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The Discovery Institute is winding up their persecution complex again

It has the potential to be fun or a fizzle. The Discovery Institute is leaping to the defense of David Coppedge, a computer technician (don’t be fooled, the DI is desperately straining to enhance his credentials) who was demoted and then fired at the JPL. Coppedge claims to be the victim of discrimination against his views on Intelligent Design creationism; the JPL has argued that he was out of line to be harassing scientists with nonsense, passing out DVDs of ID BS, pushing his silly creationist website, and basically wasting his time and not doing his job. They warned him, he persisted. They demoted him, he persisted. Finally they fired him.

So now Coppedge, with the assistance of a fine team of creationist lawyers, is suing the JPL. There’s lots of information at The Sensuous Curmudgeon, which is shaping up to be the go-to place to follow the trial, which started today.

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 (until he picked up a few creationist clients) appears to be mostly a personal injury and workers’ comp lawyer.

To promote the issue, the Discoveroids initially waged 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, which is here, but which seems to have languished for months.

The official information source for the Coppedge case requires payment of fees to obtain copies of pleadings from the court clerks here: Superior Court of California, Los Angeles. At the box for “Case Number” you need to enter BC435600. Some minimal information is available for free — the names of the parties and their lawyers, a list of what documents have been filed, what proceedings have been held, and what future hearings have been scheduled.

It’s going to be a weird trial. It sounds like the JPL was reasonable and put up with Coppedge for quite some time, clearly telling him to desist in his problematic behavior at work; The Discovery Institute has nothing to lose — Coppedge is a nobody — and their enthusiasm for the case has waxed and waned. We’ll see if they put up a fight or not.

(Also on Sb)

Comments

  1. says

    Yes, and, oddly enough, Coppedge is a YEC. Since ID has nothing to do with creationism, let alone YECism, I’m hard pressed to know why they’re interested in the case.

    Or, could they be less than fully truthful with us, perhaps even interested in restating John 1 in (faux)scientific idiom?

    Glen Davidson

  2. rapiddominance says

    Intelligent Design is just a racket.

    That’s what I’ve heard, at least. I haven’t actually researched the matter, but I trust that the gentlemen who make this claim are the types who DO research.

  3. McCthulhu, now with Techroline and Retsyn says

    Oh, yes! This is exactly the kind of thing JPL needs during a massive budgetary crisis for the sciences – frivolous bullshit lawsuits and more scientists distracted from research time defending themselves from morons!

    I wish we were far enough along the evolutionary trail that a judge could take one look at these kooks’ case and not just dismiss it, but use the exact words “Fuck the hell off and quit masturbating your religious idiocy in public!”

  4. John Morales says

    It ain’t all bad: Should this specimen win its case (unlikely as that may be), it would set a precedent that proselytism in the workplace is permissible, and therefore atheists can themselves harangue theists. ;)

  5. says

    Since ID has nothing to do with creationism, let alone YECism, I’m hard pressed to know why they’re interested in the case.

    Because the details of the case, and its actual disposition, matter much less than the opportunity to publicize an accusation of “religious persecution.”
    I’m still trying to understand why so many seem to think the Bill of Rights, rather than constraining the government from abridging the rights of individuals, applies to private employers and bars them from regulating behavior on company time/property.

  6. some bastard on the net says

    @feralboy12 #6

    I’m still trying to understand why so many seem to think the Bill of Rights, rather than constraining the government from abridging the rights of individuals, applies to private employers and bars them from regulating behavior on company time/property.

    Haven’t you heard? The Constitution is just like the Bible to these people, it only says what they want it to say and nothing else.

  7. magistramarla says

    JPL is associated with my daughter’s alma mater, Cal Tech. My husband and I have talked with a few of her scientist friends at alumni parties. You would never hope to meet more intelligent anti-creationist scientists anywhere (aside from PZ himself).
    I would love to hear some of them testifying in this case. They will probably consider it as much fun as we do when we catch a creationist troll on Pharyngula.

  8. leighshryock says

    My only hope here is that the JPL can win the case and get the losing party to pay the costs of the case.

  9. unclefrogy says

    the only party involved with the case that has money is JPL the computer tech. sure does not and the DI, I amuse is not named in the law suit and is only acting in a support role.
    it will just cost more money unless a fund could be set up for JPL’s defense expenses.

    uncle frogy

  10. ikesolem says

    Well, legally you’re looking at “freedom of speech” vs. “workplace harassment” issues. (First Amendment vs. Title VII). Then you have the issue of JPL/Caltech – private or public? Publicly financed, certainly, via NASA, which hires JPL personnel as contractors. Note also that the First Amendment does allow the government (or another private party?) to use speech as evidence of the speaker’s conduct, motive, or intent.

    Obviously a case for the courts, but would you want an ardent Jehovah’s Witness member – a sect that believes that blood transfusions are religiously prohibited – working at a blood bank and constantly telling everyone what they thought about blood transfusions? You might wonder about the motive of that person, surely. Nor would you want Peter Duesberg overseeing an AIDS epidemiology program anywhere on the planet.

    That seems to be the equivalent of a young Earth creationist working on anything related to the science of the origin of life. You really couldn’t view such a person as a reliable member of the scientific team, particularly if they were the aggressive evangelical type.

  11. says

    I’m still trying to understand why so many seem to think the Bill of Rights, rather than constraining the government from abridging the rights of individuals, applies to private employers and bars them from regulating behavior on company time/property.

    It depends a lot on the facts of the case. Put bluntly, you don’t want it to be possible to fire atheists for disbelieving, because, well, that’d be kind of bad and ultimately result in an abridgement of freedom equivalent to one by the government.

    I’m not saying this guy should have a case; if he’s been harrassing or annoying coworkers, it really doesn’t matter that he’s doing it for religious reasons. It’s still harrassing or annoying them. But yes, you do want there to be some basic threshold wherein the government can interfere to ensure freedom; it affects you too.

  12. Stacy says

    The Discovery Institute has nothing to lose…and their enthusiasm for the case has waxed and waned

    As it did with the Dover trial, if I remember correctly:

    Despite its earlier involvement, the Discovery Institute was concerned that this would be a test case and that the defendants had earlier displayed their religious motivations. This tension led to disagreements with the Thomas More Law Center and the withdrawal of three Discovery Institute fellows as defense experts prior to their depositions

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kitzmiller_v._Dover_Area_School_District

    ~~~

    The Discovery Institute: Creationists, we’ve got your back. At least until your motivations are obvious and/or it looks like you’re going to lose your case. Then we’ve got better things to do.

  13. otrame says

    You know, I almost feel sorry for some of these people. That PBS documentary about Dover made it clear that the idiotic school board members got taken. They got their church to come up with the money to buy those Pandas and People books and were encouraged to go to trial and then the DI dumped them as soon as it was clear they couldn’t win. They are doing the same thing to this idiot.

    What do you want to bet that Copperege acquired his DVDs and other materials by paying the DI for them?

  14. M Groesbeck says

    The theocrats can’t seem to decide whether employers have a Constitutional right to micromanage the lives of their employees (the C3 case — Catholic contraception coverage — along with the Libertarians and Randroids) or whether employers are required to allow harassment by employees (this case) and keep paying people who refuse to do their job (“conscience” clauses).

    Make up your mind, right-wingers; is it employers or employees who have an absolute right to dictate how everyone else lives (or, in the case of “conscience” clauses in medical and safety contexts, dies)?

  15. pcb28 says

    Your privilege is showing Paul. A “nobody?” He certainly is “somebody” to a few people. Was he wrong? Yes, he was. Does that make him a nobody? A nonhuman? People disagree all the time. For fuck’s sake you make a living by being a disagreeable prick. Are you a somebody because you are an asshole that happens to be paid for being one? I think he was trying to be you from the other side. He failed of course.
    Seriously though, calling him a nobody? I nearly vomited in my mouth.

  16. clastum3 says

    If this case had arisen in Europe, under many laws the employer would find himself having to supply court-quality evidence of the guy’s behaviour, that he had been formally warned, including documented written warnings with proof of receipt. That he’d had counselling about how to improve his behaviour and opportunity to correct it.

    You’d also have to expect counter-claims of discrimination on one or more of a number of points, sexual, racial, physical or mental. The likely outcome is that the guy doesn’t get his job back, but gets enormous damages.

    Then again, you might not bother.

  17. Cassandra Caligaria (Cipher), OM says

    Seriously though, calling him a nobody? I nearly vomited in my mouth.

    Why, hits too close to home?
    Poor little mosquito.

  18. DLC says

    Yup. he’s a nobody.
    But he’s a useful nobody.
    Why is it people in technical fields turn out to be creationists more often ? Is it really that hard to master the idea of evolution ? I realize that cognitive dissonance often demands that sacrifices have to be made, but really . . . this guy’s a YEC ?

  19. Aquaria says

    Are you a somebody because you are an asshole that happens to be paid for being one? I think he was trying to be you from the other side. He failed of course.

    Well, you seem to think he’s somebody, because you’re the presumptuous, pretentious, sniveling scumbag of a hypocrite acting like PZ should stop what he’s doing and pay attention to a piece of shit nobody like you, as if you’re entitled to his attention.

    Fuck off.

  20. Stacy says

    Does that make him a nobody? A nonhuman?

    You seem to have confused the term “nobody” with the term “nonhuman”.

    You also seem to have reading comprehension problems. PZ is pointing out that to the Discovery Institute Coppedge is a nobody. That’s why their interest in his case has “waxed and waned”. They have nothing to lose.

    Not hard to understand why you’d want to confuse the issue–so you can claim PZ the big mean atheist is dehumanizing someone and feel morally superior.

    I nearly vomited in my mouth

    Better not look too deeply or honestly at yourself, then. You might make a real mess. Your sanctimony is revolting.

  21. raven says

    Sounds like Freshwater II.

    1. Coppedge is clearly a religious fanatic.

    2. He doesn’t seem all that bright or sane.

    3. He is practicing xian auto-martyrdom.

    In xian auto-martyrdom, someone goes out, finds a lion, and smacks it in the nose. The rest of the xians cheer wildly as the inevitable happens and then add him to the list of martyrs.

    Coppedge is a good martyr. The best xian martyrs are always…someone else.</b.

  22. raven says

    clearly telling him to desist in his problematic behavior at work.

    1. Doubt there is any such right as the right to try to spread your religion at work. Creationism is religious, something the courts have ruled time and again.

    2. It could be considered very disruptive. There are a vast number of xian sects and nonxian religions. They often don’t get along, occasionally kill each other in wars, and is a reliable way to build up hatreds. A lot of scientists are from overseas, Chinese, Indians, Middle Easterners and so on. These days, there are also a lot of No Religions of various types, wildly hated by the xians.

    3. The workplace owns your time for 8 hours/day or so. If he was warned to stop and didn’t, they generally have the right to fire you.

  23. raven says

    pcb28 the lying nobody troll:

    For fuck’s sake you make a living by being a disagreeable prick.

    Lie 1. No he doesn’t. He is a professor of biology at UM, Morris and department head. He teaches.

    Are you a somebody because you are an asshole that happens to be paid for being one?

    Lies 2 and 3. No. He is somebody because he works very hard, is intelligent, brave, and has things to say that people want to hear. He teaches.

    I think he was trying to be you from the other side.

    Lie 4. PZ doesn’t harass his coworkers and students with his nonreligious viewpoints. That would be unprofessional. They can read his website if they care.

    He failed of course.

    OOHHHH, accidently got one right. Yes Colledge is a failed human being, a delusional moron who thinks the earth is 6,000 years old and not sane enough to keep his job.

    Seriously though, calling him a nobody? I nearly vomited in my mouth.

    Let’s see. A troll. Vomiting. Lying. Dumb. Got to be a fundie xian.

  24. avh1 says

    @15
    Rutee, it looks like he was fired not because of his beliefs but because he was promoting them on work time and harassing colleagues. That seems entirely appropriate to me – especially given that he had been warned first and then demoted. If he had been fired just because he happened to mention at some point that he was a creationist that would be a different kettle of fish.

  25. StevoR says

    “he” beng the Creationist natch. Don’t they vet potential employees beforehand? I guess people’s pribvate beliefs however kooky are okay but proselytising onthe job and annoying your fellow workers should NOT be tolerated on company time.

  26. StevoR says

    @19.pcb28 – 8th of March 2012 at 1:12 am :

    Your privilege is showing Paul. A “nobody?” He certainly is “somebody” to a few people.

    Everybody on this Earth from you and me to Madonna and the Queen of Belgium is somebody to some people and nobody to a whole lot more.

    Was he wrong? Yes, he was.

    Agreed. Wrong in his IDiocy

    Does that make him a nobody? A nonhuman?

    Non-human no, a ‘nobody’ to most folks, yeah pretty much – as he was all along.

    People disagree all the time.

    Well, duh!

    For fuck’s sake you make a living by being a disagreeable prick.

    Meh, that’s your opinion, I think he makes it by being a biology professor and a durn good blogger.

    Are you a somebody because you are an asshole that happens to be paid for being one? I think he was trying to be you from the other side. He failed of course. Seriously though, calling him a nobody? I nearly vomited in my mouth.

    As oppose dto what? Vomiting out your backside?

    Take an antacid and a few hours to muse long and hard about how stoopid you sound here. Please.

  27. lauriemann says

    It sounds like all the JPL has to do is argue that he was engaged in behavior at work he was warned about multiple times. People have been fired for doing stuff online during work hours for over 30 years. It doesn’t matter what he was doing, it only matters if he was doing it when he was supposed to be working.

  28. StevoR says

    Was he [The JPL Creationist – ed.] wrong? Yes, he was.

    Agreed. Wrong in his IDiocy & wrong in his conduct towards his co-workers and employer and wrong to make such a bifg thing out of getting himself fired through his own stupidity.

    Is what I meant to write there. Stupid computer not putting exactly what I thought I’d put on-screen only what I actually typed instead!

  29. paulburnett says

    #17 otrame: “What do you want to bet that Copperege acquired his DVDs and other materials by paying the DI for them?”

    No – it’s way more complicated. Coppedge is (also) a member of the Board of Directors of “Illustra Media” (producers of the DVD), a shell company of “Discovery Media” (not associated with the Dishonesty Institute), which in turn is the successor to the infamous “Moody Institute of Science,” the producer of pro-creationism media for the uber-fundamentalist “Moody Bible Institute.”

    The entire “Coppedge Affair” is nothing more than a creaky old creationist propaganda organization evolving (heh heh) and taking advantage of the intelligent design creationism phenomena. And Coppedge seems to have played his agitprop martyr part well. This is just one more example of the clear connection between fundamentalism and intelligent design creationism.

  30. says

    Reading through Coppedge’s ID page I’m learning all sorts of new things about evolution. How about this nugget of scientific information:

    A new finding shows dogs performing better on one kind of intelligence test than chimpanzees. If evolution teaches that human intelligence is the main trait separating us from other animals, and dogs are smarter than apes, shouldn’t the conclusion be that dogs are closer on the family tree? If not, is it valid for evolutionary biologists to pick and choose the traits that matter?

    http://crev.info/2012/02/humans-evolved-from-dogs/

    I had no knowledge about such a breakthrough in the research on human genealogy!

  31. Louis says

    What’s got two thumbs and finds the flannelling of creationists hilarious?

    [Points thumbs back at self]

    Me.

    Louis

    P.S. Hmmm this joke works better in person.

    P.P.S. Actually, it doesn’t.

  32. Doc Bill says

    According to the court documents filed the “demotion” was hardly a demotion. There was no loss in grade or pay because the position of “team leader” was honorary. They guy simply represented the team at staff meetings. The position did not involve supervision or any personnel activities.

    Second, it appears that Coppedge is on the board of directors of Illustra Media, the outfit that produced the Privileged Planet DVD and other DVD’s that Coppedge was sharing with “willing” employees.

    Third, the guy’s workplace behavior extended way beyond ID and over a period of 10 years.

    Finally, the guy wasn’t fired, that is, terminated for cause, rather he was part of a 40% planned budget reduction resulting in layoffs. Two of the five in his group (best recollection) were laid off; the lowest performers.

    The DI is trying a reverse religious persecution ploy arguing that Coppedge was persecuted for his religious beliefs, ID, although, argues the DI, ID is “scientific.” It will be interesting to see how the DI spins the religious persecution angle while maintaining ID as a “scientific” concept.

    But don’t worry Defenders of Science, Luskin is consulting on the case. Remind me, which side is he on??

  33. robro says

    If this suit is being brought in California, there’s not much chance this guy will get far, particularly if his termination was part of a general staff reduction. Such layoffs are a classic way for California tech companies to get rid of “under-performing” employees. Given the way these companies grow, it’s seldom difficult to come up with 1% deadwood. Also, California is one of those states where we work at the “pleasure” of the employer, so they can terminate at any time without giving any cause. That doesn’t stop the lawsuits but it puts the employers in a good legal position…and they almost always have plenty of HR lawyers around. I doubt this hurts JPL’s budget…they’re already paying for the lawyers. This just means they have to do some work.

  34. fastlane says

    One of their top legal talents, Discoveroid Casey Luskin…

    Did anyone else hear a squeak?

    Also, I’m not a lawyer, but I don’t think the Billof Rights (i.e. the first amendment, free speech/expression clause) applies here so much as the Civil Rights Act. And it sounds to me that this YEC was just another victim of the Party of God’s cutting government science funding, since 200 people were layed off at the same time as this assclown.

    otrame@17:

    You know, I almost feel sorry for some of these people. That PBS documentary about Dover made it clear that the idiotic school board members got taken. They got their church to come up with the money to buy those Pandas and People books and were encouraged to go to trial and then the DI dumped them as soon as it was clear they couldn’t win. They are doing the same thing to this idiot.

    Yes, but we did get that very informative video with lots of fart noises.
    Doc Bill:

    But don’t worry Defenders of Science, Luskin is consulting on the case. Remind me, which side is he on??

    You get one sniny internets for the day!

  35. carbonbasedlifeform says

    Some years ago, a fundamentalist Christian where I worked decided that he had to proselytize a Jew. The Jew, quite rightly, complained, and the Christian was told to stop his proselytism. He continued to annoy the Jew, and was first suspended, and then, when he still kept doing it, was fired.

    He tried to sue for wrongful termination, but his suit went nowhere, since the employee handbook specifically forbade that sort of thing.

  36. says

    A new finding shows dogs performing better on one kind of intelligence test than chimpanzees. If evolution teaches that human intelligence is the main trait separating us from other animals, and dogs are smarter than apes, shouldn’t the conclusion be that dogs are closer on the family tree? If not, is it valid for evolutionary biologists to pick and choose the traits that matter?

    Actually what the research shows is that ‘intelligence’ is a gesalt phenomena made up of many modulate processes.

    Dogs have been bred for traits that allow them to understand human while chimps have not, thus not surprising that dogs work better at certain mental tasks.

    Similarly even in humans certain traits are associated with decreases/increases in certain mental tasks, some conditions actually have decreases in one metric and increases in others.

    Testing a dyslexic on numerical memory alone would lead you to the conclusion that dyslexics are less intelligent than ‘normal’ people.

    It’s also how people can be great successes in other fields but suck at say, graphic design

  37. Woo_Monster says

    Seriously though, calling him a nobody? I nearly vomited in my mouth.

    Shame you didn’t. It would have, at least momentarily, stopped the bullshit from flowing out of it.

    Raven,

    2. He doesn’t seem all that bright or sane.

    How many times do you need to be called out for your use of disabilities as insults? Seriously, cut it the fuck out or get the fuck off this blog.

  38. rbh3 says

    The Discovery Institute is leaping to the defense of David Coppedge, a computer technician (don’t be fooled, the DI is desperately straining to enhance his credentials) who was demoted and then fired at the JPL.

    Inflationary credentialism is endemic amongst creationists. It’s almost a defining feature.

  39. sqlrob says

    I see no indication that he is not sane,

    He’s a YEC. That means he’s delusional or ignorant. Chances are at a place like JPL, anyone he tried to convince pointed out why he was wrong. That eliminates ignorance.

    When is a delusional person sane?

  40. bfish says

    Just for the record, no one refers to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory as “the JPL.” It’s just “JPL.” People will say, “I worked at JPL for years,” not “I worked at the JPL for years.”
    Kind of inconsistent with how we call our freeways, “the 210,” “the 5,” etc, but there you go.