Before we give you today’s news, we’ll begin with some background. If you’ve been following this story 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 — that’s William J. Becker, Jr., who seems to be mostly a personal injury and workers’ comp lawyer.
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.
This case has just begun, and only the plaintiff’s side has been told. Therefore we’re all guessing about what really occurred at JPL. Our guess is that this case involves little more than a hand-slap, possibly well-deserved, administered to a persistently proselytizing employee after JPL had received numerous complaints. But we don’t know that — and neither do you, dear reader. Not yet.
The only real news has been the behavior of one side’s players and handlers. We’ve been chuckling at the indignation of the Discoveroids. They’re always indignant about something, but here they seem furious that the mainstream media aren’t enthused about this case. It doesn’t occur to them that their frenzied publicity efforts have been wildly overblown regarding a case that appeals only to creationists.
The lack of sympathetic attention from the rest of the world is so troublesome and inexplicable to the Discoveroids that one of them wrote about a Coppedge News Blackout Conspiracy. But the “blackout” doesn’t seem terribly difficult to understand.
To the rational world, the Coppedge case is somewhat analogous to that of an employee who has, for years, subjected himself to a diet consisting exclusively of vending machine snack food. Now — to the discomfort of his co-workers — he’s suffering from uncontrollable intestinal disruptions which, shall we say, generate an unpleasant workplace atmosphere. The employer, being unable to persuade the snack food eater to change his ways, compassionately keeps the flatulent fellow on the job — but transfers him to a private work area where his disorder can no longer afflict others. This seems a decent solution, but the relocated employee perceives his isolation as a personal affront and sues his employer — claiming that he’s a victim of discrimination, and that he’s fighting for the rights of the flatulent.
For most of the world, such litigation would be worthy of a laugh, but it would hardly be regarded as a serious civil rights struggle. The only exceptions would be those dedicated few in the flatulence-rights community, for whom this case would easily be the most important issue of the year — perhaps of the decade. No analogy is perfect, but we think this explains the frustration of the Discoveroids over the press’ indifference to the Coppedge case.
For whatever comfort it may be to the Discoveroids, there’s no news blackout in the world of creationism. The first of the openly creationist outfits to express their sympathy with Coppedge was the Institute for Creation Research (ICR). We described that in our update of 21 Apr 2010, in which we pointed out that this case 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.”
Now it’s the turn of Answers in Genesis (AIG), one of the major sources of creationist wisdom. AIG’s reaction to the Coppedge affair appears in their latest weekly news summary: News to Note, April 24, 2010. That’s the feature where they bring us “news from the biblical viewpoint.”
The Coppedge litigation is their lead item. Their write-up starts with a link to the very brief Associated Press story we wrote about earlier. Then they discuss the article appearing in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, which we wrote about here, and which appears to be the only news item not artificially generated by the Discoveroid press releases.
In other words, AIG is playing this very cautiously; they’re not merely regurgitating Discoveroid press releases as if they were factual. It’s a very hands-off approach, and they are obviously maintaining their distance from the Discoveroids. For example, after mentioning the opinion of an attorney cited by the the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, who says Coppedge doesn’t have much of a case, they rely on that same paper for the opinion of a Discoveroid. AIG says:
On the other hand, Discovery Institute attorney Casey Luskin, a consultant on the Coppedge legal team, noted, “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.”
If Coppedge was indeed singled out, it certainly suggests his pro–intelligent design views may have been the reason.
Note the skepticism. AIG is saying: “If” Casey is right, it “suggests” that Coppedge’s ID views “may have been” the reason for his treatment.
The AIG write-up has only one more paragraph. The bold font was added by us:
While the details of the case have yet to be disclosed — a spokesperson for the Jet Propulsion Lab declined to comment because the lawsuit had not yet been delivered — the treatment of Coppedge portrayed by media reports certainly sounds like discrimination on the basis of origins belief. Whether a Los Angeles County courtroom agrees is yet to be seen.
Why so mistrustful, almost scornful? Here’s the reason: After their Coppedge write-up, AIG give a couple of links “For more information.” One of those is to an earlier AIG article: Is the intelligent design movement Christian? They don’t think so, and therefore they don’t like it. Here’s one brief excerpt:
[T]he central problem with the ID movement is a divorce of the Creator from creation. The Creator and His creation cannot be separated; they reflect on each other. All other problems within the movement stem from this one.
What we get from this is that AIG is reporting the existence of the Coppedge case, but they accord no credibility whatsoever to statements made by the Discoveroids. We don’t doubt that AIG is rooting for Coppedge, but they’re waiting for facts from a more reliable source than a certain “think tank” in Seattle.
[Next update: See Update: David Coppedge vs. JPL (28 Apr 2010).]
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