Update: David Coppedge vs. JPL (21 Apr 2010)

OUR last update on this creationist litigation was yesterday. Here’s some background, but if you’ve been following the news you can skip these three indented paragraphs:

This is about a suit by a creationist, David Coppedge, who claims he was wrongfully demoted by his employer because he was promoting Intelligent Design (ID) on the job. He works for Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), He also maintains a creationist website: Creation-Evolution Headlines.

This is a big case for the neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids). They’re trying to establish some new kind constitutional right — an employee’s “freedom to promote creationism” in the workplace. One of their top legal talents, Discoveroid Casey Luskin, is advising the lawyer for Coppedge.

To promote the issue, the Discoveroids are waging a public relations campaign which we described here: The Coppedge Case: A Study in Tactics and Strategy. They’ve set up a page devoted to this case: Background on David Coppedge and the Lawsuit Against NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

We’ve been expecting things to quiet down for a while, but we keep noticing interesting developments. Today we see that this is one of those rare occasions when hard-core, young-earth creationists are joining hands in a common cause with the Discoveroids — who like to pretend that they’re not creationists. The alliance of Discoveroids with admittedly flaming creationists is a development worth mentioning.

The Institute for Creation Research (ICR) — the fountainhead of young-earth creationist wisdom, has this new article at their website: NASA Lab Violates Free Speech Rights of Acts & Facts Author. We’ll give you some excerpts, with bold added by us.

First, ICR describes intelligent design as something different from ICR’s preferred, scripture-based version of full-blown creationism:

Unlike creation science, ID does not acknowledge a particular Designer, but rather holds that scientific observations show clear evidence of design, not random natural processes.

Yes, while that old-time creationism is openly religious, ID is the Discoveroids’ “Don’t ask, don’t tell” version of creationism. They think if they disguise it as science, they’re going to fool the entire federal judiciary and bypass the First Amendment, so they can force religion into public school science classes. Guess what? It’s not working. Anyway, let’s read on:

Anti-ID proponents often liken intelligent design to religion, though they fail to do the same for Darwinian evolution, and [in the Dover case] it was ruled that teaching intelligent design in public science classrooms violated the Establishment Clause.

Opponents of ID fail to liken evolution to religion? Outrageous! So that’s how evolution gets taught as science. It’s so unfair! Anyway, after that brilliant introduction, ICR gets to the matter at hand:

David F. Coppedge, a contributing writer to ICR’s monthly Acts & Facts magazine, came under fire in 2009 when he loaned DVDs that support intelligent design to interested co-workers at NASA’s Jet Propulsions Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California.

Right. Besides running his own creationist website, Coppedge is a contributor to ICR. As we’ve said before, he’s a hard-core creationist. We continue:

Coppedge filed a complaint in Los Angeles Superior Court on April 14, 2010, against JPL and Caltech. According to the allegations in the 27-page complaint, Coppedge is suing five defendants for a combination of remedies, including compensatory and punitive damages, attorney’s fees, declaratory relief, job position reinstatement, and an injunction to restrain the defendants from future harassment or interference with Coppedge’s rights of free speech and religious liberty.

He is represented by William J. Becker, Jr., of The Becker Law Firm in Los Angeles.

Ah yes, Becker. If you haven’t seen it before, check out this listing of his firm. From the description of his practice, it appears to us that he’s mostly a personal injury and workers’ comp lawyer. That’s the man who, together with Casey Luskin, is going to bring JPL to its knees. Here’s more:

“This isn’t like Dover, where the argument is children are impressionable,” said Becker. “These are adults that can make up their own mind, which is why we have free speech to begin with.” Intelligent design, Becker said, has been so demonized and victimized that a response was needed. “This is a very serious effort to bring fairness to the public forum so that intelligent design can have an audience,” he said.

Has Becker read the Dover case? If so, does he understand it? Does he really think it hinged on the fact that children are impressionable? It must be, because it’s apparently on that point he’ll argue that — regardless of his employer’s wishes — Coppedge can promote creationism to his adult co-workers.

One last excerpt:

Becker said that what happened to Mr. Coppedge violates freedom of speech in order to protect “holy Darwinism” by bringing religion into the argument. “The First Amendment still protects speech,” he said. “Even, and especially, unpopular speech.”

Free speech? We don’t yet know the facts of this case, but hypothetically, does an individual have the right to ignore company policy and harass his co-workers with religious material?

Anyway, it appears to us that Becker is the right attorney for this case. And we’re delighted that the Discoveroids have come out of the closet to defend the alleged rights of an undisguised creationist like Coppedge. We look forward to considerable amusement as events unfold.

[Next update: See Klinghoffer: Coppedge News Blackout Conspiracy!]

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

add to del.icio.usAdd to Blinkslistadd to furlDigg itadd to ma.gnoliaStumble It!add to simpyseed the vineTailRankpost to facebook

. AddThis Social Bookmark Button . Permalink for this article

19 responses to “Update: David Coppedge vs. JPL (21 Apr 2010)

  1. Becker the “attorney” wrote: “This is a very serious effort to bring fairness to the public forum so that intelligent design can have an audience,” he said.

    In fact the Beckster may have tipped the Desperate Institute’s hand.

    It’s a serious effort to establish a legal foothold, however small, that ID is science.

    To date creationism has lost every court battle (OK, Scopes. Whatever.) including three major Supreme Court decisions and Kitzmiller that specifically addressed ID establishing ID as a religious concept, at least from a legal standpoint.

    Do you really think that the DI cares a trilobite’s ass about Coppedge and his treasured “team leader” nametag? Nope, Coppedge will be thrown under the same bus the DI drove away from all their defeats: Kansas, Georgia, Dover, Iowa and New Mexico to name a few.

    Hey, Coppedge, wise up! You’re not a poster boy for creationism, you’re a dart board.

  2. Doc Bill says: “Hey, Coppedge, wise up!”

    Good advice. Think he’ll take it?

  3. TC asked: “Good advice. Think he’ll take it?”

    No, of course not. Creationists are delusional first and last, alpha and omega, so to speak.

    We’ll have fun watching the Disco Tute, however, as they “champion” their poster boy Coppedge until the case goes to hell in a hand basket in front of an “activist judge.”

    Just like Dover, the DI will offer (a)moral support but no actual skin in the game. Is Coppedge being represented by the DI’s vast stable of lawyers pro bono? No, they’ve got their spokesperson as an “advisor.”

    Poor old Coppedge. I actually feel sorry for him, but only to a point. What he should do is tell the DI to STFU, drop the suit, get back to work and quietly indulge in his creationist delusional hobby on his own time to his heart’s content.

    He won’t take that advice either.

  4. Curmudgeon: “We don’t yet know the facts of this case, but hypothetically, does an individual have the right to ignore company policy and harass his co-workers with religious material?”

    Whether or not, the conservative opinion is that, if it’s “company policy” one is free to go work elsewhere if you don’t like it.

    But what can you expect from “liberals” who demand taxpayer to pay for what students can learn on their own time.

    Becker: “This isn’t like Dover, where the argument is children are impressionable…”

    Does that mean that he’ll admit that the right descision was made at Dover?

  5. Coppedge is part of ID’s “big tent,” where any willing YEC is welcome. The complaint is following the DI script, so far: avoid mentioning God, insist that Coppedge avoided mentioning religion on the job, and insist that the videos don’t mention religion either. Should that script break down, the pack of DI rats will jump ship.

    Defeat in this case will simply add to the DI “expelled” claim. The defeat will be “re-analyzed” through the DI lens, much as the DI attempted to eviscerate Jones’ decision in the Dover case.

    Meanwhile, ID scientific research languishes. The Biologic Institute is barely more than a cobwebsite, with no new research publications listed since 2008. ID proponents aren’t seriously pursuing grants for such work. And so forth.

    This isn’t about science, although the DI claims otherwise. This is really about winning in the court of public opinion, as a tactic in the culture war.

  6. rubble says: “Meanwhile, ID scientific research languishes.”

    That depends on one’s point of view. Some would say they’re keeping up with Tooth Fairy research.

  7. The DI just has to get lucky once, and damn the human cost to those they encourage.

    “cobwebsite”: Good term, rubble.

    PS: There is a minor typo, Curmedgeon, that I would not have noticed if I’d had enough coffee:

    “…Coppedge is a contributor to IRC. “

  8. The DI’s latest complaint is that the mainstream media are not picking up on this obviously newsworthy story. The reason why is

    obviously because this isn’t a story that fits the larger narrative as favored in prestige circles like those of the media. In that favored narrative, it’s always Darwinists, never Darwin doubters, who fall afoul of censors, persecuted by powerful forces in academia arrayed against orthodox evolutionary theory. Yeah, you know those powerful forces. They’re over there, in a shoebox under the bed.

  9. dNorrisM points out: “here is a minor typo, Curmudgeon …”

    Good catch! All fixed now. Thanks.

  10. So from now on, employers need to screen all perspective employees to make sure that they do not harbor such delusional beliefs. If you hire a brain-dead born-again, christian, you could get sued.

  11. “The DI’s latest complaint…”
    Despite their trying to portray this as some sort of constitutional rights case, I think to the average newsperson it looks like just another disgruntled employee upset about being demoted. Now if Coppedge goes in and starts shooting up JPL, that would be newsworthy for a couple of days.

  12. “That depends on one’s point of view. Some would say they’re keeping up with Tooth Fairy research.”

    IMO it’s important to keep the lack of scientific research, within the ID framework of ideas, front and center whenever there’s discussion of The Controversy.

    We might hear: “sure, there’s scientific research supporting ID.” Sorry, but that’s not scientific research WITHIN the ID paradigm. Rather, more often than not, it’s pubjacking legitimate scientific research for the purpose of drawing illegitimate conclusions.

    We might hear, “there’s no such research because the evil Darwinists won’t give us the grant money.” OK then, let’s see the grant requests that were refused, and I expect to see dozens if not hundreds of such requests. Oh, there are no such grant requests? Sa-prize, sa-prize!

    We might hear, “there are no such grant requests because there’s no point. We know that the Darwinists won’t give us the money.” This is not very scientific. After all, real scientists test their ideas, and that would include testing the idea that the grants won’t be approved.

    Or perhaps, instead of spending their money on lobbying, lawyering, public relations, and so forth, ID proponents might choose to spend that money on real scientific research.

    Nah, I don’t think so.

  13. Mitchell says:

    So from now on, employers need to screen all perspective employees …

    Even that may be unconstitutional discriminationi if the Discoveroids have their way.

    I was thinking of posting this picture, but that might violate someone’s copyright. Anyway, if Coppedge wins, the guy in the picture will have the right to parade around his workplace lecturing everyone about … well, whatever.

  14. rubble says:

    IMO it’s important to keep the lack of scientific research, within the ID framework of ideas, front and center whenever there’s discussion of The Controversy.

    True. I do that from time to time. Stick around, you’ll see.

  15. Today the DI is all weepy and upset that the “mainstream media” hasn’t picked up on the groundbreaking, heartbreaking, windbreaking Coppedge case.

    However, just THREE days ago on April 19, Robbie Crowther his own self was crowing to the treetops that the “mainstream media” had picked up on the story and this was “only the beginning.”

    Yeah, Bobbie, beginning of the end. A Google News search shows that 7 out of 9 reports are from the DI “news” website or DI press releases simply republished.

    Hey, Bobster, newsflash! Maybe the “mainstream media” hasn’t picked up on your manufactroversy because you have no credibility. Srsly, Bobbie, not even the World Nut Daily is carrying the story. That must sting.

  16. Alan B. says:

    The DI’s latest complaint is that the mainstream media are not picking up on this obviously newsworthy story.

    Yeah, that’s Klinghoffer’s article. I was pondering whether I should write about it. It’s not much, however.

  17. Doc Bill says:

    Srsly, Bobbie, not even the World Nut Daily is carrying the story. That must sting.

    They published the Discoveroid press release. I mentioned that, very briefly, in one of my posts. WND is a reliable fellow traveler.

  18. More importantly, our friends at Little Green Footballs have a link to this post. That’ll get more attention than all the Discoveroid press releases.

  19. It’s interesting to read the completely distorted image of Coppedge that I read in these comments. Although I haven’t communicated with him in years, I used to work with him in his pre-JPL days. He was extremely bright and extremely dependable. I see also that nobody has mentioned that he got into trouble not for urging everyone to accept intelligent design, but for loaning DVDs to people who asked for them. My understanding is that his first formal warning about loaning DVDs came at the very same meeting at which he was demoted. That’s sort of like the state saying, “The policeman wrote you a warning ticket, so we’re going to take away your driver’s license.”

    Can you imagine him being demoted if the content of the DVDs had been football games or old Seinfeld episodes or Stephen Hawking lectures or interviews with the Dalai Lama or even astrology charts?

    The anger I see in this comment thread seems too great to stem merely from intellectual disagreement on a scientific theory. The Bible says “everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, so his works won’t be exposed.”