Monday, April 19, 2010

A Duck Walks

I was apprised of the Coppedge Case in which another Intelligent Design (“ID”)proponent claims he was discriminated against in his employment because of his pro-ID support. )H/T to Wintery Knight)

I became fascinated with the delicate steps taken to avoid claiming ID is a religious belief. Let’s look at the background.

David Coppedge runs a blog entitled Creation-evolution headlines focusing on the intelligent design debate. He is the contact for a Creationist Organization He wrote a book entitled ”The World’s Greatest Creation Scientists” He actively engages in disputes over intelligent design, mentioning Jesus. He also is a Systems Administrator at Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a federally-funded NASA laboratory, managed by California Institute of Technology.

The facts (and we are only seeing this from David Coppedge’s perspective) I have taken from the complaint filed in Los Angeles Superior Court. He is a Systems Administrator in Information Technology—in other words he works with their computers. He was placed in a supervisory position over other System Administrators. He freely admits engaging co-workers, after hours, in discussions about ID. He offered them DVD’s, but never forced or coerced anyone to take a DVD.

On March 2, 2009, Coppedge was called into his supervisor’s office, indicating co-workers had complained about Coppedge’s “pushing his religious views on them by discussing ID and offering them DVDs to view.” (Plaintiff’s complaint, paragraph 19) Coppedge agreed he would stop. Within the next few weeks, human resources investigated the situation, interviewed him, and issued a written warning. This resulted in a demotion. The complaint states it succinctly:

Plaintiff was told his discussions with co-workers concerning ID and his distribution of the documentary films on DVD entitled ‘Unlocking the Mystery of Life’ and ‘The Privileged Planet’ amount to ‘pushing religion’ and ‘were unwelcome’ and ‘disruptive.’ Although no one had previously said these things to him, his supervisors informed him ‘a lot of people have been overly nice to you just to move on when you presented the ideas. (Plaintiff’s complaint, paragraph 7)

He is suing for being discriminated against for his First amendment right, “Freedom of Speech,” as well as being discriminated against for religious beliefs. Not HIS religious beliefs, mind you, but the mistaken religious beliefs of his superiors.

Notice the thin line the IDers must traverse. When talking about ID in Church, or with Christian friends, everyone understands and accepts who the Designer is—it’s God. Jesus. Intelligent Design is a scrumptious tool to prove there is a God. Sure it uses science, and scientific terms-- this is an argument that nature proves there is a God.

But when discussing ID where religion becomes an obstacle—such as teaching it in public schools—the IDer is careful to claim there is no theistic component; they aren’t making any determination as to who or what the intelligent designer is. No, sirree; no way; no how! Nothing religious to see here!

This creates the present situation where Coppedge is left in the position of claiming there is no religious reason, but the other person mistakenly discriminated against him for religious reasons, even though Coppedge holds the religious belief the other person claims he does, so they aren’t really mistaken after all!

Think about it. On Saturday night, Coppedge speaks at a local church about how the bacterial flagellum is irreducibly complex, and therefore there must be a God. The next day he teaches Sunday School how the bacterial flagellum is irreducibly complex, and therefore there must be a God. That afternoon, he goes out to eat with friends, discussing how the bacterial flagellum is irreducibly complex, and therefore there must be a God. On Monday morning, he points out to co-employees and subordinates the bacterial flagellum is irreducibly complex, and therefore there must be…an…….Intelligent designer.

What is the difference? Who is surprised one naturally assumes the same argument used for God on Saturday, Sunday and every evening is the same used on Monday morning?

Supervisor: Don’t push your religion on co-workers.
Coppedge: I’m not—I am promoting Intelligent Design.
Supervisor: Aren’t you a Christian?
Coppedge: Yes, but that has nothing to do with it.

Supervisor: Do you believe the Intelligent Designer is a God?
Coppedge: Yes, but that has nothing to do with it.
Supervisor: Do you believe the Intelligent Designer is your God?
Coppedge: Yes, but that has nothing to do with it.

So if the Supervisor limits Coppedge’s proselytizing, it is the supervisor’s fault for presuming a Christian would be promoting a Christian religion by using a Christian argument, under a different title—“Intelligent Design.”

I wish IDers’ would come out and say it. They are talking about a God. It is the best candidate. This mincing and dancing around words leaves a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. Admit you are talking about God, take the consequences and move on.


  1. what? You mean that instead of rejoicing and giving glory to god, he sued? Obviously he hasn't read his Bible recently.

    Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.
    1 Peter 4:16

    Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.
    —1 Peter 4:12-14, 16

    Instead of praising god, this naughty Christian disobeyed his superiors. Bad, bad, very bad boy.

    Romans 13:1-3 says, "Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished. For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. Would you like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will honor you." (NLT)

  2. Having been a manager and executive, I would strong suggest that Coppedge is not being demoted because he's religious, he's being demoted because he's an obnoxious asshole. I would take precisely the same action had Coppedge been obnoxiously pushing even accurate secular ideas. Your job is your job; your job is not to make sure that everyone believes even all the right things, much less ludicrous religious bullshit.

  3. If it walks like a duck...let's eat it for dinner.

  4. I am assuming that he continued approaching people after the discussion with his manager, to which he should be disciplined. If it took weeks for the NASA HR group to get around to dealing with the first complaint, not so sure unless his manager had mentioned that it was going to be investigated further.

    ID is not a Christian only concept.

  5. I found your post very useful. BTW, nice blog name! ;-)