How NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory Punished David Coppedge for His Views on Intelligent Design
David Coppedge has worked on the Cassini mission since 1997. In 2000 he earned recognition for excellence, receiving the important role of "Team Lead SA" (system administrator), a role he held until his demotion in 2009.
SAs oversee 200 Unix workstations, several high-capacity data storage units, networking equipment, and other specialized computing equipment across America and Europe. He has a wide breadth of knowledge about technical aspects of Cassini's computers and networks and was heavily involved in all the mission operations. Coppedge has been a faithful and highly regarded JPL employee for many years, has led tours of the lab and has served as an outreach speaker presenting the Cassini findings to civic and astronomy clubs and school groups.
Now, though, this exemplary employee has been demoted. Why? Did he do something to jeopardize the mission? No. Was he guilty of incompetence? No. Was he lazy or just lackadaisical in his work? No. David Coppedge's sin was a thought crime, the mere willingness to challenge the ruling authority of Darwinian evolution. In conversation he asked colleagues if they'd be interested in watching a documentary that dealt with evolution and intelligent design. For this he was harassed and discriminated against.
Intelligent design offers scientific evidence that life's development is best explained as reflecting the design of an intelligent cause, citing mainstream research in biology, cosmology, and paleontology. The DVDs that Coppedge distributed, intended for viewing after work hours, contain no religious arguments or references. They are:
Unlocking the Mystery of Life, which presents the case for intelligent design based upon information coded in DNA, much as in computer software, while illustrating the nanotechnology in cells with vivid animation;and
The Privileged Planet, which presents the case from current cosmology that the universe was "fine-tuned" for life to emerge and to allow exploration of the cosmos. The film even features scientists associated with JPL.
Coppedge had every reason to think his raising scientific issues related to intelligent design and life's origins fit well into his job responsibilities:
Coppedge's case would correctly be described as ideologically based persecution: