It’s been two months since we wrote David Coppedge v. JPL & Caltech (18 Nov 2010). You recall that Coppedge is the creationist computer technician who claims he was wrongfully demoted by his employer, Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), because he was promoting Intelligent Design creationism on the job. There’s more background information in our prior post.
The trial is scheduled to start on 15 June 2011, and we had assumed that unless 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) suddenly started to stir things up again, we’d have nothing to say about this sad little case for several months.
Despite their initial enthusiasm, the Discoveroids haven’t even mentioned Coppedge since last June, so the demoted creationist’s name rarely appears in the blogosphere these days. But we found something.
In a little newspaper called the Camarillo Acorn of Camarillo, California, they have a feature titled Datebook, a listing of various activities in the community. Under the heading of “Ventura County Astronomical Society” we find this brief notice:
David Coppedge, team lead system administrator for Cassini and Titan missions at JPL, speaks on “Saturn exploration from equinox to solstice.” Public invited.
That momentous event is scheduled for 21 January — which is today. If you want to be there you may still have time to work it out. Contact information is available at the “Datebook” link we gave you.
What we find amusing about this is the description of Coppedge’s job. Before he was demoted — and possibly reassigned to an office where he works alone and can’t harass anyone about creationism — his job at JPL had been described somewhat vaguely, leaving the impression that he was some kind of computer technician. We assumed that he was working in JPL’s computer maintenance section for the Cassini project. He was said to be a “team leader”, which meant to us that he had at least one assistant.
In their original blizzard of press releases about the martyrdom of Coppedge, the Discoveroids seemed to wildly puff up the importance of his job at JPL. They did this mostly by crowing about the work JPL does, especially the Cassini mission to Saturn. Their tactic appeared to us as an attempt to cloak Coppedge — a creationist computer technician — with the prestige and glamorous aura of space exploration.
Let us once again read the Camarillo Acorn‘s description of Coppedge and his job: “team lead system administrator for Cassini and Titan missions at JPL.” We’re not imagining things — that certainly gives the impression that he was almost running the whole Cassini mission, and possibly more. We don’t know, but we’ve been told that his actual job at JPL was changing computer tapes — what the science people at JPL call a “tape monkey.”
In your Curmudgeon’s imagination, a typical workday for Coppedge may have gone like this:
[Coppedge speaks:] Igor, bring me a fresh reel of tape!
[Igor replies:] Yes, master.
Not that reel, you idiot! The other reel!
When I’ve replaced this reel, I’ll tell you again about Noah’s Ark.
We don’t know what Coppedge’s job was. But because they demoted him, JPL didn’t think his job included evangelizing the workforce about creationism, which seems to be why Coppedge now works in some kind of isolation.
Whatever may have been his job, and whatever his currently reduced status at JPL now is, when Coppedge is out in the community he’s described in a way to lead one to believe that he’s the team leader of mankind’s solar system exploration efforts. He’s almost James Kirk!
Coppedge speaks tonight. Will his appearance on stage be accompanied by the theme from Star Trek?
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