Discoveroids: Coppedge is a Modern Galileo

This is the strangest of all the blog articles posted in support of David Coppedge by 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).

As you know, David Coppedge is a creationist who claims he was wrongfully demoted (and later fired) by his employer because he was promoting Intelligent Design (ID) on the job. He used to work (until he was let go in a downsizing back in January) as a computer technician for Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). He also maintains a creationist website: Creation-Evolution Headlines [which was recently moved here].

Today at the Discoveroids’ blog they’ve posted this gem: Please, NASA, No More Galileos! We think you’ll agree that invoking Galileo’s name in this context is absolutely stunning. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

In 1610, Galileo peered through his telescope and saw Saturn more clearly than any other human being before him, thus making Galileo the first to use a device to examine the ringed gas giant. For his inventive efforts to get a closer look at the heavenly body, and to thereby better understand man’s place in the cosmos, Galileo came under the critical eye of the Roman Inquisition who ultimately placed him under house arrest until his death.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! According to the Discoveroids, Galileo got into trouble for his observations of Saturn. That alone is enough to make their post a winner, but there’s more:

Four hundred years later, man is still using inventive devices to study Saturn, and has even closed the 1.2 billion kilometer gap by way of Cassini-Huygens, an unmanned planetary orbiter operated by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL).

Right. And Coppedge performed a support function for that project. He was a computer technician, a position sometimes referred to as a “tape monkey.” Let’s read on:

In an ironic twist of fate, these modern students of Saturn — the men and women at JPL — launched a Human Resources investigation (the modern equivalent of the Roman Inquisition) into whether one of their own expressed a dissenting scientific view, in favor of Intelligent Design (ID), and whether his dissent could be labeled and punished as “harassment” and the “pushing [of] religion.” So they found, and so they did.

That’s not at all how we understand it. As we reported here, David Coppedge v. JPL & Caltech (18 Feb ’11), discussing a pro-Coppedge article that got its information from Coppedge and his lawyers:

[L]et us be magnanimous and assume that Coppedge’s creationist outreach activity on the job occurred only twice a month for a decade. That’s probably 240 instances of what we assume was creationist proselytizing. But let’s not get carried away. We’ll be conservative and say it’s only 200 separate incidents. Only 200! Think about it.

We can imagine the reaction of the JPL science staff (the mildest of which may have been: “Get lost, you creep!“), so our guess is that Coppedge wouldn’t have done this to the same person more than once. Therefore, being fair about the numbers, we assume that there were 200 separate people who were affected by Coppedge’s behavior. This estimate comes from what he himself or his lawyers admitted to World magazine.

Do you see any Galileo-like behavior there, or do you see a ten-year-long history of unwanted and unrelenting creationist evangelizing? Considering what we’ve read of his behavior, it’s amazing that JPL tolerated Coppedge as long as they did. We continue with today’s Discoveroid article:

[S]uffice it to say that the Coppedge case stands as an egregious instance of intolerance toward scientific dissent, so much so that it merits your attention and action, for Caltech runs JPL under contract with NASA, a government agency, and is thus indirectly accountable to the electorate, by which I mean you, dear reader.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Science wasn’t Coppedge’s job, and no one wanted or needed or cared about his opinions — dissenting or otherwise. He was supposed to make sure the computer tapes were properly loaded and ready. Here’s more:

You could, if so inclined, contact the respective heads of JPL and Cal Tech to tell each of them about your dissatisfaction with their taxpayer-funded handling of the Coppedge matter, and further request that they make right by settling on fair terms with Coppedge.

Observe, dear reader, how the Discoveroids are already setting things up so that if the case is settled before trial, as it probably will be, they can claim that it’s a victory for Coppedge and his brave, Galileo-like “scientific” dissent. But why are they even thinking of settling? If their case is as strong as they claim, then let them prove it by going to trial and winning. Then they’ll have the legal landmark they crave. Settling is for wimps who file nuisance cases; there’s no substitute for victory.

Here’s the end of the Discoveroid article:

True, no one listed above was subjected to trial in the Star Chamber [huh?], placed under house arrest or forced to recant, but careers have been ruined by the modern practitioners of medieval justice, those Darwinists in high places. No one who has mouths to feed wants to make the news this way, and we at Discovery Institute don’t want any more Galileos to defend or lament. In this mixed season of protest and Thanksgiving, it’s time that the Darwin-doubting community came together in support of Coppedge to gently remind the Inquisitors who it is that butters their bread.

If Coppedge is a modern Galileo, then … ah, we can’t think of a suitably bizarre analogy. Perhaps you can.

Copyright © 2011. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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15 responses to “Discoveroids: Coppedge is a Modern Galileo

  1. Summary: The DI lies.

    Summary 2: Dog bites man.

    The DI relates the popularly understood story about Galileo but what really happened historically is far more interesting. Galileo consulted with the pope’s astronomer who confirmed Galileo’s observations. The pope’s astronomer reported back, “Hey, Pope, this Galileo fella, he’s a on to something!”

    The problem was not one of deny, deny, deny, conform, conform, conform, rather it was Holy Jupiter’s Moons, how are going to adjust doctrine to fit these new observations. The Pope realized it would take time, couldn’t be done overnight, but if the word got out then there’d be a whole lot of splanin’ to do.

    So, the Pope said to Galileo, “Yo, Guido, we needa some time, say, 400 years to get this figgered out, capiche?”

    Galileo was, like, “No way” and the Pope made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.

    Now, as for Coppedge, he was in no way, shape or form involved with research at JPL. Of any kind. He basically reset passwords and I’m not denigrating server administration because I’ve done that job myself! It’s not rocket science.

    The DI also conveniently omits the greater problems that Coppedge allegedly caused in his harassment of administrative staff over stupid stuff like the name of the annual Holiday Party which he wanted changed back to Christmas Party, and his obsessive support of Prop 8. These led to official complaints from the people affected to HR. Having worked for a large corporation I know that it’s an extreme (and risky) thing to complain to HR. It means you couldn’t solve the problem yourself, and your supervisor couldn’t, either. It’s going around your supervisor to a higher authority. For Coppedge to have had multiple complaints indicates that he was more than an eccentric co-worker, a kook, but a person who caused physical distress to be around.

    The DI is desperate to make the Coppedge case all about “intelligent design” creationism, but according to the court papers filed, handing out the DVD’s was just one incident our of a decade of jackassedness; the proverbial last straw.

    Whatever the outcome of the trial, however, it’s going to make for an interesting story!

  2. By comparing Coppedge, an IT technician and non-scientist, to Galileo the DI has moved into the slums of Crankville. Every pseudo-science crank, nutjob, and con artist in the world tries to compare themselves to Galileo.

  3. “…and further request that they make right by settling on fair terms with Coppedge”

    What would be fair? What should Coppedge pay?

  4. Was it Carl Sagan who commented, “In order to be compared to Galileo, it is not enough that you are persecuted, you must also be right.” A double failure here, it seems.

  5. Somehow the following seems relevant:
    Before 1920 religious opposition made it difficult for bone fide Darwinists to get university jobs. While perusing the summer issue of the 1952 Wisconsin Magazine of History, I found an article (vol35, p294: “Bryan, Birge, and the Wisconsin Evolution Controversy, 1921-1922”) by UW historian Irvin G. Wyllie telling of the time William Jennings Bryan (the famous anti-evolutionist and KKK apologist) accused Edward A. Birge, an important ecologist and then president of the University of Wisconsin, of being an atheist Darwinian and likened the University of Wisconsin to ancient Rome “specialized in the destruction of Christians.” However, a certain pastor Worcester at Birge’s Lutheran church came to his defense, retorting that Birge was not only a good Christian but, according to Wyllie, took measures for the “screening of new appointees . . . to prevent the hiring of Free-thinkers” at the university. I think Erik Nordenskiold in his well received “The History of Biology” (1928) also mentions the difficulties Darwinists faced in getting university appointments.

  6. If Coppedge is Galileo, then cheese is a cure for cancer. How’s that?

  7. Bob Carroll says: “In order to be compared to Galileo, it is not enough that you are persecuted, you must also be right.”

    That’s good.

  8. Curmudgeon: “Do you see any Galileo-like behavior there, or do you see a ten-year-long history of unwanted and unrelenting creationist evangelizing?”

    The latter, but no one will like why I think that is. If the rest of you “Darwinists” were like me there’s no way Coppedge would have been able to evangelize to 200 people. By the time the 3rd or 4th one had asked him a series of questions about his alternate “theory,” starting with the basic whats and whens, demanding that he support them on their own merits, not on “weaknesses” of anything else, and refusing to entertain PRATTs about “Darwinism,” he would have given up and taken his trolling elsewhere.

    BTW, the whole creationism/ID enterprise can be summed up in one sentence: “We’re Galileo, you’re Hitler.”

  9. @Frank J

    …he would have given up and taken his trolling elsewhere.

    Doubtful. Creationist trolls think they get extra credit from the IDer for preaching to the heathens, spreading the good news, and attempting to disrupt the endeavors of the evil “Darwinists”, whether any of it it does any good or not. They are on a mission from the IDer.

  10. “… the whole creationism/ID enterprise can be summed up in one sentence: ‘We’re Galileo, you’re Hitler.'”

    I am SO stealing that!

  11. The Discoveroids are making a YEC evangelist into an ID martyr. He is even more anti-science than the DI, stresses the religious basis of his views (including his support for ID), and has no personal scientific expertise to offer. Is Coppedge really the image of the ID “Gallileo” that they want to present to the world?

  12. Most of Coppedge’s harassment was religious and political (a deadly mix!) and the ID stuff came later. He was reprimanded for causing disruption in the workplace through his conversations with co-workers on his religious and political views. Coppedge seemed to be very annoyed about the Christmas party name and Proposition 8, perhaps passionate is the word, and his co-workers just didn’t care.

  13. @Jack Hogan:

    You’re right that they preach whether people pay attention or not. But in my 10+ years experience, when you ask them questions about their “theory” they run away even faster than when you just ignore them. That might not have been the case 20-40 years ago when “scientific” YEC was center stage, but nowadays, anyone clued in enough on the scam to evangelize at work will do whatever it takes to cover up the fatal flaws and contradictions in the “creationist” stories. If all JPL people were like me, Coppedge would have quickly learned to evangelize on his own time.

    But everyone is free to prove me wrong. The next time a “creationist” tells you about all his problems with “Darwinism” just smile and ask all sorts of “what happened when” questions about his “theory.” Don’t take the bait and argue against the evidence of a designer, but rather get them to say exactly what they think the designer did when (& “how” if it ever gets that far, and it won’t). Start with Behe’s position – ~4 billion years of common descent, but not all caused by “RM = NS” – and ask if they agree, or if not, whether they ever challenged him directly. There are 1000s of fun questions you can ask. I have never made it past a few, because they invariably run away.

  14. Ed: “He is even more anti-science than the DI, stresses the religious basis of his views (including his support for ID), and has no personal scientific expertise to offer.”

    He may be more “anti-science” in that he denies more conclusions than the DI does, e.g. the age of life (if he indeed does – too many people have a bad habit of assuming that evolution-deniers are YECs when in doubt), common descent, etc. But by admitting that his reason is religious, he’s essentially conceding that the evidence does not support his claims. In contrast, the DI insists that it does support their (shrewdly all negative), and will stop at nothing to take evidence and quotes out of context to pretend that it does. To me that makes them more anti-science than those who admit their motivations. Even if the latter’s claims are so extreme that many self-described creationists don’t buy them.

  15. @Frank J

    For the most part I agree with you. Except for the crusaders most creationists run away when questioned by anyone informed and intelligent, at least for awhile — unless they can gang up. Their game is to try to put the “Darwinists” on the defensive. When questioned too much most move on to the next street corner soapbox.

    However, the committed crusaders do not move on. If you question them they ignore you and move on to the next guy nearby. If you remain on their chosen field of battle eventually they get back to you. Rinse and repeat.

    For them doing the IDer’s work is its own reward, so they have no more problem doing it over and over again than they do endlessly reading and repeating passages from the IDer’s Book.

    Questioning, or ignoring, them works most of the time. But sometimes it does not and at those times they must be smacked. When someone is determined to martyr themselves for the IDer it often ends up in court. It’s unavoidable.