The Coppedge affair is rapidly approaching a climax. The pre-trial conference that was set for 24 February has been completed and trial is scheduled to start on 07 March. As you know, David Coppedge is the 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 as a computer technician for Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which is part of Caltech. He also maintains a creationist website: Creation-Evolution Headlines — which was recently moved here.
We recently posted our Pre-Trial Perspective, with background information and a list of all the unresolved motions that we had expected to be cleared up by now. Maybe they have been cleared up, but there’s no indication of that. As far as we can tell, the lawyers are going into their last weekend before trial without knowing what kind of trial they’re getting into. Will this be just another employment dispute, or a grandiose drama about creationism?
Although we regard Coppedge as a singularly unimportant person, he is for the moment a highly visible pawn in the game of theocracy. We know this because one of the few interesting things about this litigation has been the role of 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).
The Discoveroids were originally gushing with enthusiasm about this case, hoping it would be the public relations vehicle that would … well, would do something. We wrote about it here: The Coppedge Case: A Study in Tactics and Strategy. They kept putting out press releases that were being picked up and reprinted by the usual media outlets.
JPL and Caltech remained discretely silent while the Discoveroids were — shall we say — going ape. Their champion (Coppedge) was noble. Their cause was just, and their adversaries were big and bad. They were suing JPL — which was largely funded by NASA — “Big Science” doesn’t get any bigger than that. This Coppedge thing was going to be as important as the trials of Socrates, Jesus, and Galileo combined.
Then something happened. The publicity stopped. There were no more press releases, and virtually no blog articles about the case at the Discoveroids’ website. Well, there were one or two hilarious posts that we had to write about — like Discoveroids: Coppedge is a Modern Galileo, followed by a silly attempt to generate a letter-writing campaign to NASA (Coppedge Seems Desperate to Settle). But compared to their early publicity efforts, it looked to us as if the Discoveroids were sorry they had ever heard of David Coppedge.
That is becoming more apparent as the trial date approaches. Public relations is, after all, the Discoveroids’ only talent, and if the Coppedge case has been so important to them, then why are they leaving it in obscurity? Something happened, and we’ll probably never know what it was.
But maybe they’re cranking up the rusty machinery one more time, just for appearances sake. At the website of the Catholic News Agency we read NASA worker’s lawsuit charges discrimination over intelligent design. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:
A NASA mission specialist allegedly demoted for his beliefs about intelligent design is suing Jet Propulsion Laboratories in a civil trial to begin in Los Angeles March 7. David Coppedge was a lead information technology specialist on the laboratories’ Cassini mission to Saturn before his demotion and it [sic] suing his employer on the grounds of religious discrimination.
The way the pro-Coppedge stories describe the guy, he was practically the brains behind the whole operation — instead of a computer technician. And here we can see the source of this story:
“Employees shouldn’t be threatened with termination and punished for sharing their opinion with willing co-workers just because the view being shared doesn’t fit the prevailing view in the workplace,” said Coppedge’s attorney William Becker, who is allied with the Alliance Defense Fund.
Yes, it’s all about viewpoint discrimination — “VD.” JPL was infected with it. Let’s read on:
The Alliance Defense Fund characterized the theory of intelligent design as a scientific theory that makes no reference to religion and that has many non-religious adherents. “Mr. Coppedge has always maintained that intelligent design is a scientific theory, but JPL has illegally discriminated against him on the basis of what they deem is ‘religion.’”
There’s nothing new here, so we won’t give you any more excerpts. The real news is that the Coppedge team is still trying to get publicity this late in the game — but we don’t see anything from the Discoveroids. That almost certainly means something, but we can’t figure it out.
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