimination. Rejecting foolishness is a thought-crime. This is yet another case in what we suspect is a new Discoveroid initiative. See: The Goal of the “Darwin’s Dilemma” Lawsuit.

Update: See The Coppedge Case: A Study in Tactics and Strategy.

Copyright © 2010. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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34 responses to “Discovery Institute: Another Creationist Is “Expelled”

  1. He’s a YECer working on Cassini? Very amusing. Cassini’s power source is a radioisotopic thermal generator. This means that the spacecraft only works properly as long as half-lives are constant, something YECers deny. So, in a real sense his livelihood (to date) has depended on his religious beliefs being wrong.

  2. “Intelligent design is not religion, and nothing in the DVDs that Coppedge shared deals with religion,” noted Luskin.

    I have two words in response to that assertion:

    “cdesign proponentsists”

  3. Gabriel Hanna

    Well, this guy is an out-and-out creationist, and it is terribly unfair to intelligent design proponents to confuse them with creationists. Shame on the Discovery Institute, they of all people should know better.

  4. Gabriel Hanna says:

    … and it is terribly unfair to intelligent design proponents to confuse them with creationists.

    Well, he works at JPL, so they don’t mind claiming him. They need all the “science” cover they can get.

  5. Gabriel Hanna

    I read his Light-Distance problem and I’m a little upset. He knows enough about what he’s talking about that his distortions must be deliberate.

    According to the Big Bang theory, the universe expanded in all directions from its initial state of high density. In your mind’s eye, follow a tiny region on its path; at no time would it come in contact with the particles going in a different direction. The universe would never have mixed; each part of space was beyond the “horizon” of each other part. Herein is the problem. The universe looks homogeneous and isotropic. This means all parts of space appear uniform at large scales. The temperature of the cosmic background radiation is uniform to within one part in 100,000. If no parts ever mixed, how could they achieve such striking uniformity of temperature?

    Of course in the high-density state they DID achieve uniformity of temperature–the uniformity of temperature is first got people to take the Big Bang seriously, because unless all the matter was originally in one place it couldn’t all be at the same temperature.

    He KNOWS this. We all get it in our undergraduate classes. He is deliberately misstating the problem to mislead.

    More this here:

  6. Gabriel Hanna says:

    He is deliberately misstating the problem to mislead.

    Gasp! How could a creationist do such a thing?

  7. Radioastronomer

    I remember this guy pushing his stuff years ago.

    Hi Gabriel! 1/137 – fine structure constant. Love it. 🙂

  8. Rades!!!

    Sorry, Curm, had to one up you.

    Now, how do we get Rades to stick around and chat?

    BTW, I love your avatar.

  9. Gabriel, after reading creationist/ID crap for 8 years, I would find him not misstating the problem surprising.

  10. Tundra Boy says: “BTW, I love your avatar.”

    it seems to go with my humility.

  11. These guys just don’t seem to get it!

    They push “intelligent design” (supposedly a science) then squeal about religious discrimination when they get demoted for doing crap science.

    Guys–it is either one or the other. Either you are doing science (and you will be judged on how well you do that science), or you are peddlin’ religion. You can’t have it both ways.

  12. Coyote says: “Guys–it is either one or the other.”

    As usual, the Discoveroids are walking a fine line. It’s like the movie “Expelled.” They claim their “science” is being shut out because of Darwinist discrimination. But unless what they’re promoting is religion, I don’t think the concept of discrimination really applies.

  13. Hmm. If the facts are as alleged (and we all know how slavishly Caseykins cleaves to The Truth…) I’d be disturbed by this. Either the guy is doing his job right or he’s not. Lending your colleagues a few whack-job DVDs isn’t an offence.

    They’re careful to say that there weren’t any ‘complaints’ about him. That could be a Cintonesque bit of wordsplay, in that ‘complaints’ might mean ‘a complain filed in triplicate as required by paragraph 48(d) of the Staff Disciplinary Code’.

    It’ll be interesting to see what JPL have to say in response. But regardless of whether this loon is and IDiot or not, he shouldn’t be any worse off if he does his job right without upsetting his colleagues any more than the rest of us do.

    It’ll be inter

  14. … sorry, the Evil Atheist Conspiracy tried to zap me in the middle of that post. I fended them off with homeopathic quantum bible crystals.

    Forgot what I was going to say. Probably wasn’t worth it anyway.

    Regards to all from under the Great Icelandic Cloud of Revenge on European Bankers

  15. A day later and all my internet searches about this still only show the Disco’s and their minions take on this story. So far we only have their word (which is highly suspect) that David was indeed demoted and what they say the reasons for that are. Like Amadan, I’m interested in seeing what JPL says about this. On the other hand, in cases like this, it is often best for the defendants to say nothing.

  16. RogerE says:

    A day later and all my internet searches about this still only show the Disco’s and their minions take on this story.

    You want more? Okay, WorldNetDaily is on it. But it’s just a rehash of the Discoveroid post. See NASA lab accused of crackdown on intelligent design.

  17. Yeah, I saw that WorldNetDaily article. As you say, it didn’t offer much aside from what the Disco already said other than the statement, “But officials at the JPL today told WND they had not yet seen the court filing and could not comment.” Of course, since WorldNetDaily is a Buffoon Award Winner (which even the Discovery Institute hasn’t achieved), you really didn’t expect us to pay much attention to it anyway, did you?

  18. Brer Scientist

    I agree. If the facts are as alleged (a big if), then JPL is wrong. As long as he wasn’t harrassing his coworkers and doing his job, it shouldn’t matter what kind of insane beliefs he has. He can blather on about whatever he wants outside of work, as long as he isn’t implying that it is a JPL/NASA postion.
    There has to be more to the story. Unfortunatly, since this deals with personnel matters, JPL isn’t allowed to speak about it. Obviously Coppedge isn’t under the same restrictions.

  19. Brer Scientist says:

    As long as he wasn’t harassing his coworkers and doing his job, it shouldn’t matter what kind of insane beliefs he has.

    The problem is that, for the moment, we have only Casey Luskin’s word for all of this. Who knows what Coppedge was up to? He’s obviously a hard-core creationist, and it looks like he’s active at creationist websites. Would a guy like be able to restrain himself on the job? I don’t know. Personally, I wouldn’t take a creationists word for anything. (Recall the behavior of creationists in the Dover case.)

    If (and this is speculation only) Coppedge was driving his colleagues crazy and no one wanted to work anywhere near him, it’s not unreasonable to demote him to a position where he’d have less interaction with others. That may be what happened. We’ll have to wait until some reliable facts come out.

  20. Dear Casey Luskin,

    Boo- frakkin- hoo!



  21. This guy is a real prize. He’s a hardcore creationist and writes total anti-science garbage – yet flaunts his employment by JPL as his scientific credentials. JPL must be sorely aggravated at the deception involved with the illegitimate use of their name for his profit. Many government agencies have conflict of interest clauses, and if JPL has such a policy, they’ve let him get away with too much too long.
    As far as harassing co-workers – it’s obvious from his own complaint that he was trying to push ID and his DVDs on people that he snagged in conversation. Most people are too polite to tell office cranks to bugger off, and TRY to act reasonably civil (whilst desperately looking for any chance to escape the mind-numbing monologues).

    The climate denialist in my office , who also believes ID (he’s classic example of vindication of kooks! ) has basically been told by management to quit annoying scientists who know better with frequent updates of the latest climate conspiracy.
    In many government offices, this sort of infliction of unwelcome and offensive views on a hapless audience can qualify as harassment. In Coppedge’s case, it sounds as though his victims have been too nice too long, as has long-suffering JPL. They should smack him down hard with a counter-suit.
    Judging by his ravings, er, writings, he’s a hopeless fanatic who probably starts ranting, spraying spittle, pushing ID websites and other unwelcome literature etc if his victim dares disagree.

  22. KariV, that’s pretty much the way I see this thing. But the JPL people won’t talk unless it’s part of the litigation. Otherwise they might get sued for slandering the creationist. I’m pretty sure that statements made in court are privileged, and the JPL people by now are aware of things. We won’t know what’s going on for quite a while.

  23. I have a copy of the Coppedge complaint. It was submitted by the Becker Law Firm, the same firm who represents the American Freedom Alliance in the breach-of-contract case against the California Science Center; you reported this case earlier this year. According to the complaint, Coppedge was informed by JPL personnel that his behavior violated JPL’s “Unlawful Harassment policy” and its “Ethics and Conduct Policy” (p. 11, Coppedge v. JPL et al, case number BC435600 filed April 14 2010). Coppedge, in turn, alleges that he is entitled to an order by the court “requiring Defendants to modify or expunge his personnel record of all adverse evaluations and other adverse material,” as well declaring JPL’s conduct as “discriminatory,” “retaliatory,” and “amounted to harassment.” It looks like California attorney William J. Becker is real chummy with the Disco Institute.

  24. Good information, rubble. Thanks. This is where to get the info available to the public in the court where the case is filed. I think you have to pay to see online copies: Superior Court of California, Los Angeles At the box for “Case Number” you enter BC435600. Then all you get for free is the names of the parties and their lawyers.

  25. Yeah, I had to pay for it. Anyway, this case has proceeded through the California Department of Fair Housing and Employment, through multiple complaints against several JPL individuals. According to the Department’s notices, Coppedge has the right to sue within 30 days after the notice, or within 300 days of the alleged infraction, whichever is sooner. That language suggests that some of the incidents may be off-limits for a lawsuit, including the key inflammatory meeting on March 2, 2009, with Gregory Chin, Coppedge’s supervisor.

  26. rubble says: “Yeah, I had to pay for it.”

    Some website will post it, and it’ll be freely available. The court papers aren’t sealed, nor are they proprietary. But the complaint isn’t what’s interesting. The depositions will be fun, if they get filed. There’s going to be plenty of amusement from this source.

  27. Casey’s involvement is a good guarantee of that!

    If you can bear to wade through the slime at the Center for Science and Culture,, there is a free download of the complaint at the end of the post. Wear hip boots.

    (Sorry! I don’t know how to make this a live link).

  28. Thanks, KariV. The PDF from the Disco Institute has the advantage of text searchability; my copy is a scan, so I can’t search it. However, my copy also has the attachments from the FEH casework, which the DI linked copy lacks. I suspect that JPL’s attorneys will move to dismiss, on the basis of lack of timeliness in Coppedge’s filing of suit.

  29. Frankly, I do not understand why cretards get into space exploration or science since Goddidit anyhoo. If ID or creationism is the answer, the question is irrelevant for 200, Alex.

  30. No disrespect to people who work with computers, but if his title is something like “information technology specialist and system administrator” then Coppedge is not a scientist, he is a technician. Bylines that say “David F. Coppedge works in the Cassini program at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory” are themselves misleading in two ways. One, they capitalize on the reputation of the JPL to lend strength to the arguments of the author, and two, they suggest the author works as a scientist who may speak authoritatively on matters of astrophysics.

    Again, I mean no disrespect to people working in information technology. I, myself, have worked as a technologist supporting computer systems employed in the fields of science and engineering. Doing so does not make me qualified to speak authoritatively on science or engineering, even if I am qualified to speak on how to manage computer systems employed in solving science or engineering problems.

    For example, I used to work for one of the sites sequencing DNA for the Human Genome Project. As an information technology specialist and systems administrator I managed computer servers that ran Blast searches and backed up genetic traces to long-term storage, etc. Am I qualified to speak authoritatively about biology or genetics? No, of course not.

    In conclusion, if I were to write an article about biology and say in my byline that I worked on the Human Genome Project, I wouldn’t be lying. But it would be a close relative of a lie. Just the sort of distortion the Discovery Institute is famous for.

    Managing computer systems can be a high-stress job. My intuition tells me that that there is something else behind Mr. Coppedge’s demotion.

  31. LC says:

    No disrespect to people who work with computers, but if his title is something like “information technology specialist and system administrator” then Coppedge is not a scientist, he is a technician.

    I’ve been told by someone who used to work at JPL that Coppedge is the guy who changes the tapes on their computers. I donno, but I guess that’s something a creationist might be able to handle.

  32. As an aside, ID is supposedly a non-religious alternative theory to evolution, yet plaintiff is filing a claim of religious discrimination and retaliation. Furthermore, he is asking the court for :

    “A permanent injunction against Defendants, their officers, agents, servants,
    employees, attorneys, and successors in office, and those persons in active concert or
    participation with them, from enforcing policies or engaging in practices, customs,
    acts or omissions that infringe upon the right of Plaintiff and others to engage in
    protected speech activity, including and specifically as it relates to discussing and
    distributing literature and DVDs concerning the theory of Intelligent Design”

  33. “I’ve been told by someone who used to work at JPL that Coppedge is the guy who changes the tapes on their computers. I donno, but I guess that’s something a creationist might be able to handle.”

    Ironically, the technical name for this job in the industry is “tape monkey”.